Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 5, originally released September 28th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Michael: One of my cardinal sins of writing about comics is leaving the artwork by the wayside in favor of a heavier focus on the narrative of a comic book issue. Similarly, I think we tend to primarily associate iconic superheroes with a specific writer instead of an artist. And while he’s worked on many different projects, I will always associate Ethan Van Sciver with Green Lantern.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 5 is an issue that finally feels true to its name. Robert Venditti splits the focus among three of Earth’s most famous Lanterns: Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and, of course, Hal Jordan. Guy’s torture at the hands of “The Sacrament” bookends the issue while Hal and John get caught up to speed on what’s been going on outside of their respective views. It’s a little bit of necessary exposition, but it’s preferable to Hal and John flying around the universe half blind like they have been – now we just need the whole band to get back together again.
In the past I may have been a little harsh on Venditti’s Green Lantern – still not crazy about the “emotional reservoir” – but he offers a more subtle approach here that propels things forward while building on what he started pre-Rebirth. Hal explains to Soranik Natu about his curious willpower metamorphosis – which was going on before he created his own power ring in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Rebirth 1. Another storytelling choice I really appreciated was the discreet way Venditti introduced us to the romance between Sinestro and Lyssa Drak. It’s not surprising that space Hitler and the Queen of the Damned are bumping uglys, nor is it something that needs to be given a classic comic book reveal. Even masters of Fear need to get laid every now and then.
I was brought into the Green Lantern lore with Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver’s Green Lantern: Rebirth – by all accounts so was Van Sciver himself. I’ve heard Van Sciver talk about the Green Lantern mythos and it’s clear that he has a very unique vision and appreciation for how its characters are represented. Fellow Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps artist Rafa Sandoval might depict Sinestro as a little more “human” or amiable, but not Van Sciver. For Van Sciver Sinestro is the aforementioned space Hitler whose hollow eyes, raised eyebrows, and pencil-thin mustache clearly denote him as a villain; almost demonic. Keeping with his own personal continuity Van Sciver gives us a close up of the Green Lantern brand that Kyle Rayner seared onto Sinestro’s back in Green Lantern: Rebirth. It’s another great subtlety of that scene: the script doesn’t need to call attention to it and you don’t need to know how he got the scar for that matter. It all just paints the scene of Sinestro’s hatred for the Green Lantern Corps.
Ethan Van Sciver is at his best when he’s drawing Green Lanterns in action, which feels like going back home again for the artist. His characters feel vibrant and three-dimensional and he gets plenty of room to give us some truly epic Lantern power moments. I keep mentioning Green Lantern: Rebirth, but I think it was essentially “Green Lantern 101,” and its clear Van Sciver has taken those lessons to heart. Hal is unsure of what he and his new ring are becoming and Van Sciver underlines this point. As Hal suits up and heads out to take on Sinestro, Van Sciver draws these erratic sparks emanating from his ring like a firecracker. Compare that with the effortless beams coming from John Stewart’s ring or the concussive blasts coming from Iolande’s motorcycle cannon. I think Lantern books need more constructs in general, especially ones from the alien Lanterns who come up with wild and weird sci-fi designs like this one.
I like the idea that a Lantern’s ring and constructs are as unique and varied as the Corps itself. After a while gigantic boxing gloves or fly swatters get a little stale – sorry Hal.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 5 has lot to like: characterization, plot progression, and epic artwork. I especially liked how Hal Jordan was portrayed as slowing down to think in this issue. Too often he is written as flying by the seat of his pants – which he does do – but he’s not an idiot. Robert Venditti plays on Hal’s long-standing knowledge and love/hate relationship with Sinestro, which will always get my stamp of approval.
Spencer, were you as pleasantly surprised by Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 5 as I was? Are things finally coming together for you or do you think the plot is crawling along a little too slowly? Also, do you think that John Stewart was a little hasty with his “shoot first, ask question later” approach?
Spencer: Michael, I’m no longer “pleasantly surprised” by Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, but that’s not because it’s not good; indeed, in the past five months this title has established itself as a consistently strong, frequently great read. It’s no longer a surprise that I like a Green Lantern title again — I suppose that, in and of itself, is a pleasant surprise?
Along those lines, when I wrote about issue 3 I declared that it was “by far the most I’ve ever liked Hal Jordan,” and that should be taken as a huge compliment (I’m a Kyle Rayner man, baby). There’s nothing in this installment that quite lives up to Hal’s heroics in that issue (nor Guy and Sinestro’s riotous face-off last month), but the character work throughout is still impressive. Michael already mentioned how refreshing it is to see a take on Hal Jordan who’s not an idiot, who thinks things through, and I readily agree. I also appreciate the way Venditti explores Hal’s willpower metamorphosis.
I’ll admit, I’ve never been too interested in this plot. It’s easy to look at this transformation as a gimmick, as a flashy, ultimately short-lived stunt that will have no lasting effect on Hal Jordan (like “Electric Blue” Superman). In the moment above, though, it works, because Venditti doesn’t focus on the metamorphosis, but instead uses it to further explore the limits of Jordan’s famous will.
Hal Jordan becoming willpower is a vague concept — what does that even mean? But the idea that it’s taking all of Hal’s prodigious will to keep his physical form together? That means something. The fact that Hal could straight-up explode means even more. It effectively establishes the strain Hal is under, and adds some real stakes to the story once Hal runs off to challenge Sinestro. We can assume that Hal won’t lose to Sinestro, but there’s a greater chance that Hal could lose control and become a danger to himself or others.
Altogether this gives us a Hal who is struggling with all he has to keep himself together, but who goes into action anyway because he has to. It’s a Hal who’s reckless, but also brave and selfless, and that’s Hal Jordan at his best.
(I also really appreciate the meteor shower going on in the background of this scene. Not only is it gorgeously executed by Van Sciver and colorist Jason Wright, but it does wonders to liven up a scene that’s mostly talking heads.)
Michael, you also asked what I thought about the pacing. Honestly, any time I’m reading a six-issue story I’m always wondering if it could have been trimmed down a little, but HJatGLC feels like it’s moving along at an appropriate pace regardless. The issues don’t feel stretched out or padded, but nor do they run together — each has an unique identity. This issue is less flashy than some of its predecessors, but it serves an important function: it ramps up to the grand finale, and brings the Corps’ three factions within spitting distance of each other. I’m excited to see Hal, John, and Guy reunite next month, and the wait’s generally been more exciting than excruciating.
More importantly, that wait has given Venditti a chance to progress the story outside of the scope of the Corps.
Ever since Johns’ run ended, the Corps haven’t been much liked throughout the universe, and it’s really taken the time-intensive process of them disappearing and being replaced by the Sinestro Corps to show the universe how good they had it. This is a powerful character moment for John too. He has to help these people, not only because it’s his moral obligation, but because it’s necessary to help rebuild the Corps’ reputation — but you just see the sacrifice it takes, how much it’s killing John to seemingly abandon Guy.
Really, all three Lanterns get a chance to show what they’re made of this month: besides Hal’s reckless charge on Sinestro and John’s selfless decision to aid the party against Warworld, there’s also Guy holding steadfast through horrific torture. Bravery, loyalty, valor, honor: that’s what being a Green Lantern is all about, and they’re all on full display in HJatGLC 5. Combine that with Van Sciver’s bombastic, detailed art, and you’ve got a prime example of what a Green Lantern title should be.
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