It’s no secret that rookie Green Lantern Jessica Cruz has some serious baggage. From life-long bouts with anxiety and being overtaken by the evil Volthoom to witnessing her childhood friends ruthlessly gunned down, it’s no wonder why Jessica may not have a strong grasp on her sanity. Green Lanterns #44 began a journey into Jessica’s trauma with #45 picking up moments later, as a literal black hole consumes Jessica and her apartment. This issue amplifies the traumatic events of her past and adds a heightened sadistic nature to the main villain, even if it feels like half of a whole story better suited for a longer issue.
Jessica Cruz is in a real bad spot. She’s allowed Singularity Jain to open a portal to her deepest, darkest memory in an attempt to reconcile with her past while Jain feeds off her trauma. That alone would make Jain seem completely heinous, however, her early interactions with the Justice League make her seem even more unsettling.
First off, she immediately puts Batman in his place, saying, “I understand we both feed on the cowardly and fearful in our own ways, Batman,” upon meeting him. Not only does she liken Jessica Cruz to the criminals Batman defiles, but quickly asserts that she and the Dark Knight aren’t so different — she simply has a darker end to their similar means.
It gets even darker. While compelled to speak honestly through Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth, Jain’s sinister plans for Jessica come to light — both through Jain’s admittance and the panel layout by artist Ronan Cliquet. Jain admits she wishes to use Jessica’s pain as “the most complex and succulent multi-course meal I have eaten in far too long,” however, it’s the specific layout of the page that hints at an even more villainous ulterior motive.
During this exchange early in the comic, I was awestruck by the layout employed, yet felt it was familiar — Jessica’s face being split vertically in the middle of the page, the other half being Jain’s while the remaining space is sectioned into threes depicting Jessica’s hunting accident. This is eerily similar to a Doug Mahnke page in Justice League #32 (2014) except in Mahnke’s version, it’s Cyborg and Jessica’s face while the evil Volthoom explains how to leverage Jessica’s past for his own gain.
This means one of two things: either 1.) Writer Tim Seeley and Cliquet are using this callback to suggest Jain is as evil as Volthoom, or 2.) Jain’s real plan with Jessica is to lure the power ring out in order to wield a dark, fear-driven Jessica for her own gain. Regardless of the outcome, it’s a brilliant use of art by Cliquet to strengthen the narrative.
Singularity Jain certainly gets her fair due in this issue, but it’s still a Jessica Cruz story. Readers have seen glimpses of Jessica’s tragic hunting trip with her childhood friends, but it’s never been portrayed as intimately as it is here.
Some of these exchanges feel a little like they’ve been ripped from any ’90s teen movie, but they’re effective in showing just how close the bond Jessica shared with her friends was. Nearly every conversation or anecdote between Jessica and her friends serves the purpose of showcasing how those friends were more than just family to Jessica — they were the glue that was holding her fragile mental state together. This causes their eventual demise to feel all more devastating for Jessica while proving to be more than traumatic enough a memory to feed Jain and possibly resurrect the power ring.
There’s also a quick yet wonderful appearance from John Constantine in this issue. It feels a little random, since the Green Lantern Corps has to have a more qualified person for the job, but his moments with Simon Baz provide some much needed laughs for an otherwise dark issue.
There are a few small problems holding this issue back. Occasionally, the facial expressions of the characters feel out-of-place compared to the dialogue their speaking. Also, I can’t help but feel this issue would’ve been more impactful as an annual issue that allowed for a higher page count. Being split into two regular issues does ultimately afford more pages, but splitting a story that relies on emotional momentum into two issues spread two weeks apart made this particular issue feel half finished and abruptly ended.
Jessica Cruz is one of the more complex heroes of the Green Lantern Corps, and this current arc looks to explore her character to the furthest extent. Green Lanterns #45 is another solid entry in this arc that heightens Jain’s villainous status while hinting at her true plans through expert use of page layout and adds emotional depth to Jessica’s traumatic past.