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“Ghosts of the Past” has been a damn good Green Lanterns arc that dives deep into the dramatic past of Lantern Jessica Cruz. Issue #46 marks the third part in this enjoyable story as Simon Baz continues his search for his partner within the newly coined “Green Realm” while Jessica is forced to relive her life’s most disturbing moments in an attempt to reconcile the past. The resulting issue manages to show firsthand how traumatic Jessica’s past is, setting her up for a potentially massive character development in the next issue all while placing a whole new strain on her relationship with her partner.
This issue truly succeeds in the time it spends examining the events that have caused Jessica Cruz so much trauma as an adult, even if it seems like more of the story is devoted elsewhere. The swift brutality of Jessica’s friends’ demise coupled with the notion that Jessica had put them in that position truly elevates the sense of trauma that Jess experiences.
Jessica watching her best friend slowly bleed out in front of her is especially saddening, however it manages to show just how important they all are to each other, thus amplifying the impact of their sudden deaths. These moments play out brutally fast, but they succeed in showing why the ring of Volthoom was so attracted to Jessica in the first place.
The cliffhanger set up for Jessica is another highlight of this issue that not only raises the stakes for the conclusion of this arc, but showcases the bond between her and Simon Baz. For Jessica, the stakes have never been higher. While Singularity Jain convinced her in issue #44 the only way to confront her past was to discover the identities of her friends’ killers, readers learn here if Jessica does learn the truth she will lose control to the Power Ring and once again be seduced into a life of anger and violence. Meanwhile, Simon learns the only reason he was allowed into the Green Realm in the first place was because of how immense his fear of failing Jessica is.
This puts a whole new strain on their relationship and feels like a total lose-lose scenario, making me anxiously ponder how they’ll get out of this situation with some sort of positive. If Jessica succeeds and unveils the face of her friends’ killers, Simon’s worst fear will be realized and he will lose Jessica to the Power Ring. If Simon succeeds, Jessica will be unable to reconcile the demons of her past, having re-experienced all this trauma for nothing, walking away just as scarred as she was before. I can’t wait to see where writer Tim Seeley takes this in the next issue — will they find a win in an unwinnable scenario? Or will one of the Lanterns make a sacrifice for the well being of the other?
I enjoy how literary this issue feels, too — there are metaphors and foreshadowing aplenty. For instance, there’s particular focus on eyes, spotlighting or zooming in on the eyes of Jessica Cruz at nearly every major narrative turn within the book. Eyes serve two basic metaphorical functions when it comes to storytelling: 1.) as a window to or representation of the soul and 2.) associations of vigilance, moral conscience and truth. This focus elevates the main themes of the arc — an arc about a literal fight for Jessica’s soul fueled by her vigilant hunt for justice for her friends.
An easier example would be the Power Ring bearers in the “Green Realm” trying to pull Simon down into the dirt, exclaiming that’s where safety is. These creatures personify the dangers of burying repressed memories — sure you’ll feel safer, but you’re really just dragging yourself down and hiding from what’s really going on. Simon does end up explaining this metaphor pretty dryly in the ensuing pages, but I thought it was a nice challenge to the reader regardless.
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Ironically, the least enjoyable scene of this issue is what’s teased on the cover: Simon Baz’s battle with an evil, Power Ring-yielding version of himself. While the early fights between Simon and the Green Realm inhabitants are entertaining thanks to the excellent panels of V. Ken Marion, the fight between Baz and his evil reflection is brought down by the aimless meanderings of the evil Baz that I am still trying to make sense of.
What’s made the “Ghosts of the Past” arc so enjoyable is how deeply it dives into the its female lead to examine the effects of trauma on human brains. While this issue does veer away from a wider message about human nature as a whole, it manages to increase the stakes of this story while deepening the tragedy of Jessica Cruz and placing a newfound strain on Jess and Simon Baz’s relationship.
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