4 out of 5
Many a’time, I have recited something similar to the following, with which I’ll again regale you: I don’t envy those that have to write mainline Marvel / DC comics, and I understand why – lacking any distinct character dedication – I trailed off reading them long ago. Keeping the characters afloat amidst continuity that stretches across decades makes it very hard to craft stories that not only feel impactful (that aren’t just a wave of “the world is ending… again!” faux cliffhangers), but also to find new ways to “break” a story. And I’d say it’s even more difficult nowadays, when comics are so visible and no longer niche – you likely have to make your stories open-ended enough to invite in several demographics and age ranges.
Take that and double down on it for specials like the Green Lanter 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular: comprised of 10 short tales, you now are stripped of having the buffer of other issues in a run to build up a story, and so each short has to do all of this in a few pages. That very often means very, very generic re-tellings of what makes a particular hero – GL – that hero, and if you’ve read those stories once, you’ve read ’em a million times. The writers tasked with that for our GL heavy-hitters – James Tynion IV with Alan Scott, Geoff Johns with Hal Jordan – do their diligent bests, and are thankfully paired with excellent artists (Gary Frank, Ivan Reis, respectively) to write acceptable “read ’em a million times” tales that fit the bill of celebrating constants for longtime readers and working as introductions for new reders.
A few followups try for something deeper, but either the writer is, ahem, in full-on old man mode by this point for it to work – Dennis O’Neil’s GL / Green Arrow teamup – or the story just requires too much character context to really be all that effective, with Cullen Bunn taking on Sinestro. And then Ron Marz is plopped in the middle of the book with a completely faceless Kyle Rayner tale.
But the latter half of the spectacular is great: writers – perhaps with the latitude offered by new characters or a full cast instead of one particular focus – deliver stories that work, fully, on their own, and suggest the worlds of creativity of which comics are capable, and maybe especially the cosmic universe of GL. Peter J. Tomasi gives us an excellent Kilowogg story; Robert Vendetti casts Rayner, Jordan, and John Stewart into the future for something pretty powerful and fun; and a couple of newer GLs – Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz – have rather generic teen-geared stories as crafted by Mariko Tamaki and Sina Grace, respectively, but they’re incredibly cool in showing how the scope of the comics medium has expanded to cover different personality types and backgrounds, opening up the appeal of the GL titles.
Charlotte McDuffie’s John Stewart tale kind of sits outside of all of this, and is fairly comics-dumb on the surface, but understanding it’s (not so subtle) commentary on / tribute to McDuffie’s husband’s Milestone imprint makes it worthwhile.
So, on the whole, a good assortment of shorts which do the concept justice, then bumped up even further with some great pin-ups, and a back section which gives legit bios – not just tossed-off ones – on every featured GL plus more.