Following the lukewarm conclusion and even colder reception to the recent “Superhuman Trafficking” arc of Green Lanterns, issue #44 stands as an opportunity to inject fresh life into a series that has struggled since a creative team shake-up following issue #32. Green Lanterns #44 has me hopeful for the next few issues of this embattled series, with a character driven story that seems to set up a defining arc for young Jessica Cruz.
At the end of “Superhuman Trafficking” readers got to see Cruz command her willpower in an impressive surgical move that freed the minds of enslaved heroes. The final page, however, showed Jessica still had demons of her own to be free of and this issue picks up on that thread immediately.
It opens with a nice bit of foreshadowing, showing a mosquito sucking blood from Jessica’s arm just before she swats it away. This issue kicks off an arc that looks like it will focus on Jessica confronting her traumatic past, a past that, like the mosquito draining her blood, is draining her confidence and dwindling mental health.When the issue moves toward a Portland therapist’s office, I immediately noticed the change in artists. Ronan Cliquet takes over where V. Ken Marion left off and while his work on environments is admirable, his character models look awkwardly young.
For example, Jessica’s therapist not only looks like a humorous caricature of your typical Portlandian millennial, but she also can’t be a day over 19 based on her looks. Even Jessica appears oddly youthful when contrasted with Marion’s model of the character. Cliquet’s work isn’t bad, in fact there are multiple panels I found myself gushing over, it’s just not up to the same standard as Marion’s.This arc reintroduces one of the series’s original villains, Singularity Jain, who once again returns to suck the energy out of the weak, disheveled souls of the universe. Writer Tim Seeley provides an emotional example of a Jain victim during a quick but gut-wrenching encounter with a battle bot named Gage suffering from PTSD. When the Lanterns arrive in explosive fashion to thwart Jain just before she can take advantage of Gage, the jarring entry shakes his PTSD sending him into battle mode.
What follows is a surprising emotional glimpse into a broken robot who’s life is being destroyed by trauma, much like Jessica. He battles Simon Baz out of instinct, eventually coming to the realization that his affliction has gotten so severe he will likely lose custody of his daughter- which just enrages him more. It’s an unexpected but well executed sequence that shows the domino effect that crippling mental health issues can have on a person’s life, and I applaud Seeley for injecting this moment into the narrative.
That fight is not included to simply shed light on the dangers of mental health issues, it also fits snugly with the theme of this issue- the effects of trauma on good people when the trauma goes untreated. While Simon and Gage duke it out in the streets, Jain attempts to sway Jessica into a deal that would provide Jessica details to the missing memories of her past, the traumatic past that has fueled Jessica’s anxiety disorder. Of course, it is a cruel ploy by Jain to suck Jessica’s energy from her, but Jain sheds light on Jessica’s trauma that sets up an in-depth character arc for the coming issues.Like Gage, Jessica suffers from PTSD on top of severe anxiety. As alluded to in the opening pages, Jessica’s inability to reconcile with the past worsens her struggles, and who offers a path to reconciliation? Jain.
Jain knows that the key to ridding Jessica of her pain is to make her face the past head on, to squash the mosquito that is sucking the life from her. In order to confront her past, Jessica must open a very personal black hole (both figuratively and literally) that will lead her into the dark corners of her past while providing a terrifying opportunity for Jain to drain her of energy.
After the mediocre execution of “Superhuman Trafficking,” I am pleasantly surprised and excited for the direction “Ghosts of the Pasts” looks to take the Lanterns in issue #44. This book sets up a defining character arc for Jessica Cruz while simultaneously providing insight into the very real dangers of unchecked mental health problems.