by Spencer Irwin and Michael DeLaney
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Spencer: Given the state of, well, everything (recently I’ve found myself answering “How are you?” with “Good…well, other than, y’know, the world“), lately I’ve been finding it harder and harder to deal with “cop stories,” or even the role of cops within non-cop stories I read. I struggle to reconcile the fact that some sort of law enforcement is necessary to deal with murderers, rapists, and those who prey on the innocent with the fact that the police, as an institution, have been infiltrated by white supremacists, abusers, and racists, are filling for-profit prisons with non-violent offenders and killing unarmed children in the street, and have generally been rendered so corrupt so as to be more harmful to the public than helpful. With that in mind, it’s interesting to look at how Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp approach the intergalactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corps in The Green Lantern 1. What kind of cop story is it? I’m honestly not sure yet.
The Green Lantern 1 opens on a small group of Lanterns apprehending a crew of Space Pirates in deep space. The scene largely focuses on a Lantern we later learn is the 13th Earl of Everglow on the planet Melmoor, and he’s as snooty as his title suggests, bemoaning the lack of clean bathrooms on the planet and referring to one of his pirate opponents as a “savage.” Everglow’s fellow Lanterns don’t seem all that fond of him, but they do seem to share at least some level of his prejudice, or at least his derision of the people around them, with even Trilla-Tru laughing at their idiocy.
The Earl, meanwhile, implies that he became a Lantern out of tradition and familial pressure, not out of any real love for the job or any overwhelming qualifications. This runs in contrast to the Guardians of the Universe’s claims later in the issue about how they only recruit the best and bravest, “individuals who embody the highest attributes.” The Earl’s side feels more honest, though — when it comes to police, many recruits are looking to follow tradition or to gain power over others rather than follow any higher calling.
As for the pirates, they were stealing “Luck Dials” from the “Luck Lords of Ventura,” crime bosses who use the dials to rig probability in their favor at their casinos. While the Lanterns are trying to keep the pirates from using the Dials to hurt innocents, they don’t seem all that concerned about the Luck Lords using them to do the same, and in one scene Trilla-Tru almost seems like she’s reporting to them. This highlights the limitations of the Lanterns’/police’s “lawful good” status — it doesn’t help to uphold the status quo if the status quo is inherently harmful and unfair.
It’s interesting to dig into the pirates as characters, too. Initially I had a lot of sympathy for them — they’re small-time crooks at best, and they really are as dumb as the Lanterns claim, making it actually sad to watch the Lanterns jerk them around.
This changes once they land on Earth, though. There they reveal themselves to also be hateful and harmful, attacking an entire town of humans for no reason. They needed to be taken off the streets, for 100% sure, but the Lanterns approach them with a disproportionate level of fervor — the pirates are low-level, but the Lanterns go after them so hard that they don’t even notice the real villains, the Blackstars, sneaking around in the background, preparing to pull off far more horrific crimes.
(And yeah, the Blackstars have a Luck Dial helping them out, but given their status, the Luck Dial might as well just be white privilege or the benefits of riches — it’s using lower-caste scapegoats, the pirates, to protect the Blackstars and hide their crimes. Sound familiar?)
Then there’s the issue’s titular “intergalactic lawman,” Hal Jordan. I’ll admit that I’ve never really cared for Hal, largely because I saw him as a bland square-jawed type whose main personality traits were “brave” and, sometimes, “cad.” In just a few scenes Morrison injects some real personality into Hal, but in doing so, actually makes him a less likable character. He lives to fight, wander, and have sex, traits that make him an excellent space cop, but a pretty scuzzy human being. How are we supposed to feel about him being the epitome of what the Green Lantern Corps has to offer?
All-in-all, The Green Lantern 1 doesn’t paint the most flattering picture of its heroes, but that may very well be the point. A preview of upcoming stories shows Green Arrow teaming-up with Hal, and his brand of liberalism always provides an interesting contrast to Hal; I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole point of this series might be to critique the real-world reasons a space police force would be problematic, and I’m interested to see if/how Morrison and Sharp do so.
Of course, Grant Morrison’s name name on the cover is truly this issue’s/series’ greatest draw, but I actually found his typical brand of heady, high-concept ideas to be a bit light in this issue; for now there’s just hints more than any real exploration. Sharp’s art more than makes up for this, though, taking readers on a real journey through trippy, exquisitely-detailed locations.
I mean “journey” literally. Sharp isn’t content to just create nutso locations, but he warps space and his perspective to show how these locations relate to each other, to show characters moving through them, to create a real journey. When the action moves to Earth the landscapes become sparse and empty — reflecting the grounded Hal’s restlessness — but even then Sharp finds a way to open things up and make a familiar location feel grand, open, and like an exciting place to explore.
The worlds Sharp creates really take this issue to a new, higher level.
Michael, your excitement about this issue has been downright palpable around the ol’ Retcon Punch offices, so I’m genuinely excited to turn this piece over to you. Tell me, what is it you love most about The Green Lantern 1?
Michael: Spencer, I have no idea what you are talking about…okay yes, I was absolutely thrilled when this book was announced. Grant Morrison’s work probably reads better as a whole than individuals chapters, as everything tend to fold back into itself like an ouroboros. By that I mean to say that I’m sure there are plenty of Easter eggs here and there that will come into play throughout this run.
One of the things I love about Morrison’s writing – and there are many – is that nearly all of the characters are working at the absolute top of their intelligence. With some writers, this could come off as sloppy exposition. In The Green Lantern 1 it instead comes across as knowledge gained.
Funny that Spencer characterized Hal Jordan as the “bland square-jawed type”, because in interviews leading up to this series Morrison described Hal as “an idiot savant.” I love the idea of approaching “the greatest Green Lantern” this way, but going off of The Green Lantern 1, Morrison doesn’t lean too hard into the “idiot” portion of that title.
Hal is also working at the height of his intelligence, identifying an alien species from its’ aversion to guacamole and relying on mathematical principles for bad guys to trip themselves up. All of this reinforces the idea that Hal is a veteran space-cop who has seen enough action that he actually learned a thing or two.
I like your take on the elitism in the Green Lantern Corps – and you’re right to compare it to that of our own police force – but I think you’re being to hard on our guy Maxim Tox, The 13th Earl of Everglow. Although there are whiffs of elitism and bias present, I think that Morrison does a good job at making him a little more than a one-dimensional character. Maybe it’s Liam Sharp’s design of the character, giving him a warm reassuring smile as he stares at his disembodied finger.
With this being a soft “relaunch” of a Green Lantern series, it feels like Morrison and Sharp are really taking the opportunity to break the familiar mold that Geoff Johns established over a decade ago. Without any pomp and circumstance, we are introduced to “New Oa.” Oa has been dead for a while now, why not re-establish and relocate? Mogo needs a break.
Gone are the traditional red robes of the Guardians of the Universe, replaced with robes of a shimmering celestial shade of purple. In general there is more mystery to this New Oa, which feels less like a physical planet and more of a place outside of space and time – as illustrated by the image Spencer shared above. Morrison’s trippy comic book elaboration is on fully display here as well, expressed perfectly by this panel:
Morrison takes the concepts we know and love and pushes them to the next level. Will we ever see these Lanterns? Maybe. But are they awesome concepts? Absolutely. The Green Lantern then is a blend of high concept sci-fi and Dennis O’Neil/Neal Adams sensibility. The image of Hal wandering a desert highway alone evokes the classic “Hard Travelin’ Heroes” story of yore. Similarly, Sharp’s Green Lantern design has inspirations from both Neal Adams and Gil Kane – dynamic facial expressions and dark contours covered in shadow.
Verdict: I am still very excited for this series. I think that it will prove to be a very different type of Green Lantern series than we have seen in recent years and that’s a good thing. Taking these characters and concepts to new places is how they have endured so long.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?