I said last night that I wanted to move forward with the Green Lantern graphic novel that looked like another epic story, instead of a curated anthology of older works. At this point in time, I’m not yet certain if I’m going to read that one at all before I return it – a glance through makes me wonder if this is silver or bronze age stuff. Regardless, it’s not what I was craving after the excitement of War of the Green Lanterns yesterday.
When I first picked up Green Lantern: The Wrath of the First Lantern, I knew a moment of misgivings. Right there on the front cover, in the upper right hand corner, is an ominious bit of text. “The New 52!” it says, meaning that this is part of that DC universe reboot. Which is…not what I wanted. I wanted to see a continuation of the story I’d been reading. Although, I know they only used the New 52 branding for so long…so I decided to check publication dates. Sure enough, Wrath of the First Lantern was released after War of the Green Lanterns. But, most telling of all, the opening pages call this “the end of Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern”. Since he’s been a writer on almost everything I’ve read lately, that gave me hope that this wouldn’t be the start of a brand new story.
And oh…was that hope justified. Let’s be honest – I don’t give two shits about the so-called First Lantern. I care that this book brings a triumphant conclusion to the story I’ve been following throughout this comic book binge. Even to the “happily ever afters” of several characters after the story itself closes. It’s everything I could have wanted. Sure, it introduces a couple new characters, at least one of whom I wouldn’t mind reading more of, but isn’t that part of the point of comics like this? It’s a universe because these people can turn up unexpectedly in any other comic published by the company. They can even get spinoff series, if there’s enough interest.
The First Lantern appears to be a psychotic time-traveler who managed to be present when the mad rogue guardian Krona brought up the origins of the universe on some monitor. Somehow this…made him into the First Lantern? It wasn’t clearly explained and I really don’t care about the backstory of a madman who went around to all my favorite characters and others I tolerate to make them relive the best and worst moments of their lives, changing them to suit his need to feed off others’ despair like an emotional vampire.
Once again, Oa becomes an epic battlefield in a conflict that equals that of the last time, and surpasses it in several ways. And, once more, I am trying to avoid too many details because I was so caught up in the action that I wouldn’t want to spoil that experience for anyone. Hell, I was mostly done with the epilogues when I got home from work…but I decided to reread and skim the entire book again because it was just that good…and I wanted to get back into that mindset for when I finished reading the story endings.
I don’t buy a huge number of graphic novels, just because they are fairly pricey. You don’t usually see them new under $20…and if it’s $20, it’s probably fifty pages or less. But Geoff John’s work here, and his fellows of Peter J. Tomasi, Tony Bedard, and Peter Milligan, touches so many chords inside that I really think I should acquire the lot of these. Oh sure, I can go back to the library and check them out again and again, but I don’t go as often as I should. And there’s just something so satisfying about owning books you love.
On reflection, I’m really not sure what impelled me to wander over to the library’s graphic novel section in search of Green Lantern. I mean, I know why Green Lantern instead of Batman, Superman, or any Marvel characters – I’m less familiar with his stories, his highs and lows. I saw the animated series in the nineties and two thousands – Batman: The Animated Series, (parts of) Superman: The Animated Series, Batman and Superman, Spider-Man, X-Men, X-Men Evolution, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, even some parts of Iron Man, The Fantastic Four, and The Incredible Hulk. Green Lantern as a character – usually John Stewart – shows up in some of these, but nothing’s about him. Because of that, a lot of the mythos was brand new to me when I first read Blackest Night back in college. But it was a compelling and fascinating mythos that did what it should: get me to read more. It just so happens that my “reading more” goes in bits and spurts as I have the opportunity and actually remember I was interested in this.
These comics I read by Geoff Johns are probably my favorite incarnation of Hal Jordan. Likely because outside of cameos, that live action movie, and a couple comics not strongly connected to anything else when I first read them, Blackest Night was my first exposure to him. I did say that John Stewart was the Green Lantern seen in Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and Static Shock for good reason. Which is probably part of why I didn’t like his portrayal in these comics as much – I’ve seen him elsewhere and that first exposure is what I like most. That’s not so say that I would never change my mind later…but I doubt I’d pick John Stewart in these specific comics over any other.
You know, that’s probably part of why nostalgia is such a big seller right now, and why people are so ready to nitpick anything and everything you produce that’s meant to play off that memory. Whatever changes they make…are changes. And that’s not what you fell in love with the first time. Oh sure, you might eventually admit that the new version has some good points, but it’s very rarely better in all ways and it will never be what you grew up with.
I guess it also goes back to that old question of if you have the opportunity to rewrite your first novels…should you? After all, comic books do it all the time, redoing, rebooting, and reinterpreting the same old characters. Sometimes with a new twist, sometimes just with a different person at the helm wanting to do it their way. When the First Lantern starts dissecting people’s lives, he begins with Guy Gardner, and the reader is treated to a fascinating look at all the Guy Gardners there have been. From the present back to his childhood…but also with variants that I think represent Gardner as he’s been in older comics. In front but barely visible due to the First Lantern’s energy is Guy as we know him. Just behind that is Guy as a Red Lantern, which has been seen before in this storyline. Behind that is Guy in a jacket and jeans, then shirtless with weird markings on him and weapons for hands, then a couple older designs for his Green Lantern costume (seriously, every single Earth Lantern has a variant costume), then Guy in his police uniform, and finally some younger versions of him as teen, kid, etc. I guess it’s a visual nod to all the versions of Guy Gardner that have existed since the character was first created, which is pretty neat, all things considered.
And then I decided that since I finished Wrath of the First Lantern so early in the day I would give in and read the last Green Lantern book I checked out. This one is Green Lantern in Brightest Day: Tales of the Green Lantern Corps. As I mentioned before, this is a collection of older works, I think mostly Silver Age stuff though I’m no expert. Essentially, this is Geoff Johns curating a collection of stories that helped lay the foundation for what he would write for the Green Lantern mythos. And yes, I can see a lot of the elements, characters, and plots that have recently gripped my imagination. This includes the first appearances of Sinestro, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, and Mogo. Not to mention John Stewart and a crossover between Hal Jordan and Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern character.
The physical book is interesting too, because the pages aren’t glossy like modern comics, reflecting the materials that would have been used when these stories were originally published. It likely helps maintain the feel and means the colors are softer and less harsh. As far as the stories themselves go…they’re mostly fine. I’m not a huge fan of “hero speak”, where people go over the top and don’t actually talk like real people anymore. But I do understand that this his how comics were for a very long time, so I can’t hold it against the writers. It’s just not my preference.
Hell, anyone reading this blog knows that, as I tend to write mostly stream-of-consciousness in these posts. I very rarely go back and edit anything more than typos. But that’s because this is a blog, not an essay. I’m not getting graded on it, it’s not being published anywhere else, it’s just my thoughts and opinions on whatever it is I’ve read. Yes, I do think as I read about points I want to bring up, but if I forget while I’m actually typing…oh well. Either I’ll remember the point next time I reread that book and mention it then, or I won’t. It’s not a big deal.
Still, today’s made me think that I should probably look into acquiring the omnibi of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern run. There’s three of them and they’re not cheap, but I’m not without options. The one thing working in my favor is that I might be able to find them used for less than cover price. If I’m lucky. There could even be copies in that comic shop near me whose hours are “call and ask.” (You have no idea how annoying this is. But this is why my preferred comic shop is three towns over.) Of course, I’d need to make sure I have a good coupon or something to take advantage of if I’m going to buy new. Still, there’s no telling what I’ll find where. The last time I stopped in a comic shop downtown I found the third novel in a trilogy I’d started…and I think the cashier threw it in for free. I haven’t read that book yet, but that’s because I haven’t found book two. And I am not willing to pay much for it, so I’m not wasting any money ordering it online.
I did get a package the other day, and it did have a book inside. There’s a second that goes with it though, and that’s not here yet. Those look…gloriously old school. So I’ll go into more detail once I’ve got both and a chance to read them. It’s been a while since I touched on that series.
In the meantime, I have two library books left now. Both were actual holds, but one is getting read before the other. Frankly, one I checked out purely for the title, and I don’t have high hopes for it. It’d be nice if it was good, but I expect mediocrity. Still, there’s no telling what I’ll find within the pages.
I’m still going to read the other one first.