Green Lantern Corps #208 (January, 1987)
Story – Steve Englehart
Pencils – Joe Staton
Inks – Mark Farmer
Letters – Bob Lappan
Colors – Tony Tollin
Editor – Andy Helfer
Cover Price: $0.75
Another one from the “Holy cow, wouldja check out that cover!” files. This issue of Green Lantern Corps just demands your attention. Even if you had no prior interest in the character… this is definitely striking enough to make ya curious.
We open by checking in with a Soviet compound. A doctor laments the fact that his latest test-subject in the Rocket Red project has died. A general is overseeing the event, and is rather unhappy. He tells the doctor he really needs to get his stuff together… soon. The project is an attempt by the Soviets to create their own army of superheroes.
We shift scenes to Kilowog and Pietr the Communist floating on a ring-construct panel somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Pietr is talking down the Western ways of government while extolling the virtues of Communism. We learn that Kilowog home planet of Bolovax Vik conducts itself pretty similarly to the U.S.S.R. Pietr continues, admitting to being a Soviet spy… and really puts down the legitimacy of the Democratic system. Kilowog is interested enough that he asks that Pietr take him back to the Soviet Union.
Back with the Corps, Hal and the gang are being visited by everyone’s favorite Old-Timer, Appa Ali Apsa. They are discussing a recent quarrel in regards to Guy Gardner, and express concern that Kilowog has run off. They bring up the interesting point that none of our familiar Earth Lanterns really know all that much about Kilowog. This is before he was retconned into being the drill sergeant of the Corps… now, he’s just another Lantern, whose planet was destroyed in the Crisis.
The Corps decide against letting their rings search him out, realizing that they are not his keepers at this juncture. Old-Timer and his lanky lover K’ryssma fly off… in full view of pain-in-the-ass reporter, Tawny Young.
Young gets right in the Lanterns’ faces, and threatens to rat them over the evening news. This story occurs during Legends… a crossover where the United States government sorta-kinda outlawed superhero activity. She hands over letter from then President, Ronald Reagan (which is written on the cutest letterhead you’ve ever seen) and takes her leave.
Once she’s gone, the Corps has a discussion on how they should approach the situation. Ch’p, Salakk and John all believe the best course of action is confronting the President directly, while Hal and Katma would prefer to play it a bit more cool. All eyes turn to Hal’s teenage love, Arisia, who somehow has the tie-breaker vote… as if the 3-2 we’ve got here needs a tie-breaker? Maybe Ch’p and Salakk only get half-a-vote each.
Anyhoo, Arisia decides they should compromise. While heroes are outlawed in America, there’s still plenty of places they can go and not have to worry about being in violation of the law. Perhaps somewhere where they can sit it out until things blow over… and so, our tiny Corps heads to the skies.
Meanwhile, we meet up with Hal’s (and Guy’s) ex-girlfriend, Kari Limbo as she sashays down a city street. Her attention is grabbed by a televised speech by Matt Murdoch… er, G. Gordon Godfrey. This ties in to the Legends series, as Godfrey is kind of the superhero witch-hunter trying to get’em all shut down. Either way, this is all too much for Limbo to handle due to her being a psychic. She collapses on the ground.
Back in the U.S.S.R., Kilowog and Pietr arrive at the Kremlin. Here, ‘Wog meets Mikhail Gorbachev. It’s quite the pleasant meeting, and they are cordial to one another. Gorbachev makes it clear that he is just another “comrade”. He tells Kilowog that their current Rocket Red project is one that just might bring about world peace.
Back at his hotel, Kilowog takes a bath in the toilet, and monologues about whether or not he’s doing the right thing. He ultimately decides to hear the scientists out.
While meeting with the science crew, ‘Wog meets Josef Danoff, the next test-subject for the Rocket Red project. Kilowog pulls him aside and they discuss the mortality risks to undergoing the genetic engineering and forced evolution the project requires. Danoff gives a stirring speech about how the Soviets only have one superhero (Red Star) while the United States has, well, pretty much all the rest. Whether or not this is an inequality issue, Kilowog decides he’s down to give this a shot. He works all through the night, to the point where his ring is about to run out of juice.
We shift to Africa, where the Corps are meeting up with old foe Ub’x. He’s currently working on some sort of evolutionary experiment as well… though I would posit it’s probably a bit less technical than the Rocket Red dealie. It comes time for the Lanterns to recharge their rings, so they make Ub’x stand in the corner while they say the oath.
As they tell the world to “beware their power”, Kilowog’s battery starts hightailing it East… or North-East, I guess. The Lantern Corps decides it’d be in their best interests to follow it… all the way into Soviet airspace.
Once behind the Iron Curtain, the Lanterns are engaged by several jets, and one Soviet Super Soldier… Rocket Red! The Corps and Red do battle for a good while allowing everybody to get a shot in, until the fracas is broken up by… Kilowog.
Kilowog first lambastes his former (?) teammates for all piling on one guy, er “pooz” before givin’ out some of that Communist propaganda. He suggests that since the Corps is in a state of flux, perhaps the more Communist approach is the better way to go for the “new Corps”. Hal insists that this is madness, and Kilowog kinda slumps his shoulders and leaves with his new best pal, Rocket Red… until…
Katma-Tui decides, hey… maybe I wanna play some Tetris, drink vodka, and… ya know, that Yakov Smirnoff is pretty funny… yeah, maybe the Soviet life is the life for her! John Stewart won’t let his lady go alone, so he leaves with her… leaving our Green Lantern Corps as Hal Jordan, teenage Arisia, squirrel chipmunk hybrid Ch’p and whatever the hell a Salakk is. Sector 2814 has never been so safe!
The Steve Englehart run on Green Lantern Corps was a real special time in comics. It was just so weird and wonderful, and so unfortunate that it ended so abruptly. He has such a great feel for the members of the Corps, and provides them with great voices. I’d forgotten about consistent thorn in the side, Tawny Young… she’s not a bad foil for the crew, especially in light of the Legends miniseries running at the time. I feared they would eventually pair her and John up romantically… really glad they didn’t.
|Amazing stationary! Totally legit.
Joe Staton is one of “the” Green Lantern artists, and turns in his usual solid work here. I really dug the Rocket Red costume design here, it’s not the one that pops into my head when I think of it, but it’s really quite good.
Kilowog is, as the cover suggests, the main guy in this issue. I always get a kick out of his portrayal during this era. When I think of the character, I always picture him as a Corps standby, the drill sergeant… here, he’s kinda the new kid on the block. The other Lanterns don’t know a whole lot about him besides the fact that he’s a fellow ring-wielder. The wrinkle about his home planet being something of a socialist utopia. I suppose with that understood, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he is intrigued by the U.S.S.R.
The cliffhanger is an interesting one… the Corps is already quite tiny, only to be further splintered by conflicting views of ideology. Very interesting take here, one that really should be checked out. As far as I know, this hasn’t been collected… and if it’s not already, I sadly doubt it ever will be. This was a very experimental era for the characters… and leads into the even more wacky and experimental Green Lantern in Action Comics Weekly (I mean, ya got Malvolio, Priest… and Oprah all in there!). None of the above is must-reading, if you’re concerned about continuity… but, I would definitely recommend ’em.