Reimagining an Entire Universe: Geoff Johns’s Run on Green Lantern

I’ve read an awful lot of comics since I decided to stop putting so much pressure on myself and stopped writing about each and every trade I read.  When I stop and think back to everything I’ve read, both since I stopped writing so prolifically and since I began reading comics period, I’m struck by quite how far I’ve come. I’m  reading comics published in our current decade now, a goal that had felt practically unattainable when I first began.  What truly strikes me, though, is how much the storytelling has changed since I first started.  Creators and styles have come and gone, with writers and artists bringing their own unique interpretation to a character, putting their own touches here and there on stories they likely grew up with as children.  It’s a fascinating study really, being able to trace someone’s progression from fan to creator on a series.  It’s no secret that Geoff Johns is perhaps one of the most recognizable fanboy-turned-writer around, but thinking about his entire run on Green Lantern, and everything he did with that character’s mythos, is truly astounding.

Johns gave us the Sinestro Corps Wars. He gave us Blackest Night. He gave us an entire arsenal of power rings, each with its own unique powers and weaknesses. It’s easy to take the stories for granted now, especially given that I’ve read them in such a condensed period of time.  When I stop and think about it though, it’s truly astounding what he was able to create with just his imagination and a basic story as a jumping off point.

I must admit, prior to Johns’s writing, I wasn’t the biggest Green Lantern fan. I liked him well enough, but oftentimes the stories about the Corps felt too far removed from everything else happening in DC to really feel relevant (perhaps that’s how others feel about Aquaman).  I like the individual Corps members, but there were just so many of them, and we never got to delve too deeply into their characters.  They simply existed as a balance to Earth’s Green Lantern, be it Hal, Guy, John, or Kyle.  When Johns got ahold of the title though, it was as though he had the whole universe mapped out in his head.  His stories unfold slowly across a number of titles, with each detail paying off at one point or another.  The sheer scope in which he’s able to think is impressive.  True, he didn’t invent the character of Green Lantern; he had the basic characters and storyline to start from. Still, everything he wrote during his run on the title was nothing short of legendary.  Most writers only have to focus on a handful of characters, but Johns had the entire Corps to contend with, meaning the entire universe.  The fact that he was able to craft such engaging stories while also giving up a more fully fleshed out Corps continues to impress me.

Okay, this wasn’t meant to be a love letter to Geoff Johns, but the man’s Green Lantern run was just so well done.  Even if fans take issue with certain story arcs or directions characters were taken, they can’t deny that this was a massive undertaking for any one writer to take on.  Have I even reached the end of his run yet? I’m honestly not sure. A part of me doesn’t want it to end, simply because I want to know where he sees all of these characters going next.  If it is the end, at least Johns has given us a truly rich, immersive story.  Green Lantern went from being a character I read about without investing too much into the story, to feeling like a must-read comic.  All in all, I’d say that’s pretty damn good by anyone’s standards.

-Jess

Green Lantern: Rage of the Red Lanterns

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This post could go one of two ways.

1: I could write a detailed synopsis of everything that happens in this trade (different corps popping up all over the place, Sinestro stirring the pot, Hal Jordan having  to make some big decisions sooner or later, the list goes on and on), ultimately failing because there are just so many details and major occurrences here that I couldn’t possibly hope to accurately describe them all without simply reprinting the whole comic.

OR

2: I could write out a super rad list about all of the insanely awesome things that happened in this trade.

Guess which one I’m leaning toward.

Let’s start this list, and hope I can contain my excitement (unlikely).

  1. Sinestro is characterized brilliantly here.  Too often writers want to take the easy route and just make a bad guy a straight up villain; it’s easy, but it’s also a tad one-dimensional.  Geoff Johns (whose run on Green Lantern continues to impress me with every issue I read) doesn’t take the easy path, and instead crafts Sinestro as a truly despicable being who still maintains a twisted belief in the Green Lantern Corps.

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His version of events may be perverse, but Sinestro always believed in the power of the Corps and its ability to create order.  He may go about it all wrong, but we should always remember that Sinestro’s origins are in the GL Corps, and that he didn’t choose to leave; he was forced out; forced out for good reason, yes, but all of his criminal and unconscionable acts were committed under his own skewed belief that what he was doing was right. Johns handles these nuances of the character wonderfully, helping mold Sinestro into a truly villainous, yet still recognizably fallible, being.

2.  This comic finally starts showing the formation of the various Corps alluded to in previous issues, and it was even more epic than I could have imagined.

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Although I certainly wouldn’t want to be a member of the Red Lantern Corps, I loved they way their transformations were done, with their heartbeats emphasized on the page as the ring takes over their bodies, finally replacing their heartbeat with its power.  I’m loving the way in which each ring is personified with a given emotion, and how said emotion affects the wearer of the ring. In this case, the Red Lanterns are guided by rage, and as rage is a bit uncontrollable, the wearers of the red ring act out rashly and with little awareness of their actions.  Watching these various Corps members interact, especially when the rage of the Red Lantern meets the calm hopefulness of the Blue Lantern, was fascinating, and made me want to keep reading to see what personality traits stand out among the other Corps.

3. Speaking of the other Corps: I had mentioned in a previous post that I really hoped Geoff Johns wrote an oath for each Corps, because I find them incredibly fun and really want to memorize all of them. Well, looks like Johns didn’t disappoint. I geeked out way too much when I realized that yes, every Corps would have its own oath, and I reveled at being able to read them out loud, imagining being a member of each Corps. I can’t lie, a part of me is just a little annoyed that the Blue Lantern oath doesn’t have as many lines, and so doesn’t quite match up to the original Green Lantern’s meter of iambic tetrameter (why do I know that??).  Still, this minor issue aside, I’m excited to attempt to memorize each and every one, because this is the type of useless trivia I fill my head with.  That and information about meter, apparently.

4.Hal Jordan gets transformed, AGAIN. He’s transformed into something bad, AGAIN.

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This image closed out one of the issues, obviously meant to be a cliffhanger to make you want to buy the next issue (Joke’s on you, Johns, I’m reading this in trade form so…I guess you still got your money’s worth anyway. Okay, nevermind).  It was fun to see Hal in a rage-filled fog, but I was grateful that Johns had the wherewithal to keep this transformation brief.  After a Blue Lantern ring is placed on his finger, that ring is able to overpower the red ring and return Hal to normal.  All of this happens in the very next issue, so while we get to see an exciting fight as Hal struggles to overcome the anger and hate overtaking him, it’s over with quickly enough. This is much more preferable to the story being extended for 4 or 5 issues; It was a nice image, but after the shock factor wears off, we’re all ready to move on with the story at hand. A great inclusion and the perfect length, so I’m totally happy with it.

5.  One of the biggest reveals of the story is made when Sinestro is captured by the Red Lantern Corps, and they’re attempting to break his own will.  Sinestro haughtily claims that he is fear, and that he fears nothing.  Of course, it turns out that he does in fact have a very exploitable weakness.

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After this reveal, not much else is mentioned about this subplot. The story ends with all the Corps fleeing to their own corners of the universe to regroup, while Sinestro announces that he is traveling to see his daughter. Knowing Johns and his writing, it’s easy to guess that this little tidbit of information is going to play a part in the story at some point, I’m just not entirely sure how.  But then, that’s half the fun; nothing’s nearly as exciting when you can predict every moment, and I’m happy to say that these recent Green Lantern stories have been anything but predictable.  Adding family drama into the fold, especially for a character like Sinestro, just helps enhance the overall story while helping to keep Sinestro dynamic and interesting.

I can’t really praise this trade enough. The story was wonderful, and although its primary purpose is to serve as exposition to the obviously significant storyline “Blackest Night”, it can easily be appreciated for the brilliant story it is.  Geoff John’s run on Green Lantern may very well be my favorite Green Lantern storyline ever (I’m holding off on making that an official declaration until I actually finish the run).  I must admit, I’ve got pretty high hopes for this one, so hopefully I don’t wind up disappointed. If this trade is any indication of what’s in store with future trades, I think I’ll be suitably impressed.  Now somebody give me a Blue Lantern ring so I can *hope* I don’t have to wait much longer before reading another Green Lantern trade.

Oh yeah, I have a feeling I’m going to be making various Lantern Corps jokes and references for a while now.   I’d apologize, but let’s be honest…I love this stuff.

-Jess

Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War Vol. 1

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I knew the Green Lantern storyline was building up to something, but I never would have guessed it would be something this huge.  Sinestro. Hank Henshaw. Parallax. Superboy-Prime. The Anti-Monitor.  These heavy hitters join forces to bring down the entire Green Lantern Corp and everything it stands for.

I now see how so many previous storylines pay off, and how seemingly random plot details play into the larger story.  The Sinestro Corp is waging a war against the GLs, systematically murdering all that cross their path. The Corp is fractured, spread thin across the universe, forced to fight opponents at every turn.  Kyle Rayner has been taken over by Parallax, while Hal Jordan is searching for Guy Gardner and John Stewart, both of whom have been captured by the Sinestro Corps.  Elsewhere, Killowag and a host of lanterns are trying to prevent the destruction of Mogo. The Lanterns are facing a host of challenges, with their victory never certain and often unlikely.

What’s great about this story is that yes, there’s plenty of action, but we also get deeper explanations into a few of the bad guys as well, particularly their motives in all of this.  Sinestro’s are pretty clear, as he’s been operating under the same M.O. for quite some time.  Interestingly, we learn that what Hank Henshaw hopes to gain out of all of this is death.

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The Anti-Monitor (whose appearance incited a minor gasp from me just because I actually know who he is) promises to end Henshaw’s life if their mission is successful.  While these scenes are brief, it helps to explain why so many threats to the universe are joining forces, making for a more believable story.

With all of this going on, we also get the privilege of seeing the Guardians sit in their citadel, arguing about whether or not they should choose to believe in the prophesy that is literally playing out all around them.  Being the idiots they are, they choose to ignore it, and rather than accept the truth, they re-write the Book of Oa. Their first change? Giving all Lanterns the power to use leathal force (read: kill) members of the Sinestro Corps.

God I really hate the Guardians. Their entire schtick has always been “no killing”. Now, all of a sudden, killing is okay, all because it suits their purpose??  Somebody please knock some sense into their little blue heads, because they have wielded power for far too long.

Armed with this new ability, the Lanterns regroup to engage in battle once more. Unfortunately, they don’t realize the larger scale plan.

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The Guardians realize that the Sinestro Corp wants to capture Earth, the center of the multiverse.  Given that their enemy clearly knows the meaning of 52, you would think the Guardians would think it wise to share that information with their GLs as well. Nope, instead they keep them in the dark and the enemy descends on Earth with practically no defense to speak of.

Those Guardians. Ya gotta love them.

Wait…no you don’t. Punch them in the face.

The Sinestro Corps War is far from over, but this was an incredibly solid first act.  Most interesting is that this story is clearly a product of its time, yet never feels like a diatribe about our current state of political affairs. The closest it ever comes is when the following observation is made:

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This comic is the product of a fearful post-9/11 society, and quite honestly it’s probably one of the only trades that could get away with being such.  By moving the story into space, the reader is far enough removed from these similarities to be able to overlook them should they choose, yet the observant reader can’t help but notice the similarities to our own world.  Geoff Johns (seriously, this guy writes everything) crafts a story that comments on the state of our own world while still providing escapist entertainment. It’s easy to overlook this subtlety and just focus on the story at hand, but the brilliance in this piece needs to be acknowledged.  It’s not preachy, but the references are definitely there to be unearthed by the astute reader. It made the comic more enjoyable for me, helping to ground this space odyssey in reality.

This was a truly solid beginning to the Sinestro Corps War.  Johns’s deft hand has rebuilt the GL lore from the ground up, and while the story is not yet complete, I have no doubt in my mind that it will play out in a grand (and possibly cataclysmic) manner.

Now I’m off to go finish the story, because at this point how can I not?

-Jess

The Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side of Green

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The title of this trade makes me think of Kermit the Frog. In my mind it just sounds like, “It’s not easy being green”, and I can’t disassociate the two. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

So much happens in this latest Green Lantern Corps trade, and it’s clear that the storyline is leading up to something pretty major.  The first half of the trade introduces The Corpse (god I love a good pun), sort of the CIA of the GLs, a super covert team who does what the GLs are too good to do. I’d focus on this storyline, but given that Guy Gardner’s memory is wiped at the end of the arc, I’m choosing to believe knowledge of these events may not be very important short of knowing that The Corpse exists. So, moving on.

The latter half of the trade introduces new troubles for our GLs, specifically Guy Gardner, as another GL accuses him of murder.

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Now, Guy may be an insufferable asshat, but he’s no murderer.  The problem is, all of the GLs want to follow protocol and bring him to Oa for questioning, after confiscating his ring, that is.  You can imagine how well that goes over.

On the run, Guy follows the only lead he had and travels to Mogo.  There he discovers that the planetary lantern has been infected with some sort of virus, which is infecting other lanterns and controlling them.

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It’s up to Guy Gardner and a handful of GLs to figure out how to stop this virus from spreading. Ultimately, Mogo just puts himself in the path of an Asteroid, and the impact kills every last vestige of the virus. Of course, now the question remains as to how Mogo contracted this virus, and whether a malevolent being/group is responsible (this is a comic, so the answer to that is a resounding DUH).

Interspersed throughout the story are comments by the Guardians, mentioning a prophesy that they have chosen to believe is a false trail.

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This prophesy was revealed to Abin Sur and eventually helped cause his death, but the Guardians think it is merely a tactic to instill doubt and fear among the Corps.  They disregard any further mention of it, but obviously it’s going to play into something big.  Seriously, why are the Guardians even allowed any control of the universe?? I feel like they make some pretty damn huge mistakes.

I didn’t love this comic, but it was good for what it was.  There are way too many characters in The Green Lantern Corps comic for me to focus on any one’s story, with seemingly side characters vying for top billing.  It sometimes makes for a rather disjointed story, with too many focal points for the story to flow smoothly.  Still, it was a decent story overall and it’s clearly leading to something much bigger.  I’ve got a handful of Green Lantern trades ahead of me on “the shelf”, all in a row, so I can’t wait to see where this whole storyline goes. With this sort of buildup, I have a feeling it’ll be pretty epic.

-Jess

Green Lantern: Revenge of the Green Lanterns

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Geoff Johns really knows how to craft a story.  After Hal Jordan’s triumphant return, I was all too eager to see him return to his Green Lantern glory days. Unfortunately, there would undoubtedly be fallout from his return, as many people would still be angry over the death and destruction he left in his wake.  Johns was far more astute of a writer than I was a reader; he recognized this fact, and decided to craft a whole storyline around that idea.  We’ve already seen the story of Hal readjusting to life on Earth.  Now it’s time to see him try to readjust to life in the Corps.

Hal is the same old GL he’s always been, breaking the rules and standing up to those he thinks are wrong.  This time around though, he needs to be a bit more mindful of what he does.

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There are plenty of GL members, new and old, who remember what Hal did when he was Parallax. The fact that he was being controlled by another entity doesn’t seem to matter to these people; they’re out for blood, and Hal has to watch his back at every turn.  This quickly takes a back seat in Hal’s mind though as one of his earliest victims as Parallax reappears, very much alive.  Hal, convinced others may also be alive, asks the Guardians to be allowed to travel to sector 3601, Manhunter territory, to investigate.  They refuse, but that’s certainly not going to stop Jordan.

Hal and Guy Gardner make the journey on their own, and quickly run up against a force more powerful than they could have imagined.

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Hank Henshaw, the criminal behind the destruction of Coast City, has joined forces with the Manhunters and is employing new technology to allow the Manhunters to destroy an entire world at once.  Hal and Guy do their damnest to stop him, all while trying to save the countless Green Lanterns who have been trapped in sector 3601 for years, their energy being drained to power the Manhunters.

Not only are all of the GLs Hal supposedly killed in his quest to destroy Oa here, he’s also reunited with his long-lost love, Arisia:

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I admit I haven’t read all that much about this pair, but I really like how Johns writes her here, and the couple’s back and forth banter is really entertaining.

In the end Hank is destroyed, although as Hal says, it’s certain that he would have transferred his consciousness into another host. Having saved the lives of those he had previously believed he killed, Hal and his past victims form a truce, and while they don’t seem to fully trust or forgive Hal, they respect him enough to leave him alone.

Although the entire Hal Jordan storyline is awesome, most exciting here  is the brief glimpse of Superboy Prime at the end of the trade.  The GLs are tasked with keeping the red sun that traps Superboy Prime lit. I can only assume that at some point this sun will extinguish, and SP will be free to wreck havoc once more. Can it not be another Crisis though? It’s so hard to re-learn all the continuity. Let’s just have SP reappear, Superman punch him in his stupid little face, and call it a day.

I’m continually impressed with Johns’s skill as a writer, and this Green Lantern trade is no exception.  Hal’s story feels believable, which is really half the battle when you’re writing comics about interstellar space police.  It’s nice to see that Batman isn’t the only person who distrusted Hal after his return (proving that at least here, Batman’s not just obnoxiously untrusting).  The GL Corps is a team, and it was interesting to see how various members of said team chose sides after Hal’s return. It felt realistic, as people would inevitably be divided on the issue of trusting a one-time murderer.  I’m glad Hal is able to move past it though, and while there may still be a few lingering resentments, in my eyes he’s atoned for his sins and deserves the opportunity to start fresh.

-Jess

Green Lantern Corps: To Be a Lantern

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Oh Guy Gardner, how I’ve missed you.

Okay, not really, but he’s who we’re stuck with in this latest Green Lantern storyline.  This time though, the focus is placed on the Corps itself, rather than any one Green Lantern.  Thank God, because I don’t think I could read an entire comic in which Guy is just flying around being misogynistic and obnoxious.

The story here focuses on various GLs across numerous sectors, as each is faced with challenges that will affect their lives and those of the people they care about.

…Okay yes, that’s incredibly vague, but then it’s pretty difficult to sum up this story.  There are a handful of characters emphasized, and while the stories are good, not all of them drew me in as much as I would have liked. At least not enough to make me want to write about them for 1,000+ words.

It’s clear that Guy Gardner is one of the most recognizable character here, and as such he is given a bit more page time than his fellow GLs.  Most of this time, of course, is spent making jokes and talking himself up, since that’s just what Guy does.

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I understand that we’re really not supposed to like Guy Gardner per se, but I just find it difficult to read about him sometimes.  He’s frustrating and sexist, and I can really only handle him as a foil to more level-headed characters.  He has very few sparring partners in the GL Corps, and so his comments come across as even more mean-spirited that in past stories.

One character I was able to rally behind though was Soranik Natu, the reluctant Green Lantern who accepts her duty as a Lantern but who winds up being shunned by her people, who believe the ring is a curse.

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I felt for her character, and as she leaves her home planet behind I was struck by how difficult her decision must have been: honor the duty bestowed upon her, or stay with her people.  It’s a difficult decision for anyone, and Soranik’s ultimate acceptance of her role was quite moving.

Also, she’s one of the only characters to put Guy Gardner in his place, so she instantly shot up to the top of my favorites list within this trade.

The trade was less about any individual storyline and more about setting up a future for the Green Lantern Corps. They are still training their latest batch of GLs, and we get to watch as those members adjust to their new lives and struggle to balance their new roles with their individual identities. The comic is well-written, but as it only contains the first handful of issues in the series, it all feels like a lead-up to something bigger.  What that will be exactly I’m not sure, but I’m holding out hope that whatever it is, it kicks Guy Gardner’s butt around (at least just a little).

-Jess

Green Lantern Corps Recharge

The Green Lantern Corps is back, but in ways I’d never expect.  With Hal Jordan and Oa both having returned, it was no surprise that a new Corps was to be established.  What did surprise me was who was chosen to protect Earth’s sector, 2814.  I had figured Hal Jordan would easily be one of the two chosen, and yet it seems I was wrong.  He makes a brief appearance, but Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner are the main GLs now, and it’s around those two that this story revolves.

Summoned to Oa by their rings, Kyle and Guy are more seasoned veterans of the Corps, and are tasked with helping train the new ring-bearers.  Guy, unsurprisingly, doesn’t want to babysit, and goes straight to the top to complain.  There’s a brief scene in which the Oans hint that Guy is meant for greater things (seriously?) and somehow they convince him to give it a go. The pair meet a handful of new Lanterns, each with their own personalities and shortcomings.

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Soranik Natu is one of the primary GLs featured in this story, a reluctant hero who doesn’t want to be a Green Lantern and who must be persuaded by Kyle and Guy to give it a chance.

There’s a bit of a convoluted story buried here about a race of aliens who want to destroy Oa, and whom the Green Lanterns must defeat.  It’s not a bad story, but it’s not really the main focus here.  This is a character-driven storyilne, and it’s these individual personalities that propel the story forward.

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Most noticeable is Kyle.  Kyle is not Hal Jordan, and the comic makes no pretenses of making them too similar. Instead, Kyle is a brave, “think outside the box” hero who, most surprisingly, actually seems to get along with Guy Gardner.

I know. I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to get along with him.

Although Guy continues to be as obnoxious as ever, Kyle trusts him and respects him, which seems to have a positive effect on Guy’s personality.  He’s still a jerk, but he’s more able to work as part of a team now.  Seeing as how that’s sort of key when you’re a Green Lantern, it looks like the Guy/Kyle pairing could actually be pretty beneficial.  Neither has a problem with bending the rules a bit, such as when they fly into restricted territory to rescue one of their own; it may not be technically legal, but it’s the right thing to do, and neither even pauses to consider their course before jetting off to rescue another GL in distress.

The recent Geoff Johns Green Lantern trades seem to be setting up a brand new direction for the series.  Johns has managed to unite multiple versions of Green Lantern under a single title, and completely reinvent the Corps for a new generation.  There were brief hints here about some big event coming up (not exactly tough to guess what, since the most recent comics I’ve been reading have had the huge “Countdown to Infinite Crisis” banner across the top) but no details are given.  Clearly the comics are aligning themselves to be ready for whatever this event is; I just have no idea how it’ll all play out at this point.  Whatever happens, I’m at least happy with where the new Corps seems to be headed, with new recruits and a solid (albeit unconventional) pair at its base.

-Jess