Each weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: GREEN LANTERN!
The Concept and Characters: Test pilot Hal Jordan finds a dying alien who gives him a magic ring powered by force of will, and Jordan takes over as Green Lantern of space sector 2814. Someone even went and made a big summer movie out of it, Ryan Reynolds included.
In the past seven years, Green Lantern has gone from a second-tier character at DC Comics to the icon at the top of the best-selling mini-franchise DC Entertainment can mine for big-and-small-screen story concepts. At DC these days, it’s Batman and Green Lantern, not Superman, as the “Big Two,” and while Batman’s popularity may be due to Christopher Nolan’s ninja-crime-revamp and Grant Morrison’s lengthy run and, hey, Batman’s always popular, the popularity of Green Lantern in recent years, and the push towards a summer movie version, comes at the hands of one man: Geoff Johns.
Johns brought Hal Jordan back into the pilot’s seat with Green Lantern: Rebirth, starting in 2004, taking a character who had been turned into a villain a decade earlier and creating an elaborate mythology to explain why he wasn’t really a bad guy after all. With the help of artistic collaborators like Ethan Van Sciver, Carlos Pacheco, Ivan Reis, and Doug Mahnke (some of them: the best superhero artists in the world), Johns built a new path for Green Lantern that took what was great about the original Silver Age concept and added an epic scope, as the Rebirth led to an ongoing series which became one of the consistently best DC comics of the current era.
Under Johns’s guidance, the Green Lantern comics took to action-packed single issues tied together under vast mega-plots. Small hints he placed in the Rebirth miniseries ended up paying off years later, as the ongoing series escalated toward the massive “Sinestro Corps War,” then toward the Black Lantern zombie apocalypse known as Blackest Night, and, more recently, toward the “War of the Lanterns,” which ended with….
Hal Jordan losing the title of Green Lantern.
The mostly-villainous former Green Lantern Sinestro regained the ring, and based on the early information about the relaunched series, he will begin as the protagonist. It won’t be called Green Lantern: Sinestro, but he’ll be the star, at least in the opening story arc, as Hal Jordan tries to figure out what it means to be without a power ring.
The Creative Team: Written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Doug Mahnke, this relaunched Green Lantern is, more than any other DC book in September, a direct continuation of what came before. It’s the same creative team on the same title, and while the main character may be new, it’s a follow-up on the story Johns has been telling since he first jumped on the series all those years ago.
That doesn’t mean that this isn’t a good place to jump on to the series. Johns tells stories about iconic characters doing larger-than-life things. His stories, as complexly plotted as they may be, don’t feel overwhelmingly complex from the reader’s point of view. Johns writes dialogue to directly express how characters feel or what they’re going to do. They declare, in an almost old-fashioned way. But that tone fits the space opera stories he’s telling, and he knows how to hit the right beats to make every story arc a satisfying whole, and lead you into the next story.
Mahnke’s just a master of weird-looking aliens and action-packed superheroics. With inker Christian Alamy, his work gets a bit of a glossy shine, but he’s a gritty pen-and-inker at heart, and he carves some of the nicest superhero work you’re likely to see this fall.
Recommendation: Buy it. Green Lantern is consistently good, and there’s no reason to expect it won’t live up to its usual standards. The danger with Johns doing this kind of storytelling is that the epic scope builds toward a more epic scope and sometimes the story arcs can lose their impact because there’s not enough of a breather in between. That’s happened to some extent with this series in the past, but it hasn’t hurt the overall quality too much.
And with Sinestro in the lead role, Johns will have a chance to take the series in a new direction, at least for a while. Hal Jordan will surely be back by the beginning of 2012, if not sooner. Until then, it will be worth the monthly price of admission to see what Johns and Mahnke can do with a monster in the role of a hero.
Tim Callahan writes about comics for Tor.com, Comic Book Resources, Back Issue magazine, and his own Geniusboy Firemelon blog.