What Are You Reading? | ‘Green Lantern,’ ‘Beta Ray Bill’ and more

See what the Smash Pages crew has been reading lately.

Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Smash Pages crew has been checking off their “to read” list lately.

Let us know what you read this week in the comments or on social media.

Tom Bondurant

For me the first issue of the new Sensational Wonder Woman anthology was good but not really noteworthy. It was an entertaining story featuring Diana trapped in a stereotypical 1950s housewife situation. Issue #2 is almost the exact opposite, since writer Andrea Shea, artist Bruno Redondo and colorist Adriano Lucas send Wonder Woman on a rescue mission to Warworld. Naturally, Warworld means gladiator fights, which end inevitably with some variation on “I will not kill my worthy opponent for your bloodsport.” However, the story finds ways to address that trope, turning it into a contrast between Artemis and Wonder Woman. It’s not entirely predictable, and for an issue that is basically a couple of conversations framing an extended combat sequence, it’s kind of subtle and nuanced. Redondo’s choreography is really good, and Lucas’ color palette is all sickly reds, oranges and pinks. Overall it’s a very entertaining issue, and I’m eager to see what the next one has in store.

Green Lantern relaunched (yet again) this week, courtesy of writer Geoffrey Thorne, artists Dexter Soy and Marco Santucci, and colorist Alex Sinclair. It’s got a lot going on, but it all seems to be pointing in the same general direction. Basically the Green Lanterns are hosting a United Planets conference on Oa, with the question being whether the UP is going to use the GLC as its official peacekeepers. Meanwhile, Young Justice‘s Teen Lantern is meeting the Guardians, who are curious about what to do with her and her bootleg emerald-energy device. I am always excited to see the Green Lanterns integrated more fully into DC’s sci-fi realms, so this issue was right in my wheelhouse. (I do note that the GL Corps always seems to be significantly diminished by the time the Legion of Super-Heroes comes around, so in the long run these sorts of things tend not to turn out well for the Lanterns.)

Anyway, the focus here is on John Stewart and Simon Baz, which is nice because Simon especially seems to have been slid down the bench and John has been seen mostly only as a Justice Leaguer. This issue flips that, with Guy Gardner and Kilowog in minor roles and the other A-list Lanterns basically relegated to cameos. While politics dominates much of the issue, there is some ring-slinging, thanks to a faction that wants to unleash the magical energies the Guardians redirected back in the distant past. (See? Lots going on.) An opening flash-forward sets this up, so that before too long there’s mayhem all over Oa. The end result is a fairly satisfying first issue which establishes a couple of conflicts and brings them to stopping points without feeling too rushed or too dense. While Soy and Santucci do have different styles, they complement each other well, and Sinclair’s vivid work helps keep everything lively and distinct. I really liked this issue for its ambition and am excited about where Green Lantern could go next.

JK Parkin

I was pretty excited when Marvel announced that Daniel Warren Johnson (Murder Falcon, Wonder Woman: Dead Earth) was writing and drawing a Beta Ray Bill miniseries, featuring Fin Fang Foom, no less. I was already imagining giant splash pages of our hero pounding our villain’s head in new and creative ways. But that’s not really the comic we got here, and I think it’s the better for it.

Now, don’t get me wrong; we did get pages like this:

where the mighty Foom attacks in all his glory; I like how Johnson draws the big space dragon, mixing the best of Kirby and Simonson into a blender and then filtering through his own style. Foom is possessed by Knull in this comic, which ties it into King in Black, but it’s not a huge plot point and doesn’t really get in the way of the story Johnson is here to tell. You can see it more clearly in the last panel of this page:

but Knull-possessed Foom is even scarier and more menacing than regular Fin Fang Foom. We also have Skuttlebutt, Beta Ray Bill’s spaceship, crashing into the gates of Asgard — now adorned with the helmet of Galactus, as we’ve seen in Donny Cates’ run on Thor. These little touches are a nice overlay of recent continuity on a story that didn’t really need it, but I certainly appreciate them.

What I appreciated even more was the humanity that Johnson brings to Bill. He’s lost his hammer, he can no longer turn human (or humanoid, to be precise) and he’s trying to find his place in Asgard under the shadow of the new All-Father, Thor. And he’s having a tough time of it. This issue goes a lot deeper into the character of Bill than we’ve seen in awhile, maybe even since the Walt Simonson days. The grittiness of Johnson’s work suits giant battles with space dragons, but it also really works in defining Bill as a being who is lost, who feels ugly and wants to reclaim what he’s lost — something very relatable these days. I didn’t expect this approach, but I certainly welcome it.

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