Saturday, November 2, 2013

Green Lantern Annual #2

Broadway style!

Hear what the critics are saying about the new Broadway hit, "Lights Out!":

"DAZZLING!" -- Barry Allen, CSI: Broadway
"A TRIUMPH OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT!" -- Clark Kent, The Daily Planet
"A UNIVERSAL TOUR DE FORCE!" -- Oracle, The Omnipotent Star
"I COULDN'T STOP GRINNING!" -- The Joker, Tape 34, Inmate Interview

The show begins against a backdrop of stellar lights. An exceedingly large man enters, lit only from behind. A low, mournful moan begins to fill the empty space. He reaches the middle of the stage where his face is lit from above. Tears stream down his cheeks and he blubbers and sniffs uncontrollably. He has a terrifyingly awkward cry face. This goes on for a few minutes as everybody in the audience shifts uncomfortably. He mutters, "I tried to tell them. I tried to show them. Why wouldn't they listen to my unconfirmed theories? Why did they insist on experimental proof to back up my belief that the universe was going to die?" He wanders over to the stage right where a light switch on the wall is suddenly illuminated by a spotlight. "I showed them! Just like this I showed them! The Universe before the Lightswitches! And...THE UNIVERSE AFTER!" After his shout, he flips the light switch and the stellar backdrop goes dark. Only the large man, Relic, is still lit, tears still falling down his face. "And now a new universe and still nobody is willing to listen!" The lights go dark, the stage explodes in cacophony and when the lights come on:

The opening song and dance, paying obvious homage to West Side Story.

The opening duet between Hal and Guy, called "We Lost John," acts to inform the audience of the things that have happened before this scene on Ysmault takes place. It's apparent that a lot has happened up to this point to pit these two men against each other. Guy's lyrics are fast and forceful, sung as if he can't get the words out fast enough or loud enough. Hal's lyrics are drawn out and sustained, with notes often lasting throughout Guy's frenetic outbursts. It is apparent that these two have a long and turbulent history and that they share a good friend, John Stewart, who has been killed in the current cosmic crisis, still a relative mystery to the audience. Guy's erratic dancing is backed up by a cavalcade of vicious looking creatures. Hal's slow, deliberate movements take place in front of a group of softer, more whimsical creatures who sway gently to his song.

From the opening scene, the audience learns that a powerful entity named Relic has been destroying the friends and partners of the people on stage in order to save the universe. Planets are being destroyed. The Lanterns way of life is threatened. And the conflict between Guy and Hal is soon overshadowed by a heartbreaking song by Carol Ferris, the Star Sapphire, Lantern of Love. It's called, "I Love a Real Man Now Instead of a Boy Who Loves Himself (and is Probably the Worst Green Lantern Ever Because He's So Self-Involved)." You might not be able to tell by the title but the emotional impact of the song will bring anyone to tears. At least, anyone who has ever loved somebody that thought they loved you but what they really loved was the person they were when they were being loved by you and didn't actually love you so you had to move on to find somebody capable of actually being able to love you instead of just loving being loved by you. The song is also very funny which you might be able to tell by the title since it's about leaving a quintessential macho fighter pilot man (because he's not much of a man, actually) for a slacker comic book artist who has a history of finding girlfriends in his refrigerator. Okay, just one girlfriend. But that's still a history!

The stage direction is incredible in scenes like these when the cast must travel across vast distances. The movement on stage is facilitated by a moving platform (reminiscent of Les Miserables) with pulleys and bungee cords (reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil).

As Star Sapphire and the rest of the cast are flung up and into the rafters, the stage goes dark for just a few seconds before a large brown backdrop of twisted faces and broken machines merge into a great wall that looks like a rock climber's practice wall. The entirety of the set is lit from the top, casting long shadows across the stage. Relic, the tall man (the illusion of his height reminiscent of the costumes in The Lion King), stands center stage as he sends out probes to examine the wall. He turns to the audience and says, "I need more light." That's when a man dressed all in white emerges from the orchestra pit surrounded by a half dozen small, blue people dressed in costumes probably taken directly from a production of Hair. Kyle (the man in white) and the Bohemian Guardians (the blue people) float about on invisible wires as they move about the large, brown backdrop, investigating it closely. Relic remains, at all times, firmly planted on the stage.

Every time Relic is on stage, the audience is made to feel as uncomfortable as possible. He seems to care about this universe that is not his and yet he is so obviously The Other, the audience is repelled by his passionate speeches. He is the Unheimlich and we shift in our seats and exchange furtive glances and simply wish he'd depart. Especially when he begins singing "Penetrate The Source Wall." Every lyric of the song could be spoken by a first grader and nobody would bat an eye. Yet when sung with Relic's off-putting intensity and sung behind the constant stream of tears and matched to the awful, staccato movements of the Relic puppet-costume, they are disgusting, puerile, offensive, and crude. Lines like "I dedicated my existence to finding my universe's reservoir" bring to mind images of a rapist incessantly stalking its victim as opposed to a dedicated scientist trying to save the Omniverse. And then his rape fantasies that had been projected onto the Source Wall turn suddenly real as he sings "I was sure I'd captured enough spectrum energy to pierce it, but perhaps you can give me what I need" and he attacks Kyle and the Bohemian Guardians with dozens of mechanical phalluses.

Creepy. This scene is reminiscent of last year's off-Broadway hit, "Volthoom!"

As Relic's song finishes, Kyle spins frantically in midair above the middle of the stage. Rainbow lights play off him as if he were a disco ball above a roller rink. And suddenly he stops, completely still, bathed in green and red lights as Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, and their back-up dancers arrive by invisible wire from all sides of the stage (including above). The next number is a gigantic space battle with so many flashing lights it probably causes epilepsy in healthy brains. The song is called, "Time to Shine (Even Though We Only Have 0.00002% Charge Left in Our Rings)."

During the middle of the song, as Relic is surrounded by the Red and Green Lanterns, the lights suddenly go dark. The music continues, very, very softly. Spotlights illuminate a smaller stage that has either dropped from the fly or extended from the top of what was the Source Wall, high over the heads of the other actors now silent and still in the dark below. On this platform stand John Stewart, the Lantern thought dead earlier, and his gang of young, brash Green Lantern recruits. They are surrounded by dour violet people with staffs. John Stewart performs a short recitative in which he explains how the Green Lanterns will need every Lantern at their disposal, from the strong, stand-offish Indigo Lanterns to the new recruits that have not yet earned their emblems but are willing to do what they must. He walks to the edge of the platform and looks down as the scene below slowly begins to light once more and the actors begin their choreography, slowly at first and then back to normal pace as the song resumes with John and the others standing above watching.

As the song reaches a crescendo, Guy Gardner flies in to blast Relic but his red light is reflected back at him. That's when John Stewart dives from the stage above and tackles Guy Gardner out of the way as they swoop down, seemingly about to hit the stage but fly outward and arc above the audience where Stewart punches Guy in the face.

I thought it was a mistake the night I saw the play but I'm surprised to learn that the punch actually connects in every performance!

As John Stewart delivers his "deranged Santa" line and he and Guy head back to the stage, the lights dim, the curtain closes, and it's time for intermission.

I'm sorry to report that during intermission, I met a nice lady (a very, very nice lady) at the bar and we got to drinking and talking and, well, I missed a good portion of the second half. While I argued with the usher to let me back in, I could hear some song about a key and the White Lightswitch and the Source being replenished. By the time I got back to my seat, Relic was now merged with the Source Wall and Kyle Rayner was nowhere to be found.

I thought, "A Love Tether could get them home safely if only Carol Ferris loved another man somewhere on Earth! Like her father or her high school crush she recently got back into contact with on Facebook!"

I must admit, I expected the next song and dance to be an upbeat ragtime number by the Indigo Lanterns as they sang, "Hey, Morons, Did You Forget About Our Power of Teleportation?" Instead, John just kind of goes, "Umm, Hal? Indigo Lanterns?" and the lights go out for not even a second. When they return, everybody is still standing in exactly the same places but The Source Wall is gone. In its place is a lush, green world. A voice that must have been wired through speakers surrounding the entire building since it rumbled through every part of my being said, "Welcome to the new home of the Green Lantern Corps." It was Mogo, the sentient planet. And my liver and kidneys and all my other squishy bits are over the moon that that was his only line in the entire production.

The final celebratory song, called "The Oath," is full of joy and crazy, upbeat orchestrations. The stage is full of ecstatic choreography as the Green Lanterns' celebrate. But perceptive audience members find this ending undercut by the occasional Green Lantern unlit by a green spotlight, head hung low, as each walks slowly from the edges of the crowd and off the stage. It seems Relic's unsupported, wild theory of Peak Light has wormed its way into the hearts of other Lanterns. Nobody truly knows yet what happened or why. Why were the rings cutting out? What were the Entities trying to do? What did Kyle and his belief in his own power and his breaching of the Source Wall contribute to the restoration of the rings? Nobody knows. Yet Relic's triumphant cheer that he was correct and it was all fixed thanks to his calculations seem to have still caught the ear of the less logical members of the Lantern Corps. Good riddance!

Green Lantern Annual #2 Rating: Well, that was kind of a cosmic letdown. Relic was right? There was a reservoir that needed to be filled? And it was filled by the Light Entities? How? Where did they come from that they could replenish the Source? And does that mean that Fear and Death were not replenished? And if this all seems to be true, how can any Lantern rightfully continue in the job if it means they're speeding up the end of the universe? So after this great cosmic crisis, all that really happened was Oa was destroyed but now Mogo has taken Oa's place. So that's a superficial change. The Red Lanterns get to patrol a sector of space as their own. Again, a superficial change although it, at least, gives The Red Lanterns something to do. And Kyle Rayner isn't allowed to interact with anybody any more. That's not much of a change either as he has been on a mostly private cosmic quest for most of The New 52 anyway. I was hoping there would be a change to the routine nature of the Green Lanterns but I guess DC has that shit set in stone. Central Battery. Center of the Universe. Patrol. Recharge. Police. Be Arrogant. All in a day's work for The Green Lanterns!

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