Since my very first post here on Wait, What?, I’ve been holding up the Green Lantern family of books as an example of … maybe not the worst of the DCYou initiative, per se, but certainly the most dull. (In fact, I was dismissive enough in that first post that I openly tried to make up for it with a capsule review of Green Lantern: Lost Army in my second — a noble effort that failed miserably when I was left bored and cold by GL:LA.)
But Sinestro #14 happened to be sitting on the top of a pile while I was trying (and, as ever, failing) to relax earlier, the only book in easy reach, so I read it for lack of anything better to do … and it’s the first recent Green Lantern family book that has made me want to come back for more.
You will no doubt be astounded to hear that the book opens with — WAIT FOR IT! — a random alien getting a Sinestro Corps ring. Either I’m spectacularly unlucky in the random Lantern-related issues I read, or there have been 839,000 iterations of this “RANDOM DUDE. YOU HAVE THE POWER TO INSTILL GREAT [WHATEVER],” scene in the last few years.
But writer Cullen Bunn does something interesting with this one: he gives the Sinestro Corps ring to a mild-mannered, unassuming little alien (Nax, of the Naidroth Collective) who isn’t particularly interested in violence or evil, and hasn’t heard of the Sinestro Corps … or, for that matter, the Green Lantern Corps.
Both elements of that hook are clever. What makes the latter part good is pretty straightforward: it makes Nax into a reader avatar, who asks the questions that readers might want to know (“Peace-keeping … force?” he asks, as Sinestro introduces his #squad, “Those two things don’t seem to go together.”) and also provides an opportunity for Sinestro to level-set the whole cosmic conflict for readers who maybe haven’t read every issue of like seven different titles since Blackest Night. So that’s neat.
But the first part of the hook is even better. There’s no reason that “having the power to instill great fear” necessarily means “are a slavering sociopathic carnivorous alien murder machine.” As a result, this twist explores the entire ideological underpinning of the Sinestro Corps as a concept while also giving the issue a pleasant build-up to the reveal of what Nax can do to cause great fear. Neither the set-up nor the reveal is particularly earth-shaking, but they’re both well-executed and fundamentally sound bits of comic book storytelling that kept me turning the pages and nodding along.
(Bonus points for getting ahead of the X-Files resurgence zeitgeist: a number of totally non-subtle allusions are made to the Naidroth Collective being the “Grays” or “Communion Aliens” who’ve been allegedly abducting earth people since the mid-20th century. It’s a cute throwaway bit that I really, really, really hope doesn’t spin itself into a larger continuity point, for no real reason other than ugh.)
The art comes from Robson Rocha, who is firmly in the post-Jim Lee school of superhero art. You can spot traces of Brett Booth and Ian Churchill in his work, but he’s got a better sense of storytelling than the former and much less bombast than the latter. His work is slick, easy to look at and easier to follow; it’s not something I’d go out of my way to seek out, but he does a very good job keeping this relatively sedate story visually appealing, and he sells the moneyshot reveal of Nax’s abilities admirably.
It’s not what I expected to have happen, but against all odds this slight-but-enjoyable confection of a Green Lantern spinoff finally has me intrigued by DC’s plans for that whole family of books.