Guest review by Kelson Vibber. Check out his blog at Speed Force!
Release Date: August 23, 2000
Cover Date: October 2000
Story: Brian K. Vaughan
Pencils: Cary Nord
Inks: Mark Lipka
Cover: Rodolfo Damaggio and Kevin Nowlan
Adam Strange and Green Lightning, a speedster Green Lantern from the future, defend Adam’s adopted world Rann from an attack by Oblivion. They find that the entire population has been driven mad with rage, and even Adam’s wife Alanna wants to kill him. Overwhelmed, they retreat to the Rannian wilderness to regroup, fight monsters, and investigate the cause of the planetwide madness. When they find it, they learn something very disturbing about the attacker.
This chapter is mostly self-contained, which is fortunate because I’ve never actually read the Circle of Fire bookends. Even so, there isn’t a whole lot of plot. Instead it focuses on a character study about being trapped between two worlds.
Green Lightning is heir to both the Green Lantern ring and the Flash legacy, through the union of the Rayner and West families. They could have easily made her a Green Lantern with an extra power, but instead she’s fueled by this conflict: Each side of her family wants her to follow their legacy and not the other. She can’t live up to either side’s expectations without disappointing the other, causing her to doubt herself and develop a mental block that only allows her to use one set of powers each day. This makes her more interesting than she could have been as just an overpowered hero, but it does lead to the odd situation that a book with Green Lantern in the title features a Lantern who doesn’t actually use her ring through most of the book.
Adam Strange, meanwhile, is torn between two literal worlds: Earth and Rann. There are two ways to tell an Adam Strange story: tell a straight-up wacky space adventure, or focus on this tension between the world of Adam’s birth and the world he longs to call home. This story drives home the point that, on Rann, Adam is in fact an alien. He’s the outsider, trying to fit in by being a hero, though the people of Rann see him as a primitive. The accusations that Alanna makes while under Oblivion’s influence sting all the harder because they echo doubts that already exist in his own mind.
By the end of the book, what stands out isn’t the adventure, the fighting, or the giant monsters, but the way the two conflicted characters help each other work through their self-doubt.
I’m not familiar with Cary Nord’s work, but it’s a bit sparse here for my tastes (Which is odd, because I usually like artists like, for instance, Scott Kolins) &mdash except in the incredibly detailed splash pages. His pages of the battle-damaged city of Ranagar remind me Keith Giffen’s style, and the opening page features a jumble of panels in front of an impressive view of the Moon and the JLA Watchtower with Earth, the sun and a starscape in the background.
What does stand out with the characters are the facial expressions. Especially in the close-ups, you get a real sense of fear, surprise, delight, despair, even smugness.
I’m not too impressed by the design of Green Lightning, though. On the plus side, she looks like a runner, not a bodybuilder or a model. On the minus side, the costume is awfully plain, and the combination of earpieces that stick out sideways and a bald head remind me of Mr. Mxytzptlk or Londo from Babylon 5. If DC had decided to keep her around in some way, it would have been worth breaking up the solid color a bit.
It’s a nice character study of Adam Strange, and would be a good introduction to the character. (Certainly better than my own, which was the extremely bleak early 1990s miniseries.) It’s not much of a Green Lantern story, though, since Green Lightning doesn’t make much use of the Green Lantern mythos, and in the end, she mainly exists to serve as a mirror for Adam Strange’s own conflict.
Bonus: Flash Facts
Adam describes the distance to Rann as being about 25 trillion miles. At the time, Rann was supposed to be in the Alpha Centauri system, which is about…25 trillion miles away. (This also means that Rann should have two suns in the sky, like Tatooine.)
Adam mentions “flashing images in cartoons that can induce seizures in kids.” This is a reference to the 1997 incident in which hundreds of Japanese children (at least some of whom had epilepsy) experienced seizures or other symptoms while watching an episode of Pokémon.