Books Of Oa: New 52 Green Lantern Sinestro & Green Lantern Corps Fearsome

Green Lantern Volume 1: Sinestro (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Doug Mahnke with Mike Choi
Collects Green Lantern #1-6

When I first heard about the New 52, the first two franchises I wondered about were Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern stuff and Grant Morrison’s Batman books. Not only were they two of the most popular series’ at the time, but they were also pretty longform works by some of the top talents in the biz. How would this reboot change them? Well, apparently they didn’t, not really. While this certainly offered a good deal of confusion to readers trying to figure out the differences between the two sets of continuity, it’s actually not such a big deal to a more casual trade reader like myself.

I should note that I don’t have and haven’t read the War of the Green Lantern story that, I believe, ended with the old universe, but from what I’ve read online and seen in this book, the connections are very strong, possibly the strongest between continuities as I didn’t find myself wondering about changed details or anything like that while reading this book which finds Sinestro back in the Green Lantern duds and Hal Jordan on the outs. So, while I don’t know the details behind these story (not continuity) based changes, I caught on pretty quickly and was along for the ride.

All of which brings me to the actual story which involves Sinestro creating a ring that he can control for Hal to use in order to help remove the Sinestro Corps from his home planet of Korugar. They head there, lose some power and allow the people to help them break free and win their own freedom. Meanwhile, Hal is also dealing with his relationship with Carol Ferris and the Guardians decide to create  the Third Army (after the Manhunters and the Green Lanterns). This is clearly the big overarching Green Lantern franchise story being built toward, but unlike some of the preWOTGL stories, these storiesdon’t feel like they’re only there to service the larger story and do a lot to both get new readers involved in what’s going on and also give plenty of service to long time fans (something that Johns has built his career on).

You know what makes all of the above even better? Doug Mahnke’s artwork. That guy was born to draw a book featuring not only a plethora of aliens but also all the constructs the imagination can create. I’ve been a fan of his since I first saw him on Man of Steel and on through the rest of his career. He is perfect on this book. As such, when you get to the last issue in the collection, it’s a pretty gigantic difference, one that doesn’t do anyone any favors. I’ve liked Mike Choi’s art on a lot of books, but it looks really sleight and faint here, which sometimes happens if pencils get colored without inking (no idea if that’s actually what happened here, but that’s what it reminds me of). Between that and the almost pastel coloring choices, you couldn’t genetically engineer an issue that looks more out of place after reading five issues featuring Mahnke’s dark, bold, bombastic pencils. Still, I’m a big fan of this trade because, if nothing else, it’s a return to form for Johns and the GL concepts I fell in love with post-Rebirth.

Green Lantern Corps Volume 1: Fearsome (DC)
Written by Peter Tomasi, drawn by Fenando Pasarin, Geraldo Borges & Claude St. Aubin
Collects Green Lantern Corps #1-7

The problem I had with the first issue of the new GLC when I read it months ago was that it felt like a rehash of stuff I’d already read. You’ve got Lanterns Guy Gardner and John Stewart realizing that they don’t have much of a place on Earth and moving to Oa, something Guy did in the previous GLC series with Kyle Rayner. You’ve also got a mysterious, seemingly Lantern-based force killing GLs in Sector Houses. It wasn’t the most thrilling thing to an old hat GL fan like myself, but then I remembered that these books are as much for people like me as new readers, if not more so the latter.

So, I tried reading this book with that in mind and I think it helped. It doesn’t reach that balance nearly as well as the Green Lantern volume, but this collection still offered an interesting and intense adventure that really looked like the GLs wouldn’t make their way out of (as much as you can expect something like that from a Big Two team book). Not only that, but we get introduced to a group of old warhorse GLs called Mean Machine and a guest appearance by Martian Manhunter of Stormwatch connecting this story more to the New 52 than the other.

The story also did something pretty interesting that explained an old trait of GLC members. Back in the day, they used to be able to reach into a pocket dimension, grab their lanterns and recharge. It’s something that’s been missing since the Kyle Rayner days and, honestly, I hadn’t thought about it in a while, so this was kind of a fun geek service thing. On the other hand, I can only imagine what it was like for new readers who have no idea what any of this refers to thought about it.

There was one story detail that still sticks in my craw. It’s a pretty big part of it, so I’ll let loose the SPOILER WARNING. At one point a small group of Lanterns gets captured by the bad guys and are being tortured for information. One of the rookies is just about to break so John Stewart frees himself just enough to snap that Lantern’s neck, killing him. It’s a super dark moment that I’m not sure if I like or not, especially having been a fan of Stewart’s for so long, but I guess it shows how much of a soldier he’s become. I was further confused by the fact that Stewart was able to cover up the murder considering he has a ring on his finger that can give a full report back to his superiors. It didn’t feel quite right on character level or a logic one, but maybe that’s the new world we’re dealing with (that’s got to be a great crutch to fall back on if you screw something up, isn’t it?).

After having read these books, I’m still in it when it comes to the Green Lantern books. I’m curious to check out the Red Lantern one and the New Guardians or whatever that other book with Kyle Rayner is is called. Plus, I have to admit, I’m curious to find out what the Guardians have up their sleeve with this whole Third Army thing. Color me interested.

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Corps To Be A Lantern

GREEN LANTERN CORPS: TO BE A LANTERN (DC)
Written by Dave Gibbons, drawn by Patrick Gleason & Dave Gibbons
Collects Green Lantern Corps #1-6 (Aug. 2006-Jan. 2007 cover dates)
After all the craziness of Rebirth, Recharge and Infinite Crisis, the Green Lantern Corps got their own ongoing series for the first time ever (well, the second volume of GL got renamed GLC at some point, but does that really count?). This volume kicks off after DC’s One Year Later jump and we’re shown some of the changes that took place between Recharge and now, but unlike a lot of other OYL books, the year gap wasn’t much of a mystery. Basically, Guy Gardner staid on planet because his shore leave got suspended for a year at the end of Recharge, they helped rebuild Oa, train rookies and protect the galaxy. Pretty standard stuff. Oh, and they also built a huge Lantern-shaped shell around all of Oa and made it even harder for the Guardians to be seen by anyone other than Salaak. From a chronological perspective, it seems as though the stories in this volume take place before the ones in Revenge Of The Green Lanterns because we don’t see any of the Lost Lanterns on Oa at this time.

Gibbons handles this book like your basic cop show, which makes so much sense it’s a wonder that no one else thought of it before. The main storylines in this volume include Guy wanting his shore leave, Soranik Natu dealing first with fear and later with being hated on her home planet and some troubles between Vath and Isamot, especially when Isamot starts failing to show up on missions. These stories aren’t drawn out over six issues like a lot of books, but each come to their own resolution at varying times. There’s also a murder mystery going on with Soranik’s partner Myrrt which winds up being a familiar story if you watch procedural with any regularity, but I totally didn’t see it coming the first time around which goes to show how well Gibbons handles these characters and the larger concept of the Green Lantern Corps.

We also see Guy’s shore leave on a funky little planet, but it doesn’t go so well because Bolphunga shows up once again to give him trouble. Being awesome, Guy doesn’t have too much trouble with him, though Salaak does wind up saving the day. It’s nice to see that multi-armed weirdo actually doing something aside from being snide and citing rules.

From a larger story perspective, the books has some interesting moments. Of course, we see the new Oa which doesn’t wind up lasting too long if memory serves. We also see the city on Thanagar that Kyle and Kilowog helped create in Rann-Thanagar War, which was a nice pick-up. Literally the biggest thing introduced from this perspective, though, is the living city of Ranx which will come into play during Sinestro Corps War. We’re also reintroduced to the Children of the White Lobe. This little baby-looking bastards are pure evil, sport psychic powers of some kind and love to explode. They were first mentioned in Alan Moore’s short story “Tygers” from Tales Of The Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 (1986) which also introduced the idea of Ysmault, Sodam Yat. Geoff Johns and company were clearly fans of this story and used many of the elements to build towards Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night (check it out in my all time favorite trade DC Universe: The Stories Of Alan Moore). Oh, we also saw a bunch of yellow bugs on Mogo, but I can’t remember if those have anything to do with Sinestro or they’re just fireflies.

Something I noticed while reading GLC is that it really felt like Gibbons was more focused on building new stories, adventures and villains for the Corps to face while Johns’ Green Lantern was more concerned with digging up old bones and making them work. I think that might have been why some non-Hal fans liked GLC more than GL, because it wasn’t all retreads, but a lot of brand new elements. Sure, there’s some references, but they seem more subtle (well, aside from Bolphunga, another Alan Moore creation). I’m having a great time re-reading these books and am honestly very excited to read Sinestro Corps War in a few sittings, which is something I don’t believe I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing before.

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Corps Recharge

GREEN LANTERN CORPS RECHARGE (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns & Dave Gibbons, drawn by Patrick Gleason
Collects Green Lantern Corps Recharge #1-5
After Geoff Johns brought Hal Jordan back in Green Lantern: Rebirth and he got his own book again, the first few issues of which are collected in Green Lantern: No Fear, we got to see how the Green Lantern Corps got pieced back together in a little miniseries called Green Lantern Corps Recharge.While Hal became the star of the regular GL comic, pretty much everyone else appeared in Recharge and then, after that, the Green Lantern Corps ongoing series which makes it the home of existing Lanterns like Kyle Rayner, Guy Gardner, Salaak, Mogo, Stel, Brik and Kilowog along with newbies like Soranik Natu, Vath Sarn, Green Man and Isamot Kol. When the book first came out I liked it because it had Corps members, but didn’t like it because I wanted to see the adventures of more familiar Green Lanterns. I didn’t care as much about these rookies, but this time around, I really enjoyed seeing where these now-important characters came from .

Like Rann-Thanagar War, which featured Kyle and Kilowog in supporting roles, Recharge has a lot of different characters fighting a lot of different battles in different locals, but Gibbons and Johns do another great job of keeping everything fast paced and interesting.

A lot of the groundwork for the Corps, it’s rules and who does what was established in this book. Instead of one GL per space sector, of which there are 3600, the Lanterns will be working with partners. Lanterns who were still alive when the Corps was previously destroyed were all sent rings, so of whom returned, while other rings went out to people able to overcome great fear. Kilowog is tasked with training the rookies who really do have to overcome fear in order to make their rings work on yellow. They also have to pass in order to get their actual Green Lantern symbol, which is essentially their badge. Guy is also assigned to train the troops which he’s none too pleased about, saying to Kyle that he’s not a teacher, but, for the record, he was at least a substitute teacher as seen in the pages of Detention Comics #1. Anyway, before long, various Lanterns head off on various missions, all of which wind up being connected thanks to a web of portals set up by the Spider Guild. There’s also a group of bounty hunters consisting of Kyle and John Stewart villain Fatality, Bolphunga from Alan Moore’s “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize” and then Dal, Quade and Burll, characters I don’t remember.

The series also reminds readers how important Mogo is to the GLC. He not only produces the rings, but he also provides Lanterns with a kind of therapy. This time around, Kyle gets treated by having visions of his girlfriend Alex, the woman who was infamously murdered and stuffed into a refrigerator by Major Force in Kyle’s early days of being the universe’s only GL. This is a plot element that gets picked up in later series’ including Kyle’s own Ion maxi which picks up after Infinite Crisis’s One Year Later jump.

Overall, Recharge works really well as a way to reintroduce readers to the very concept of the Corps while showing exactly how cool Green Lanterns can be, how tough you have to be to actually become one and what you have to go through to stay one. Only the best and brightest make it through and that’s something that Johns and Gibbons convey without smashing you over the head with it. And man oh man, Patrick Gleason is one of the perfect artists for a book like this one. A big part of the reason the book works so well is that he draws everything so epically, but also handles the smaller more personal moments so well. His figures look like actors which is something that not every artist nails. All in all, this is my favorite GL book so far!

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Rebirth

GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Ethan Van Sciver
Collects Green Lantern Rebirth #1-6, Wizard X
Welcome to a new semi-regular feature here on the blog called Books Of Oa which will look at various Green Lantern-based comics, starting with Geoff Johns’ run on the book. Starting with Green Lantern: Rebirth, Johns has been the main architect behind the return of not only Hal Jordan but the entire Green Lantern Corps ever since, which, as many of you know, includes a whole rainbow of newly minted lanterns running around causing trouble. I’m returning to the series along with Green Lantern Corps for a few reasons. First off, I’m curious to see what seeds were planted six years ago that are still sprouting up today. Second and most importantly I want to actually read the whole epic in order. I dug Rebirth the first time around, but didn’t really take to GL or GLC‘s early issues. I’ve since gotten all the trades up to a certain point (still need to get the Blackest Night books and some of the ones before and after) and I read the issues as they came out for a long period of time, but I’m fuzzy on a lot of the early stuff, so I figure it’s a good time to go back and re-read everything in order. I’m a big fan of the GL concept–specifically the Corps–and I think that this is one of those classic runs, one of the few long-term ones we’ve got going on in comics right now (Brubaker on Captain America is another in my opinion) and it’s always fun to go back and see how we got from point A to point F and how that will inform later points we haven’t even seen yet. Finally, I want to get a better grasp on Hal Jordan as a character. I’ve talked this over with friends and he just seems to be kind of a cocky jock, but I’ve always had the feeling I might be missing something. Maybe I’ll find it and maybe I won’t on these re-reads, but it’s something to look for.

To give some context to Rebirth, I’m going to give a brief recap of the history of Green Lantern and my history with the characters and mythos. When I was 6 or 7 I invented the Green Lantern concept while playing with the Kryptonite ring that came with Super Powers Superman only to eventually discover that I had been beaten to the punch in 1940 when Alan Scott was created in All-American Comics #16. Though he would eventually be explained away as being related to, but not a part of the Green Lantern Corps, he was, in real life, the first GL. The concept was re-envisioned in 1959 when Hal Jordan became a member of the intergalactic space cops known as the Green Lantern Corps in Showcase #22. Hal kicked around as GL for several decades until his home town Coast City was destroyed by Mongul in the wide-sweeping Reign of the Superman storyline in the mid 90s. Hal lost his cool, went on a rampage tearing through many of his fellow GLs and destroyed the Guardians along with the GL power battery–the source of the entire Corps’ power–thus wiping out the entire organization. Ganthet, the lone surviving Guardian created one last ring and gave it to young artist named Kyle Rayner who was the sole Green Lantern for years. Kyle eventually resurrected the Guardians and discovered he could make GL rings to some extent, giving one to former GL and Darkstar John Stewart. So, it was basically just Kyle kicking around for years until Johns came along and brought Hal and the Corps back. In the meantime, Hal came back a few times in big events, restarted the sun at the end of Final Night and eventually became the Spectre’s human side.

I started reading Green Lantern when Hal went crazy. I found out later that a lot of people hated that story, but it made a lot of sense to me at the time, plus I thought this younger Green Lantern was pretty damn interesting. So, I read Kyle’s entire run in the book which lead up to Rebirth. I was split when I heard the news about Hal coming back because, frankly, I didn’t care about him as a character and I thought it was cool that one of the JLA/Silver Age biggies had stayed dead for a while. On the other hand, I REALLY liked the idea of the Corps and felt like I had really missed out on some cool potential stories not having it around. I was in college when the miniseries first started coming out, so I only read it in chunks every few months when I’d get home to my pull list, so some of the details were fuzzy, but there were some very specific parts that had lodged themselves into my memory (specifically the way Johns described each GL using their power ring and Ollie using Hal’s ring).

I had a lot of fun reading this book again, which turned out to really work for the three reasons I wanted it to. Rebirth acts as the very foundation for everything that Johns has done since then. He completely revitalized a dead, though cool, concept in a way that really made it make sense. He included the very origins of how this whole green energy/willpower thing works: the main power batter basically absorbs all willpower from sentient beings who use it. Same goes for fear, hence Parallax and his bond with Sinestro which comes into play to a much greater extent in future volumes. Johns also really did his best to explain how Hal was corrupted by the Parallax entity and, as far as I’m concerned, it all works well and in a way that seems crafted to appeal to both Hal fans and Kyle fans (many of us expected him to die in this book, a kin of out with the new, in with the old idea, but I’m grateful that Kyle’s still kicking around).

In addition to laying all the ground work for the immediate future of the GL franchise at the time, Johns might have even hinted at the White Lantern idea that’s being examined in Brightest Day as we speak (I’m a little behind, so maybe this concept has been explained and I haven’t seen it yet). It’s a very brief moment, but check out what happens when Hal’s ring touches Sinestro’s when they’re throwing down: white light. Interesting.

Anyway, I think I also got a better read on Hal as a character. Yes, he is arrogant and cocky, but there’s something about him that made him become a hero instead of a villain as you might expect from someone of his ilk. Basically, that’s his dad who plays the same role as Jesse Custer’s dad did in Preacher: the father who offers his kid a way to compose himself before going off to die. In Hal’s case, it’s to show the world that he wears his dad’s jacket like a good guy should. Hopefully, I’ll get a better handle on him as a character as I read on.

Finally, you can’t talk about Rebirth without talking about Van Sciver’s art. I was completely blown away by this guy when I first read these comics, especially in the scene I mentioned above where Hal explains how each GL’s ring constructs are different (Guy’s are like a facet, Kilowog’s make a sound, John’s are designed from the inside out, Kyle’s are constantly being revised and Hal’s are simple yet practical) and Van Sciver shows exactly what he means, but he had been doing it before that too, especially in John’s case. Some of the characters come off as stiff or maybe a little too alien looking at times, but overall I appreciate the detail he puts into his pages, even if that means they can take a long time to get out. Personally, I’m sick of seeing boring panel backgrounds in modern comics. I don’t really understand why they don’t just have EVS working on graphic novels instead of monthlies. Give the guy a script that will be important in a few years (something we know Johns can do) and just let him go to town. I’m sure that’s much easier said than done, but it’s a thought.

I give Johns a mountain of credit for not just rebooting a character, but an entire franchise in a way that makes sense (comic book sense at least) and really takes various levels of continuity/readership into account. It would have been seriously easy to just pop Hal back into the GL uniform and forget about Kyle or John or Guy Gardner (another favorite character who he handles better than 90% of the writers who try tackling him, though not as good as Beau Smith in my humble opinion). By bringing the Corps back along with Hal, it seems like Johns and DC hedged their bets by offering Hal his own book and then Green Lantern Corps which would go on to be filled with all the other Lanterns you’ve come to know and love along with a whole crew of rookies who have become pretty damn important over the years. So, if Hal’s not your flavor, read GLC, basically.  Overall, I think the franchise has been well handled, though all the tie-ins and one-shots for Blackest Day seemed to just be filler and everytime I see or hear about a new event I get more excited, though they’re getting harder and harder to keep up with, especially with my lax comic-buying habits. At least I’ve got the trades to keep me busy for now. Speaking of which, I applaud DC for actually giving Rebirth the proper TPB treatment. In addition to an introduction by Brad Meltzer who also mentions other simpler ways to bring Hal back that aren’t as interesting or creative, there’s also a cover gallery and a reprinting of Johns’ Rebirth pitch which shows how well crafted of an idea this was from the beginning. Next up will be the Green Lantern Corps: Recharge miniseries and then on into the first arcs of each series and an eventual detour into the Ion series which I think I liked more than most people. It’s fun to have a project!