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Green Lantern: Secret Origin and More

Last Spring, I started making my way through Geoff Johns’ years-long run on Green Lantern. I had heard and read so much praise for his defining work on the series, that I thought it high time to sample his stories myself.

I started with Mr. Johns’ hugely successful re-launch of the Green Lantern series (bringing back the original Green Lantern, Hal Jordan) in Green Lantern: Rebirth and his first several story-arcs on the re-started Green Lantern regular series, and then I moved on to his epic, galaxy-spanning Sinestro Corps War storyline, in which classic Green Lantern villain Sinestro creates his own corps to rival the Green Lantern corps.  Whereas the Green Lanterns draw their strength from will, Sinestro’s Yellow Lanterns draw their strength from fear, and prove to be a near insurmountable foe for the GL Corps.  That was a fantastic story-line, and at that point I was well and truly hooked on Mr. Johns’ stories, and eager to see where things went from there.

Green Lantern: Secret Origin — After the Sinestro Corps epic, Mr. Johns stepped back from the cosmic story he was telling to present an updated, fleshed-out version of Green Lantern’s origin.  Taking a very similar approach as he did with his wonderful Superman: Secret Origin mini-series (click here for my review), Mr. Johns presents a wonderfully rich, detailed version of the hero’s classic origin story.  This is very much a modern version of Green Lantern’s origin, in which three-dimensional characterizations have replaced the far more black-and-white simplistic characters seen in older versions.  But it’s not a reject-everything, start-over-from-square-one story.  Quite the contrary, Green Lantern: Secret Origin is steeped in the richness of the character’s complex mythology.  That the story respects continuity while also presenting a fresh take on this familiar origin is the key to this story’s magic.  It’s also fun to see how Mr. Johns has gone back and retroactively layered in characters and plot-lines from his current Green Lantern sagas.  Hence we now see Abin Sur and Atrocitus discussing the prophecy of the “Blackest Night,” that Sinestro was first sent to Earth by Ganthet, and that William Hand (who would become the villainous Black Hand) was involved in one of Green Lantern’s first super-hero fights.  It’s nice to see those stories and characters incorporated into the beginning of Hal Jordan’s story.  The art by Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert is magnificent, crisp and detailed.  It’s hard for me to imagine a more perfect art team on the book.

Green Lantern: Rage of the Red Lanterns — This is a fun collection, though less of a complete story than previous volumes.  These stories serve more as an epilogue to events of the Sinestro Corps War, and a way to start moving the pieces into place for the next big Green Lantern epic.  Thus we follow the Guardians taking one seemingly unwise step after another, continuing to rewrite the Book of Oa and the laws governing the Green Lantern corps, and creating the emotion-less Alpha Lanterns.  In the second half of the collection, we see a fantastic extrapolation of the ideas suggested by Sinestro’s creation of his yellow fear-based corps.  Mr Johns had already hinted at a wider spectrum of colors/emotions beyond just green/will and yellow/fear, and in this volume we see the creation of the rage-based Red Lanterns, the hope-based Blue Lanterns, and the love-based Star Sapphires (Purple Lanterns).  It’s a very clever idea, and shows us that the huge Sinestro Corps storyline was only the beginning of a much larger saga.  Ivan Reis’s art continues to dazzle.  I tore through these stories and eagerly moved onto the next collection:

Green Lantern: Agent Orange — Picking up right where Rage of the Red Lanterns left off, things really go bananas in this fantastic collection.  The seeds of story-lines that began back in Green Lantern: Rebirth are really bearing fruit, and we can see Geoff Johns’ reinvention of the Green Lantern universe truly coming into focus.  In addition to the Red, Blue, and Purple corps introduced in the last volume, here we discover the avarice-based Orange Lantern (the funny and terrifying Larfleeze, an unique and memorable creation).  But while  Mr. Johns certainly spends time on this new Lantern, he doesn’t forget any of the characters or storylines from previous volumes.  Quite the contrary, characters and plot-threads crash together in this volume to wonderful effect.  John Stewart, Sinestro, the Guardians, the Star Sapphires, Saint Walker, all have a lot to do in this story.  We can feel things heating up for Hal Jordan, as the scope of the story continues to expand.  It’s complex without ever being confusing, a neat trick well-executed by Mr. Johns.  At the end, we have exciting connections to both the past and the future, as the Anti-Monitor’s corpse is discovered at the center of a huge Black Lantern.  It’s very exciting stuff, and sets the stage for the upcoming Blackest Night event.  My only complaint: I love Philip Tan’s covers, but his interior art in these issues isn’t nearly as effective, in my mind, as Ivan Reis’ work was in the last two volumes.  Oh well, I guess Mr. Reiss was busy working on Blackest Night.

It’s fascinating to see how dramatically Geoff Johns has overturned the Green Lantern universe in these stories.  By the end of Agent Orange, he has presented us with a universe in chaos, with the emotional spectrum revealed to be powering seven different corps, and a mysterious eighth corps (the Black Lanterns) about to reveal themselves as a terrible threat.  The idea of multiple color/emotion-based corps is so perfectly logical, and feels so right, that it’s one of those ideas you can’t believe no one ever thought of before.  Mr. Johns has changed the Green Lantern mythos forever.  Eventually I’m sure new creators will come on board, and perhaps the series will one day be rebooted, but I can’t imagine the idea of multiple colored corps will ever be fully dropped from Green Lantern.

It’s cool to see all of Mr. Johns’ ideas really coming together.  I’ll be back soon with my thoughts on his Blackest Night saga!

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