When DC Comics rebooted their comic book universe with “The New 52″ initiative, I was interested enough to pick up several new DC books that I hadn’t been previously reading. (For my initial thoughts on The New 52, click here and here.) Now that we’re about ten months later, though, I’m pretty much back to just reading the DC books I was following before the relaunch. With two exceptions: I’m still reading and enjoying Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman and Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern.
I of course know all about the work that Geoff Johns has been doing , since 2004, to revitalize the Green Lantern franchise. Under his guidance, Green Lantern has become one of the central books of the DCU, and events from that title have often spun-out into company-wide events (such as “Blackest Night.”). I’ve been interested in what Mr. Johns has been doing, but I never read any of his work on Green Lantern. In fact, before The New 52, I don’t think I’ve ever purchased an issue of Green Lantern ever! (Maybe one or two crossover issues back during the Death of Superman/Reign of the Supermen days).
It’s not that Green Lantern holds no interest for me. I’ve certainly enjoyed the GL-based DC Animated DVDs (click here for my review of Emerald Knights), and I was very excited (though ultimately very let-down) by the prospect of a Green Lantern movie. But I grew up a Marvel fan, and I just never found myself drawn to Green Lantern’s comic book stories.
However, something about the cosmic mythology that Geoff Johns has been building up over the last number of years did interest me. And since I’ve found myself really enjoying the post-relaunch Green Lantern series (which doesn’t appear to be relaunched at all — it seems to be picking up directly from where the pre-New 52 Green Lantern comics left off), I decided the time had come for me to sample more of Mr. Johns’ work on Green Lantern. So I picked up a number of trade paperbacks, and dove in.
Green Lantern: Rebirth — I decided to go back to the beginning: Mr. John’s attempt to unravel the past decade’s worth of Green Lantern stories that had seen Hal Jordan become a mass-murdering psychopath, then eventually die and have his spirit bound to The Spectre, the DCU’s spirit of vengeance. Mr. Johns’ goal was to somehow bring Hal Jordan back into the center stage as the heroic Green Lantern once more. Rebirth is quite an extraordinary piece of work. What I loved about it was that Mr. Johns didn’t disregard any of the GL stories that had come before. He didn’t invalidate them, taking the easy way out of either just ignoring them or of somehow declaring them a dream or a hoax or in some other way false. Mr. Johns took the opposite approach, diving deep into the Green Lantern mythology to explore all that had happened to Hal Jordan in the previous decade-or-so of the comics, and coming up with some ingenious solutions as to how to bring the character back and restore him to his previous heroic status. It’s quite impressive, even more so when you consider how easy it would have been for Rebirth to have been overwhelmed by exposition. But that doesn’t happen at all. Mr. Johns creates a compelling mystery that escalates into an epic action-adventure, and he finds ways to weave all the back-story and explanations organically into the story. He focuses on a number of characters — not just Hal Jordan but also fellow Green Lanterns Kyle Rayner, Guy Gardner, and John Stewart, each of whom get a lot of attention in the story. Mr. Johns also reintroduces us to Carol Ferris, and the Guardians, and he even finds a way to bring back Sinestro. (I love this depiction of Sinestro, by the way — intelligent and very dangerous.) There are so many wonderful details — from Hal’s figuring out why Batman doesn’t like him to the explanation of why the GL rings were always vulnerable to yellow but Kyle Rayner’s was not. By the way, speaking of Kyle (who was created as a replacement for Hal Jordan in the ’90s), I love how respectful Johns is of Kyle, a character many fans had grown to love. One might have expected him to kill off Kyle or otherwise find a way to push him aside, but Mr. Johns made a point to include a scene in which Hal shakes Kyle’s hand. It’s a moment that shows great respect for the character, and the fans who liked him. All of Mr. Johns’ work is ably enhanced by Ethan Van Sciver’s gorgeous, ridiculously complex artwork. Mr. Van Sciver’s work reminds me of the master Brian Bolland, particularly his covers. That’s a huge compliment, as I think Brian Bolland is one of the finest comic book artists ever. The art in Rebirth is just extraordinary, and there are some panels I just found staring at for a long while, so I could soak in all the details. Rebirth was a real home-run for me. I loved it, and it made me eager to read on.
Green Lantern: No Fear – This trade paperback collects issues #1-6 of the post-Rebirth relaunched Green Lantern series, written by Geoff Johns. The stories in this collection didn’t have quite the energy or narrative momentum that Rebirth did, but I still enjoyed them. Carlos Pacheco stepped in as penciller for the first several issues. I love his work. It’s totally different from Mr. Van Sciver’s — much simpler and cleaner. It’s gorgeous work, and Mr. Pacheco was a great fit with Green Lantern. It’s interesting to see Green Lantern working to rebuild his shattered life, and I enjoyed Mr. John’s efforts to establish a new supporting cast for Hal. We get some hints at larger story-lines to come, with the first appearance of a black ring and the return of the Manhunters. The stories in the second-half of the collection with the super-evolved shark didn’t interest me that much. The gruesomeness of some of the violence seemed incongruous, to me, with the rather silly idea of a super-evolved shark-man. Speaking of incongruous, Simone Bianchi’s art on the last issue in the collection was beautiful, but seemed out of place with the stories being told and the art-style of the previous issues.
Revenge of the Green Lanterns – Collecting Green Lantern #7-13. Carlos Pacheco illustrated the first two issues in the collection, a two-part story called “A Perfect Life.” The story is a sequel to Alan Moore’s famous Superman story “What Do You Get For The Man Who Has Everything?” and also connected to the events of the DC line-wide crossover event Infinite Crisis. “A Perfect Life” is my favorite story in this collection. It’s great seeing Green Lantern once again paired up with Green Arrow. I loved the return of Mongul. Carlos Pacheco’s art is particularly gorgeous, and the story is very compelling (and a little sad!). I loved it. The second story, “Branded,” was less successful. The villain, the Tattooed Man, wasn’t that interesting to me, and Mr. Van Sciver’s artwork seemed a bit muddled. The final story, “Revenge of the Green Lanterns,” takes place after the “One Year Later” jump in time that all the DCU books took after Infinite Crisis. I’m mixed on this last story. I like the idea of a group of Green Lanterns who still have it in for Hal Jordan. I loved the return of Cyborg Superman, and I loved the way Mr. Johns was able to resurrect several classic Green Lantern Corps members. Ivan Reis’ artwork was very solid. But I was distracted by the One Year Later stuff, and by the backstory that Mr. Johns tried to weave in of a terrible experience Hal had during the missing year, when he and several of his fellow pilots were captured and tortured by terrorists. I think that could have been a powerful story if it had been presented in a straightforward manner. But getting it in a series of flashbacks, in the middle of this big cosmic Green Lantern Corps story, seemed weird and out-of-place.
Wanted: Hal Jordan — Collecting Green Lantern #14-20. This collection contains two stories. The first is “Wanted: Hal Jordan.” Ivan Reis takes over on the art and his work is terrific — very smooth and sleek in the style of Carlos Pacheco, but still filled with meticulous detail. I like the complexity of this story, in which Hal finds himself on the wrong side of an international group of super-heroes, his friends in the Justice League, a group of terrorists, and a number of intergalactic bounty hunters. I loved the revelation of the real villain — that was clever. But like “Revenge of the Green Lanterns,” this story was also saddled with a lot of baggage from Hal’s tribulations during the missing year, and I didn’t really care about any of that stuff. Daniel Acuna took over the art chores for the collection’s second story, “Mystery of the Star Sapphire.” I love Mr. Acuna’s artwork. It’s a totally different style than what you usually see in an American super-hero book. I was glad that unlike Simone Bianci in “No Fear,” Mr. Acuna was able to illustrate a complete multi-issue story, so the art didn’t change dramatically in the middle of a story. We’re starting to get more and more hints at a larger, more cosmic story, and it’s very neat. Of course, I do have some idea where this is all leading (since I know about the big DC events of the past several years), but I’m not quite sure how we’ll get there and I am enjoying the ride.
This has been a lot of fun, diving into these Green Lantern collections! Next up is The Sinestro Corps War, which I am very excited about…