Vaaaaaan Jensen splits this issue between two main focal points: that of John Stewart and his squad on the planet Muz in space sector 3502 and a secondary group searching for Soranik Natu. We even catch a glimpse at some of the newest recruits training, but that’s only a couple of pages, though it winds up being a couple of the more entertaining ones. We see the trials of trying to form more than basic shapes as well as two of the more physically imposing recruits let off a little steam without the use of their rings. The issue never feels scattered nor like it lacks focus as one of these stories is most definitely the “main” one, and it’s also the most interesting. Of the two books dealing with the Durlan Conflict, I find myself gravitating toward this one as it is the far more novel of the two both in terms of cast and appearance. Not to take anything away from the highly enjoyable Green Lantern, but seeing the way these strange aliens, some of whom are ex-cons, do battle as opposed to seeing already-established characters definitely feels more fresh and exciting.
Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo (on lines and colors respectively), though, are the other reason. Their use of sudden color palette shifts to black and white with a solid red background make the impactful moments hit far, far harder than they ordinarily would. It feels like they’ve framed a perfect moment in time, and it’s always the correct moment and most of them have minimal dialog, so it feels even more like a real impact. Beyond that, I’d say the new recruits, both into the Corps and from the sciencells, pass the Matt Groening character design test of being recognizable in profile alone, giving them unique and interesting looks as well as making the team’s reach and influence feel truly deep and wide as opposed to having a bunch of uniformly tall and shaped humanoids. One of the great strengths of the Green Lantern series is that anyone from any race has the potential to be one, even races that have no concept of light, so showing that incredible diversity is an important part of the book and Chang and Maiolo not only get that, but celebrate it.
I’m having a REAL tough time telling my khund from my durlans. One seems to be an offshoot of another, or perhaps another kind or a tribe, but apparently they're a different race altogether. Any story about shapeshifters is going to naturally lend itself to confusion and this story features two distinct shapeshifting types, but there were times while reading this that I had literally NO idea what was going on or why certain characters were doing certain things, and it wasn’t always “because they’ve been replaced.” I went back and reread, but there are still certain parts that just make very little sense, but they’re spoilery, so I can’t really discuss them in-depth...you’ll know when you get there, though.
This is one of those books I am truly glad exists. It’s consistently great, it’s doing something very cool and unique with an underappreciated concept and, while it has become embroiled in yet another cosmic conflict, the core of it being a book about space cops is kept intact. While the plot isn’t always clear, it’s always entertaining and the characterizations more than make up for any shortcomings.