Green Lanterns has truly been a delight. That in itself is kind of surprising, because Wonder Woman got it right back in Justice League #50: “why does Earth need another Green Lantern?” She’s not wrong, as there are now six human Lanterns assigned to Sector 2814. Sure, I guess John Stewart is technically in charge of the entire Corps now, Kyle Rayner is the White Lantern, and Hal Jordan does whatever he wants because nobody tells him no, but really? Not one but two more Lanterns? And now they get an entire series dedicated to them?
Surprise: it’s actually been pretty great. In fact, I’d say on the whole it’s been better than Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, which itself is pretty solid. What makes Green Lanterns work best is the “buddy cop” dynamic and the unique twist put on it here: this isn’t a grizzled vet and a hot-shot rookie teaming up, but two incredibly insecure newbies who need to learn to trust themselves and work together. Sam Humphries has been doing some great great character work with Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, letting each develop at their own pace and overcome their insecurities in due time. This came to a head in the excellent fifteenth issue where Jessica finally came to grips with her anxiety and pushed herself to work through it. It was an honest, introspective look that treated the character respectfully while also having cool green rings and light construct battles.
That brings us to this two-parter with Batman that ends this week. If Jessica struggles with anxiety, then Simon wrestles with crippling self-doubt. He doesn’t think he’s strong enough or good enough to protect those he loves. That’s why he carries a gun, in case the ring fails him. He doesn’t want to lose everyone that matters to him, and he doesn’t want to be blamed for any further tragedy.
In short, he’s afraid.
The idea of bringing the Lanterns to Gotham isn’t a bad one, but I don’t think it totally pays off the way it should. Having the Scarecrow be the agent behind a rash of “Batmanphobia” makes sense, and bringing the Lanterns in because Batman believes Sinestro rings are at play works well enough, but it’s all just a little on the nose and convenient. Really, this isn’t that great of a story, specifically a Batman story, so if that’s what you’re looking for you may be disappointed. Scarecrow with a yellow ring has been done before, and it really doesn’t pay off much in the end. The plot is really an excuse to bring Simon to Batman so Simon can overcome his insecurities. The plot is just a line to hang those moments from.
But those moments are really good, and there are quite a few that stick out between the two issues.
Jim Gordon gets in a pretty great line, and the previous issue played Batman and Simon’s deductive skills against each other for some good laughs. I particularly love that exchange above, with Batman telling a citizen that they don’t need to fear him. He doesn’t say it in as many words, but only criminals and those who prey on the innocent need to be afraid. He’s there to help people when they’re oppressed and in danger. He’s a good guy, and he’s there to help.
Artist Eduardo Pansica takes over from Neil Edwards, and his work is fine. Edwards was more polished and gelled with Blond’s colors a bit more, but I kind of like the less detailed look Pansica brings to the table. His Scarecrow in particular looks better, all gangly limbs and hanging rags. Edwards did a fine job on the book, no denying that, but I liked that Pansica’s style is much more simple. There aren’t as many memorable images as there could have been (though some of his constructs are pretty fun), but the less busy nature of his work is pretty easy on the eye. Add in Julio Ferreira’s fairly heavy inks and this book looks as dark as Gotham should without being oppressive or incoherent.
This arc works better on a thematic level than it does as a story or team-up. Since Simon trusts in a gun, it’s fitting that Batman takes issue with it. It’s also fitting that Batman extends his trust and respect to Simon to help him overcome his reliance on the weapon and, in turn, his own self-doubts. That too may be a bit on the nose, but the easy chemistry between Batman, Baz, and Cruz lends the arc a necessary heart.
If nothing else, Batman lays down some truth about Hal Jordan.
And that’s real.
- You want to see Simon Baz grow as a character.
- You like to pick up anything with Batman in it.
- You think some good thematic material and a few great lines are worth it to make up for a fairly pedestrian story.
Overall: While it may not be a great Batman story, it is a pretty good Simon Baz story. I love what Humphries has been doing on this title, and Brian said it best when he described this arc as a “snack” between the main course of the series’ larger arcs. Even if it isn’t a grand slam in terms of storytelling, there’s enough good here to recommend it. The title characters are growing and gaining depth by the week, and Batman serves a purpose beyond just “hey look, it’s Batman!” Pick it up if you’re curious, and start from the beginning if you like what’s here. Green Lanterns is a winner for sure.