Originally Published November 11, 2011
DC Comics recently relaunched their entire series, giving curious but uninitiated nerds a convenient entry point. Fellow blogger Patrick Ehlers and I are two such nerds, and we’ve decided to jump in with a handful of monthly titles. We really wanted to pull out all the nerd stops, so we’re also going to be writing about them here and on Patrick’s Blog (which you should all be reading anyway) every Friday. This week, I’m hosting the discussion of Green Lantern, while Patrick is hosting the discussion of Batgirl.
Drew: Disclaimer: I am woefully unfamiliar with Green Lantern. Different Lanterns have been featured in some media I’m more familiar with (namely the DCAU and occasional appearances in Batman books I’ve read), but I only have the loosest understanding of the character’s mythology. I think this actually puts me in a good position for assessing the current run of Green Lantern, as DC’s reboot should ostensibly re-introduce all of their heroes. The first three issues do this ably without going the dreaded “retelling of the origin story” route, which I worried would be all we’d get out of the new 52. They also do this without pandering too much to newcomers, possibly the best of the titles I’ve been following.
Geoff Johns is doing a fantastic job of introducing the characters and their complicated histories without getting overly expository. In the first issue, we see Hal struggling adjusting to life without the ring, Carol Ferris (Hal’s Lois Lane) struggling to deal with Hal’s self-involvement, Sinestro (Hal’s Lex Luthor) is struggling with having been reappointed as a GL, and Ganthet (Hal’s Jor-El…this one’s more of a stretch) is struggling being the only Guardian with emotions. Some passing mention is made as to why and how all of these situations arose, but nothing is dwelled-upon, and a good deal is left to the reader to fill in.
All of these threads are revisited in the next two issues, where Sinestro recruits Hal to help him take down the Sinestro Corps, which has enslaved his home planet of Korugar. He offers Hal a ring in exchange for helping him, a carrot that Hal can’t resist, especially if it means saving a planet from baddies. Sinestro’s too-simple-to-possible-work plan is to distract all 220 members of the Sinestro Corps while Hal sneaks into the yellow power battery with Sinestro’s Lantern, which Sinestro assures him will power down all of the yellow rings. After chastising Hal for both his brashness and his devotion to his complicated relationship to Carol, the plan starts to unravel when Sinestro brashly rushes in to save a woman with whom we can assume he has some kind of complicated relationship. Hal quickly recovers from this overwhelming bout of irony and manages to deliver the Lantern to the yellow power battery, where he is quickly disintegrated, cursing an apparently surprised Sinestro for setting him up as he is skelotonized.
Meanwhile, back on Oa, an apparently brainwashed Ganthet falls in line with the other Guardians, revealing their plan to replace all of the Green Lanterns with some kind of new enforcers who won’t have the human (and alien) flaws that make GLs fallible. Could this be the end of the Green Lantern Corps as we know it? We’ll probably have to reconstitute Hal before we can find out.
So here’s what’s working for me: I think the dynamic between Hal and Sinestro is a blast. Their back and forth really gets across that these characters have a lot of both history and contempt for eachother, as well as the fact that Sinestro has a huge wealth of GL knowledge that Hal hasn’t even begun to consider. Pulling back the curtain on just how powerful a GL can be is clearly going to be something Johns is going to relish, and promises to open up the universe in a way I’m not sure has been explored before (but I could be wrong here. Patrick?) A GL has the power to make a ring for someone else? This suggests that there’s really no limit to what the ring can do (can I wish for more wishes?), which is why it’s brilliant that Hal doesn’t actually get one of those rings, but instead gets a knock-off with several big caveats.
Making Sinestro impervious to Hal’s ring hearkens back to when he first donned a yellow ring (all the way back when the yellow flaw was still a thing), and will make for some interesting dynamics whenever Sinestro inevitably does something evil. The “villain comes to the hero reformed and struggles to win their trust only to betray it later” story has been done a million times before, but I’m really liking the contemptuous teacher/mistrusting student relationship Johns has going, and I think having Sinestro around is one of the most natural ways to teach Hal (and us) new things about the ring.
However, there are also a few things that aren’t working so much for me. The drama with Carol isn’t delivered with any conviction — I don’t buy that she expected a marriage proposal, mostly because nothing in the scene led me to expect a marriage proposal — and now that the action is pretty firmly off-earth, I’m not sure any of that drama matters, anyway. I’m also not excited about the Guardian’s plan, which threatens to CHANGE EVERYTHING FOREVER, which almost assures me that it won’t really have any consequences. I’m sure it will play out interesting ways (I am kind of curious what these new soldiers could be), but I kind of resent it when comics pretend like the stakes are so much higher when we all know the status quo will be restored in the end (we are, after all, talking about a brand-new GL series about Hal Jordan butting heads with Sinestro). It is Johns at the helm here, so who knows? Maybe this will change everything forever, but my money is on a 11th hour reversal from Ganthet, or a reveal that Sinestro has been controlling the Guardian’s, thus proving the ring is even more powerful than even they imagined. Patrick, you’re a big Johns fan, and much more familiar with him than I am — should I count on being surprised by how this plays out?
The biggest issue I’m having, though, is with the art; specifically Christian Alamy’s heavy-handed inking. I was ready to blame Doug Mahnke’s pencil work, but I’m enjoying any of his un-inked art (mostly ring constructs and backgrounds), so I’m pretty sure the issue is the inking. Alamy’s thick lines and judicious shading serve the art well in scenes set on Korugar and in outer-space, but is a drag on anything set on earth, which unfortunately is much of the first two issues. Everything ends up looking super high-contrast, which makes all of the colored areas (especially characters’ faces) totally flat. This is a shame, because David Baron is actually doing a great job on colors when he’s given some room to do more subtle shadows, and like I said, I’m digging Mahnke’s pencils. I couldn’t help but notice that Alamy was assisted by not just one, but three other inkers this issue, and that the cover for this one (which I loved) was just Mahnke and Baron. I feel shitty for hoping he gets moved off this title, but I really see the inks as the weakest point of this run.
So what do you think? I’m especially curious to hear if you, as someone more initiated in the GL universe, is finding this method of reintroducing the characters to be moving along at a quick enough pace (it’s downright brisk for someone like me). Also, how are you feeling about the art? And how about that gatling gun construct? DC seems to be doubling down on the movie interpretation of GL (which neither of us saw?), even going so far as to have Ryan Reynolds appear in costume in milk ads in some of their other titles. I don’t know who they think they’re appealing to with that one.
Patrick: My own mild disclaimer: I got into Green Lantern at Rebirth, so I’ve been following Hal’s adventures since 2004, through the Sinestro Corps War, through Blackest Night and through Brightest Day. I am, however, following that story in trades, so I do have a strange little gap of knowledge here. I know the Green Lanterns experience some kind of civil war that results in Hal losing the ring (and the Guardians’ trust) and Sinestro being reinstated in the corps. End of disclaimer.
I’ll agree that the Hal / Carol stuff isn’t very strong. Truth be told, it’s never really been that strong – but I’m not sure that it’s meant to be. She loves him, for sure (that’s part of the reason she was able to fight along side him as a Star Sapphire (more on this in a bit)), but Hal’s return affection always felt like more of an after-thought. He’s married to the job, you know? In issue 1, I think Carol is mostly meant to represent all the shit Hal can’t have because he’s committed so much of his life to being a lantern. Christ, he’s been evicted too? Yeah, I’d get back in the air at all costs too.
I dig the Hal and Sinestro relationship, but I find myself echoing some of the Sinestro Corpsmens’ sentiments. He has turned his back on his own Corps. I get that it’s impossible to feel any of the weight behind that without having read like 5 years worth of comics, but there are some really cool members of the Sinestro Corps. Some scary, some tough, some surprisingly noble – but many of them compelling. I get that the end third issue kinda clouds Sinestro’s intentions, but I’d be disappointed if he doesn’t lead that army to terrorize the universe again.
I haven’t really been following the other Green Lantern books (Green Lantern Corps and New Guardians), so maybe I should bite my tongue here; I miss the various corps representing the other colors in the emotional spectrum. I see that that Red Lanterns have their own book, but I also see that it’s crummy. I’d like to explore the Blue Lanterns, but mostly because I miss Saint Walker. But it absolutely makes sense that Johns would trim all that extra shit out and focus on one corps (or two, I guess) and really only deal with the two Green Lanterns. I think it’s a solid entry point for a new reader and I’m glad you’re finding it welcoming.
As far as Ganthet and Guardians, there actually has been a lot of precedent set for those little fuckers actually shaking up the status quo. The establishment of a 7200 large Corps was an invention of Johns within the last decade – along with the 6 other corps – and the Guardians’ relationship to the Lanterns has always been fluid. I would say, if anything, the Guardians will more explicitly become the villains of the series, instead of misguiding totalitarians who meant well but lost sight of blah blah blah. Also, Ganthet still has emotions, I’m 100% certain of that. It’s tough to be a guardian: there are only like 10 of them left. He can’t afford to piss of his old buddies.
Thank you for putting a name to the problem I’m having visually with these books. The inking is a bit much so faces and bodies (look at all those muscles) disappear in the darkness. The constructs do look great and I like what they say about the individuals who create them. Did you see in issue 2 how Sinestro makes a construct of himself? Or painstakingly shows Hal a bunch of members of the Sinestro Corps? He’s so into himself, he uses the ring to celebrate his own accomplishment. Hal? I think he makes a rocket launcher on Korugar? Just trying to muscle his way to victory, I suppose.
I’m excited to see where this goes. Shit, do I need to get those other two series to get the fixes I’m used to from the pre-New-52 series? ALSO, what do we refer to that era as? I know Golden Age, Silver Age, Pre-crisis, Post-crisis but the Final Crisis/Blackest Night/Brightest Day/lead-up to Flashpoint era needs a name that isn’t just “pre New 52.”
Here’s a list of what we’re reading. The list is Batman heavy, and we’re not going to write about everything. That being said, feedback and suggestions on what to read and discuss are welcome. Overlapping books in bold:
Justice League of America, Batman, Batman & Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Wonder Woman, Action Comics