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.

KEEP

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.

KEEP

Next Up: The Green Lantern Corps!

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

  1. Don’t know if the plot versus character thing is true anymore…sure it was true in thw 60s but over the years that has changed and now plot and character are tools both companies use interchangeably I think.

    A better comparison is DC’s more iconic approach to its major characters versus Marvels approach to them as being underdogs in society…that is still pretty true to a certain extent.

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