Wednesday 4 June 2008

Green Lantern: Revenge of the Green Lanterns, Geoff Johns et al

Green Lantern Vol. 2: Revenge of the Green LanternsI received this book as a birthday present, and I was very grateful for it, so it seems a bit churlish to give it a less than enthusiastic review. I guess I’m a churl!

It’s not a terrible book, by any means. It’s well-written, the art is pretty good, and the production values are excellent. It just all seems a bit pointless and slightly dull, and it lacks pace and wit. Its constant focus on the past is reminiscent of John Nathan Turner’s tenure as producer on Doctor Who, where endless stories depended for their interest upon the programme’s history, rather than pulling it forward in new directions.

It gives every indication of being written to squeeze into the gap between various company events rather than being a story in itself, especially given that it has a one year break in the middle for the Infinite Crisis and its aftermath to take place. Why on Earth would you bring a character back from the dead and then skip over his first year of being alive again? The creative integrity of this title clearly wasn’t the first thing on anyone’s mind.

The title makes the book sound very dramatic, but in fact is totally misleading – there are only two occasions and ten pages in total on which Green Lanterns (other than the title character himself) could be said to be out for revenge, and in both cases they are quickly mopped up or reasoned with and largely irrelevant to the storyline.

The principle preoccupation of the stories here is to undo the consequences of issues 46 to 50 of the previous Green Lantern series, in which Hal Jordan, Green Lantern, went mad with grief after the destruction of his home city (as part of the Return of Superman storyline) and went on the rampage, fighting other Green Lanterns, taking their rings, and trying to recreate Coast City. After that he went full-on evil, calling himself Parallax and trying to recreate the entire universe in Zero Hour. Eventually, he died saving the Earth in The Final Night, and his ghost became the new Spectre (DC’s spirit of vengeance), of all things.

Now, while I might agree that the character took a couple of wrong turns there (Parallax’s costume in particular was pretty lame), and I can understand why some fans would want all that undone, it’s worth bearing in mind that the initial story of Hal Jordan’s descent into madness came after 45 of the dullest comics ever created.

So for this series they seem (I haven’t read the previous two volumes of new Hal Jordan stories) to have undone or explained away all of the interesting things that have happened to him, and now, instead of Kyle Rayner, artist, wisecracker, heartthrob and amusing irritant to the older members of the JLA, we’re back with steady, stubborn fifties throwback Hal Jordan. That is to say: your dad is the new Green Lantern.

(Are they planning on casting Kevin Costner as Green Lantern in an upcoming movie or something?)

He’s a totally empty character, who never had anything to him. He did appear in some marvellous Silver Age stories, of course, and his powers were some of the most imaginative ever given to a superhero, but the man himself was a typically blank pre-Marvel fuddy-duddy.

Now he has nothing to him other than a vague regret at having murdered loads of people (though half the comic is spent on people telling him it’s alright, it wasn’t really his fault), and a constant look of irritation at the world not playing to his rules. It’s ironic that while his transgressions have been retconned, they now seem less out of character than ever!

One final note: if I ever read another DC comic where someone is forced into a dream of their perfect life, I think I’ll scream. I’ve got a feeling that I’ll be doing a lot of screaming!

Green Lantern: Revenge of the Green Lanterns, Geoff Johns et al, DC, hb, 164pp.

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