DC New 52 Review: Justice League #1

The new Justice League, 3 of whom aren't actually in this issue.

So if you’re at all interested in comics, or sleeping with someone who is, you know all about the big DC relaunch that’s coming. DC Comics is essentially wiping the slate clean, and rebooting their entire universe. None of the stories that you loved growing up actually happened, and they are rebuilding their entire continuity from the ground up. It’s like Greedo shooting first, but on an epic, cosmic scale.

I find myself in a perpetual state of not giving a shit. To me, good comic stories are good comic stories. The minute I stopped caring so much about things like continuity, is the minute I started really enjoying comics. And besides, I’m not reading much superhero stuff these days anyways, so they could put a Superman suit on a gay monkey and I probably wouldn’t notice. But because EVERYONE is talking about it, I decided to read the very first issue of the new reboot: Justice League #1. This issue is the first real peak that DC is giving us into their new universe, and as such should be designed to absolutely blow new readers away, and to give old readers a real sense of ‘HOLYCRAPICANTBELIEVETHEYDIDTHATTOSUPERMAN’

This issue succeeds on neither front.

Mediocre is a word that gets thrown around a lot, with usually a more negative connotation than it deserves. But sadly, it’s the perfect word for this sleepy, sleepy comic book. First of all, if you’re going to have a comic book about a team of heroes, I expect to see that team in the book. No? How about half the team? Just barely? Sigh. This issue focuses almost exclusively on Batman and Green Lantern, and one might suspect that writer Geoff Johns thought that his Green Lantern movie was going to be a hit when he wrote this, and thus decided to showcase the two heroes most recognizable to modern audiences. So basically Green Lantern and Batman team up to go after evil aliens, and find themselves on the run from the cops for most of the issue. This gives them plenty of time to snark at each other, and then at the end of the issue a guy shows up that I think is supposed to be Superman but couldn’t be because there is NO way that DC would ever allow such a bad costume design to actually get into one of their comic books.

And that’s pretty much the issue. Two people team up to take down a bad guy, and then another person shows up at the end. Hardly a world building blockbuster. This book wasn’t “bad” in the traditional sense. Jim Lee is considered one of the great living superhero comic book artists for a reason, and he makes pretty much every page pop here. And Geoff Johns put together a decent ‘Heroes put aside their differences” story. But this book is essentially the pilot for the biggest comic launch the business has seen since 1986.. Words like “decent” and “average” shouldn’t be used for this book. Words like ‘Skullripping” and “EyeballExploding” should.

Let me clarify: My negativity isn’t a backlash against the continuity changes they’re making here. I don’t care about any of that. I don’t care that it’s different, all I care about is that it’s good. And this ain’t.

I will still give some of the new issues that launch next week a chance. When it comes to superhero comics these days, It’s creators I care about, not characters. And so since people like Peter Milligan, and Gail Simone, and Nathan Edmonson, and Jeff Lemire, and Matt Kindt, have new books, I will definitely give them a try.
But if Justice League #1 is indicative of what’s in store for me, I’m not holding out much hope.
Rating: C

The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 33: More Avengers

Avengers West Coat – Vision Quest

I’m really not sure how it’s possible that I only have one West Coast Avengers trade, as I loved this book in the late ’80s when it originally came out.This trade focuses on John Byrne’s run on the book. There are lots of interesting stuff here: The first appearance of the Great Lakes Avengers, the foreshadowing of Scarlet Witch’s eventual meltdown, and a complete retcon of the origin of the Vision. Plus John Byrne’s pencils were great on this run. I’m definitely looking for more trades from this era ASAP.

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Avengers – Red Zone

It didn’t take Marvel long to try to scoop DC’s Geoff Johns up for one of their books, but for some reason the pairing never seemed to click. His run got a LOT of online heat from fans, and proved to be controversial. Nothing like what was to come when Brian Michael Bendis took over the book, but at this point, Marvel still hadn’t quite cottoned to the fact that if they wanted the Avengers to become a top-tier book, they were going to need to do some serious changing. So while Johns run is edgier than previous writer’s attempts to reboot the Avengers, it still comes across as slightly forced. That being said, I did enjoy this far more than I thought I would. The “big reveal” of the arc’s villain still comes across as quite hackneyed, and not well-thought out at all, but it’s still quite a good read. Some good character moments between Black Panther and Iron Man as well. There are a few other trades from Johns’ run that I may track down now.

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New Avengers – Breakout, The Sentry, Secrets & Lies, The Collective, Civil War, Revolution, The Trust, Secret Invasion Books 1 & 2, Power, Search For The Sorcerer supreme, Powerloss, Siege, New Avengers

So it’s 2004, and Marvel finally realizes that the Avengers are done. Not the concept, but the team as it currently stood. The book had been running on fumes for quite a while, and even bringing in superstar writer Geoff Johns to revive the teams fortunes hadn’t grown any traction with fans. The book was is in the doldrums. Enter Brian Michael Bendis. By this point, Bendis had garnered some serious goodwill among Marvel fans for his runs on Daredevil, Alias, and Ultimate Spider-Man. But he had never really tackled anything with quite as big a potential scope as the Avengers. Could he pull it off? Could he make the Avengers relevant again?

From a commercial standpoint, the answer was unequivocably yes. Not only did he make the Avengers relevant again, Marvel essentially rebuilt the entire framework of the Marvel Universe around the work Bendis did on New Avengers. It became Marvel’s flagship book, usurping Spider-Man and X-Men as the top draws at the company. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the title’s success had a large part to do with Marvel realizing that an Avengers movie could work.

From a quality standpoint, the answer is a little more complicated. It’s Brian Bendis. Which means the book went from becoming a light-hearted adventure-of-the-week book to a dark, conspiracy-laden, dialogue-heavy, noir thriller. Whether you liked it had a lot to do with how much you liked Brian Bendis’ writing. I for one loved it, and still do. In fact, my appreciation of what he’s done for the book has only increased upon revisiting the work.

The first thing Bendis realized is that if he was to make this work, if he was to completely revitalize the very concept of the Avengers, he was going to have to make some tough choices. And so he threw out the baby with the bath water. In fact, he didn’t just throw out the baby, he drowned it at the bottom of the tub. He damaged Avengers Mansion, killed fan-favourite character Hawkeye (and didn’t just kill him, but gave him one of the most ignoble deaths a well-known character has ever gotten, and dismantled the team.

Enter New Avengers. The premise here was to organically grow a “street-level” team of some of Marvel’s top characters, as well as some of Bendis’ favourites. And so perennial C listers Luke Cage and Spider-Woman joined team stalwarts Iron Man and Captain America. In addition, he also brought triple A listers Wolverine and Spider-Man into the fold to garner the favour of casual fans. He also threw the Sentry into the mix, just to provide some tension. This doesn’t sound so crazy now, but at the time all of these changes were considered blasphemy, and the changes Bendis brought to the Avengers were probably the most radical since the mid-’60’s. He also provided an opportunity for more casual fans to experience the adventures of their favourites  without having to actually follow what was happening in their own books. Even though I love the team, I’m the first one to admit that not only was this not your daddy’s Avengers, it really wasn’t the Avengers at all. The team didn’t have any type of government mandate, almost never went on patrol, and really just stumbled from adventure to adventure. And for me, that was ok. And still is.

Those looking for holes to poke won’t have to look far however. While there is some long-term plotting here (the buildup to Secret Invasion, the slow recreation of Luke Cage becoming one of Marvel’s top-tier heroes), and some ideas took almost 4 years to pay off, it does seem as if Bendis viewed what was happening in the rest of the Marvel Universe as somewhat of an inconvenience. The Civil War storyline in particular seemed to take Bendis by surprise, though he deftly brought it into his master plan relatively painlessly. I’ll also never fully believe Bendis’ claims that he had the entire arc of Spider-Woman’s character planned out in advance, as the events of Secret Invasion seemed to fly in the face of reason. And while I happen to enjoy Bendis’ Mametian maelstroms of dialogue, they’re not for everyone, and one of the major criticisms of the book was (and still is) that it’s heavy on exposition, low on action. I think that was a legitimate comment at one point, but Bendis seems to have captured a solid middle ground now, blending character development with action much better than he did at the start of his run. Another critique that is often made of the book is the art. Although David Finch garnered few complaints when he started the book, he handed the reigns over to darker, more stylized artists like Lenil Yu and Alex Maleev, whose work seems to have antagonized long-time fans. Again, this happens to be a matter of taste. I happen to think Alex Maleev is one of comics unheralded geniuses, but those looking for a more traditional, detailed look weren’t happy.

For the most part, Bendis’ New Avengers has been a wholly entertaining thrill ride of a superhero comic book. Though not for everybody, I think it’s really set the bar a little higher for what is possible  (and also necessary in order to capture a modern audience) with team superhero books in the 21st century.

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Next up: Wow. More Avengers. Whee.

 

 

 

 

The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 19: DC Comics – More Justice Society!

Justice Society Of AmericaThe Justice Society Returns & The JSA All-Stars

These are both late ’90’s JSA stories that hold up pretty well today, though I wouldn’t say that either of them are essential to anyone other than die-hard JSA fans. Both of them are

The JSA return. Again.

“anthology” books, in that there is a storyline that begins and ends each book, with different creators working on smaller stories within the larger framework of the series. As with any such series, there is good and there is bad, but the strength of the creators (Geoff Johns, David Goyer, Michael Chabon, Howard Chaykin, Mark Waid, Michael Lark, etc) ensure that the hits far outweigh the misses.

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Justice Society Of AmericaThe Golden Age

Ok, it’s hyperbole time. This may be the greatest JSA story ever. Not only that, but I would probably put this in any “Greatest DC Stories Of All Time” list. It’s epic. It’s technically an “Elseworlds” (Readers of my blog will know that for DC, Elseworlds is just secret code for “Lazy writing”) story, but most of this is so close to

The guy in red is actually Adolph Hitler's transplanted brain in disguise. Whoops, spoiler alert!

regular continuity that it’s pretty easy to just consider this as a regular JSA story. If it isn’t continuity by now, then it should be. This story has everything you could want in a superhero comic book: Plenty of action, some tales of redemption, and the transplanted brain of Adolph Hitler. James Robinson and Paul Smith have created that rare superhero story here: One that gets better every time you read it.

Justice Society - The Geoff Johns Trades Part 1 (Justice Be Done, Darkness Falls, Return Of Hawkman, Fair Play, Stealing Thunder, Savage Times, Princes Of Darkness, Black Reign, Lost, Black Vengeance, Mixed Signals, Ghost Stories)

After the success of titles like Starman & Sandman Mystery Theatre, it was obvious that the comic book masses wanted more Justice Society. The Starman team of David Goyer and James Robinson started the new series, and quickly handed it over DC wunderkind Geoff Johns. When this series was on the stands, it was something I enjoyed quite a bit, and so I thought rereading it would just be a formality. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked it for the most part, and I’m keeping the run. But Geoff Johns bites off way more than he (or any one else) can chew, and the constantly growing cast of characters are tough to keep track of, even for jaded comic book fans. Plots start and stop with no explanation, and characters show up and then leave with very little reason as to why they were there in the first place. The hits (finally making sense of Hawkman’s origin, slowly turning Black Adam into the most tragic villain in the DCU, Stargirl’s transformation into one of the DCU’s premier teen heroes) far outweigh the misses (Dr. Fate’s constant bitching), and this stands up as a pretty decent mainstream superhero title. Ghost Stories wasn’t a Geoff Johns story, but it ended this version of the series pretty well.

Justice Society - The Geoff Johns Trades Part 2 (The Next Age, Thy Kingdom Come 1, 2, 3, Black Adam & Isis)

And we’re back. A few years ago, both the JLA and JSA books were cancelled, with new  versions of both comics starting back up almost immediately. In the JSA’s case, I’m not

Who is: Superman from Earth 22? Alex, I'll take: Reasons why nobody takes superhero comics seriously for a thousand!

really sure why a reboot was needed, since the writer for the new series was the same person who wrote most of the last one. Since one of the criticisms of the last series was that there were too many characters to follow, it only stands to reason that Geoff Johns brought even MORE characters into the mix. That being said, I would say that I enjoyed these trades more than the last 3 of 4 of his previous run, and Thy Kingdom Come is  definitely a worthy quasi sequel p to the landmark Kingdom Come mini it gets its name and concept from. Also, Dale Eaglesham’s pencil work is perfect fit for this book.

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Justice Society - The Liberty File/The Unholy Three

As I’ve written before, I don’t have a lot of respect for the “Elseworlds” concept. More often than not, it led to lazy writing as opposed to real storytelling innovation.

A bizarre alternate dimension where superheroes aren't quite so ridiculous.

Great stories are great stories, and should always be the top priority when putting together sequential art for a mainstream audience. When the strongest thing about your gimmick is the pitch, then it probably wasn’t that strong a gimmick in the first place. The Liberty Files, and it’s sequel The Unholy Three, are rare exceptions. In this world, the JSA are all secret government agents rather than costumed superheroes. The emphasis here is on telling a compelling espionage story rather than resting on the laurels of its high concept pitch.

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Next up: Legion Of Superheroes, Lex Luthor, and Manhunter!!!

The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 – DC Comics: Green Lantern Corps, Hawkman, and Huntress

Green Lantern Corps - Recharge, To Be A Lantern, Dark Side Of Green, Sinestro Corps War, The Sinestro CorpsWar V. 1/2, Ring Quest, Sins Of The Star Sapphire, Emerald Eclipse, Blackest Night

No other industry screams “Blind Corporate Opportunism” like the comic book business, and DC has always proven itself to be a mighty bastion of greed.  So it should have come as a surprise to no one that DC would attempt to capitalize on Geoff Johns’ successful Green Lantern reboot by ordering up a new Green Lantern Corps mini- series. That was a success, and so DC then did a regular series, which continues to this day. None of this should have been a surprise. What was a surprise, was that it was good.

This is essentially a military soap opera, but instead of guns, the soldiers have little magic rings that help then fly in space. And they’re all aliens. Thankfully most of them aren’t the slimy kind of alien, but more the kind of alien you would see on Star Trek: The Next Generation, where they look pretty much human, but they have a ridge above their eyes, or a 3rd ear, or they have squid-like genitals that you never see (I’m looking at you Deanna Troi!). Although there are aliens that actually look like aliens (Robot aliens, planet shaped aliens, Bieber shaped aliens), you are not expected to care about most of them, therefore allowing you to keep your narrow view of the inherent specialness of humanity intact. Whew.

This series is a lot of fun., with a nice mixture of epic space battles and small human interest stories. While there are a LOT of characters to keep track of, the writers (initially Geoff Johns & Dave Gibbons, then Dave Gibbons by himself, and then Peter Tomasi) do a good job of focusing on small groups of Lanterns at a time. It’s pretty easy to understand what’s going on, and while the scope of the stories might be huge, the series never loses sight of its priority: Compelling characters first, crazy epic space wars second.

KEEP.

Hawkman

Hawkman. He looks angry because he's trying to figure out how to promounce "Nth".

A really long and boring history of Hawkman is in order: In the 1940’s, DC had a Hawkman character that was chairman of the Justice Society. He and his wife Hawkgirl, were reincarnations of old Egyptian pharaohs, and used “Nth” metal to fly. So far so good. Then in the 1960’s, DC brought back the characters, but now they were police officers from the planet Thanagar, who used “Nth” metal to fly. Ooookay. DC eventually “fixed” the problem by saying that one group of characters (the ones they created in the 1940’2) lived on Earth 2, and the new modern (well, modern for the early 1960’s), lived on Earth 1. Occasionally they would meet and braid each other’s hair.

This worked well until 1985, and the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Now there was only one earth, with one history. They figured out where most of the major characters fit into this, but they forgot about Hawkman. Big time.

They “relaunched” Hawkman with the Hawkworld series, essentially reinventing the origin of the Thanagar Hawkman. That’s fine, but the mistake they made was saying that this was a brand new story, and that this Hawkman didn’t arrive on Earth until after Crisis. But if they had him coming to Earth AFTER Crisis, then who was in the Justice Society in the 1940’s? Or later on in the Justice League? Who, I ask you? WHO?????

This is the kind of stuff that keeps geeks up at night.

Oh, and then he became a Hawk God. And then it got weird. The next few years suffered reboot after reboot, and eventually DC just pulled the plug until they could finally find someone who could fix this mess.

Enter Geoff Johns. Yes, the same Geoff Johns that fixed Green Lantern. In the pages of his much liked JSA run, Johns finally got all of the various reboots of Hawkman to jibe with each other, and while it may still have been a little messy, it was the best anyone could have expected, and now DC could finally go ahead with new Hawkman stories.

Hawkman - Hawkworld

Hawkworld helped make a royal mess out of Hawkman’s continuity, and it makes absolutely no sense if you try to figure out exactly when/where it fits into the regular DCU. However, as a stand alone series the first mini series is a pretty great science fiction drama. It’s the story of Katar Hol, a privileged young man who discovers just how corrupt and evil the society that he thinks of as a utopia really is. There’s no superhero stuff, and not that much action. What it is, is a great character piece. It’s the story of one man’s redemption, and in fact, a case could be made that writer Tim Truman shouldn’t have even bothered with making it a Hawkman story.

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HawkmanThe Geoff Johns trades (Endless Flight, Allies & Enemies, Rise Of The Golden Eagle, Wings Of Fury)

You might have guessed by now that I like Geoff Johns’ writing. I do, but it’s a qualified like. I can’t say that I think he’s the character master that Mark Waid is, or a builder of tension like Ed Brubaker is. What he is, though, is a storyteller in the best sense of the word, and probably the best plotter that DC has. Then why don’t I like this more?

It’s because Hawkman sucks. He looks cool, and has a badass mace. But as a character (or at least the new angry Hawkman that Geoff Johns brings us), he has no depth. About the only character trait that he is given is that he’s mad. At everything. That’s something, but unfortunately he lives on the same planet as Batman, and we all know that Batman will always be DC’s top asshole. It’s like being the second best basketball player on the same block that Michael Jordan lives in.

Johns seemed to be completely lost in regards to this character right from the beginning, and I think the problem is that the character probably requires a subtler touch than Johns usually demonstrates. He puts him in a great new city, but then never really explores it. Johns gives him a great new job, but then never really shows him doing it. Not to mention his horrible supporting cast, who seem to come and go at a moment’s notice with no real back story or character development. The only other character you see regularly in this book is the Kendra Saunders Hawkgirl, who is so unlikable she makes Lex Luthor look like a Chilean miner. There are some nice character moments later on the series in the Shayera Hol arc, but that’s about it.

The only saving grace here is some really nice pencils from Rags Morales, but even that wasn’t enough to save this one.

CULL.

Huntresss – Dark Knight’s Daughter

As originally conceived, Huntress was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. Specifically the Batman and Catwoman of Earth 2 (I touched on the whole Earth 1/Earth 2 thing earlier, but I’m going to explain all of THAT mess in detail in a future post). She was created in the late ’70’s to add some much-needed youth to the recently revived Justice Society. I thought for sure that I’d be getting rid of this one, but I was surprised to find that I actually liked this better than I do the actual JSA book from this time period.

I get the impression that Paul Levitz was really stretching his wings with this one. Up till not long before this series came out, female characters in superhero books didn’t do much other than get tied up fairly regularly while they waited for the BIG STRONG MAN to save them. They also seemed to spend a lot of time doing something called “swooning” at any hint of danger. Until the Huntress came along. Levitz’ Huntress is beautiful, smart, successful, rich, and dresses up in a skin-tight purple leotard while she fights crime. So in short, the perfect ’70’s woman.

This trade holds up remarkably well, and is a lot better than most of the other DC stories that came out of this era. Special care must be made to mention the art of Joe Staton, that is a big part of the reason I’m keeping this trade.

KEEP

Next up: One more blog post filled with characters you don’t like – Hitman, Joker, and Jonah Hex! But coming up soon – THE JUSTICE LEAGUE!!!!! And the culling begins in earnest.

The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 11: DC Comics – Green Lantern

For those of you who aren’t familiar with DC, and their approach to storytelling, and how it differs from Marvel’s approach, let me explain: DC’s priority is always plot – i.e. Event X happens to Character B. Marvel’s priority is always characters – i.e. Character B copes with the events of Event X, and also how to pay the rent that month. There are positives and negatives to each approach. One of the big negatives to the DC approach is that you need a constant stream of MAJOR events in order to keep the wheels of the DCU turning. And since death is a fairly major event in someone’s life (right behind getting your first pony), it’s a well we see DC going to fairly often.

Enter Green Lantern, specifically Hal Jordan.

Green Lantern of Earth One vs. Green Lantern of Earth Two.

Now Hal wasn’t the first Green Lantern. That was Alan Scott, back in the 1940’s. But when DC started to focus on superhero comics again in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s, they realized that the Green Lantern concept was cool enough that it was worth bringing back. Although the Hal Jordan Green Lantern has always been well-known, and is identifiable as one of the DCU’s top heroes, he was never that important in regards to sales, and never really had what could be considered a successful book.

So in the mid ’90’s, DC decided to kill him.

Now that’s pretty bad in the great scheme of things, but DC went one step further. They made him evil. Like, planet killing evil.  He killed other Green Lanterns, some of the Guardians of OA, and he started the Zero Crisis, which is one of those universe-destroying events that DC has every 6 months or so. And I think he kicked a puppy somewhere in there too.

Evil Hal Jordan. It's ok though since he has a yellow parasite in his head telling him what to do. We don't know that yet.

A few things happened next: DC created a new Green Lantern, named Kyle Rayner. The problem is, EVERYONE hated Kyle Rayner. Everyone. Including his fictional mom  Also, DC was surprised to learn than not only did DC fans hate Kyle Rayner, but they actually liked Hal Jordan quite a bit, and while it was one thing to kill him, it’s quite another to actually turn him evil, flying in the face of 40 years of character continuity. And so the great DC back pedal began. We’ve seen the back pedal often. It’s when DC does something really dumb to one of their characters, and then spends years trying to fix the damage, eventually putting the character right back where they were at the beginning (for further info, see Superman, Death Of; Batman, Breaking of Back of, or anything to do with Hawkman, Aquaman, the Silver Age Wonder Woman, the Golden Age Wonder Woman, The Silver Age Flash, the Modern Age Flash, Stephanie Brown, Jason Todd, and pretty much every person that has ever appeared in a DC comic book. Ever. ) often with alternate realities, time travel, or usually some sort of cosmic reboot that is just lazy writing, goddamnit!

And so 2 years later, they brought Hal back from the dead, but he was really sorry. And so

Hal Jordan as the Spirit of Vengeance. He's a ghost that wears a mask. On purpose.

he died AGAIN, but actually saved the planet this time. And then they brought him back from the dead AGAIN, but now he was the Spectre, a character that is essentially the DC’s Spirit Of Vengeance. He’s an undead corpse that has unlimited magical power and goes around killing evil people for the Lord. So he’s essentially the DC version of Stephen Harper. 

Now you would think this would be enough for DC fans. But noooooo, they didn’t just want Hal back, they wanted him back as GL. And so 10 years after DC got rid of him the first time, they hired Geoff Johns (also known at DC by his other name, God) to fix the mess they created, and bring back Hal Jordan. And he did. In style.

Green Lantern - The Geoff Johns Trades (Rebirth, No Fear, Revenge of the Green Lanterns, Wanted – Hal Jordan, Sinestro Corps War, Secret Origin, Agent Orange, Rage Of The Red Lantern, Blackest Night)

First of all, let me tell you that I HATE Green Lantern. Hate the concept, hate the character, hate the T-Shirt, etc.. The character never did anything for me, and the mythology did even less. So as you can imagine, it was going to take a hell of a great comic book to make me care about the return of Hal Jordan. I’m here to tell you that Geoff John’s Green Lantern is quite often a hell of a great mainstream superhero comic book.

Geoff Johns has a knack. It’s a particular talent, and it has served him very well at DC. He fixes problems. Specifically, continuity problems. He has the gift of being able to fix whatever tangled mess of continuity damage a decade of DC hacks has done to a character. Not only does he fix it, but he even makes you think that the dumb stuff was actually good, and he makes it an integral part of the story he’s telling. And so he turned his magic scalpel to Hal Jordan. He brought him back, but he didn’t just bring him back, he brought back the entire Green Lantern mythology. Over the past 60 plus issues, he’s taken this utterly devalued D list character, and rebuilt him into the lynchpin of an incredibly complex, action packed space opera, that is arguably the only real interesting part of the DCU anymore.

The successes he has here are many: Explain the reason why the green rings are useless against yellow in a believable way? Check. Explain why a great hero would actually kill his former colleagues? Check. Have him punch out Batman? Check. Somehow turn a purple skinned alien with a receding hairline into one of the greatest villains in the DCU? Check. Bring back the Corps, the Guardians, the Zamorans, Nekron, and a host of other old GL concepts that just seemed really lame when you read about them as a kid and actually make them cool for once? Check.

That being said, this isn’t a perfect book, though it often comes close by mainstream superhero standards. Although a LOT happens to Hal Jordan every month, much of it just bounces off his back as he goes from adventure to adventure. I’d like to see the book slow down occasionally. Although a lot has happened to the character from an event standpoint, I can’t say that Johns has actually done much with the character emotionally. Any person that would have as much shit thrown at him as Jordan does would need some time to figure stuff out, to adapt, to change, etc.  

My other quibble is that the book is often a little too smart for its own good, and the overly complicated, continuity heavy scripts pretty much guarantee that any new reader would be lost immediately. Pretty much everything in this book is a huge, universe-killing epic crossover, and occasionally you wish that the series would take a bit of a break and a just have a story where GL rescues a kitten out of a tree.

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Green Lantern & Green Arrow – Vol. 1 & 2.

This is one of DC’s most famous storylines from the 1970’s, and it’s aged about as well as that purple couch that keeps showing up in all of your mom’s photo albums has. It’s 1972, and Green Lantern’s book is struggling. DC puts two of their hottest young talents on the case (Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams), they change the name of the book to Green Lantern and Green Arrow, and so a legend is born.

The premise of the arc is that conservative galactic cop Hal Jordan, and liberal hippie Ollie Queen, are both disillusioned with the state of America. They decide to get in a pick-up truck, and take a millenia-old asexual blue alien with them on a road trip where they encounter racism, overpopulation, slavery, drug addiction, sexism, cults, and even excessive jaywalking and littering. At the end of the story they discover that a 9-year-old socialist muslim nazi from Kenya/Hawaii is to blame for everything bad that ever happened to anyone ever, and so they travel to 1984 to enlist Ronald Reagan to come back in time with them to kill the socialist vampire with freedom bullets.

The reason that people still talk about this story today isn’t that it’s that good, it’s that it was the first adult-issues story that DC ever had it’s characters take part in.  The problem here is that while these stories were absolutely cutting edge for the era they were created in, they just seem dated and preachy now. Although the issues they are trying to deal with are very much of the real world circa 1970, O’Neil still uses early 1960’s comic book language and narrative devices to deal with them, and the results are often clumsy and heavy-handed. That being said, this is still an incredible important storyline for numerous reason, one of them being the art by grandmaster Neal Adams. 

I’d love to see DC try to do a sequel to this, using modern-day issues and narrative devices, possibly with some new characters.

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Next Up: The Green Lantern Corps!