Posted by: erikmona | September 22, 2011

NEW 52 REVIEW 20: Green Lantern #1

Green Lantern #1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke

From afar, it’s certainly seemed that Green Lantern’s continuity, what with its resurrecting every dead DC character ever as zombies and the entire multiverse turning into Colored Lanterns and going to war with one another and all, was one of the “problem areas” that would be best served by a “back to basics” approach.

I mean, let’s get serious, here. Hal Jordan, the book’s main character, has led the Green Lantern Corps, failed to save his home city, tried to recreate millions of dead people with his power ring, gone crazy, murdered his best friends, destroyed the Green Lantern Corps by killing everyone and stealing their rings as he grew more and more unhinged, triggered the Zero Hour event and thus murdered tons of other characters (and countless civilians), been slain by his former friends, been resurrected as the fucking Spectre, and probably a ton of other stupid shit in the seven years since I stopped paying attention.

But no, we’ve got to shake things up and reboot and refresh for a new era, but we’re going to keep all of that stuff as integral aspects of our cocky, willful space police character.

It’s good to be the “Chief Creative Officer,” I guess.

Twenty comics into the New 52, I’m finding that I have a much greater appreciation for the books that take risks and put a fresh spin on things (Action Comics, Batgirl, Animal Man) than I do for the books that take a have our cake and eat it too approach that demands Batman have four child sidekicks in the last five years or that Dove and Deadman be going steady.

Johns’s Justice League script, which I enjoyed as my first comic back after a long drought, seemed more and more sluggish and indulgent and, well, light when compared to most of the 18 comics that followed.

With all of this in mind, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to Geoff Johns on Green Lantern, the most continuity-mired and self-indulgent DC series of them all.

Remarkably, Johns manages the trick of keeping the old continuity while providing a fun story that requires almost no knowledge of Green Lantern to enjoy. Anyone who cares about Green Lantern, lapsed reader or not, understands the basics. The Guardians. The Corps. Sinestro. I mean, perhaps there is no point to retelling the “Emerald Dawn” Hal Jordan origin story (and the plot of the movie “everyone” just saw). So long as they keep the background stuff to broad strokes, I think they can pull it off. Maybe.

The comic jumps immediately to awesome as we see the familiar “In brightest day” oath coming from the mouth of Sinestro, Green Lantern’s arch-nemesis. The Guardians are ready to give Sinestro a chance at redemption, and have entrusted him with his own space sector to control. Sinestro doesn’t quite know what to make of this, but flies away, the universe’s newest Green Lantern.

Meanwhile, on Earth, Hal Jordan is getting used to life after being a Green Lantern, having been stripped of his ring by the Guardians (who then, I suppose, gave it to Sinestro). There’s a nice bit with his landlord discussing Hal’s inability to pay rent or control his bills that adds humanity to the character (just try not to think of him as the former Spectre, and it kind of works), and the scene ends with a really great display of Hal’s reckless heroics, even without the ring.

As a result, Hal winds up in jail, and he’s bailed out by his former employer, aviation magnate Carol Ferris. This leads to another great dialogue scene where Carol thinks Hal is proposing but Hal is really asking her to co-sign the lease on his car. These two scenes show a lot about Hal Jordan as a character, and you really get a sense of who this guy is. That’s a nice stroke for an introductory issue, and it’s bound to hook a lot of readers.

Back in space, Sinestro heads to his homeworld of Korugar, only to find its population enslaved by his former army, the Sinestro Corps (they all have yellow power rings, of course). He murders one of them, but claims to have never betrayed them. Green ring or not, Sinestro is clearly still up to no good.

After the botched proposal, Hal returns to his apartment to find an eviction notice tacked to the door. Soon the hall is bathed in green light. It’s Sinestro! “If you want your ring back,” he says, “you’ll do everything I say.”

It’s a great ending to a fun, energetic, well-plotted comic. Unfortunately, that final splash page is an absolute disaster. Sinestro, with terrible anatomy for the first time in the entire issue, stands with his arms awkwardly crossed. Sinestro’s shoulder muscles, in particular, look absolutely ridiculous. It’s too bad, because Mahnke’s art is otherwise straightforward and enjoyable. Sinestro appears in two of the issue’s other three splash pages, and he looks great. I’ve heard the deadlines on these New 52 titles were brutal, and perhaps the last page is just a case of the artist running out of time.

With just this one issue, I’m starting to think that it may, theoretically, be possible to keep the breadth of the Green Lantern continuity without making the comic inaccessible to newcomers. I was nervous to the point of paranoia about it, and I didn’t feel like continuity slowed me down on this comic at all.

In fact, I quite enjoyed it, and I’m interested to see what happens next month.

Status: Safe.

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Responses

  1. Really? I feel like “colour coded space opera” is a pretty concise pitch. The individual details of it are convoluted, but the major arc is easy peasy! Then again, I think that a lot about comics– & then I wonder why, if continuity is the “problem,” they keep rebooting continuity & having it convolute again? Why not just…stop adhering slavishly to continuity?

  2. I think my approach, which I am refining daily, mind you, is that they can have their continuity, so long as they paint the past in broad strokes and don’t throw too many a-contextual references at new readers. I’m skeptical they can constrain themselves, but this issue was actually a solid example of how to do it right.

  3. Personally I found Green Lantern probably the most problematic, continuity-wise of the DC relaunch so far. As a new reader with only the knowledge the DCAU has given me, Green Lantern was the superhero I knew the least about and this new #1 just totally lost me. I have no idea why Hal Jordan is no longer a lantern, really who the fuck Sinestro is or why he went bad in the first place, much less why he’s “good” again, etc. I was looking forward to learning more about Star Sapphire and apparently that’s not going to happen, so yeah, muy disappointed :/

  4. […] Batwoman Demon Knights Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. Green Lantern Ressurection Man Suicide […]

  5. […] Johns answered my concerns in Green Lantern #1 with a story that was, if not exactly unburdened by past continuity, at least not dragged down by […]


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