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‘Far Sector #2’ (review)

Written by N.K. Jemisin
Art by Jamal Campbell 
Published by DC Comics

 

“It’s just me out here. Lone sheriff on the frontier. I like it that way. So far.”

 

If someone offered you a Green Lantern ring, would you take it?

Silly question, probably.

Still, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

It’s a lot of responsibility for one. And not without risk. You’ll need talent, and grit. And character. Self-confidence, too – or a willingness, at least, to shine it on when you need to. Determination of course. A certain creative flair wouldn’t hurt.

Oh, and there’s also that bit about no fear.

That last point may seem a little unreasonable to author N.K. Jemisin. But I’m pleased she’s taken up the challenge even so.

The second issue of Far Sector, DC’s newest Green Lantern project, arrives today with all the style and panache of the first one. With Jamal Campbell on hand to round out DC’s newest creative dream team, the colorful, futuristic, and weirdly alien landscapes of the City Enduring come alive again as the backdrop for a space operatic political crime thriller unlike anything we’ve seen from DC before.

Far Sector is a beautiful book, bursting with potential. And really what better franchise than the Green Lanterns to take a chance on something new and daring in the DC universe?

It’s smart of Jemisin to give herself some room, with a story set off alone on the fringes of a property she’s only just getting familiar with herself. Still this is a medium she’s never worked in before, so it’s possible she’ll need a little help to master the territory before all is said and done. (Though not very much, by the look of things.)

Good thing she has great editors.

And so, we learn this month that Lantern Jo Mullein is in fact earth-girl Sojourner Mullein. And while we don’t know too much about her origins yet, or the mysterious circumstances of her trial-run gig as a Green Lantern, we do know she is quite earth-girl normal. Jo’s bold and bright – hip, with a modern sensibility. She likes beautiful things (and sexy aliens apparently). She likes coffee (too bad for her). She likes to dance. She likes to be desired.

She also prefers to be respected, thank you very much, and has little trouble asserting herself. And… she is probably in just a little over her head. Though you’d almost never know it, even if you could feel and read emotions like any other normal humanoid carbon-based being.

Which, neither the alien Nah nor the keh-Topli can, apparently.

Or… at least not much. It’s a clever concept, and a suitably, weirdly sci-fi one: a society-wide DNA software hack that screens off emotions, so that the very different alien species of the City Enduring can manage to coexist peacefully together without going to war with one another. Or eating one another.

But as Jemisin herself notes, there sure are a lot of emotional feeling words in language, and between this and a wide range of behavioral motivations in our story so far that feel suspiciously like emotions are involved, it’s a little hard to get one’s head wrapped around all the social politics and intrigue of this bizarre alien society. Certainly, Jo thinks so.

So, it’s good to get the suggestion anyway that the Emotion Exploit keeping everyone in check does not seem to nullify emotions, so much as mute them significantly.

Sure, that must be a blessing to the keh-Topli, who normally suffer from a deep emotional hollowness of such separation that it can only be eased with the consumption of other sentient beings… along with their souls. The Nah have their own primal impulses to conquer as well apparently. In fact it’s fair to say that everyone has a lot of reason to fear the prospects of losing that control, in a galaxy already ravaged from the consequences of failing to do so once before.

Nonetheless, it seems this story is set to grapple with the question of what happens when the flavors of long-repressed emotions start bubbling to the surface once again. Especially when they are freed entirely through the illicit designer drug Switchoff… and its users begin to realize just what they’ve been missing.

That spells trouble for Green Lantern Mullein.

In more ways than one.

On top of all this though, Jo is facing emotional challenges of her own. She probably wishes she could access the Emotional Exploit herself, to help with a very non-Lantern-like fear of… heights?

Whoops. That can’t be easy, especially when you simply can’t afford to feel like an imposter.

For now however, Lantern Mullein appears content to let everyone think she’s got her own emotions entirely under wraps. Even though she knows full well that’s not how it works…

What’s a new Green Lantern to do?

It’s quite a set-up, and one that seems poised to get right at the heart of what it means to be a Green Lantern… and what it means to accept that we may not always be in control as we’d wish to be.

That’s exciting, but it’s also uncertain. It’s one thing to forge your own way. And we all know from Hal Jordan that a certain amount of rebellion is appealing in all the best of heroes. It remains to be seen though, if the story N.K. Jemisin is setting up to tell us will have the regard for her source material, and sufficient editorial direction, to respect the important mythology of what being a ring-wielder really means.

Bad enough we all live in a multiverse now that apparently considers willpower to be an emotion. Whatever comes of this latest Green Lantern story, however radical (or philosophical) it gets, let’s hope it adds something true to the picture, something that nonetheless honors the exceptionalism of an elite corp of heroes who have been selected to wear their rings for a reason. Whose primary superpower is… dismissing fear.

Even if they have to face it first, to do so.

But I’d say it’s looking good so far, Jo.

Next Issue: Big Trouble in the City Enduring

 

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