Event comics. Love them or hate them, if you are a reader of the “big two” (Marvel and DC) you are going to have to occasionally deal with event comics. They are not universally bad, but most times the way they interrupt other series with tie-ins and the effect they have on the comics universe outweigh any enjoyment there is to be had from the story itself. Most of Marvel’s recent event books haven’t even been that great of stories by themselves, even without mentioning the shambles in which they left the Marvel universe when they ended. Don’t get us started on Civil War II, for real.
Too many times, these huge event books are just excuses for heroes fighting other heroes because of reasons. Those reasons vary in how interesting or innovative they are, but heroes fighting heroes is becoming a very stale premise. At least DC’s latest event, Justice League vs Suicide Squad had heroes teaming up with villains to fight other even worse villains.
DC seems to have learned a lesson when it comes to event books. The most recent event books at DC have only tied in to one or two other titles, and the effect they have had on the universe weren’t catastrophic. Take Justice League vs Suicide Squad as an example. Whether you enjoyed the event book or not, it didn’t interrupt every other ongoing title in the DC universe. It only even really mattered to two other series, Justice League and Suicide Squad. As far as the effect on the DC universe, the only lasting effect is that a group of supervillains who were the original Suicide Squad are now on the loose.
One of these is Doctor Polaris. He is a supervillain who has powers of magnetism. Think of Marvel’s Magneto except with dissociative identity disorder and a dash of megalomania. Doctor Polaris, who was previously thought to be deceased, has been released into the world by Maxwell Lord during the JL vs SS event. His “good” personality, Neal Emerson, is convinced he can use magnetism to eradicate illness. His main obsession is curing his brother’s inoperable brain cancer.
Despite his noble goals, Emerson’s work has consumed his life, and his alternate personality, Dr. Polaris, takes over, driving him towards evil acts to further his research. Our Green Lanterns story opens on Neal Emerson giving a “Lex Talk” about all the good his magnetic research can bring to the world. His audience, however is only one person; Doctor Polaris.
Emerson wakes up from his dream in a bunker of some kind surrounded by his equipment, and his Doctor Polaris outfit. He knows that he’s going to have another “Episode” soon, but he’s out of the medicine that keeps Polaris at bay. He has to concentrate on his work to save his brother Seth.
Back in Detroit, the Green Lanterns are about to go out on Justice League business. Simon’s brother-in-law Nazir is not happy about it. He feels like Simon has abandoned his familial responsibilities in order to go out and play hero. They argue. Jess is awkward. They leave. On the way, Jess tries to share some of her personal experience with family disagreements. Simon thought that having the ring would only bring good things. Now it’s pushing him away from his best friend.
Meanwhile, Neal Emerson is making a shady deal to get some more medication. It turns out the nefarious character he is meeting with happens to be in the employ of Director Harcourt, who has taken over management of Task Force X in Amanda Waller’s absence. It is a ruse to capture the Doctor. Even though his assailants all have non-metal armor and weapons, it doesn’t take Polaris long to escape his captors.
Director Harcourt brings Simon and Jessica in to help in the operation. She urges them to use lethal methods if necessary, because that’s how Task Force X rolls. The GL’s are pretty sure they can handle it. A short flight to Gateway City brings them to the hospital where Neal Emerson’s brother lies in a coma. Fortunately (or unfortunately) Neal is there. He’s dealt with Hal Jordan before, and before Simon and Jess can do anything about it, he gets the upper hand. In two weeks we’ll see how they get themselves out of this one.
Back to the Basics
Green Lanterns over the last couple months has not been a normal arc. We had a one shot about Jessica’s struggle with anxiety, a two-parter co-starring Batman and Simon’s feelings of inadequacy, and another one-shot about Volthoom the First Lantern. This is the first time in awhile we are getting back to Simon and Jess on an adventure together, and we are happy to be getting it.
Doctor Polaris is a formidable foe. We’re not sure if the GL’s are riding high off of their success in Gotham City or what, but they have underestimated their query pretty severely. Probably, they are not going to be able to take Polaris down with a full frontal assault. They are going to have to appeal to his human side, to Neal Emerson himself.
This GL team has proven that they don’t have to punch all their problems away. They have thusfar been able to undermine the Red Lanterns, and diffuse the situation with the Phantom Lantern, as well as take care of the Scarecrow using their wits and humanity. Throughout this issue, there are a couple of reminders that Simon healed his best bud and brother-in-law using the powers of the ring. Chances are, he will have to barter that skill for Emerson’s surrender or something along those lines, but who knows how the Polaris personality will feel about that. We’ll see in upcoming issues.
The art by Ronan Cliquet remains top-notch. This book has been consistently good with each of its art teams, and Cliquet is no exception. The skillful way he draws emotive facial expressions really connects with each character, and the panel layouts have some interesting variety without being too confusing. He’s a good fit to the book, and we wouldn’t mind seeing him stay on permanently.
This issue, while being setup for what we’re guessing is a longer arc, promises more of the GL’s overcoming their internal demons, and saving the villains as much as themselves. We’ve come to expect a good amount of battling the enemies within as much as without from this team, and this story promises that in spades.
Green Lanterns #19: Polarity Chapter One
Writer: Sam Humphries
Art: Ronan Cliquet
Letters: Dave Sharpe
All Images Courtesy of DC Comics