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Peter Tomasi & Fernando Pasarin’s Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors (Review/Retrospective)

Emerald Warriors suffers a bit from being a rather obvious lead-in series to the War of the Green Lanterns crossover than DC was pushing for its space cops to coincide with the release of the Green Lantern film. It’s very clear that the book is written with an editorial mandate to establish certain characters and dynamics, and I think it suffers to a certain extent, because of this – to the point where the series wasn’t renewed as part of the DCnU relaunch, which makes it seem like the series never really existed as anything more than a tie-in to a large event, rather than a cosmic comic book in its own right. It’s a shame, because Peter Tomasi has been one of the most consistant second-tier writers at DC, and his Guy Gardner is second-to-none. Also, you know, it looks incredible.

A breath of fresh air...

The basis of the seven-issue arc collected here, feeding directly into War of the Green Lanterns, is that Guy Gardner has been given a top secret mission to find an enemy of the Green Lantern Corps who has been syphoning off power to use for some sinister purpose. Of course, this all turns out to be related to Krona’s plans for galactic domination and sets the stage for the coming conflict at least as well as Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern does. So the story is a bit of a slave to on-going continuity, which is a little bit of a pet peeve of mine.

I don’t like the idea that you have to buy multiple books in order to understand what is going on. Guy’s secret mission was hinted at in both Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, and the books seem to have a very tightly-wound internal continuity – we see frequent glimpses of conversations that aren’t relevant to thatnarrative, seemingly included to spark our curiousity in other titles. I find it increasingly distracting, and I really think it’s one of the more irritating aspects of mainstream comic books: the simple fact that they rely on audiences having a broad pool of knowledge about an impressively vast fictional universe.

Rays of light...

It is more than a little frustrating that we know that this story won’t have a satisfactory conclusion – it’ll just dovetail into a big crossover that will require knowledge of the status quo of two other books in a single storyline attempting to address plot points raised in three distinct books. Krona, who is the mastermind behind the kidnapping of the entities in Green Lantern is just sort of casually introduced half-way through this adventure (basically, as soon as he’s revealed in Green Lantern), with no greater introduction than “the renegade guardian.”

It seems that we’re expected to read the books as separate strands of the same story, but I’m not even convinced that it works on those grounds – for all the irritating little references that add up rather quickly, there’s no strong sense of synchronicity about this, which none of the books providing a meaningful context for anything that happens. It’s just like Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi sat down and divided up the plot points they needed to hit before charging into the next big crisis event.

Beware his power...

It means that several powerful moments feel diminished by virtue of feeling like plot breadcrumbs. The decision to give the people of Daxam superpowers in Emerald Eclipse was a fascinating plot twist, but it’s undermined here when Sodam Yat is plucked out of the sun and millions of people fall to their deaths. You’d imagine that a trip to Daxam that had tasted the gifts of Superman (only to have them cruelly revoked) would be a fascinating cultural study, but it’s only fleetingly touched upon as one in a series of smaller encounters building to a climax.

It’s a shame, because Tomasi is a great writer. He’s one of the great “supporting” writers, in that he tends to work best on second-tier books with popular characters, delivering well-written and clever stories without the weight of a spotlight burning itself into his book. His Green Lantern Corps run was a brilliant counterpoint to Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern. I’m looking forward to his Batman & Robin run, that will be written in the shadow of Scott Snyder’s Batman. Free of the burden of carrying the franchise torch, Tomasi seems at his best doing character development, or offering an exploration of the status quo driven by the higher-profile title.


In a way, Emerald Warriors feels almost like an “old school” Green Lantern Corps story, relatively free of most of the trappings Geoff Johns brought to the title. Tomasi avoids most of the multi-colour “rainbow” corps (barring the Red Lanterns and a fleeting appearance from the Blue Lanterns), instead falling back on more traditional foes for Guy to face. The collection opens with Guy taking down weapons smugglers, and he fights slavers and warlords over the course the title – these are the type of standard sci-fi villains that one might have associated with the title in the years before Green Lantern: Rebirth, and Tomasi’s decision to focus on them seems intentional. With even Tony Bedard’s Green Lantern Corps getting in on things like the Alpha Lanterns and the Sinestro Corps, it feels like a decidedly old-school title, and that’s one of the best things about it.

Zardor is an original creation, a foe for Guy to face. He’s remarkable in the context of the build-up to War of the Green Lanterns because he’s just about the only major original villain to get tied up in the whole affair, with Green Lantern featuring Krona and Green Lantern Corps using the Cyborg-Superman and the Weaponer. It would actually be quite easy to disconnect Emerald Warriors from the run to War of the Green Lanterns, which is what I find so frustrating about the whole thing. if not for the fact that it’s robbed of an ending and constantly interrupted by its need to tie into a larger story, Tomasi’s story would make a fairly entertaining stand-alone adventure.

What a Guy...

After all, Tomasi gets Guy Gardner. Ever since Justice League International, it’s hard to take the character especially seriously, as his arrogance and machismo have been exaggerated beyond ridiculous. He’s a tough character to write, as he has a distinctive voice, but one it’s far too easy to get lost in. I think the core of Tomasi’s portrayal is the fact that the author treats Guy as “the cowboy cop” of the Green Lantern Corps. He’s the reckless and self-assured one, but he’s always dirven by his absolutist sense of right and wrong. I think the best aspect of the Green Lantern mythos is that they are essentially “space cops”, and I think that Guy is just a science-fantasy spin on countless iconic law enforcement officials.

Tomasi even has the character quote classic movies, and they seem exactly like the sorts of films you’d expect Guy to like – you could easily see him lamenting to Kyle over the fact that they don’t make movies like that anymore. “Guess the only real trouble we’re having here, you scuzzballs, is a failure to communicate,” he paraphrases from Cool Hand Luke at one point. Later he channels Dirty Harry to sarcastically remark, “I’m all broken up about their skinned knees…”

Whereever he lays his Lantern...

It’s a very consciously “seventies” take on the character, but I think that’s why it works so well. Guy would seem to be a man in the wrong time on Earth, so sending him to the stars just amplifies that disconnect, and makes him an immediately fascinating character. Add to the fact that those sorts of seventies anti-heroes are subject to even greater scrutiny now than when they first appeared, and you have a pretty solid core. Despite his simple outlook on life, Guy is more complex because of the conflicts that outlook creates with the more nuanced universe. It’s at least as good as Johns’ characterisation of Hal, and miles ahead of Bedard’s work with John and Kyle.

Tomasi is fairly good all-round, and all the supporting cast feel the better for his use – including his continuing take on a meloncholia Kilowog, still recovering from Blackest Nightand scarred by the loss of lives he trained and cared for. He manages to even do a good job with Bleez, which is remarkable given how one-dimensional Red Lanterns tend to be. Tomasi puts together a quirky little ensemble, but he writes it well. I’d almost love to follow an on-going series with this cast of characters supporting Guy.

He's a smug snake...

The art by Fernando Pasarin looks absolutely lovely, as you can tell from the screenshots and is certainly worth the price of admission alone. Between Pasarin here and Mahnke on Green Lantern, the franchise really seems to have gotten the very best artists working at DC. The Green lantern books always feel a bit more inherently “comic-book-y” in their style than most, with artists asked to render any number of abstract or absurd constructs, so it’s fitting they’ve had the pick of the artists at the publisher.

I will concede, though, that I did find Emerald Warriors remarkably graphic. Nothing too shocking, but there are snakes forcing their ways into people’s bodies and Guy is digested by a snake and… well, the Red Lanterns are in it, which means lots of blood-vomitting. I found some of it rather strange for a tale that seems almost decidedly old-fashioned with its trips into “the Unknown Sectors” and other familiar Green Lanternplot devices. Still, Pasarin’s art is something to see.

One of the Guys...

It’s just a shame the series is so concerned with lining everything up for the big event, which is an increasingly frequent problem with modern comics – look at Geoff Johns’ latest run on The Flash, for example. There are a lot of individual elements that work really well, but the whole thing ends up falling considerably short of greatness because it feels more functional than enjoyable. Still, I can’t wait to tuck into Tomasi’s relaunched Green Lantern Corps.

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