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!