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Green Lantern in the New 52!

December 26th, 2012
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A little over a year-ago, DC Comics re-launched their entire universe.  Abandoning all of their previous continuity, they re-started all of their characters and re-started every one of their comic book titles with a new issue #1.  In that first month-or-two of this new DC universe, called “the New 52,” I sampled a number of new comics that I hadn’t been reading before, but after a few months I quickly found myself back to reading the same DC books/characters that I’d been reading before, with two exceptions:  Brian Azzarello’s exceptional new take on Wonder Woman, and Geoff John’s Green Lantern.

For years I’d been reading and hearing about the wonderful work that Geoff Johns had been doing on Green Lantern, re-shaping that title into an exciting, galaxy-spanning epic saga, but for one reason or another I’d never started reading it.  I have never been particularly interested in Green Lantern, and I have NEVER — in all of my comic-book-reading years, regularly read the Green Lantern comic.  But with the New 52 relaunch, and Geoff Johns still writing Green Lantern, it seemed like a great place to finally give the title a try.  I was immediately hooked by the story of that first issue, in which Hal Jordan has apparently been thrown out of the Green Lantern Corps, while arch-villain Sinestro (who began as a Green Lantern himself before falling from grace) has been accepted back into the Corps.  I was hooked by the story, and by the gorgeous art of Doeg Mahnke.  Not only did I continue reading the newly relaunched Green Lantern series, but I started picking up the also-excellent fellow title Green Lantern Corps.

But that wasn’t enough.  I was intrigued by the Green Lantern stories I was reading, and desperately wanted to get myself filled in on the backstory.  And so I decided to go back and read Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern from the beginning, and I’ve been writing about it here on the site since last spring.  My previous reviews of Mr. Johns’ Green Lantern stories can be found by following these links:  Green Lantern: Rebirth,The Sinestro Corps WarSecret Origin and the prelude to Blackest Night, and the Blackest Night event.  When I finally arrived at War of the Green Lanterns, I was all caught up with the Green Lantern saga.

I’ve found DC’s New 52 relaunch to be altogether a mixed bag, and part of the problem has been that while some series and characters seem to have been completely retconned and relaunched from square one, others have continued on as before.  Both the Batman comics and the Green Lantern comics have picked up in the New 52 right where their old pre-relaunch story-lines left off.  On the one hand, that’s great, because I think both the Batman books and Green Lantern were in the midst of very popular and very successful story-lines, and who would want to see those stories cut-off prematurely?  On the other-hand, it’s become very confusing, leading to problems such as the DC heroes all only supposedly having been around for 5 years and yet, in that time, Batman’s apparently having have multiple previous Robins.

Luckily, the Green Lantern books haven’t dealt with any of that silliness.  It’s as if the titles have totally ignored anything going on with the relaunch — if not for the new numbering starting over from #1, and the big “New 52” banner on the covers of the books, you’d never know anything has changed.  The only attempt to make these new Green Lantern comics fit in in any way with the universe-wide re-launch is that poor artist Doug Mahnke has apparently had to start drawing some of the silly extra lines from Jim Lee’s ugly new character designs into the Green Lantern costume.  (Don’t get me wrong, I adore and worship Jim Lee, but his re-designs of the Justice League characters’ costumes, now accepted as dogma in the DC comics, are pretty terrible.  Why do they all have so many extraneous lines all over their costumes?  Why do so many of them have the same-shaped neck-line?  Why on earth does Superman need a suit of armor???  Sheeesh!!)

Here are my thoughts on the first year of New-52 Green Lantern comics…

Sinestro — This introductory story-line from the newly-relaunched Green Lantern #1-5 is killer.  The hook is phenomenal: Hal Jordan has been kicked out of the corps (and is thus without a Green Lantern ring and the super-powers that gives him) and villain Sinestro has been accepted back into the fold.  That’s an awesome start to the story, and I love that the book starts off with a sharp focus on the relationships between Hal, his enemy Sinestro, and his on-again off-again long-time love-interest Carol Ferris.  The complex histories between these characters are depicted with wonderful simplicity and depth — on the one hand the dynamics are clear and easy for a new reader (as I was) to understand and get hooked into, while on the other-hand Mr. Johns is not loathe to dig deep into the rich, complicated and inter-connected back-story those three characters share.  From that early, rich beginning, the series soon expands back into the rich sci-fi saga that Mr. Johns has been weaving for years on the title, as Hal and Sinestro must confront one of Sinestro’s old decisions which has gone terribly wrong, all the while beginning to discover a far greater danger that has begun to fester at the very heart of the Green Lantern Corps.  It’s a fantastic story, and Doug Mahnke’s art (with inks by Christian Alamy and Keith Champagne) is perfection, a feast for the eyes.

The Secret of the Indigo Tribe — Issue #6 is a pretty forgettable fill-in issue, but thinks crank right back up to 11 starting with issue #7, the first part of “The Secret of the Indigo Tribe,” the story which lasts through issue #10.  Hal Jordan and Sinestro once again find themselves forced to work together, investigating the history behind the mysterious Indigo Tribe introduced prior to Blackest Night. I’m impressed at how Geoff Johns found a natural, organic way to throw old-enemies Hal and Sinestro back together again.  That could have easily felt totally contrived, but I thought the story worked.  I love the Hal-Sinestro partnership.  I loved seeing the tension there in some recent depictions of this relationship from before Sinestro was drummed out of the corps — it was one of the better aspects of the Green Lantern film, it was a big part of the terrific Green Lantern: First Flight animated DVD from a few years ago, and it was also a great relationship as depicted in the retelling of GL’s origin in the comics from a few years ago, in Secret Origin.  I love that Geoff Johns has found a way to bring us back to that terrific, complex relationship between the two characters, without undoing anything that has gone before.  I was also pleased to see him digging into the back-story behind the enigmatic, “Nok”-saying Indigo Tribe-members.  I was fascinated to learn of the Indigo Tribe’s connection to Abin Sur, and I loved the revelation of the great Evil they were originally created to combat. We’re clearly building up to another BIG storyline here, and I love the rising suspense.  Doug Mahnke’s art continues to astound me.  He draws a fantastic Sinestro, and he also draws some absolutely gorgeous women.  (His depictions of Carol Ferris and Indigo-1 are phenomenal.)

The Revenge of Black Hand — That story leads right into the next, “The Revenge of Black Hand,” in Green Lantern #11 and #12 and concluding in Green Lantern Annual #1.  It’s great seeing the villain Black Hand front-and-center again.  He’s a really creepy villain and a genuine threat to both Hal and Sinestro.  I enjoyed having Ethan van Sciver (who so memorably illustrated Green Lantern: Rebirth) back on the art chores for the Green Lantern Annual, though I’m not a huge fan of the I-know-it’s-not-gonna-last “death” of Hal and Sinestro in that story.  Dullsville.

Green Lantern Corps: Fearsome — I wasn’t sure if I was interested in following a second Green Lantern title, but the gruesome first few pages of Peter Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin (inked by Scott Hanna)’s Green Lantern Corps had me hooked.  In issues #1-#6, Earth GLs Guy Gardner and John Stewart and a group of other Lanterns find themselves in a world of trouble when a new enemy, “The Keepers” emerges.  These Keepers seem to be impervious to the Green willpower-based energy of the Green Lantern rings, and they have a major grudge against the Guardians of the Universe.  I loved the back-story of the Keepers and their connection to the Green Lanterns’ lanterns.  This was a tough, violent sci-fi story, gorgeously illustrated by the art team of Mr. Pasarin and Mr. Hanna.  Fun stuff.

Green Lantern Corps: The Alpha War — I wasn’t intending to stick with this title past the first story-arc, but I was hooked.  At the end of the “Fearsome” story, Green Lantern John Stewart was forced to make a terrible choice, choosing to kill a fellow Green Lantern who, under torture by the Keepers, was about to reveal a secret that could have lead to the Corps’ defeat.  The issues that follow deal with John’s efforts to make peace with his actions, and of course it’s not long before the secret gets out and John is put on trial by the Alpha Lanterns, the “Internal Affairs” police-force within the Corps.  This story-line brings to a climax the story of the Alpha Lanterns, who had been introduced in the main Green Lantern title several years earlier.  It was nice to see those characters revisited and their stories resolved.  I feel like I have read several Green Lanterns-on-trial stories recently (didn’t the same thing happen to Hal Jordan — put on trial by the Alpha Lanterns — during Final Crisis a few years back?), but this story was still entertaining and engaging.

Rise of the Third Army — I am intrigued by the idea behind this new crossover story, in which the Guardians decide that, like their first army — the Manhunters — their current intergalactic police-force — the Green Lantern Corps — has also failed them.  So they set out to create a new interstellar police-force, their Third Army.  That wouldn’t be good for the GL Corps, but even worse is that the Guardians seem to have become quite mad, and their new Third Army appears designed to eliminate free will across the galaxy.  The idea of the Guardians as villains is an excellent hook, though so far I am not quite taken with this crossover series.  In the main Green Lantern title, with Hal and Sinestro “dead,” they have introduced a new Green Lantern: a young Muslim American, Simon Baz.  This is a great story, actually.  Simon is a fascinating character — and in particular the issue zero that introduced him was terrific — and the art by Doug Mahnke is stupendous as always.  But while I am very invested in this new character, he is far more interesting than the “Rise of the Third Army” storyline that seems to be happening in the background.  Simon is not yet at all involved in those interstellar goings on, so while these issues are appearing under the “Rise of the Third Army” banner, they don’t seem to have much to do with it.  Things seem to be on hold, with Hal and Sinestro wandering around in some other realm, and Simon trying to sort out the huge mess his life has become.  It’s weird, and not what I expected after the build-up during “The Secret of the Indigo Tribe” and “The Revenge of the Black Hand.”  Meanwhile, in Green Lantern Corps, we’re getting a little more of the action, but frankly the zombie-like Third Army doesn’t seem all that interesting or dangerous, and the new super-evil Guardians seem a little too simplistically characterized.  Rather than having an understandable motivation (frankly, their Green Lantern Corps HAS made quite a mess of things in the recent story-lines), they’ve just become moustache-twirling EVIL.

So I’m not sold on this latest crossover, but I have faith that these stories are building towards something big.  I am loving these big, epic sci-fi-meets-super-hero comic books, and I am definitely along for the ride.

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