Dating sucks. Anyone who says differently is a liar or a sociopath. Dating really sucks when everyone you are trying to swoon is kidnapped and forced into servitude by intergalactic religious zealots. Such is the case in Green Lanterns #43, as Lanterns Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz put an end to the Order of the Steed’s superhuman trafficking ring once and for all. This “Superhuman Trafficking” arc never managed to hit any sort of stride but #43 concludes the story on a higher note than previous issues, brought down by poorly constructed villains yet saved by quality character moments.
This four-issue arc started on shaky ground, gained momentum with the second part, and stumbled during the final two acts thanks to utterly boring villains. Great villains (usually) make great stories while poor villains can drag an otherwise decent narrative down- the Order of the Steed are poor villains. Last issue it’s revealed that the Steed can transfer their consciousness into superhuman bodies and in this issue they claim they’ll reach God status once in superhuman form. There’s one glaring problem with their theory- these “superhumans” are D-list superheroes, completely irrelevant in the DC Universe.
The Steed aren’t harnessing the power of the Lanterns or particularly powerful heroes, they commandeer characters like Night Pilot and Bearer of Bad News (yes, that is a real character name) who are barely superheroes in the first place. There’s no weight to the Steed’s plan when the reader knows that any of the DC Universe’s real superheroes could easily dispatch the “heroes” they’ve enslaved. If the Steed’s plan succeeds they wouldn’t be “Gods,” they’d just be mildly powered people still very low on the totem pole of powered individuals.
It’s not all bad with the Order of the Steed, they do provide an empathetic analysis of religious zealotry. Later in the issue, outlaw turned volunteer cop Scrapps has one of the more powerful Steed in her sights, and in this moment the Steed acknowledges the lie of his religion yet offers an explanation behind his commitment through tear-filled pleas for mercy, saying “I-I just wanted to be someone. I just wanted my life to be worth something.”
While the Order of the Steed serve as a pretty damning example of organized religion, this particular moment offers a chance for readers to empathize with the Steed’s motives. Their religion provides meaning and purpose, without it they’d be left feeling insignificant and worthless. Despite their villainy, the Steed show the readers why faith, for some people, is so damn important. It doesn’t help make their plan any less ridiculous, but I enjoyed this thought-provoking insight from writer Tim Seeley.
It’s the character moments within this issue that end up making it a solid read. New(ish) Lantern Jessica Cruz has struggled with controlling the constructs created by her ring, yet in this issue she summons the will-power to pull off an impressive feat- performing neurosurgery on 20 enslaved heroes simultaneously. Cruz is a great character who is easy to root for, so seeing her really take control of her powers is a rewarding sight for longtime readers. I, for one, am excited to see her take this newfound mastery into further issues and see how it plays out in the upcoming No Justice event.
Those who read my review of issue 40 know I was not particularly fond of the idea of Cruz and Baz becoming a couple, however, #43 manages to completely change my mind. I let out an audible “awww” when Cruz’s ring explains she summons will power from Baz’s voice. Then Baz visits Jessica explaining how she constantly shows him how to be better and suddenly I realize how they’re absolutely perfect for each other. I am officially on team Jessimon.
V. Ken Marion comes back for the second consecutive issue as penciler and once again delivers wonderfully detailed pages. Character models are well proportioned and genuinely life-like while action sequences unfold with clarity thanks to the crisp layout of each page.
Unfortunately there is still a general lack of creativity when it comes to the Lanterns’ creative constructs. Part of what makes Green Lanterns so interesting is the unlimited possibilities rings afford them, so it’s a shame when Simon is wielding a construct as archaic as a sword and shield. I’d like to see Marion flex his creative muscles a bit more.
The “Superhuman Trafficking” arc isn’t bad enough to make readers quit but certainly isn’t good enough to receive any recommendations. It’s a story that will quickly be forgotten, although it did serve up nice character progression for Jessica Cruz. As a conclusion to the four part plot, Green Lanterns #43 is one of the arc’s best despite lackluster villains, thanks to the progression of Jessica Cruz and her relationship with Simon.