The Green Lantern reversal

August 27, 2009

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post detailing my thoughts on the Green Lantern comic book relaunch of 2004, and why I didn’t like it.

I found myself grumbling about a lot of the later Green Lantern stories published after I stopped collecting, due to what I’d read on Wikipedia, message boards, and heard from other people. At the same time, however, others have told me that the later stories were actually good…and some of these recommendations came from people who disliked Rebirth as much as I did! I don’t like it when people rip on things without having had personal experience with them. Since this applied to me somewhat when it came to these later Green Lantern stories, I decided to bite the bullet and actually read some of them to get a proper perspective.

After borrowing back issues, tearing through three years of missed tales, and delving into the Blackest Night crossover currently in progress, I’ve decided to get back on the boat and start collecting Green Lantern again.

Umm...what?!

Yes, I know, it’s shocking, but sit down for a second and let me explain.

Aside from the obvious fact that the stories have indeed improved, there’s another reason while I feel it’s “safe” to collect Green Lantern comics again: I also honestly think I just needed a break. The Green Lantern relaunch made me very angry, and turned me off for quite some time. I needed that time in order to learn to enjoy the good along with the bad. This is a similar approach I’ve taken with Star Wars. After Revenge of the Sith came out, I was so disgusted with the saga that I no longer wanted anything to do with Star Wars. The prequels just ruined the whole thing for me. After a few years, though, I got back into the franchise; there’s still a lot of incredibly shitty Star Wars stuff out there, but there’s plenty of good material, too. The same applies to Green Lantern; for example, I didn’t like Rebirth, but “The Sinestro Corps War” was very good.

As for the stuff I’ve missed over the past few years? Adding those to my collection will be simple; everything’s been collected in trade paperback format, so I can nab the comics I’m missing at my leisure. (I threw ‘em all on my Amazon wishlist, anyway.) We’ll just have to see where it goes from here, since everything’s been leading up to Blackest Night. After that load is blown, so to speak, who the hell knows what’s next?

To finish off this post, I’ll give you my opinions on each of the various color Lanterns, now that I’m completely familiar with them:

  • Red. The Red Lantern Corps are fueled by rage. Upon receiving a red ring, a Red Lantern is exsanguinated, and their blood is replaced with a super-hot plasma that can melt through other Lanterns’ shields. Of course, this comes at the cost of turning the user into a mindless, raging beast. Essentially, every single member of the Red Lantern Corps is a generic angry monster. That doesn’t do much for storytelling. The exception is their leader, Atrocitus; he remains in control of his mental faculties, and is a much more compelling character. His visual design, though, is awful; Atrocitus looks like any run-of-the-mill midlevel grunt from a number of science fiction first-person shooter video games.
  • Orange. This one surprised me; the self-proclaimed “Agent Orange” ended up being my favorite out of all of the other color Lanterns. Orange light represents avarice, and there’s only being who wields it: an alien named Larfleeze (gesundheit!). He’s been the holder of the Orange Lantern for billions of years, and he kills anyone who gets close. Worse, his ring creates copies of those he kills, and they serve as his Orange Lantern Corps. It’s an interesting twist on the standard battery/ring/construct formula, and the character design of Larfleeze is excellent as well. Hopefully the powers-that-be won’t ruin him. (Personally, I think the real power source of the Orange Lantern is those damned seagulls from Finding Nemo.)
  • Yellow. The Sinestro Corps, dedicated to spreading fear throughout the universe. Sinestro is a classic comic book villain, and his wielding of a yellow ring is a given. But now, he’s got thousands of other dirtbags to back him up, so the Green Lantern Corps actually has a proper challenge. The Sinestro Corps’ only downside is that they’re connected to that silly giant space bug, Parallax.
  • Green. The titular Green Lanterns. They’re an intergalactic police force that’s been around for billions of years, their green rings focus willpower into energy constructs…c’mon, do I really need to explain this one? Hal Jordan, a Green Lantern assigned to Earth, is my favorite comic book character of all time, remember? That’s really all that needs to be said.
  • Blue. Two of the Guardians of the Universe, Ganthet and Sayd, got booted off of the Green Lanterns’ base planet of Oa by the other Guardians for embracing emotion. (And each other, if you know what I mean. Yuck.) They set up shop on the planet Odym and started up the Blue Lantern Corps, which is dedicated to supporting the Green Lanterns via the power of hope. The good news is that Blue Lanterns can supercharge Green Lantern rings, drain Sinestro Corps rings, put out the flames of hatred created by the Red Lanterns, and possibly block the greed felt by Agent Orange. The bad news is that none of those powers work unless the Blue Lantern is near an active Green Lantern. It remains to be see whether the Blue Lanterns can remain interesting, or lapse into the “holy men with mystical powers” cliché. (Note: Predating the Blue Lantern Corps’ appearance by nearly a decade, A group of “space policemen” using blue lanterns appeared in Planetary #10. The character Lamplight from Stormwatch got his energy construct powers from the same blue lantern. Unfortunately, I doubt these events will have any connection to the current storyline. A shame, as they could be worked in quite easily, especially since DC Comics owns WildStorm Comics.)
  • Indigo. We’ve only seen glimpses of the Indigo Tribe so far, and aside from speaking a language that even Green Lantern Corps rings cannot translate, the only other thing we know about them is that they’ve harnessed the power of compassion. I’ll have to hold off judgment until I see them fully revealed.
  • Violet. The Star Sapphires. Another longtime Green Lantern enemy, these ladies are strong proponents of the power of love and minimal costumes (they must be Witchblade fans). Now they’re armed with violet rings and lanterns, and plan to spread and protect love wherever it may be found. One Star Sapphire made a good villain, but now there’s just too damned many of them; it almost seems like overkill. They’re also neutral now, so I’m wondering if there’s really a point to their existence, other than just filling the violet space in the spectrum.
  • Black. Zombies! Black Lanterns are deceased characters brought back to life by a black power ring, with any powers they may have had still intact. They can also regenerate, and their sole purpose is to kill more people to add to their ranks. The appearance of the Black Lanterns is the basis of Blackest Night. (Psst…I know who’s behind the whole thing, but don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you.) Everybody loves zombies, and the Black Lanterns are pretty cool, but we all know Blackest Night is just an excuse for DC Comics to resurrect a slew of characters and bring them back into continuity. That kinda takes the air out of the concept.
  • White. These don’t exist…yet. I still maintain that White Lanterns will appear by the end of Blackest Night. All colors of light mixed together make white, and it’s also the opposite of black, so it makes perfect sense.

Even after this big reversal of my opinions on current Green Lantern, don’t worry…I still hate Guy Gardner. Some things never change.

(Note: This entry was originally posted on Text and Violence.)


Sounding off on Green Lantern

August 11, 2009

I’ve made mention numerous times in the past of my disgust with the current state of the Green Lantern mythos, but I realized that I’ve never really gone into any detail as to exactly why I dislike what’s been done with the character. Well, this post is here to remedy that situation.

HalI grew up reading Green Lantern comics, and the title character rapidly became my favorite superhero. The book’s mix of science fiction and traditional superheroics just appealed to me, complete with a strong main character in the form of Earth’s main Green Lantern, Hal Jordan. While my comic book reading shifted all over the place in high school and college, ol’ GL was still my top pick. I even got the classic Green Lantern symbol tattooed onto my upper arm; if that’s not devotion, I don’t know what is.

However, all of this was before the dark times. Before Green Lantern: Rebirth. Before I get into that cesspool, let me enlighten you with some history. (Otherwise, my rants won’t make any sense!)

You see, way back in 1994, there was a little story called “Emerald Twilight.” In it, Hal Jordan actually went nuts and destroyed the Green Lantern Corps. His hometown Coast City had been destroyed by the alien Mongul during the “Reign of the Supermen” storyarc, and given that Hal was already under a tremendous amount of pressure at the time, this tragedy just made him snap. The Guardians (leaders of the Corps) were being arrogant dicks, and Hal decided he’d had enough. After fighting his way past former comrades, he threw down against the little blue bastards. He managed to defeat the Guardians, kill his arch enemy Sinestro, and absorb the Central Power Battery, which powered all Green Lantern rings. This inadvertently killed thousands of Green Lanterns in the depths of space. When the Battery was absorbed, the rings shut down, and without the protective shields generated by the rings, those Corps members suffocated. Tough break, huh? Hal became the villain Parallax, and took off to set things right according to his own vision. Meanwhile, the last surviving Guardian created a new ring from fragments of the others, and gave it to Kyle Rayner, an artist from New York City. This new Green Lantern was on his own.

You can see how this editorial choice was extremely controversial, and I understand that. At first, even I was outrage that Hal became a villain. But I soon understood that it was necessary, as the Green Lantern book was in danger of being cancelled again, as the ol’ Corps stories were just becoming stagnant once more. This radical change, without changing everything that came before, was just what the doctor ordered to make the book interesting again. Hal’s freakout made him much more human, with flaws just like anyone else.

The Kyle Rayner era ran about ten years, and he really carved out his own niche in the DC Universe. As a solitary Green Lantern, he was a fascinating character, as he basically had to train himself. At first, he got his ass kicked a lot, but it made the character much more relatable and realistic. Plenty of nods to previous continuity were in the stories, as Kyle strived to live up to the Green Lantern legacy. Sure, he had some shitty stories as every character does, but overall, Kyle was a great Green Lantern. Hal Jordan eventually sacrificed his own life to save the universe in 1996’s Final Night crossover, and later became the new host for the Spectre after the Day of Judgment event.

In 2004, all of this rich history went down the drain. DC Comics tapped top writer Geoff Johns to pen a new miniseries entitled Green Lantern: Rebirth, which promised to bring Hal Jordan back to the land of the living. We all know comic book characters never stay dead, so it was only a matter of time before Hal became Green Lantern again; I’m surprised it took ‘em a decade! I wasn’t bothered by that prospect; what annoyed the shit out of me was the way in which Johns did it.

In Rebirth, we discover that Hal wasn’t responsible for any of his evil deeds. In fact, the “Parallax” name he took? That was actually a giant space bug that was the living embodiment of fear. Parallax was trapped inside the Central Power Battery billions of years ago by the Guardians, and it caused Green Lantern power rings to be weak against the color yellow. It was controlling Hal the whole time, and it even made his hair go gray at the temples. (I’m not kidding.) Once Hal absorbed the Battery, Parallax merged with him and took over. When Hal died, the Spectre grafted itself on him not to redeem him, but to try to burn out Parallax. The Spectre finally managed to split Parallax and Hal apart, and Hal’s spirit was able to jump back into his original body. He came back to life, beat up Sinestro (he never actually “died,” either) and imprisoned the ugly yellow bug once again. Then the Corps was fully resurrected, and everything was put back to the way it was before “Emerald Twilight.” Ten years of solid continuity, thrown into the trash. In fact, the retconning went back even further than that, as Rebirth established that Hal’s soul-searching and second-guessing over the years were all caused by Parallax as well. Even Alan Scott’s origin doesn’t make sense anymore!

In other words, all of Hal Jordan’s doubts and failings over the years? Giant space bug. The road trips that he took to “find himself” (such as the classic “Hard-Traveling Heroes” stories with Green Arrow)? Giant space bug. And the rich history of the Green Lanterns, concretely developed over four decades? Giant space bug. Johns’ slash-and-burn approach to continuity is appalling. Johns himself admitted that he’d play “fast and loose” with Green Lantern history, which is insulting to longtime readers. You don’t have to be a slave to continuity, but at least respect what came before and work with it, not against it. Johns has been retconning Green Lantern history left and right ever since he took over, and it’s an absolute disgrace. Plotholes abound, dead Corps members showed up alive with no explanation whatsoever, other aspects of history have just been forgotten or erased, and great characters like Kyle Rayner have become shades of their former selves. Even Hal himself is, as my roommate described him, “as interesting as mayonnaise.” He’s got the personality of a waffle.

But wait…there’s more! Sinestro was resurrected during Rebirth as well, and that was to be expected. He also reformed the Yellow Lantern Corps, now renamed the Sinestro Corps. Again, not altogether unexpected…until Johns started throwing in all sorts of extra nonsense and characters from other books. Random villains became Sinestro Corps members, like the Cyborg Superman and even the Anti-Monitor. (Yes, the latter was yet another character brought back from the dead.) That’s just plain silly, but the worst was yet to come.

There’s Green Lanterns, and there’s Yellow Lanterns. Opposite sides of the coin, right? Wrong. Johns has created Lanterns based on every color of the visual spectrum, and retconned the whole concept into DC Universe history. Yes, there are Red, Orange, Blue, Indigo, Violet, and even Black Lanterns now. Not only is Green Lantern no longer the focal point of his own series, but even the other members of the Green Lantern Corps aren’t important, either; the focus is on all of these other-colored Lanterns! It’s ridiculous.

Each of these different colors is supposed to represent a different emotion or personality aspect, such as willpower for Green, fear for yellow, rage for Red, and love for Violet. (The Violet Lanterns even refer to themselves as the Love Corps. Again, I’m not kidding.) While this may seem unique at first glance, it’s actually an exercise in very poor storytelling. Each color Corps is nothing but a bunch of one-dimensional characters driven by a single generic archetype. (Just like the Care Bears.) There’s no reason why all of those aspects couldn’t be present in the Green Lantern Corps alone. In fact, that’s exactly what happened with Sinestro when he originally defected from the Green Lantern Corps! It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see White Lanterns show up some point, and who knows how laughably bad those will be.

And those Black Lanterns? Those are the subject of Blackest Night, this summer’s mega-crossover event. Black Lanterns are formerly dead heroes and villains brought back as decaying, undead beings, armed with black power rings on a quest to exterminate all life. Everybody loves zombies! While the story sounds interesting, in real world terms, the reasoning behind this is much simpler: it’s nothing but an excuse for DC Comics to resurrect a shitload of characters in one fell swoop. Ugh. I will admit, however, that the design for the zombie Black Lantern Firestorm looks very cool. (If only the Rebirth uniform redesigns hadn’t led to all Green Lanterns sporting an incredibly stupid glowing symbol floating in front of their chests. Nothing like a colossal target right over a vital area for enemies to easily aim at!)

Of course, Rebirth and the subsequent relaunch of the Green Lantern series translated to great sales. Turning Hal Jordan back into a generic superhero, complete with the silly extra violence that permeates comic books these days, put Green Lantern into the high range of DC Comics’ monthly sales. I can’t fault Geoff Johns for that; comics are a business, first and foremost, and he’s doing the job he was hired to do. As a fan, however, I think his Green Lantern writing is absolute garbage. (Considering that Johns had excellent runs on JSA and Flash, there’s no excuse for this.)

I’ve been shit on for my anti-modern Green Lantern beliefs; I was practically branded a heretic right out of the gate. I’ve been called “old fashioned,” “out of touch,” told that my opinions don’t matter because Green Lantern is now “the best that it’s ever been,” and even been dubbed a “comic book hater,” but I’m not going to follow something blindly just because it’s popular! Nor will I turn a blind eye to serious problems just because it’s my favorite character. Green Lantern nowadays just ranks very low on the storytelling scale. People don’t seem to realize how much it saddens, frustrates, and depresses me that such a great saga has fallen so far!

I guess a good analogy for this whole mess is what happened with Star Wars. New stuff came out that was prettier and flashier, with a few cool additions thrown in, but it just wasn’t anywhere near as good as what came before. Not to mention that it changed plot details of the original stories, to many fans’ consternation. History does tend to repeat itself.

The kids and newcomers may like the new Green Lantern, but for those of us who enjoy respect for continuity, original writing, and realistic characters? Sorry, Green Lantern just doesn’t fall into that category anymore. The new stories’ lack of quality were enough to make me sadly stop collecting a series I’d enjoyed for my entire life. If the powers-that-be got rid of all of this extraneous bullshit and stopped retconning on a whim, then maybe I’d start collecting Green Lantern again. The relaunch of the series represented everything that’s wrong with comics these days: too much fluff, not enough substance, and a complete disregard for the past.

(Note: This entry was originally posted on Text and Violence.)


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