First Impressions – LARFLEEZE #1

Larfleeze #1

The sole master of the orange light of avarice has had a Christmas special and a backup feature in another book. But he finally gets an ongoing series all to himself in LARFLEEZE #1. Agent Orange as he’s called never is in a funk about the recent loss of his precious crap, including his lantern. What’s the greediest being in the galaxy to do? Recount his origin story of course! Where did Larfleeze come from? What new details about his personal history unfold? How can he go on being the lord of the orange without a lantern fueling him? And at what point did he pick up a butler?

I never read either the Larfleeze Christmas Special or the space-themed series Larfleeze guest-starred in whose name escapes me, so I’m just a little behind on his storylines. So color me confused when LARFLEEZE #1 opens with him drifting through space, despondent, about to crash into one of the DCU’s fifty significant spacial anomalies that can kill you. And he has a butler named Stargrave now, a bald green man who has a perfectly accurate assessment of his stupid master. My guess is Larfleeze press-ganged him into service at some point in an earlier story.

The reason they are drifting to oblivion is, thankfully, explained in an obvious expository dialogue: for reasons I think relating to his family, Larfleeze recently gave up all his hitherto collected swag, including his orange lantern. The one orange lantern that is the source of all his powers. Or maybe he had it stolen, I don’t know. Stargrave is rightfully concerned about his master basically allowing the two to drift into certain death because of a funk.

It’s also at this point that the second longest bout of blunt-force exposition I’ve ever seen happens, as Larfleeze decides now would be the best time to reiterate his backstory.

The longest bout of blunt-force exposition being of course the extended flashback from Tenjho Tenge which lasted nearly the half the series.

To the credit of LARFLEEZE #1, it’s at least aware of how monotonous it is for Agent Orange to recount his origin to such great detail. Stargrave spends a good portion of it complaining about how he already heard most of it, and that in any case this is the worst possible time to do it again. And even when it’s just his history, Larfleeze manages to make the whole thing more entertaining that it could be by being so obviously dishonest in places. More thankfully, the events in his history that were already covered in earlier stories are summarized and glossed over, because if a reader is interested in the ongoing, they already read most of those tales.

After all that, the book finally addresses the current plot: something about space wolves or whatever. That and Larfleeze apparently having become a living battery for orange power, because otherwise the series couldn’t continue. No point in having the overlord of orange as the protagonist of a book if he’s incapable of using his powers.

Let’s examine Stargrave the Butler for a moment. What’s his purpose in this series? Balance mostly; Larfleeze needs someone to watch and interact with him. Not necessarily in the personal sense (although he certainly needs a keeper despite being billions of years old), but rather in the narrative sense. Watching Larfleeze screw around on his own would be boring and irritating. Back in the day he had former Guardian Sayd as his slave because he needs someone to play off him; someone to challenge his idiocy and be annoyed by his antics. He needs a straight man; otherwise readers have no choice but to be the straight man themselves.

It’s funny to have a straight man, but it’s no fun being the straight man. Comedy is like that.

In another sense, Stargrave is also necessary to act as the sympathetic audience surrogate. Larfleeze is at times a woobie – especially with his fairly tragic backstory – but he’s also a selfish, immature prick with few redeeming qualities. Having to stay around him for any length of time, and especially as the protagonist of an ongoing series, would be intolerable if he were actually holding the entire show together alone. Hence, the ever-suffering butler is the one readers latch onto and empathize with; in turn allowing Larfleeze to continue being entertaining without compromising his villainous nature just for narrative convenience.

On an artistic level, LARFLEEZE is more stylized than realistic, at least compared to other works in the GL canon. Which works for the less dramatic, more comedic series. Characters are very expressive and energy effects varied. The single significant sticking point is the color palette. Like the similarly focused Red Lanterns ongoing, LARFLEEZE centers on its principle hue. In other words, ideally you tolerate (even like) orange, because this book has a notable surplus. Thankfully, the plentiful pumpkin color is balanced by others. Unlike the aforementioned Red Lanterns, this book is not set on a single planet with one predominant color, so the orange doesn’t run together in a slurry. Stargrave is green and barely has any orange in his wardrobe, so we’ll have at least one permanent cast member that can differ from the central theme.

For my own part, I don’t think I’ll be sticking with this series beyond LARFLEEZE #1. I enjoy his antics as much as the next GL fan, but also like the twice referred to Red Lanterns, this strikes me as stretching a concept beyond what can reasonably be milked from it. There’s a reason Larfleeze always headlined backup features or the occasional one shot; he’s a simple character. He probably has more cause than the Red Lanterns to have an ongoing, because he’s got more to him than bottomless rage and hate. But this still seems like a story more fitting a limited series. Twelve issues at most.

Even that seems more Larfleeze than I could desire. The biggest draw to this issue in particular was the extended backstory dump, much of which the character himself admits could be completely falsified. The very tale end of the issue is devoted to setting up a plot, and what comes of it sounds infinitely less interesting and substantive than just the character’s origin. If this had merely been another one shot, I’d walk away contented. Now I’m wondering what could possibly be added that could conceivably be more interesting.

Moreover, I’m on a kick of weeding away the total number of series bought, so adding more is just counterproductive.

If you love Larfleeze, this is undoubtedly required reading. Everything that’s needed to understand who the character is and what he’s about is presented in a dense package. If you aren’t that big a fan, anything beyond the first issue will likely not be worth it.

Personally, I pine for a Blue Lanterns series. Or at least a miniseries. Saint Walker deserves more panel time than he’s afforded, and it’s not as though the Green Lantern corps has no need of them around.

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