EDITOR’S NOTE: Please welcome Josh to the DOOM team. He’s going to be doing some comic reviews for us so give him that old DOOM welcome… just try not to spill anything on the floor while you’re doing it.
The first wave of trade paperbacks for DC Comics’ New 52 line of books are arriving. Rebirths and new beginnings are the aim of the game and where better to begin my reviews than by looking at a book that…has had little to none of its continuity altered by the reboot.
But that isn’t to say it’s impossible to pick up Green Lantern Vol. 1 without having read preceding books and enjoy it. Quite the contrary, the book works surprisingly well as a stand-alone, a jumping-on point, and a continuation. Building on the characters’ stories while providing a new exciting adventure, peppered with enough information and backstory for new readers to quickly and easily engulf themselves in the Green Lantern mythos.
Following the events of War of the Green Lanterns, Hal Jordan has been relieved of his power ring and shunted back to earth by the Guardians of the Universe, the creators and overseers of the Green Lantern Corps. In his place, the power ring has chosen long time Lantern foe Sinestro for its new bearer. The Guardians take this as a sign that Sinestro deserves a chance at redemption for his past crimes and, thus, set him free. And Sinestro’s first goal as a reinstated Green Lantern? To free his homeworld from the scourge of his very own Sinestro Corps. (And, no, he most certainly does not appreciate the irony there.)
On earth, Hal Jordan pines for his days as a Lantern, defending the earth against horrors from beyond the stars. But the mundane trials of life — bills, unemployment, taxes — prove somehow more daunting than any superpowered alien for the former test-pilot-turned-superhero. More problems abound when Hal’s on-again/off-again love interest Carol Ferris finally calls it quits after one comical misuderstanding too many tips the scales (protip: When at a romantic, candlelit restaurant, don’t ask your girlfriend to cosign your lease. Save that for a parent’s funeral). Afterward, Hal promises himself to put his past as Green Lantern behind him and move on. Unfotunately for him, Sinestro has other plans as he seduces Jordan into a covert mission to liberate his homeworld. The bribe: a construct power ring and one last taste of Green Lantern glory.
Like Scott Snyder’s Batman series, Green Lantern proves you don’t need to retread an origin to create a new, reader-friendly book. All you need is a good story and skill enough to disguise the artifice with plot and character. The backstory for Hal Jordan, the history and purpose of the Green Lanterns, Sinestro’s past as a villain, all of this is conveyed organically as part of the narrative. No awkward exposition. No clunky dialogue. No moments when the reader feels they’re missing something.
And the narrative here is a strong one. Few can argue how well Geoff Johns has managed to reinvigorate the Green Lantern franchise, specifically with the character of Hal Jordan, beginning with Green Lantern: Rebirth through The Sinestro Corps War and on to Blackest Night. (It’s no wonder that the Green Lanterns received four books dedicated to them upon DC’s relaunch.) Here, Johns continues that magic, weaving twin tales of redemption and second chances (and third, fourth, and tenth chances in Hal’s case) into a tale that will thrill the old and enthrall the new.
Sinestro and Hal form a strangely compelling buddy cop team — an odd couple, to be sure, but with more in common than either would like to admit. Imagine Murtagh and Riggs with superpowers and you’ll begin to get the idea. Their reparte crackles with equal parts venom, snark and begrudging admiration. And one can’t help but hope their twisted buddy act continues through a good part of the series. A particular favorite moment of mine, Sinestro, despite having just been punched in the face by Jordan, can’t help but burst out laughing at the idea that he only “thinks” he’s better than Hal when it’s quite obvious that he is better than Hal. A smiling Sinestro is a very…disturbing thing.
Pencils by Doug Mahnke bring the bombast of alien brawls to stunning life. Action is coherent and flows nicely while rarely skimping on the details. His alien designs and renditions of recurring secondary villains (I particularly like one called Slushh: a mound of stretchy, sentient goo filled with the floating bones of its victims. He needs his own spinoff) are wonderfully ludicrous.
He does, however, have a problem with facial expressions. Near the end of chapter/issue 1, Carol Ferris maintains the same expression for the four straight panels she appears in: wide doe eyes with slightly parted lips (you know…like a blowup doll). It seems anything more subtle than the usual Happy, Sad, and Angry faces gives Mahnke trouble. For example, that same issue ends with a full page spread of Sinestro fighting a member of the Sinestro Corps but, according to his face, Sinestro is distracted by the smell of a particularly bad fart. Truly odd given he was in the vacuum of space at the time.
Minor quibbles aside, Green Lantern Vol. 1 proves an excellent book for old and new readers. Building on the recurring theme of the Gaurdian’s fickle nature, Johns teases us Sinestro’s long and winding road to redemption, Hal’s struggle to subdue his death wish heroics, and the grand and glorious prospects of a “Third Army.” While Green Lantern shows that the reboot and reset of all DC’s titles to issue #1 may have been unnecessary, hopefully it at least introduced new readers to Green Lantern, its characters, their quests, and the struggle of many races, many species to weave peace and justice throughout the galaxy.
Attention campers: Leave a comment below, or post on our new community forums!