Tag Archives: Jessica Cruz

A Green Lanterns #15 Review – Anxiety Attacks!

Green Lanterns #15, 2017TITLE: Green Lanterns #15
AUTHOR: Sam Humphries
PENCILLER: Miguel Mendonca. Cover by Tyler Kirkham and Tomeu Morey.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: January 18, 2017

***Looking for more? Check out Green Lanterns, Vol. 1: Rage Planet.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

For many people, clinical anxiety is a tough thing to understand. There’ve literally been books written about loving people with anxiety, and how anxious individuals can maintain healthy relationships. But writing about anxiety, and conveying those feelings is very hard. Trust me, I know.

That’s what makes Green Lanterns #15 so special. Sam Humphries, Miguel Mendonca, and their cohorts take readers inside the mind of an anxious person as well, if not better, than anyone I’ve ever seen. Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz have never been more real than they are in this issue.

“A Day in the Life” spotlights Jessica, our newest Green Lantern who lives with anxiety every day. Lucky, her partner Simon always has her back. But even those closest to Jessica don’t understand what she goes through on a day-to-day basis. Things don’t get any less tense when the Justice League comes calling about a monster wreaking havoc.

Green Lanterns #15, submarine sceneFull disclosure: Having anxiety myself, I may be biased on this one. But I’m part of the demographic this issue will effect the most: People with anxiety. We see Jessica having to summon a hero’s bravery just to get out of bed in the morning, and that’s what it feels like sometimes. It sounds overly dramatic. But those who’ve been there know what it’s like. Each new day can mean a new battle with your own emotions.

Humphries has always excelled at taking us inside Jessica’s mind. Her thoughts will skew one way, and she’ll have to push back against them. Case in point, her inner monologue on the page at right. Racing negative thoughts are fought with positive thoughts. Ot one point we actually see those caption boxes stacked on top of one another to convey the speed of her racing mind.

The issue’s high point is the splash page where Jessica actually has an anxiety attack (shown below). Her thoughts take a nosedive into all the worst cast scenarios, and the spiral is a tremendous way to convey it. The pained expression on her face is beautifully rendered by Mendonca. Her gripping the bedsheets so tightly is a great visual.

Simon’s role in this story is important. He’s part of Jessica’s support system. But he’s not perfect. He gets frustrated. But he keeps trying. Because that’s what you do when you care for someone. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: I hope they don’t make Jessica and Simon a couple. Too predictable. They’re toying with a Jessica/Barry Allen romance, though I doubt that goes anywhere.

Green Lanterns #15, anxiety attackMiguel Mendonca has been around for awhile, but this is my first exposure to him. All I can say is, I want more. He’s one of those artists that’s great with little details in human expression that allows readers to lose themselves in the issue. I’ll reiterate that the center image of Jessica at left is gorgeous. There’s also a scene late in the book with she and Simon at her kitchen table, and we get two close-up shots that look beautifully real. From Simon’s little smile, to Jessica tucking her hair behind her ear. What we get here is very much in the style of a traditional superhero comic. But there’s a great element of believability and realism to it. As believable and real as it can be when you have a giant monster throwing a submarine…

You can certainly argue there’s an element of corniness to the issue. In particular, this stretch of dialogue from Jessica: “I have to fight anxiety every day. It’s the biggest battle I have. Catching that submarine today? That was nothing. Nothing.” Stuff like that creates an after school special vibe, which is a groaner.

I tend to give that sort of thing a pass when it’s in service to a greater good, as is the case here. Again, I’m probably biased here. But this issue offers great awareness for mental illness, and is something I’d happily put in the hands of someone suffering from anxiety.

That’s probably the best compliment I can give to an issue like this. I wish I’d had something like it in my darker hours. As for Green Lanterns as a whole, it continues to be one of the most underrated books DC has on the market right now.

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A Green Lanterns: Rage Planet Review – A New Chapter Begins

Green Lanterns, Vol. 1: Rage PlanetTITLE: Green Lanterns, Vol. 1: Rage Planet
AUTHORS: Sam Humphries, Geoff Johns
PENCILLERS: Robson Rocha, Ed Benes, Ethan Van Sciver, Tom Derenick, Jack Herbert, Neil Edwards, Eduardo Pansica.
COLLECTS: Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1Green Lanterns #16.
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASE DATE:
January 25, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Green Lanterns almost makes me sad that there are human ring-slingers besides Jessica Cruz, Simon Baz, and Hal Jordan. This feels like such a natural next chapter in the Green Lantern saga. The next generation learns to overcome fear, while Jordan mentors them from afar. Makes perfect sense to me.

Rage Planet sees Earth’s newest Green Lanterns, Simon and Jessica, become co-protectors of Sector 2814. But Simon isn’t convinced he needs a partner, and Jessica is plagued by her crippling anxiety. Not exactly ideal circumstances. Especially when Atrocitus and the Red Lantern Corps are about to bring “Red Dawn” to Earth. Simon and Jessica will soon have no choice but to work as a team.

Green Lanterns has its share of problems. It feels a little bit padded to fill the six-issue main story, has a revolving door of artists, and essentially features a stock story about reluctant partners. But Sam Humphries does some terrific character work in this book, particularly when it comes to Jessica Cruz.

green-lanterns-5, Jessica CruzA Green Lantern who suffers from clinical anxiety seems like such a natural development that I’m surprised it’s taken this long for us to get one. The entire mythology revolves around the idea of overcoming fear, after all. But Humphries makes up for lost time by taking us inside Jessica’s head and perfectly conveying her anxiety. The constant second-guessing, the belief that she’s not good enough, the panic attacks, the isolation (she didn’t leave her apartment for three years prior to becoming a Lantern). Hokey as it may sound, as someone who has dealt with anxiety myself, Jessica makes me feel represented. She’s a tremendous addition to the Green Lantern mythos.

This series gets us recaquainted with Simon Baz, who in many ways fell to the wayside prior to the Rebirth relaunch. His character can be tough to nail down, as he’s stubborn and distrustful. But also overly confident at times. I’ve always thought him carrying a gun despite wearing a Green Lantern ring was silly. I understand the need to distinguish him from the other Lanterns, as there are so many of them. But logically, that’s like keeping a pocket knife with you in case your chainsaw breaks down. Still, he and Jessica make a good buddy cop duo. I’m hoping Humphries resists making them a couple.

On a surface level, the Red Lantern stuff makes for a fine first arc. But there’s not much to it. It’s essentially Atrocitus wanting to make Earth a giant ball of pulsating rage.  It’s not nearly as interesting as the Phantom Lantern material, which really gets moving in the next volume. But fans generally know who/what the Red Lanterns are, and they have a little mainstream recognition from different TV shows and video games. So it makes sense from an attention-grabbing perspective. The book’s most interesting moment with the Red Lanterns involves Simon temporarily relieving Bleez of her rage. It’s a nice “What have I done?” moment.

Ethan Van Sciver, Green Lanterns Rebirth #1, 2016Ethan Van Sciver tags in, and then quickly tags out again on the pencil for the initial Rebirth issue. There’s been tremendous value in his work on these characters since he did the original Green Lantern: Rebirth story in the early 2000s. I’m always impressed by his attention to little details. His images never look real, per se. But there are often enough little details to evoke a feeling of realism, even when he draws weird aliens. Case in point: Our little blue friend in the image above. Look at the little details in his helmet, his five o’clock shadow, the wrinkles in his sleeves. You don’t necessarily notice things like this at first. But go a long way in making Van Sciver stand out.

Various artists start and stop in this book. But the one with the most page time is Robson Rocha. Like Van Sciver, his work is very detailed. His facial work isn’t exactly subtle, but it makes an impact. Jumping ahead a bit, that’s part of what made his work on Green Lanterns #9 so good. His rage-possessed civilians look downright beastly. So much that at certain points he nearly veers into comedic territory. He also draws Jessica and Bleez a little too sexy at times. But by and large, he’s a solid fit for this series.

This book doesn’t break a lot of new ground in terms of the Green Lantern mythos. But the buddy cop format is charming as hell, and the characterization of Jessica Cruz is terrific. Relative to some of DC’s other offerings, Green Lanterns isn’t making a lot of noise in terms of sales. But it’s bound to be a pleasant discovery for readers.

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A Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #1 Review – The 2016 Playbook

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #1, cover, Jason FabokTITLE: Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #1
AUTHOR: Josh WIlliamson
PENCILLER: Jason Fabok
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: December 21, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s fitting that Justice League vs. Suicide Squad is DC’s last big release of the year. This is essentially a snapshot of the Warner Bros/DC movie playbook for 2016. Of course, it’s a also hook for new readers who’ve seen the movies.

And in a very pleasant development, Justice League vs. Suicide Squad is pretty damn good. At least, so far.

When the Justice League learns of Amanda Waller’s Task Force X program, they interrupt a the Suicide Squad’s latest mission to bring them in. Naturally, Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and the team aren’t coming without a fight. Meanwhile, several prisoners have been broken out of the Catacombs, “the most top secret prison in the world.” A threat is emerging that may give the Justice League and the Suicide Squad a mutual enemy.

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #1, two-page spread, Jason FabokI think one of the reasons this story works so well is that there isn’t an exorbitant amount of exposition to get through. Yes, we have the typical captions that introduce the characters (i.e. “Deadshot. Expert marksman. Has a death wish.” We also have a two-page scene where the League finds out about the Squad, and we go over why they don’t like them. But other than that, we’re mostly doing the business of the plot. It’s easy to understand why these two groups wouldn’t get along. You don’t need all of the build-up and the layers you would for, say, Civil War or Avengers vs. X-Men. The mere knowledge of the Squad’s existence is enough to prompt a fight.

The only downside to that additional time for character moments is that Williamson’s use of Captain Boomerang for comic relief comes off grating. One thing this book hammers home as much as anything is that ol’ Digger is horny as hell. I guess it makes sense, given he’s in prison. Plus, whenever he goes out he’s got the over-sexualized Harley Quinn with him. But he doesn’t need to be Captain Innuendo. We also have a little exchange where Simon Baz asks, “Aren’t boomerangs a little lame?” Not nearly as lame as that line. Way to go, Simon. Antagonize the murderer who Flash just told you was no joke.

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, team shot, Jason FabokThe larger story Williamson is setting up involves a third team, led by our mystery prison breaker…the returning Maxwell Lord, dressed in his Omac Project and Justice League: Generation Lost era garb. Per usual, Lord is hardly a mustache-twirling villain. He’s out to save the world. What that means exactly remains to be seen. But the team he’s assembled (shown below) consists of Lobo, Dr. Polaris, Emerald Empress, Johnny Sorrow, and Rustam. Certainly an…eclectic crew. But they all have one thing in common: They hate Amanda Waller. Considering how expansive the cast of this book already is, we can’t guarantee all these characters will get a chance to shine. But I can definitely appreciate Williams putting a renewed spotlight on some of the company’s more obscure characters.

Jason Fabok is in top form here. As I’ve said previously, his is art has an undeniably epic quality to it. So he’ll always be a solid fit for big event stories like this, or Darkseid War. I compare him to Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, or Ivan Reis in that sense. He’s very much like Lee in the way he makes use of splash pages and two-page spreads that are either explosive, or have a lot of intrigue. His characters also tend to be very charismatic and expressive. Particularly Harley Quinn, despite the over-sexualization. There’s also a really nice splash page where Superman catches Deadshot in mid-air. Those two characters are such a great contrast. That image almost sells the premise by itself.

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #1, Jason Fabok, two-page spreadBy the way, the country that the big confrontation takes place in is called Badhnisia. I was blown away when I typed that into the ol’ Google machine, and found out it’s actually a long standing country in the DC Universe. A little on the nose, don’t you think?

Lending a certain subtle consistency with other big DC event comics are Alex Sinclair’s colors. Sinclair has worked on big books like Batman: Hush, Infinite Crisis, Blackest Night, Flashpoint, Justice League: Origin, etc. Sinclair’s work is always quality, and he’s a tremendous asset.

Based on the solicitations, it looks like the artistic teams on this book will fluctuate as the weeks go by. We’ll see names like Fernando Pasarin, Robson Rocha, and Howard Porter tag in. I can’t say I’m looking forward to those transitions, especially given the quality of what Fabok and his cohorts gave us here. But from a plot perspective, Justice League vs. Suicide Squad starts out strong. Now it becomes a matter of telling a compelling story while balancing all these different characters, and not letting it all become a mess.

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A Green Lanterns #9 Review – Too Many Strings Attached?

Green Lanterns #9, 2016TITLE: Green Lanterns #9
AUTHOR: Sam Humphries
PENCILLER: Robson Rocha
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: October 19, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Sam Humphries may be the best writer we’ve seen on a Green Lantern book since Geoff Johns. This Green Lanterns title has been that good. With Jessica Cruz he’s given us one of the best portrayals of clinical anxiety I’ve seen in comics

But this issue brings up an important question…at what point have you pulled too many heart strings?

Green Lanterns #9 introduces us to Frank Laminski, a pilot who desperately longs to be a Lantern after being rescued by Hal Jordan. A middle child perpetually in second place, Frank becomes obsessed with becoming Earth’s next Green Lantern. But after years of working to overcome his fears, and seeing others get power rings, Frank becomes more and more desperate. Until he learns of the Phantom Ring, a power ring anyone can wield. But to get it, he’ll have to go through Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz.

Green Lanterns #9, 2016, Robson Rocha, Frank Laminski, Hal JordanFrank Laminski is heartbreakingly relatable. At times it’s almost brutal. We see his torment, his rejections, his almost pitiful desperation, and finally his diminished resolve. It’s all clearly field by a need for personal validation. Humphries channels the same emotions he used with Jessica, particularly with the line, “Please, I need to know. Am…am I wasting my life?”

What makes it all the more crushing is that Frank has such hope. He says things like “I believe a man has the power to change his whole life. All you have to do is push yourself beyond what you thought was possible.” And yet, his situation is largely a hopeless one. Hope is powerful. But it isn’t everything…

Humphries weaves Frank’s story nicely into the Green Lantern mythos. We see his desperation grow as he watches John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and the others debut as heroes. He also pokes some innocent fun at the number of Green Lanterns Earth has. (“There were plenty of rings to around around, it seemed.”)

My question about heartstrings relates to the scene where Frank is at his lowest point, and seems to be praying to the Green Lantern rings to choose him. At that moment, a Green Lantern ring appears to him, and is about to welcome him to the corps. The ring then changes its mind, realizes its made an error, and travels to Guantanamo Bay to find Simon Baz. I loved seeing Frank’s resolve finally break, and I love that he thinks the rings are watching and can hear him. But is the appearance of the ring a little too on the nose? It works, and it conveys that Frank might actually be capable of wielding a ring. But is having the ring tell him “you are not capable of overcoming great fear” too overindulgent? I suppose it’s a matter of taste.

Green Lanterns #9, 2016, ring scene, Robson ROchaThis is my first exposure to Robson Rocha. I can see traces of Ivan Reis and Doug Mahnke on these pages, meaning we’ve got something very consistent with two widely successful Green Lantern artists. He makes Frank very expressive. It’s very easy to feel Frank’s hope, pain, and agony, because it’s very accessible. And as always, colorist Blond treats us with a gorgeous palette.

Even as someone who enjoys Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, and a lot of the other Green Lantern “legacy” characters, I’m almost sad Green Lanterns isn’t the only GL book being published right now. This feels like the next logical chapter of the ongoing Green Lantern saga, and we’re seeing some tremendous character work. This is Sam Humphries’ first go-around with these characters and this world. But to his credit, it feels like he’s been with them for years.

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