Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wednesday Comics: Green Lantern


I just spent the last couple of weeks re-reading the entire run of Green Lantern written by (surprise) Geoff Johns. And even though I had read all of these stories before they were as fresh and exciting as ever.

The series centers around the story of Hal Jordan: his return from death and his place as protector of earth in the Green Lantern Corps. Green Lantern: Rebirth opened the door back to the DC universe, but Johns did it in a way that did not ignore any of the previous continuity, but honored it by incorporating Jordan's controversial past to weave an intricate narrative.

Admittedly, the first 2 years of Johns run on the series are not his strongest. The action and scope feel narrow. But he used those issues to set up the characters and worlds that would become indispensable in future stories. As stated in my previous post on Geoff Johns, he had 2 insights that were unexpected and obvious: 1) Why only one yellow ring? And 2) Why only a Green and Yellow Ring? When he finally began incorporating these ideas into the story-proper, the book really exploded.

I particularly enjoyed the short stories at the end of the issues leading up to the Sinestro Corps War. Like Alan Moore's “Tales of the Green Lantern Corps,” the “Tales of the Sinestro Corps,” not only were self-contained imaginative stories, but they gave a wonderful context of character for the war itself. The Sinestros were not just faceless enemies, but people who understood and feared.

The Sinestro Corps War was not only one of the greatest comic book epics in its own right, but it marks and important turning point for the series. From this point on, every issue would be tied into the main storyline, pushing ever forward to the next big event. Some would get event fatigue, but Johns knows how to slowly build anticipation while spinning a darn good tale at the same time. And so he has moved like a roller coaster, up and down from set up to thrill ride. We've gone from the Sinestro Corps War to Blackest Night 

to the War of the Green Lanterns, 

and now leading to the 3rd Army.

One of the strengths of these arcs is that it does not go in expected directions. I remember being convinced I knew how the heroes were going to resolve the Blackest Night. I think Johns anticipated this because I saw, what I thought was the solution, come together half way through the story. And then everything fell apart for our heroes. Johns always leaves you guessing.

The regular artists on the book also deserve a lot of credit. Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, and Doug Mahnke all of taken these wild alien concepts and ground all of them in a intelligible humanity. Attrocitus the Red Lantern is horrifying, but there are moments when we see past his armor to his raw pain. Larfleeze is evil, but his body language is so silly,we cannot help but laugh.

I would argue that the series has 3 main characters. The first is Hal Jordan himself. 

 One of the things I love about Jordan is that he is very Captain-Kirk like: he leaps before he looks. He is not suicidal or harboring a death wish or anything dark like that. He simply is a man of action. He does not have patience for talkers. He is the kind of man who would have cut the Gordian knot, not out of lateral thinking, but out of frustration (“See, now it's untied. Can we move on?”). His courage extends not just to fearful enemies but the courage to be who you are and not what people tell you who you should be.

The second is Sinestro himself. 

 He is the dark reflection of Jordan and a perfect foil. Where Hal is passionate, Sinestro is cold. Where Hal is active, Sinestro is calculating. But they both ironically have the same goal: they want to protect the universe. Hal believes that people need to be inspired to use will power to do what is right. Sinestro believes that fear will keep evil people in line. At first I thought that bringing Sinestro back into the Green Lantern Corps was just a gimmick. But now I see that this is where Johns has been leading the character the whole time. Can Sinestro be redeemed? That is the question of the series.

The third is Carol Ferris.

 Unlike the Lois Lanes of the DCU, Carol has become a superhero in her own right to fight along and help Hal. She gives Hal his most important motivation: love. His fearlessness and recklessness will eventually destroy him unless he has a tether to this world. She gives him the human connection he needs and she forces him to grow. In many ways Hal never grew up. He fights with the passion of a man in his 20's. But Carol helps him understand how his actions have consequences and that he must learn who he is without the ring.

The main theme of the series is overcoming fear. Johns has shown us how we find courage in igniting our own power of will to conquer the fears in our own lives. That is what makes you a hero.

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