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.

KEEP

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.

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