REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS GREEN LANTERN JOHN STEWART
It would seem that someone has decided to add to the ranks of the Green Lantern Corps within Mattel's superb line of DC Comics-based action figures, DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS. There's no less than three of them involved in Wave 11 of this remarkable series, including John Stewart, Katma Tui, and, as the Collect-and-Connect figure, the massive alien Kilowog.
Here's hoping they get around to Guy Gardner at some point. He's been in the DC Infinite Heroes line. I think he's ready for the larger scale.
This review will take a look at the figure of Green Lantern John Stewart, arguably the second most prominent modern day Green Lantern after Hal Jordan -- who came to greater prominence within the Justice League animated series (I suspect due to a perceived need for racial diversity, since Stewart is African-American), and later during the Justice League Unlimited series.
I remain convinced to this day that the producers of the animated series pulled a deliberate "Sisko" on Stewart. In the excellent television series, Star Trek Deep Space Nine, actor Avery Brooks, who played Captain Benjamin Sisko, commander of the space station, shaved his head about midway through the series, and grew a mustache and goatee. John Stewart did the same thing between Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. I honestly cannot fathom any other reason for the design change to the character other than as a nod to Sisko and Deep Space Nine.
Granted, that's not a complaint, as much of a fan of Deep Space Nine as I am. I rather got a kick out of it, myself.
However, the DC Universe Classics line is not directly affiliated with the animation. Nevertheless, I believe John Stewart within the comic books enjoyed an increased presence and popularity as a result of his prominence in the animated series, even though he's been around for well before the animated series ever came to be.
Let's see what WikiPedia has to say about the character: John Stewart first appeared in Green Lantern vol. 2 #87 (December 1971), and was created by Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams.
John Stewart has become a major recurring character in the Green Lantern mythos within the DC Universe. He starred in the short-lived spin-off comic Green Lantern: Mosaic, of which DC published 18 issues between June 1992 and November 1993. Additionally, he was the primary character in Green Lantern (vol. 2) from issues #182 through #200, when Jordan relinquished his place in the Corps (1984-1986), and as such was the primary Green Lantern on Earth during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. He is one of DC's first African-American costumed superheroes.
While initially unknown to non-comics readers, his profile has been raised significantly since he was featured as one of the lead characters on the television cartoon Justice League from 2001 until 2004. He continued to appear on the show's 2004-2006 sequel, Justice League Unlimited. As of 2007, John Stewart is prominently featured in DC's monthly comic books Justice League of America and Green Lantern.
John Stewart is an architect and veteran U.S. Marine who was selected by the Guardians as Hal Jordan's backup after Guy Gardner was seriously injured in a disaster. Although Jordan objected after seeing that Stewart had a belligerent attitude to authority figures, the Guardians stood by their selection.
To Jordan, Stewart's first mission began badly with the assignment of protecting a racist politician and Stewart took advantage of averting an accident to embarrass him in the process. However, Stewart soon proved his worth when an assassin shot at the politician, but Stewart refused to intervene with Jordan to move in response to the attack. Stewart had good reasons for this apparent dereliction of duty when he stopped a gunman from killing a police officer in the outside parking lot at the event while Jordan was pursuing a decoy. When Jordan confronted Stewart about his actions, Stewart explained that the politician had staged it for political advantage. With that adventure, Jordan concluded that Stewart was an excellent recruit after all.
For some time, Stewart occasionally filled in for him as Green Lantern when Jordan was unavailable, including some missions of the Justice League.
After Jordan gave up being Green Lantern in the 1980s, the Guardians selected Stewart for full time duty. Stewart filled that role for some years, during which time he married Katma Tui, the Green Lantern of the planet Korugar who was initially assigned to train John in the use of his ring. Kat and John served together within the Green Lantern Corps of Earth alongside Hal Jordan, Arisia, Kilowog, Salaak and other alien Green Lanterns.
After John's ring was rendered powerless through the schemes of Sinestro, and Katma Tui was murdered, Stewart's life began to unravel.
First, he was falsely accused of killing Carol Ferris, Star Sapphire's alter ego, and then falsely accused of theft by South Nambia (a fictional DCU nation). Jailed and tortured in South Nambia for weeks, John freed himself with his old ring, now re-powered thanks to the efforts of Hal Jordan.
Afterwards, John left Earth for space, where he participated in the Cosmic Odyssey mini-series event, and failed to prevent the destruction of the planet Xanshi by an avatar of the Anti-Life Equation. The incident earned him the ire of J'onn J'onzz the Martian Manhunter, who was with him at the time. This series of tragedies left John a shattered man on the brink of suicide and created the villainess known as Fatality.
John finally forgave himself for his past mistakes and grew into a stronger, more complex hero when he became the caretaker of the "Mosaic World", a patchwork of communities from multiple planets that had been brought to Oa by an insane Guardian who had invaded John's mind.
Although bitter and sullen at his assignment at first, he overcame this and, using his formidable intellect and talent for unconventional thinking, Stewart forged the Mosaic into a new society and eventually became the first mortal Guardian of the Universe, known as the Master Builder. As his reward for this new level of awareness, John was reunited with his late wife, Katma Tui. However, tragedy struck once again and Hal Jordan, possessed by Parallax, destroyed both the Guardians and the Central Power Battery, robbing John of his newfound powers and his resurrected wife.
Following "Emerald Twilight" and the collapse of the Green Lantern Corps, Stewart was recruited by the Controllers to command the Darkstars, another interstellar peacekeeping force. Using the new resources at his command, John evacuated the Mosaic cities from Oa prior to its destruction and served the Darkstars with distinction until he was crippled in battle with Grayven on the planet Rann. John eventually regained the use of his legs as a parting gift from Jordan before Jordan sacrificed himself to destroy the Sun-Eater during The Final Night. As a result of Hal/Parallax healing him, he began to exhibit random bursts of energy from his hands that he was able to discharge on three different occasions. Soon afterwards, he accepted a new ring entrusted to Kyle Rayner by a time-lost Hal Jordan and joined the Justice League to fill in for Kyle as he took an extended leave of absence from Earth.
With the return of Hal Jordan and the Guardians, the Corps has been reorganized. Each sector of space now has two Green Lanterns assigned to it, and Stewart and Jordan now share regular duty for Earth's sector, 2814. After the dissolution of the Justice League in the aftermath of the events depicted in the 2004 miniseries Identity Crisis, and the destruction of their Watchtower headquarters on the moon, Stewart has begun playing a larger role in metahuman affairs, working with many former Justice Leaguers.
In the Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps Special, the Green Lantern Corps are attacked by Bedovian, the sniper of the Sinestro Corps, who is capable of taking out a target from three sectors away, all from the inside of a red Sun-Eater. After Bedovian takes out several Green Lanterns, John Stewart uses his power ring as a scoped sniper rifle to track the nearby sectors. He eventually discovers Bedovian's hiding spot and shoots him. As Green Lantern Corps member were forbidden from killing sentient beings at that time, it's likely that Bedovian survived the attack, however his fate has not yet been made clear.
John and Guy Gardner are captured by SInestro Corps member Lyssa Drak and taken back to Qward, where the two Lanterns are held captive. Hal manages to defeat Lyssa and free John and Guy. The earth-based Lanterns then return home, only to find that New Earth, as the center of the Multiverse, is the Sinestro Corps' next target.
John Stewart was later approached by the Guardians to become one of the Alpha Lanterns, a new division of the Corps devoted to the internal affairs of the Corps. Stewart, desiring more information about the secrecy of the forbidden prophecies, declined the offer, to the extreme disappointment of the Guardians.
It has also been revealed that John served in the Marine Corps as a sniper prior to becoming an architect. While the idea of John being a former Marine was taken from the Justice League cartoon, the sniper angle is a new addition to the character's background. During his time in the Marines, John met the then young Hal Jordan when he was in the Air Force before they both join the Green Lantern Corps.
During the Rage of the Red Lanterns story arc, John Stewart is part of the guard assigned to escort Sinestro to Korugar to face execution. However, the Green Lanterns are ambushed by the Sinestro Corps and then the Red Lantern Corps under Atrocitus. The Green Lanterns are left to die in space after Atrocitus captures Sinestro, but they are saved by Saint Walker of the Blue Lantern Corps. In that same issue, Fatality is converted into a Star Sapphire, and orders her ring to locate John Stewart. When she tracks down John, she tells him she forgives him, and kisses him. Before departing, she encourages John to forgive himself for what happened to Xanshi.
Most recently, during the Blackest Night storyline, when John visits the grave of planet Xanshi, thousands of black rings fly into the planetary debris, and reconstitute the entire planet. Xanshi itself then speaks to John, telling him "I can help you save them." Against his better judgment, John descends to the planet's surface. Once reaching the surface, John finds himself confronted by Katma Tui and the entire population of Xanshi as Black Lanterns. While battling them all, Katma tries to weaken John by claiming that he caused the planet's destruction. However, John, spurred on by Fatality's words, says that he wasn't the cause of it all and successfully fights off the Black Lanterns.
As to his powers and abilities, John Stewart's power ring provides him with the abilities of all other Green Lanterns, these abilities include flight and limited invulnerability. As with all other Green Lanterns, the ring is a weapon of the mind and powered by will, therefore only limited to the wearer's imagination.
Like all Green Lanterns, Stewart's personality affects his ring's creations, giving them a solid, architectural quality. In Green Lantern: Rebirth, Hal Jordan remarks that "everything John builds is solid". He also remarked that Stewart is the best flyer in the Corps.
In Green Lantern (vol. 4) #26, it was shown that John's willpower exceeds the limit of his ring (when he tried to recreate a planet from scratch), a feat that had not been depicted before this point.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive.
For the most part, the figure of Green Lantern John Stewart uses the same "male hero" body molds that many figures use. This is not something that I have a problem with. It lends a consistence to the DC Universe Classics line that I sincerely appreciate. Plus -- it's an excellent design. It allows for an appropriately super-heroic physique with maximum articulation which is worked well into the design of the figure. It's not easy to get articulation points to work well on a super-hero figure, where there aren't "clothing wrinkles" or armor to work with, but I have no complaints about the overall design here.
The headsculpt is excellent. Granted, there is nothing all that unusual about John Stewart's face. He is a fairly ordinary-looking African-American male. However, that's as it should be, and the face sculpt reflects this. It has a definite expression of determination to it, with just a hint of "try something and me and my ring know about fifty ways to incapacitate you in less time than it takes to tell".
Stewart also has a haircut very similar to his animated, as well as comic-based, counterpart. Short-cropped hair on the top, shaved on the sides and back above the ears. The paintwork is overall excellent, including such small details as the eyes, and the molding is neat.
John Stewart's uniform differs from Hal Jordan's. There was a time when all Green Lanterns pretty much dressed alike, allowing for certain unusual alien physiognomies. Then there was a time when Green Lanterns pretty much dressed as they pleased, although their costumes tended to be mostly green and black, with some white trim, and of course had the Green Lantern emblem.
These days, Green Lanterns tend to more or less dress how they like, but there's a slightly greater level of standardization than there was for a while.
John Stewart is wearing a costume which was designed and popularized by the animated series, but which since has also become his standard outfit for the comics as well. (And honestly, in another mild "Sisko" comparison, it's really not all that far removed from the "all black with the colored collar and shoulders" look of Starfleet uniforms as seen in Deep Space Nine...)
The costume is mostly black, with a green neck and shoulders, tapering in the front to a Green Lantern emblem in the center of the chest. This is a white circle with the Lantern insignia. Stewart's is slightly different than Jordan's, in that rather than it being a green circle with a green line on the top and bottom. Stewart's is more like a green circle with two partial triangles on the top and bottom.
Stewart's costume has green boots, and green sleeve cuffs. He is not wearing gloves. Interestingly, the cuffs are painted in a metallic green. Nice touch, if a little inexplicable.
Of course, Stewart is wearing a power ring on the second finger of his right hand. Interestingly enough, the ring is NOT identical to that worn by the Hal Jordan Green Lantern figure, who came out in Series 3 of DC Universe Classics. It's entirely different, and as such, had to be a completely different hand sculpt.
Any complaints? Well, the left foot is a little loose, and has a slightly warped ankle. Fixable, I think, and it doesn't prevent him from standing, but it's a quality control issue that Mattel should be attentive to. The right foot is slightly curled on the underside, but not badly. I have categorically seen far worse, and that is really an issue Mattel needs to look into. Flat feet may be a serious real-world medical condition, but for DC Universe Classics, it's generally the desired result. A warped foot not only looks bad, it can affect the figure's stance, and it's something that I've tried to get used to checking for, among other assembly notations. Would that I did not have to.
Another observation I'd like to make, a positive one: When a DC Universe Classics figure has a cape, there's an indentation -- a slot, really -- in the back of the basic male hero upper torso mold, into which a cape can be secured. If a figure does not have a cape, like Flash, Captain Atom, etc., that otherwise uses the standard male hero mold, then a shaped "plug" is inserted into the slot, so the figure doesn't have a gaping hole in his back. This plug is detectable, but it's preferable to a hole.
John Stewart obviously does not have a cape. Neither does he have a hole. Incredibly, neither does he have a plug! There is an infinitesimal line on his back, shaped like the outline of the slot, but it's clearly not a separate plug. It would appear that Mattel has created a new "back" mold that can be used on capeless figures, that simply removes the cape slot entirely, and eliminates the need for a fill-in "plug". I certainly approve, and I hope to see more of this particular back mold in the future, and suspect I shall. I first encountered this on B'wana Beast, a MattyCollector exclusive sold with Animal Man. I was certain that it couldn't have been created just for him.
While I in no way want to see extensive modifications to the basic male hero body design for DC Universe Classics -- there's no reason to mess with something this good -- this is one minor modification of which I definitely approve. Not to malign in any way those who didn't receive it.
Of course, John Stewart has excellent overall articulation. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
He also comes with two accessories, essentially "ring constructs". One is an extended fist which attaches to his wrist. The other is a rifle -- not inappropriate for a former Marine. Somewhat surprisingly, he doesn't come with a lantern battery for the ring. But, I suppose he can borrow Hal Jordan's from time to time.
So what's my final word? John Stewart may not be the most prominent of the Green Lanterns, but he certainly rose to considerable prominence in the Justice League animated series, and has had his strong moments in the comic books, as well. He also played a major role in the "Trinity" year-long weekly series.
Certainly, as such, he deserves to be part of the DC Universe Classics series. And I'll also admit, I'm a definite fan of the Green Lantern Corps. And this is a superb rendition of the figure.
As such, the DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of GREEN LANTERN JOHN STEWART most definitely has my highest recommendation!