Green Lantern Jessica Cruz was just getting settled in at her new job when Bolphunga, a known intergalactic criminal, arrives on Earth and challenges her to a battle. Simon Baz is elsewhere when he receives the call for assistance by Jessica.
However, all is not as it seems, and Bolphunga may have an ulterior motive in this battle.
When this issue began, things seemed a bit silly. Bolphunga talks like a drunken Thor, announcing everything he’s doing as he does it. He is clearly no serious threat for a Green Lantern, even relative newbies like Jessica and Simon. However, the comic shows its hand in the second half, and it’s quite clever. To discuss it, we’ll have to go ahead and get into spoiler territory.
Bolphunga was very recently in a Green Lantern Sciencell, as those who read Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps may remember. After being arrested, he was being regularly beaten, as his manufactured reputation of being a mighty warrior began to corrode. The Green Lanterns showed no sympathy. However, a mysterious woman arrived to bail him out, asking a favor to be revealed at a later date in return.
That favor was for Bolphunga to kill his own father, hard man who has nothing but disdain for his son. Despite that, Bolphunga was reluctant to kill his own father.
John Stewart tells Jess and Simon that much of this is a lie, and that, by going to Earth, Bolphunga has broken his parole. He also says that the mysterious woman was essentially space ACLU. He tells Jess and Simon to arrest him anyway, and they turn on him.
So, what we have here is person raised by a hateful parent, turning to criminality and faking a violent reputation to survive, being arrested and abused by the justice system, being let out into an unforgiving universe, and being arrested once again by an unsympathetic police force.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the brutal nature of the uncaring manner in which American society treats its poor and those who make mistakes and break the law being told through a Green Lantern book about a guy called Bolphunga the Unrelenting. He grew up poor, had a cruel parent, turned to crime, and has been caught in the vicious cycle of release and arrest. Extra points if Cepheid is the space equivalent of an inner-city minority.
That’s not even mentioning the subplot playing out with the racist Ungaran, Vigiles Tet, attempting to turn public opinion against the migrant Molites from the previous Green Lanterns story.
In any case, Green Lanterns is getting quite real with its plots, and it’s telling the stories pretty smartly. It gets into job struggles, the problems with the criminal justice system, and xenophobia about the influx of destitute migrants. This is on par with Green Arrow’s material of late, but Seeley isn’t quite as upfront about the narrative. Jess nor Simon have referred to themselves as social justice warriors—at least not yet.
As such, it’s quite pleasing to see a comic like this weave a fairly smart narrative about an issue that is very much affecting many real people in the U.S.
For the readership who are not from the U.S. and aren’t aware with how destructive our criminal justice system can be, it’s really busted. It needs repairing, and very few are interested in doing so. John Oliver has done a number of pieces about it on Last Week Tonight, many of which are free to watch on YouTube.
In any case, what started looking like a shaky joke issue turned into an oft-forgotten GL character, making said character actually quite likable.
I’m not sure if the massive death-knight armor helps or hurts the narrative. I’m usually in favor of massive death-knight armor.
Carlo Barberi’s artwork holds up for most of the issue, even if the cartoonish aesthetic thematically clashes with the heavy nature of the narrative to a degree. It looks good overall; it’s just a tad dissonant to be talking about these issues with art like this. That’s not to insult Barberi, who really is a solid artist.
Ulises Arreola’s color work matches Barberi more than the plot itself, with really bright colors being splashed across the page. Again, it clashes with the heavy themes of the narrative, but it does look quite good.
Green Lanterns #35 is a really smart issue with its regular endearing leads and high-flying adventure. It’s easily recommendable, and you should certainly give it a read. There should be more comics like this coming out of the Big Two (thankfully Black Panther, Luke Cage, and Falcon are very much like this).
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