John Stewart is, to my mind, the most underrated human Green Lantern. His origin might be hilariously dated (but it involves the phrase “Guy Gardner was hit by a bus” so...you know, sign me up anyway), he’s evolved into a great, nuanced character that I feel gets misunderstood a great deal. Geoff Johns did a great job with him, but I feel his level-headeness was too often confused with being “boring.” Van Jensen, with co-plotting by Robert Venditti, has absolutely picked up the torch and positively sprinted away with it. He really gets to the heart of what makes the character engaging, and that definitely comes across in this Year One issue. If Green Lanterns are chosen for their ability to overcome great fear, it’s immediately clear why John was chosen. Part of a disaster relief effort by the marine corps, John and a detachment of marines march into Gotham during the blackout/storm to try and move a coliseum of a few hundred people to safety. Of course, things aren’t what they seem and the situation deteriorates quickly, causing Stewart to confront his own morality versus the code he’s sworn to uphold. This series actually contains a flashback within what is, essentially, a flashback issue as we get to see some of Stewart’s childhood with his mother and how her strong belief both in social justice and the intervention of a uniformed soldier helped shape the man John would become.
I’ll get to the art a little more below, but I’ll say that there are an awful LOT of chefs working on this bowl of chili and, for the most part, it works. We’ve got Victor Drujiniu and Ivan Fernandez on pencils in the main story, Juan Castro and Rob Lean on inks in those sequences while the flashback pencils are the purview of Alan Jefferson with Rob Lean sticking to inks with Garry Henderson coloring the entire thing, helping keep a coherent tone. WHEW! That’s a whole lot of artists, but the flashbacks are well established and well framed, so the different styles don't actively clash nor break the tone, with the “current” visuals looking more defined while the flashbacks look a little more blurred.
This book was solicited as having Bernard Chang as both the interior artist and cover artist. This isn’t the issue’s fault, but it always bothers me when it happens. The visuals are fine as they are, but the combination can sometimes be a little breathless and the "modern" storyline comes off muted and stiff than it should. There are a couple of panels where the action is indistinct and still more where it seems overly posed.
Batman actually shows up in this issue near the end, but he has no impact on the plot (unlike in Green Arrow), so I have to ask why he’s even there. John Stewart isn’t particularly a “Batman guy,” he’s certainly not in the Bat-family, and I don’t really think he and Bats have shared more than a few pleasantries (and some not-so-pleasantries), so unlike in Batwing where it’s clear that Bats is keeping an eye on Luke, there’s really no reason for him to appear in this book and just begins to present the Death of the Family Joker problem of “HOW (and sometimes WHY) is he in ALL these places at ONCE?!”
I haven’t even mentioned the reintroduction of the villain Anarky and that’s partially because I can’t figure out how, or if, he’ll fit into John’s greater storyline and also partially because I don’t feel I had room for him up there. But this is a great book, and frankly a book that’s been LONG overdue (ever since, I dunno, the Zero Issues of the New 52, maybe?), so I’m happy to see it. I think the story is a great one, it shows Stewart’s mentality and his willingness to do things the RIGHT way, even if that’s not the CORRECT way.