Cliche or not, it’s often said a story is only as good as its villain. For superhero stories, this is extremely true. When your story is focused on grown adults in skin tight suits fighting crime, you need to ground the story with a believable, menacing, and terrifying villain. Green Lanterns #55 attempts to prove to readers just how intimidating the “Evil’s Might” villain is, but it ends up missing the mark. The issue’s focus on the villain is admirable but simply falls short, while the old-timey dialogue and awkward cheery attitude of Jessica Cruz fail to dave this issue from mediocrity.
Hank Henshaw, the long-time DC villain who must constantly remind everyone that he is Cyborg Superman, is given the spotlight in this issue in what seems to be an attempt to make him into a stronger villain. In a way, writer Dan Jurgens succeeds here.
The opening pages are very reminiscent of the Emperor’s entrance in Return of the Jedi and the way Henshaw commands a crowd is certainly intimidating. These pages really make Henshaw feel deity-like, as if he is some omniscient cosmic force. More so, the way he extracts undying devotion and admiration from someone as powerful as Eon, who was able to take on the best Lanterns by himself without a problem, really works in establishing him as an effective and charismatic leader, albeit an evil one.
What truly keeps Henshaw from being a memorable and effective villain, however, is the complete lack of motivation behind his actions. Why is Hank Henshaw doing this? Why attack the Lanterns now and with so much force? All great villains, and subsequently great series, have relate-able or at the very least understandable motivations behind their crimes, allowing for readers to form an uncomfortable connection that leaves a lasting impression. For Henshaw, no such motivations have been revealed. There’s still time for a big reveal showing the driving force behind Henshaw’s war on the Lanterns, but at part six of the arc, readers shouldn’t still be waiting for answers.
There’s yet another awkward moment featuring Jessica Cruz in this issue, as she recalls her time assisting the Peneloan people in their relocation to a new world. She talks about how wonder a feeling it was to be of such assistance, as if this memory was a respite for her. The only problem is the whole reason the Peneloans had to find a new planet is because the Lanterns failed to protect them and 96.8% of their population was eradicated- so why is Jessica so cheery and so infatuated with “helping” the Peneloans?
Jessica has obviously gone through tremendous growth and progression in the past few months, having bested her mental anguishes to become a happier, more positive person. With that in mind, her positive outlook makes sense, but this particular moment still feels overboard. The Peneloans had their entire planet destroyed, yet Jessica reflects on that moment with pure comfort. Sure, this sequence reinforces the progress she has made, however it just feels too positive and cheery- she should feel at least some remorse or sadness for the Peneloan people.
As has been the problem for nearly every issue of this arc (including last issue), the dialogue once again feels ripped from the pages of a silver or copper age comic. Readers who enjoy that style of conversation may really enjoy this issue. Readers who want their dialogue to feel more natural and less, well, scripted will be disappointed once again. Characters are constantly narrating their actions or providing unnecessary exposition instead of simply letting Mike Perkins beautiful art tell some of the story.
Make no mistake, Mike Perkins returns to the series and the difference is pretty noticeable. Save for one panel that feels oddly sexual (involving Jessica Cruz and some Peneloans, eek!), the art keeps pace with narrative perfectly. Action sequences are easy to follow while the ranges of human emotion and reactions are captured wonderfully. Environments and character models are rife with detail that will leave readers pouring over every page just to admire the amount of nuance poured into each page. Whatever shortcomings this book has, it is at the very least extremely satisfying to simply look at.
Green Lanterns #55 makes a very solid attempt to build its villain, and by proxy the entire arc, into something more memorable but unfortunately falls just short. Hank Henshaw is certainly made more intimidating, but his lack of motive causes a disconnect. It’s good to see Jessica Cruz in such a positive mental space, but it feels out of place while providing genocide relief. Green Lanterns #55 does as much wrong as it does right, making it a sadly mediocre release.