Wednesday, February 22, 2012

52 Catch-Up: Green Lantern #1-5

One of the few books that did not start over from scratch with the New 52 (writer Geoff Johns having already virtually rebooted the Green Lantern mythos with his Secret Origins and Rebirth stories several years earlier), Green Lantern is ultimately the tale of the redemption of two heroes - Hal Jordan and Thal Sinestro.

Despite spinning out of the events of the War Of The Green Lanterns storyline, this book was still written to be accessible to new readers - a wise choice given the chance that several new readers might be picked up from last summer's Green Lantern movie. Johns was quick to establish the status quo without going into any great detail. As the first issue opens, Hal Jordan, considered by many to be the greatest of Green Lanterns, has been stripped of his power ring and sent home to Earth. At the same time, Thal Sinestro (Hal's former mentor and nemesis) has been reinstated as a Green Lantern after one of their rings latched onto his hand and defied all attempts to remove it. The rest of the issue focuses upon both men finding difficulty in reassuming their old roles - Hal finding it difficult to go back to being a civilian and Sinestro discovering that the fear-empowered Corps that bears his name has begun looting and pillaging the homeworld he had ordered them to protect.

Realizing that even he cannot take on the entire Sinestro Corps and not trusting The Guardians or any other Green Lanterns to be willing to help him, Sinestro turns to the one person he can trust - Hal Jordan! Of course Hal is just as unwilling to help Sinestro... at first. But Sinestro knows he's holding all the cards and that he can give Hal the one thing he wants most - a chance to be a hero again. Sinestro also knows that for all his faults, Hal won't stand idly by and let innocent people be hurt, even if it means working with his greatest enemy. Besides, it doesn't hurt that he still has all the power in the relationship... literally.

Geoff Johns has been writing both these characters for a while now and while many have objected to Sinestro being slowly turned into an Anti-Hero rather than the villain he's always been portrayed as in the past, I've found the development to be quite welcome and refreshing. A good villain, no matter how base and greedy their motivations, should consider themselves the hero of their own stories. Johns' Sinestro - much like Odysseus - is an intelligent man brought low by his pride and a series of bad choices made for all the right reasons.

To give one example of this complexity, consider the scene where Hal breaks ranks to deal with a collapsing bridge shortly after being given his powered-down ring. There is no small irony that, in his attempts to show Hal Jordan how incomplete his education as a Green Lantern was and prove himself superior to his old student, Sinestro himself learns a great deal. In his attempts to show Hal that the ring is capable of directly manipulating the environment without an extensive construct - willing the bridge back to wholeness - Sinestro is confronted with something he has not experienced in some time and is ill equipped to process - gratitude.

The action of the story is good but at its' heart, this 5-issue storyline is ultimately a character study of two rivals and how they have far more in common then they would ever care to admit. At one point, The Guardians comment that Hal Jordan's problem is that he's all drive and no foresight and Thal Sinestro is all drive but no altruism. Some might condense this further and say Hal Jordan is all action and no thought and Thal Sinestro is all thought with no action. But this would be inaccurate, as this story shows with Hal suggesting a rather cunning plan at the 11th Hour and Sinestro being the one to charge mindless into action at the sight of an endangered child.

Ironically, considering their differing personalities, both men are also terrible at considering the consequences of their actions. Hal is a good man but he is prone to selfishness and short-term thinking. Sinestro, by contrast, considers every potential outcome in perusing his ends but is ill-equipped to deal with the unexpected. Also, Sinestro only views his efforts in military terms, thinking only of objectives achieved and not the ultimate goals of those objectives.

This point is driven home when Sinestro is confronted by Arsona - a police office on his world who helped him with bringing down the corrupt government that he eventually replaced as supreme ruler in an effort to bring order to his homeworld. To say that Arsona regrets her past actions is putting it mildly and when Sinestro tries to justify his actions by pointing out that he was only trying to make things better, Arsona lets him know that his intentions don't matter given all the harm he's cause directly and indirectly.

All of this is beautifully illustrated by longtime Green Lantern artist Doug Mahnke. Mahnk is a whiz at all the things a Green Lantern artist should be good at - interesting constructs, exotic aliens and distinct character designs. Attention must also be paid to the two inkers, Keith Champagne and Christian Alamy, whose skillful shading defines Mankhe's pencils. The colors by David Baron are also noteworthy, with light seemingly pouring out of the page from around Champagne and Alamy's inks.

In short, if you aren't a Green Lantern fan but are curious about what is fast becoming DC's biggest franchise behind The Bat Family Books, you should give Green Lantern a try.

No comments:

Post a Comment