Green Lantern #23.1
August 31st, 2015
Featuring a relic of a bygone age... and by that I mean the New 52.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Patreon-sponsored review time again, but first, let's talk for a second about villains.
(A montage is shown of supervillains in comic books)
Linkara (v/o): Is it just me, or do people seem to have a huuuge fixation on supervillains? Now, don't get me wrong, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in desperate need of more complex villains, especially when Loki is the most compelling, while other villains are either super-serious sticks in the mud or could be frustratingly jokey, to the point of annoyance, but I'm seeing more and more of a tendency for people to be more interested in the villains than the heroes. You see this in TV shows with recurring villains, like in Doctor Who, where an episode featuring old, familiar favorites will more likely attract an audience than a newer menace, even if the episode itself isn't up to snuff. You see it in my own fanbase, who, for a few years now, have been asking me to devote time during Secret Origins Month to the first appearances of villains. And most unfortunately, you see it over in DC Comics. A lot of DC's heroes are defined not only by themselves, but by their villains, some becoming no better than jokes... and some that really should have remained jokes. But still, it feels like they spend a little too much time focusing on those villains and seeing how much darker and, quote-unquote, "edgier" they could be made. Apparently, someone felt that not only did the Joker need to cut off his own face and staple it back on, but that he should also be some kind of uber-God mode villain that is completely unstoppable, and also some kind of immortal spirit or something. I don't know, I didn't read "Batman: Endgame", and I suspect it'll be ignored from here on out. But why this fascination with villains? Is it an optimistic assumption that if one got superpowers, they'd use them for good, thus those who use them for evil are considered fascinating? Or is it the other way around: a cynical assumption that if granted power, people would use them malevolently without concern for consequences? I don't know the answer, but it's been on my mind as of late. And apparently on DC's as well. For a while now, DC has been pushing their villains, most recently in a Villains Month, with stupid lenticular covers that nobody asked for and nobody wanted. Or at least somebody must have wanted them, because I blame them for the current trend of completely unnecessary variant covers that... well, much as I hate to say it, look much better than the actual covers to the comics.
Linkara: (looking thoughtful) I had a point somewhere... Oh, yeah! Villains Month.
Linkara (v/o): "Villains Month" was a tie-in to "Forever Evil", an event that itself spawned out of another event called "Trinity War" and was about the evil Crime Syndicate from another dimension coming into the DC Universe and taking over. If you're not aware, the Crime Syndicate comes from what is basically the Mirror Universe DCU: good is evil, evil is good, and all reality television was replaced with a new Star Trek television universe. And thus, every comic in September had multiple issues focusing on various villains and their shenanigans. This is in spite of the fact that the event's entire premise was "What if evil won?", the exact same premise behind Grant Morrison's confusing and head-tilting "Final Crisis", which also had its own stupid Villains Month called "Faces of Evil", except not as stupid, because Villains Month went all in with pointlessness. I mentioned the stupid lenticular covers (dramatically) in 3D, (normal again) but they also felt the need to screw with the numbering. Instead of just having a ton of one-shots all focused around the villains, and what you would think would be the case, given the names of the villains were written over the names of the heroes' own books, they numbered their comics on a decimal system!
Linkara: (incredulously) Years ago, I joked about this sort of thing. I mean, what's even the point? They're not connected to each other, yet we have "Detective Comics #23.1", "23.2", etc. How come when I'm kidding about bad ideas, they come true, but none of the ideas for improving things ever happen?! Am I not being sarcastic enough?
Linkara (v/o): And thus, we come to today's book: "Green Lantern #23.1", AKA "Relic #1". Relic is actually a newer character invented in "The New 52". I'll get more into his backstory during the comic itself... mostly because the comic is about his backstory. And the problems I have with it.
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Green Lantern #23.1" and see why this required its own special decimal numbering.
(AT4W title theme plays, and the title card has "When the Lights Go Down In the City" by Journey playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): You know what's weird about this cover? Mine is not the lenticular one, and as I brought up last week, DC finally dropped the "The New 52" label from their comics, even if they're overall sticking with the universe it created, but that label was on there for over three years, despite no longer being new and the amount of comics fluctuating. And yet, despite the lenticular cover featuring the "New 52" label, this plain cover does not have it.
Linkara: I don't get it. Did the editor just forget to add it in? Or were they late to a lunch and decided, "Eh, whatever. Nobody's gonna buy this one; the other one is 3D, anyway."
Linkara (v/o): Here's another detail that bugs me about this Villain Month thing. A lot of the Villain titles are just haphazardly painted over the heroes' logos. I mean, with some of them, that would make sense, but Relic here is a gigantic scientist. You're telling me that he writes with finger-paint?
Linkara: You know that riff I did last year, Graffiti - Fun or Dumb? Yeah, this one definitely falls into the latter category.
Linkara (v/o): There's not much else to say about it. Hal Jordan is chained to an asteroid, and Relic is telling us to talk to the hand. Actually, I think the idea is that he's tossing all these broken lantern rings at the reader, except Relic is huge. He's basically tossing a bunch of items that are smaller than breadcrumbs at us, and I have a hard time believing he actively knew he was doing it. On the plus side, though, he's ready to bust some ghosts with that Proton Pack he's got on.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open in...
Narrator: The existence before ours.
Linkara: You know, in the time before the Internet. (looks up in awe) Those were dark days, my friends.
Linkara (v/o): Referring to this rainbow kaleidoscope in space, we have this narration.
Narrator: A wondrous display. Dazzling light of every hue cast against the black, unblemished canvas of space.
Linkara: (as narrator) Unfortunately, the artist was supposed to be making a sculpture, and so the person who commissioned it is not very happy.
Linkara (v/o): He states that while people might think it's a celebration, in reality, it's a battle. None of these guys are actually characters in this comic, so I'll just refer to them any time we see them by their lantern colors.
TIME 4 BACKSTORY
(A montage of shots is shown of Geoff Johns' "Green Lantern" series)
Linkara (v/o): As part of Geoff Johns' relaunch of the Green Lantern books, he introduced the idea that green lanterns were not the only color lanterns out there, that there was an entire emotional spectrum that beings could call upon. Green was willpower, although I personally interpret it as courage, because willpower is not an emotion, it is simply a driving force. Plus, it would make more sense for when new Green Lanterns are chosen, the ring says, "You have the ability to overcome great fear." But I digress. Yellow was fear, or rather, instilling fear in people; orange, avarice; red, anger; violet, love; indigo, compassion; and blue, hope.
Linkara: Who knew emotions were just a basic paint set?
Linkara (v/o): I snark, but I do like the idea of the Multiple Lantern Corps. What I don't like is what this comic, and the story it led into, propose. So anyway, in the time before time, the different proto-Lanterns waged war with one another.
Narrator: It did not have to end.
Linkara: (as narrator) They could've fought each other pointlessly for much longer!
Narrator: He had tried to warn the Lightsmiths. At times they warred together against a common enemy. Other times they turned their war upon themselves.
Linkara: (as narrator) Still other times, they attended Magic: The Gathering tournaments together.
Narrator: Whatever the reason, the effect was the same. The fuel of all existence was being depleted.
Linkara: Oh, great, the comic is about an environmental message! Should I have labeled this "PSA Hell"?
Linkara (v/o): He explains pretty much what I have already told you guys: that the Lightsmiths forged weapons using the emotional spectrums, and labels off the emotions from their own perspective. Basically the same emotions, just variations, like gluttony for avarice, resolve for willpower, etc. Also, apparently, in the old universe, everyone looked like some kind of monster. And yet, the violet Lightsmiths do not have the scantily-clad outfits of the Star Sapphires. Funny, innit? Also, I bet that red Lightsmith would make a great opera singer.
Narrator: In the Lightsmiths' hands, the weapons performed unbelievable feats.
Linkara: (as narrator) The shadow puppets they created were unmatched!
Linkara (v/o): He also describes other powers that their respective lights granted them, like the blue light healing people, or the indigo light allowing instant teleportation.
Linkara: Because, you know, having a lot of compassion allows you to bend space and time.
Narrator: Others shaped the light into solid constructs limited only by the wielder's imagination.
Linkara: (as narrator) Disaster struck when this task was handed over to Hollywood executives.
Narrator: Entire civilizations were built not with wood or stone or alloy, but with light.
(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching This Island Earth)
Crow T. Robot: Sounds like a crappy plan, but okay.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Relic summoned the Lightsmiths together and plead his case: that the light they were using was actually a finite resource, and that there must be a reservoir of the energy they utilized, and if they weren't careful, it would run out, and, well, that whole "building entire civilizations using only light instead of actual construction materials" would kinda screw people over.
Narrator: For the light wasn't merely a destination of emotion into energy, as they had long believed. It was the essence of existence itself.
Linkara: Aaand here's my big problem with Relic's backstory. The comic's played out and proved that he was correct. Except, that is utter bullcrap and flies in the face of everything we know about this entire concept! Admittedly, it's comic book science, so it's all bullcrap, but you get what I mean.
Linkara (v/o): If this is just some energy reserve that they're tapping into, why does it only work through emotion? If emotions are generating the energy, shouldn't utilizing our emotions always be refilling this thing? How exactly does that make any sense when each color of the spectrum also has a creature that embodies that emotion and the energy wielded? What, are they just totems for this reservoir? How does this also relate to the white and black lanterns, representing life and death, respectively? Supposedly, all the lights together create white, but then, why is there a creature that embodies it? How did this well get there in the first place? And if the lantern batteries don't just convert emotional energy into physical energy, how exactly did they tap into this well, especially if no one ever knew it was there? What about superheroes who we've learned also tap into emotional spectrum power? Are they draining the well, too? Why all the different emotions tapping into it if it's all just one big glob of energy? Hell, how does it divide into its constituent lights if it's being drained? Or are there multiple reserves?
(Linkara having asked so many questions, cut to the inevitable clip of Batman Forever)
Bruce Wayne (Val Kilmer): It just raises too many questions.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Basically, this "reservoir" is a huge-ass retcon.
Linkara: (sarcastically) DC retconning something when they have no good reason to do so?! I've never heard of such a thing!
Linkara (v/o): They create long-term problems for storytelling, since after the storyline, suddenly, everybody's afraid of using their lantern powers. And of course, this means it has to be addressed later on, since they're still going to use the powers, or else there isn't any story. Otherwise, it's just the "Adventures of Hal Jordan" test pilot. And thus, they're always draining it, and eventually, it will run out. Then again, I doubt it would be the "Adventures of Hal Jordan" test pilot, since it's been, like, years since there's been a regular issue where he's on Earth fighting supervillains there. You know what this reminds me of?
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Linkara (v/o): In Star Trek: The Next Generation, there was this episode where they try to do an environmental message about warp travel damaging space, and so Starfleet imposed this warp-5 speed limit, aaand it was pretty much dropped after The Next Generation ended, even putting it in unpublished materials that they fixed the problem off-screen, simply because it was such a stupid concept, due to it destroying their own storytelling engine.
Linkara: And speaking of sabotaging their own narrative, let's talk about how lazy (points to comic) this comic is. In case you haven't noticed, every page in this comic is a splash page, and there is no dialogue. This is all caption boxes telling this story.
Linkara (v/o): That's the next best part of this. Since it's all done in narrative captions and all about Relic's struggle to stop the Lightsmiths, you would think he would be the one telling this story... except it's not, unless Relic speaks about himself in the third person, which he doesn't, so we're just left wondering who the hell us all of this. Oh, and it gets stupider, if you can believe it. See, I complained about the emotional reservoir thing not making any sense within its own universe, but hey, I guess you could conceivably say that's how this worked this whole time. But now this narrator is pulling stuff out of its ass.
Narrator: Was not gravity simply one object's passion to be near another?
Linkara: (stares briefly) No!
Narrator: Do not even the basest life forms persevere because of emotion?
Linkara: Yes, that mold on your stale bread perseveres because of (puts hand over his heart) the feels.
Narrator: Desire for what they had. Terror of losing it. Fury toward the gluttony of others who sought to take it.
Linkara: Man, the first draft of Inside Out was weird.
Narrator: Wasn't survival nothing more than a vast exercise of resolve?
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Scrubs)
Dr. Cox: And again, raise your hand if you're full of crap.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Naturally, nobody believed his theories calling him a "relic of an old time", because simply being the last survivor of his universe wasn't justification enough for his name, I guess, they demanded proof. So he assembled a ship and a bunch of technology in the hopes of finding the reservoir itself. Eventually, he came to the Source Wall, a structure around the entire universe... You'd think something that big would be a lot more visible anywhere in the universe, but whatever... that can't be penetrated. This is stuff tied into the New Gods mythos, and in the wake of "Countdown"...
Linkara: Another notch on my (makes "air quotes") "all bad comics can somehow be tied back into 'Countdown'" theory that frankly seems to have more weight behind it than the "emotional reservoir" theory.
Linkara (v/o): ...it was retconned so as to be the physical barrier between parallel universes, and traveling between universes damaged the wall, so that if it was ever destroyed, the multiverse would get all "blowed up" or something. Anything that touches the wall is absorbed into it, so scientific study of it is difficult. However, he was too late in his searches, since the reservoir starts running out, first with the blue Lightsmiths.
Linkara: (deadpan) Get it? Because hope dies first. Except, of course, obviously, the emotion itself still exists, so that makes no sense.
Linkara (v/o): The Lightsmiths realize that Relic was right, but because these people are not the brightest – pun not intended, but I'll take credit for it anyway – their decided course of action was to... wage war with one another over what little light remained. Not exactly sure what they hope to accomplish by doing so, but then again, they're the same people who decided to make buildings out of flashlight beams instead of concrete. And here's Relic, flying around their dead bodies in his superspace jetpack. He flies up to the last green Lightsmith and proclaims, in the only actual dialogue balloons in this comic, even though this is space, and he probably can't hear him...
Relic: We could have stopped this. You should have listened.
Linkara: Yes, rub it in the face of the dying man, Relic. I bet everyone's gonna be really sad they won't get to listen to you anymore.
Linkara (v/o): Also, the universe is apparently making a Rorschach painting with the stars. Ooh, a bunny! But yeah, here's where we get even more stupidity. See, remember that bullcrap about gravity just being passion? Yeah, he wasn't being flowery; he was talking literally, because with the well exhausted, the universe itself begins to fall apart!! Yeah, turns out all functions of reality are tied into this well! Heat, molecules, digital watches, they're all connected to this thing, so with the well gone, the universe just... dies! Which then just begs further questions about this whole emotional energy reservoir, since if all of creation is connected to it, wouldn't that mean that existence itself is constantly draining it? It's not even really clear what the hell happens. It looks like planets and stars are falling into a black hole... I dunno... yet Relic is able to escape away from that and instead head to the Source Wall, which is also crumbling. And since Relic is all about science and crap, he decides, "Eh, why not?" and goes to explore what's on the other side of the crumbling wall. And indeed, that's where the well was stored, but by traveling through it, he was deconstructed and rebuilt as part of the new universe that occurred in this space. Not sure how the hell that happens, but hey, cameo of the big giant hand forming the universe that's always seen whenever DC shows the origins of the universe.
Linkara: (confused) Sooo... did Relic's universe have the big, giant hand, too? How does the universe just start over like this? I mean internally, not from the (makes an "air quote") "DC rebooted everything again" perspective?
Narrator: He was reformed as part of a new existence. Reorganized. Remade.
Linkara: (as narrator) Republican.
Narrator: No longer a relic in name only, but by definition as well.
Linkara: So, what the hell was his name before "Relic"? Or as part of his origin, was it also his nickname in high school, too?
Linkara (v/o): Billions of years passed, and I guess Relic decided to take a nap or something since he laid dormant during all of that, inside of a space-time anomaly, until he was found by Kyle Rayner and the Guardians of the Universe – long story.
Narrator: Beings in awe of the vast universe they were only beginning to explore. Beings driven by curiosity to ask questions and seek answers. Curiosity, the engineer of progress...
Linkara: (stroking chin) And yet, curiosity isn't really part of the emotional spectrum. Neither is happiness, really. Or are those corollaries of other emotions? (strokes chin again) Revulsion also isn't part of the spectrum. Is that a part of fear? B-But no, disgust was separated out from fear in Inside Out, and none of you guys actually care. I'm just stalling.
Linkara (v/o): Their approach woke Relic up, and he decided that his last method, coming at them reasonably with science and debate, failed to convince people. So this time, he'll just try being a dick to them and stopping them by force.
Linkara: Dude, your approach failed because you had no evidence of your frankly stupid hippie theory about how (imitating a hippie) we're, like, all connected by our feelings, man.
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with Relic awakening and showing off that apparently the old universe used to be a lot bigger. I think we got kinda screwed over on living space in the new place.
Linkara: (holding up comic) This comic sucks! I'll grant you, the artwork is good, and despite Relic's theory being stupid, he actually has a believable motivation.
Linkara (v/o): But that motivation is based on an unnecessary and, frankly, idiotic retcon. It's certainly not the worst retcon in the world, but it's definitely one of the laziest. There's barely any story here! This origin could've been told in a two-page spread outlining the basics about the emotional reservoir and about being a scientist, because there's no substance to this comic. Twenty pages of "Relic is a scientist and everyone else didn't listen to him". That's it! No characterization, nothing about his own life or experiencing the horror of the universe dying and him not being to do anything about it, just him telling a guy, "Told ya so!" Was this put together at the last minute for this stupid Villains Month? How was it that an entire universe dies, and yet, I'm not moved to care about any of it?
Linkara: Next time, we go back to the '90s so that I don't spend the next hundred years reviewing everything related to "the next generation of heroes", with "Team Youngblood". And yet, I can't be certain whether it's that or this comic that has less effort put into it. (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
The Green Lantern books are seriously in the middle of event fatigue, quite frankly. After Blackest Night, I don't think we've had a period longer than one or two issues that hasn't been a crossover event of some kind.
Enjoy the new ending theme music!
(Stinger: The title card for this episode is shown, but with the phrase "MECHAKARA WUZ HERE – LINKARA IS A LOSER" spraypainted over it)
Linkara (v/o): Behold my Villains Month title card! Isn't it super impressive?