There are 3600 Sectors that make up what we know to be ‘Guardian Space.’ It is understood to be space where the Guardians of the Universe, the immortal creators of The Green Lanterns, have proper jurisdiction and keep proper watch. Beyond those 3600? That’s still unexplored territory. Most Green Lantern stories take place within the 3600. To go beyond that is to reach into the great frontiers that lie in mystery, it’s to seek out the great unknown that persists in the darkness of space.
Welcome to Far Sector.
Set in The City Enduring, a society which inhabits a Dyson Sphere, this is a sector far, far away. Home to three distinct groups of species, with their own complex history, it’s a place that’s seen no violent crime for 500 years, since the races all stripped away emotion from themselves. But for the first time in centuries, there’s been a violent crime. There’s been a murder. And that’s where we meet our protagonist: Jo Mullein. Bestowed with a special ring, one that doesn’t need charging and differs from all other Lantern power rings, she’s effectively the space sheriff of this massive sector of alien life.
Right off the bat, the book opens on this crime scene, quoting Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. That’s when you know you’re in for a hell of a ride. That’s when you know you’re reading N.K Jemisin. The work is fundamentally steeped in a world that has been affected by colonialism. It’s a place where that textbook divide and conquer stratagem was employed and it’s a place and a culture that is still reeling from the effects of that. And the effect? These people can no longer feel emotion. And they haven’t been able to for centuries. Imagine that. Just try and imagine that for a second. Having your emotions stripped of you completely, you very ability to feel. That being angry, that being capable of feeling, that’s the problem. That’s the culture and struggle that these people still face from the influence of an age old Empire.
The text very deliberately calls this out, making direct comparisons that should firmly contextualize things for the reader. This is vital. This is fundamental. Kicking off with a quote from Achebe’s book, which is so much about colonial influence and what it does and can do, how people divide and conquer and thus destroy so much? That is no accident. And neither is Jo’s introduction. Yes, it’s a crime scene in the rain at night and it immediately sets up the work as a crime story, where in Jo’s the detective, the cop, on the case.
But what’s more interesting is what she says, going off that starting quote. ‘I’m the one causing the trouble. Just by existing. But what else is new?’ It’s said with such clear frustration and you can almost feel how tired she is as you read it. But you also feel the anger there. And anger? Anger’s important. Feelings are important to this book, which goes without saying, because it’s Green Lantern, it’s a concept built entirely on the power of one’s emotions and motivations based upon said emotions. But the book places the conceit in such a powerful, vital context, where emotion is framed as dangerous, as something to be rid of, as a problem, where anger, especially, is a sin, you elevate its importance far more than any Lantern story tends to. And given how often people of color and women are especially chastised for their anger, for daring to feel a certain way, this framing and context become all the more charged and powerful. Jo’s a black woman from New York and when she says the above quote, it’s not in some vacuum (although there is vacuum all about, beyond the Dyson Sphere!), it is very much in the context of a black woman who’s been told she’s the problem. It’s a bold, powerful way to kick off and the creative team charges right forth, diving into things. This isn’t a book setting out to tell any Lantern story or DC Cosmic story, this is one rooted in specificity, about anger of people, especially people who have been oppressed and divided via the influence of colonial times, it’s about emotions and it’s about a person of color living in a place which explicitly frames what she has, these emotions, as a harmful, bad thing.
Jo is also a character with a very clear visual model here. Much like co-creator Gil Kane based Hal Jordan (the first Silver Age Green Lantern), off of iconic actor Paul Newman, Jemisin and Jamal Campbell have both based the character, visually, off Janelle Monae, which is a lovely touch. Sporting cool, futuristic glasses over a retro domino mask, a cool jacket look a tad reminiscent of Guy Gardner (who Jemisin’s a big fan of, as all with great taste are), and cool white gloves with a touch of green metal, she’s an immediately modern design. Even her hair, channeling her model, is a gloriously unique look no other superhero has. Even as just a silhouette, Jo is distinctive and unique. You could never mistake Jo for anybody else. She stands out instantly.
And getting to design, we need to talk about Jamal Campbell. Again. Jemisin’s a celebrated and accomplished science-fiction fantasy novelist, maybe the best in the genre at the moment. You’re likely aware of her incredible oeuvre. But Jamal Campbell is an absolute rock star here as well. Jemisin’s a natural, talented, thoughtful world-builder. It’s a big part of what her work is known for. But this isn’t prose. This is a comic. To take the brilliance of N.K Jemisin from a script and to translate it and tell that story on the page, in a visual form, in a monthly comic? That is the farthest thing from easy. That is challenging as all hell. Coming off his gorgeous and expressive work on Naomi, Campbell lets loose here and just crafts an intricate, beautiful universe that teems with life and visuals that are out of this world. He brings a wild sense of sci-fi possibility to the title, but more vitally, he grounds it. In every little fabric, pad, piece of detail or texture he adds, he absolutely sells you this world of imagination as something that feels like it could be a real place. The world of City Enduring is a grand, majestic setting and for a place like that, in a space book like this, Campbell absolutely brings the scope and scale. And the bright, eye-poppingly gorgeous color as well. Green Lantern’s all about color and Campbell’s careful attention to lighting and his lovely palette immediately engage and transport you over into this new, enchanting realm.
Campbell also excels at portraying diversity in body types and builds, as is evident to anyone who’s been following his work is aware. He can convey a ton about each individual character he creates or co-creates and make them absolutely unlike any others. Just take one look at the design sheet for Far Sector:
It is ridiculously thrilling to see two creators of color forge this vital new myth of Green Lantern, in a corner, nay, a sector all to themselves, building entire worlds, cultures, species and their rich histories and costumes/fashion. And it’s even more exciting that they’re doing it while bringing us a whole new Lantern in the form of Jo Mullein.
Jemisin and Campbell make for a hell of a team here and on the whole, the work is basically a gigantic flex in world-building talent. Big ideas keep flying about every page, from Dyson Spheres to cultural implications and what the absence or more aptly, the erasure of emotion could have on a people or even how cultures interact, engage with one another and form relationships in this void. That is alien. That is strange. That is space. It’s Green Lantern. But at the same time, all that is designed to speak to us, to our cultures and things we know, struggle with and suffer from and thus understand. It’s proper science-fiction. It’s smart science-fiction. It has no interest in being another superhero story. It’s interested in big questions about culture, the effects of colonialism (which shouldn’t surprise, unless you’re a stranger to Jemisin’s work) and much, much more. From absurdly long names screaming ‘fantasy!’ to decidedly more modern choices, where in a whole species is basically twitter handles for names, with an @ everything (such as @BlazeofGlory), it’s all a gigantic exercise in world-building and laying a foundation. This is the world Jo operates in, so let’s get to know it and understand what’s in there. It’s a meaty, dense delivery of these ideas and mythology, a great deal of lore is provided to you.
But beyond that itself, there are character hooks. Jo has a past and we’re not quite sure what it is yet. We only know a mysterious individual gave her the special ring to try things out and that it is, well, special. Beyond that, the book saves more of the character mysteries for later installments. That isn’t the primary concern of this issue. It’s about Jo in relation to this world, this specific one and what it is, how it is and why it is. And so we get to see that. Even in terms of the crime plot, with the mystery that unfolds here, the book cleverly and effortlessly sidesteps the tired old cliche of it being a ‘whodunnit’ and throws that in the dumpster. This isn’t about who, they know who and have em in custody. It’s not about that. It’s about the why. That’s much more interesting. That’s a hell of a lot more intriguing and engaging.
By all regards, this is a special book. Especially since it’s edited by Andy Khouri, an editor who worked on and brought us the astonishingly smart, brilliant modern masterpiece The Omega Men in 2015. It was a criminally overlooked and underrated piece of hard science-fiction about American Interventionism, War, the cyclical nature of conflict and hatred and what greed does to people. It took an obscure old group of ‘rebel’ characters and played them as post-9/11 Star Wars. And so when you have Khouri involved with another big, ambitious sci-fi epic of this type, it’s exciting, it’s something to really, really look forward to, given the track record.
But even past that, the book has Deron Bennett on lettering, who brings it this futuristic holographic sci-fi sensibility, with every caption being this glass green, much like Jo’s glasses and helping land all the beats, while transporting you away. Alongside Martian Manhunter and this, Bennett seems to have become DC’s go-to man for sci-fi cop procedurals, especially ones about green heroes.
On the whole, the premise of frontier sheriff/policing is also, interestingly, evocative of the late Green Lantern: Animated Series, where in Lanterns ventured beyond into ‘Frontier Space’, making up all the sectors of space beyond the Guardian Space’s 3600. And there have been other sectors beyond those, with Geoff Johns’ own 3601 (Home to The Manhunters of Biot) to Grant Morrison’s recent Sector None/The No-Zone in The Green Lantern. So this feels like a natural outgrowth, a very necessary step in the direction to exploring some of the places beyond the borders and adding to what’s out there, while making new characters to inhabit that space. There’s enough here that will engage and interest new readers, proving accessible, but will also intrigue older readers, those familiar with the lore and mythology of Green Lantern and DC Cosmic. If you are even considering getting this, do it ASAP. It’s worth it.
Far Sector #1 is a really bold debut that invites you over into a world you’ve never seen or known and immerses you in its people, their culture and its lovely setting. By the end, you feel like you know and understand this place somewhat. While the exposition can be a bit much for some tastes, it is very much a #1 that’s laying the groundwork and the density it has is a welcome change in a space where decompression has tended to be the norm. This is a book that’s packed to the brim with ideas, names, terms and is yet also the kind of book you could hand to your friends who’ve not only never read Green Lantern or DC, but a comic at all. It’s that kind of book. And it is incredibly good.