4 out of 5
Why don’t we have fun like this in comics anymore? This Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual functions like a 2000 AD – it’s all short, 6-page-ish tales focusing on different GL corps members, some more serious in tone, some more light-hearted… Both Marvel and DC do their holiday annuals, which have a similar setup, but the focus of XMas or Halloween or whatever tends to make the stories all rather predictable, and every other major comic besides that is currently affected by some event or crossover or New Number One! disease. I can understand that a wide ranging cast allowed by the GLC is better suited for an anthology book, but then again, Batman Black and White managed to do it with only one guy, so… get on it, Marvel and DC, because this Annual was pretty fantastic.
The issue is book-ended by two stories by notable creatives which expand our understand of what a Green Lantern can be. John Byrne ends the book with a bit more ‘normal’ – but still wholly interesting – take on this, giving us a hive-mind GL (which visually ties into the somewhat pointless, if appreciated, framing pages for the issue by Joe Staton). Alan Moore, arted by Bill Willingham (looking fantastic, as inked by Terry Austin, versus his looser and more bland work in the last annual), goes wonderfully off map to create ‘Rop Lop Fan,’ a non-GL GL recruited by Katma Tui who is wholly sound-based; thus not a green lantern because Katma has no definition of ‘green’ or a ‘lantern,’ but protecting their sector with their own version of the classic ‘In brightest day…” mantra. This is Alan in pure SF mode (fitting with the 2000 AD comparison), and while I suppose ‘In Blackest Night’ is a minor story and didn’t have the implications of his previous annual entry, it’s a favorite of mine, given how it uses its limited space to sort of blow my mind with an out-of-nowhere idea.
Michael Carlin’s / Paris Cullins’ ‘Guardian Angel’ is kinda lame, an ‘it was all a dream’ fantasy of a dying GL, but Cullins’ art is damned expressive. This sits with Joey Cavalieri’s / Greg Brooks’ “funny” ‘Yellow Fever!’ – someone who doesn’t deserve the ring tries it on and hijinx ensue – as the only two duds in the book. But there’s the benefit of the anthology format: you get to move on quickly.
Kurt Busiek takes a few pages to create an entire sense of history and a fully rounded character in ‘Worship,’ with a GL that has let their green power go to their head, brought back to reality by the appearance of fellow GLs. J. L. Garcia Lopez’s artwork on this is quite gorgeous, with very formal but perfectly applied panelling. Richard Bruning similarly does a lot with a little in ‘A Sense of Obligation,’ with a GL – pregnant, wounded in battle – taking a final action to save a race which hates the GLs. And now the ring has to find its next owner… Kevin Nowlan adds his usual magic.
I’m admittedly no big fan of the Big Two, but reading books from the 70s and 80s reminds me that that’s more of a modern opinion. I sort of get why we can’t have books like this anymore, as Marvel / DC comics have grown out of being a niche into big, multi-media efforts with bigger budgets that require audience grabbing bids to stay afloat, but, of course, it’s a shame that we don’t see simple pleasures like this Annual come to print as easily or as often.