Green Lantern has always held fundamental appeal for comic book fans. The idea of a ring that allows the wearer to create anything he/she imagines holds limitless potential on its own. This superpower is every kid’s dream, something that countless children imagined on the playground. Add on the different galaxies and alien races that Green Lanterns encounter, and you’ve got a sci-fi wonderland to explore. Underlying the bombastic sci-fi concepts lies the theme of Green Lantern: willpower. The Green Lantern ring chooses the user based on his/her will to overcome great fear. Willpower is an important quality in every superhero, and Green Lantern emphasizes this more than any superhero comic. Green Lantern inspires the ability to use your willpower to face and overcome your fears.
For this reason, I would recommend starting with Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver’s Green Lantern: Rebirth. This is the perfect starting place for anyone unfamiliar with the Green Lantern lore, as Johns essentially relaunches the entire Green Lantern line of comics by resurrecting the classic Green Lantern Hal Jordan. From here, Johns begins an epic nine-year run on the Green Lantern title, which becomes the gold standard for Green Lantern comics. During this run, Johns introduces many characters and concepts within the Green Lantern mythos who have come to be staples of the Green Lantern title. Green Lantern: Rebirth is a clean slate which launches this expansive new take on Green Lantern.
This story centers around Hal Jordan, the first human to become part of the Green Lantern Corps. Jordan’s background is given much attention in this story, depicting him as a sort of fallen angel. While he used to be considered the greatest Green Lantern of all, Jordan’s previous crimes and descent into madness ultimately led to his demise. This fallen angel depiction gives Jordan a relatable nature, as he simply wants to redeem himself. Johns also provides Jordan with several endearing qualities such as his strong will and fearless nature, which make him such a great Green Lantern. Jordan is also shown to be quite unique among the Green Lantern Corps, questioning authority in order to do what he believes is right, no matter what. Funnily enough, these endearing qualities of fearlessness and confidence are shown to be the very qualities that led to his downfall in the first place, as he became overconfident and allowed the fear entity Parallax to secretly take control of his mind. The contradiction of Jordan’s greatest traits being his fatal flaws make for a conflicted, nuanced hero.
Jordan’s characteristics ultimately contribute to the overarching themes of the story. Redemption is a key idea throughout, as Jordan must come back from his own personal downfall in order to once again become a Green Lantern. Much of this redemption comes through the core tenets of being a Green Lantern: willpower and the ability to overcome great fear. The main villain of the story, the fear entity known as Parallax, returns in order to prey on the fear of all Green Lanterns. Only Jordan, no longer a Green Lantern, can save his fellow Lanterns by coming back from the dead and facing the fear entity. In order to truly conquer Parallax, Jordan cannot be overconfident as he was before. Jordan, along with his fellow Green Lanterns, must overcome fear by remembering fear. The Green Lanterns must then persevere through willpower in the face of their own fears.
As a villain, Parallax highlights much of what it means to be a Green Lantern. Physically embodying fear, Parallax is representative of everything that cannot truly be beaten once and for all. Fear cannot be defeated, but it must be acknowledged and overcome through sheer force of will. Johns intelligently makes Parallax the source of an impurity within all Green Lantern rings, as Parallax has been trapped within the Green Lanterns’ central power battery for years. In hiding within the source of the Green Lanterns’ power, Parallax truly embodies fear, as it must be overcome through each use of a Green Lantern’s power ring. A more tangible villain of this story is Sinestro, another fallen Green Lantern. Sinestro acts as a dark mirror to Hal Jordan, as they have both fallen from grace. While Sinestro chooses to embrace and instill fear, however, Jordan chooses to overcome fear. The arrogant, vengeful nature of Sinestro clashes with the heroic, strong-willed nature of Hal Jordan.
Of course, Hal Jordan is not the only Green Lantern featured in this story. Kyle Rayner begins this series as the last remaining Green Lantern, as the rest of the corps had previously died out. Rayner is endearingly depicted as a torch-bearer for the Green Lantern Corps, who has kept the light going when no one else could. He also is the one to discover Parallax at the beginning of the narrative, moving the story forward. John Stewart is also featured well, as the strategically-minded Green Lantern who acts as the voice of reason. Guy Gardner is the last human Green Lantern, depicted as a belligerent, smart-mouthed lantern with no filter. Johns gives each of these lanterns the proper attention and respect, illustrating the variety of personalities within the Green Lantern Corps. Johns also provides a look at the wider DC Universe, emphasizing the impact that the Green Lantern Corps has on the Justice League and Justice Society. In particular, Jordan’s relationship with Batman and Green Arrow demonstrates the broader significance that he has within the larger universe.
Johns does not pull off everything perfectly, however. For one thing, this is very clearly a Hal Jordan story. Johns’ writing shows a preference for the classic Green Lantern, which tends to take the spotlight away from other lanterns such as Kyle Rayner or John Stewart. This does not harm the overall story, but for fans of other Green Lanterns, this can be hard to swallow. Fortunately, Dave Gibbons, Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason pay appropriate attention to lanterns such as Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner in their highly acclaimed Green Lantern Corps series. Additionally, Johns writes Batman in a way that tends to misconstrue the Dark Knight as an uptight control freak. Much of this seems to be for the purpose of creating conflict between Batman and Hal Jordan, but it comes off as forced at times. Fortunately, this is not a Batman story, so the issue does not harm things too much. Finally, the story begins by wrapping up a few loose ends continuity-wise, which can be a bit jarring for new readers. The best course would be to just stick it out, as Johns does an excellent job giving background to the characters and their world over the course of the story.
Ethan Van Sciver’s artwork is something to behold as well. Van Sciver excels when it comes to the bright, imaginative constructs and alien beings which characterize Green Lantern. The action scenes are also fast-paced, over-the-top, and explosive. While the artwork truly shines with big, glowing, sci-fi concepts, Van Sciver also is quite adept at the quieter, more human scenes. For example, when Jordan returns to his old air force base, meeting with his old love Carol Ferris. Personal moments such as these are given a much more muted, calm look, which contributes to the feeling behind the scene.
Green Lantern: Rebirth is an excellent starting point for Green Lantern, embodying everything wonderful about the title. In order to redeem himself and save his friends, Hal Jordan has to face his fears once more, overcoming them through sheer willpower. Jordan and the other lanterns must face down the embodiment of fear, representing a battle which everyone must fight several times in his/her life. Additionally, Rebirth includes all of the imaginative constructs and alien beings which have come to be part of Green Lantern’s appeal. From this point, Johns begins a glorious run on Green Lantern which returns the title to its former glory. Johns goes on to introduce the entire emotional spectrum, including hope, love, compassion, rage, and avarice. This first battle between willpower and fear is only the beginning of a larger epic which redefined Green Lantern.
If you enjoy Rebirth, here’s a few other Green Lantern recommendations:
- Green Lantern by John Broome and Gil Kane
- The Sinestro Corps War by Geoff Johns, Dave Gibbons, Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, and Ethan Van Sciver
- Blackest Night by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis
- Green Lantern: Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis
- Green Lantern Corps by Dave Gibbons, Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading! If you like this blog, feel free to share with your friends, and follow on Twitter at @book_column. Check back next week for more weekly recommendations!