Best Shots Reviews: SUPERMAN #3, GREEN LANTERNS #3, GREEN ARROW #3

"Green Arrow #3" cover
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: DC Comics

Superman #3
Written by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Art by Jorge Jimenez and Alejandro Sanchez
Lettering Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

When we talk about what DC is doing with "Rebirth," it is not simply the restoration of a pre-Flashpoint continuity, but rather a systematic ticking off of boxes filled with things that people liked from a bygone era of comic books. In the case of Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s Superman, it is a very specific period in time that surrounded the immediate aftermath of the “Death and Return of Superman” saga in the mid-1990s. It’s a particular brand of nostalgia, one that might just be a little too over-reliant on reader memory.

Case in point is the focus of this issue, and the return of the Eradicator. The character was introduced just prior to the madness of the 1990s, and played a pivotal role in Superman’s first “rebirth.” Here Superman has trouble believing that this version of the Eradicator has his best interests at heart, even if he is acting protective. Yet with the nature of the fluctuating powers of the “son of Superman,” the Eradicator is set up as having the key to unlocking the boy’s hidden potential.

The issue exposes some of the key differences between this “restored” Superman and the "New 52" version that died prior to the reboot. The angry and overprotective father act runs the risk of wearing thin really quickly, especially when Clark goes on the immediate attack without finding out the purpose of the new Eradicator. Yet this issue is far from being about nuance, effectively being two fight sequences sandwiching some exposition. It’s fortunate for the reader that both of those elements are filled with enough hooks to carry the whole issue.

Artists Jorge Jimenez and Alejandro Sanchez don’t necessarily have to find something new in the Man of Steel, as depicting as classic version as possible is the chief order of business here. Seeing Clark carrying his injured son with Lois by his side is as stirring as his first face-off with a new version of his old enemy. There’s a particularly magnificent scene where the Eradicator unleashes its power on multiple Kryptonians, and Jimenez’s layouts and pacing create a superbly panelled action sequence. Towards the issue’s conclusion, there’s a series of close-ups of the junior Kent finding his resolve to the repeated “WHAM” of his father’s fists in the background. It’s as powerful image as any in this month’s action-filled issue.

In some ways, “Son of Superman” is still an odd arc to start off the Rebirth version of Superman, effectively reintroducing the old-school through the eyes of a potentially powerful new character in his own right. At the same time, while Tomasi and Gleason don’t rely on prior knowledge of the characters, their assumptions of what readers know about these “classic” versions is a potential roadblock given that it’s been at least five years since this version of Supes has been “current.” Even so, there’s an undeniable classicism in the book, and only time will tell if it’s drawing deep on the legacy, or simply caught up in the spell of nostalgia.

Credit: DC Comics

Green Lanterns #3
Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Robson Rocha, Tom Derenick, Jack Herbert, Neil Edwards and Hi-Fi
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by DC Comics
Review by Oscar Maltby
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Over 4,000 have been infected with rage, the Red Lanterns are wreaking havoc on Earth, and the Justice League aren’t returning their calls. In other words, it’s a regular day for DC’s Green Lanterns, as it’s up to rookie ringslingers Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz to save the day. Away from Sam Humphries’ twist-and-turn-filled script, Green Lanterns #3 is a veritable kaleidoscope of rotating pencillers, as Tom Derenick, Jack Herbert and Neil Edwards assist Lanterns regular Robson Rocha with mixed results.

Sam Humphries is quick and eager to underline Simon and Jessica’s character flaws to create dramatic tension — Jessica, for example, can’t even make a construct, while Simon has the most powerful weapon in the universe on his finger, but relies on a gun. These two Lanterns are the firm underdogs in their own title, easily quashed by the rampaging Red Lanterns. It’s all best exemplified by Jessica’s internal narrative: “Things are going well. Everything is fine. Omg I am the worst Green Lantern.” Humphries pushes new hero incompetence to new extremes here, but it only makes Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz all the more endearing. They're their own worst enemies, which makes for an absorbing narrative which leads to a deeper conflict than the one-note Red Lanterns can offer.

At the heart of the issue is another new facet of Simon’s burgeoning power. Faced against Red Lantern Bleez, Baz's ring suddenly emanates unimaginable power, cleansing her of the rage. Bleez’s new-found freedom from the power of the Red happens in an instant, and it comes across as a little clumsy. She immediately awakes, dusts herself off and launches into an angsty internal monologue while attempting to disembowel herself. Unfortunately, it’s a sequence littered with cliches: the phrases “It’s so clear to me now,” “You don’t have to do this alone,” and “What have I done?” all appear with maximum sincerity. Humphries usually has a pretty good level of self-awareness, as evidenced by the short and sharp doses of humor aimed squarely at his titular characters, but it all falls apart for a few pages with this moment of epiphany that misses the mark. Of course, Bleez’s sudden shift in alliance doesn’t last, and it’s in these last few pages that Green Lanterns #3 shines. Bleez reverts back thanks to a well-meaning intervention of brute force from Jessica, a move decidedly outside her wheelhouse. Although it comes at exactly the wrong time, it's a moment that shows her as the assertive hero she needs to become. The ensuing argument between Simon and Jessica is solid stuff with real consequences, leading to a memorable final cliffhanger splash page.

A twice-monthly schedule is a tricky thing to maintain, and so DC has drafted in an army of pencillers to contribute to Green Lanterns #3. While Robson Rocha offers up the same detailed musculature and fearsome faces he’s been illustrating Green Lanterns with for the duration of the series, guest artists Tom Derenick, Jack Herbert and Neil Edwards each bring their own distinct styles to the table. From Derenick’s looser and less detailed style to Herbert’s carefully studied figures, Green Lanterns #3 is a mishmash of clashing styles. Although Neil Edwards turns in some solid work that holds much of the issue together, there’s still no denying that the lack of visual consistency from cover to cover hurts the issue’s readability. Color-wise, neon green and bloody crimson unsurprisingly dominates Hi-Fi’s work. The consistent coloring helps to bring together each artists into a slightly more cohesive whole, although one major error casts a shadow over the entire issue. In one important scene, Simon’s gun is erroneously colored as a green construct instead of the black metal that makes up one of humanities’ most dangerous creations. It’s an oversight that editorial really should have caught, and one that confuses one of the issue’s strongest themes (that neither Lantern is particularly adept at actually using their power rings).

To err is human, and that makes Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz more alive than us mere flesh and blood bags. Sam Humphries continues trucking forward with the winning formula that piqued our interest with Green Lanterns Rebirth #1, relishing in Simon and Jessica’s continued trials by fire to become fully fledged Green Lanterns. Despite a whiffed dramatic scene involving Bleez and fill-in artwork and coloring of varying quality, the believable and compelling dynamic between Jessica and Simon still makes Green Lanterns #3 worth a look.

Credit: DC Comics

Green Arrow #3
Written by Benjamin Percy
Art by Juan Ferreyra
Lettering Nate Piekos
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

If writer Benjamin Percy has spent the majority of his post-"Rebirth" stories bringing a sense of social justice (and hirsuteness) back to the Emerald Archer, then this latest issue is set to reestablish Green Arrow as a Battling Bowman. Much of Percy’s earlier series had been about Oliver Queen as a man, and when the occasion called for it, as a wolfman. The almost continual action sequence that makes up the first dozen or so pages of the book leaves no doubt as to Ollie’s ass-kickery, but are these the only two modes the modern archer is capable of?

Not for the first time, but Ollie’s world has fallen apart again. Betrayed and on the run from assassins, he breaks into his own building to discover the truth about the Ninth Circle, just as Shado and Emiko hunt him down for termination. Unfortunately, Ollie’s partner Black Canary is mostly sidelined this issue, save for a later suggestion that she will be used as a bargaining chip in a revenge plot against Green Arrow. The implications of this use of a previous headliner as a object are troubling, but more on that if they eventuate in that direction. More broadly, there’s a creeping sense of the familiar to all of this as well.

There’s nothing particularly subtle about Percy’s allegorical references in Green Arrow to date. Following the heavy-handed references to Malthus and Bentham in his “Night Birds” arc, the villain of the Ninth Circle is named Dante. Looking for all the world like a melted Red Skull, he and his minions are more than reminiscent of Percy’s own Bone Hunters, replacing skeletal masks for ones with layers of flesh on them. Which is the major problem that lurks around in this issue, and that’s the distinct lack of identity beyond these repeated memes.

On the other hand, the artwork is beautiful. Otto Schmidt’s work to date has been superb, but Juan Ferreyra’s brings a new level of hyper-reality to the character. Flying in feet-first in the opening splash pages, the painted quality of Ferreyra’s style and rich colors soars in every panel. A sidebar into the underground lair of ‘Virgil’, surrounded by skulls and occult iconography, comes close to the photorealistic horror of Justin Randall’s Changing Ways, with a little bit of Ben Templesmith’s color philosophy thrown in for good measure.

Percy’s Green Arrow works best when it balances a self-awareness of the character’s rich history wth wholesale tributes to the past, but within a contemporary framework of course. Yet this third chapter not only departs tonally from the two issues that preceded it, but it threatens to revisit ground that was covered as recently as Jeff Lemire’s 2013 outing with the character. This current issue doesn’t push far enough into new territory or uncover new aspects of the old, resulting in a solid but heavily familiar tale.

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