Saturday, December 31, 2011

Analysis: Green Lantern in the New 52


Green Lantern in the New 52

Green Lantern is my favorite superhero. Part of what led me to the character was that my favorite color growing up was green and Green Arrow was too much like Robin Hood. The other part came after reading "Emerald Knights", a Kyler Rayner-era arc involving Kyle being thrown back in time to the days when Hal Jordan was the Green Lantern of Sector 2814.

Kyle meets the Corps, a sight he'd never been given the chance to witness, before the Guardians demand his immediate return to the future, as time travel is obviously dangerous. Hal gets accidentally sent forward in time and has to come face-to-face with his crimes against the Corps when he donned the name Parallax.

In the end, Hal learns to accept his fate, and becomes a stronger person for it. For continuity's sake, Hal's mind is wiped upon his return to the past. Kyle, John Stewart and Guy Gardner all remember the events, but it's more of a moot point by the end of the story.

The reason I wanted to summarize "Emerald Knights" is because I feel like it really conveyed something that Green Lantern has been missing for some time: character growth. Ever since Green Lantern: Rebirth, which was a fantastic return for Hal Jordan into the world of the living, good ol' GL has had a rather tumultuous run. After Geoff Johns left the title, writing duties were passed around from arc to arc, creating a rather splintered perspective on the Emerald Warrior. The second volume of Green Lantern Corps fared much better, partly because it could be more character-based.

Then came "Sinestro Corps War", "Blackest Night", "Brightest Day" and "War of the Green Lanterns", perpetual events that have dominated the past five years of Green Lantern stories and have thus left Hal Jordan a mere shell of the character he used to be. Instead of spending time focusing on things like Hal's second chance at life, earning the trust of the Corps and his friends again, and becoming better than before, Johns and Company saturated the franchise in mythology.

Now, I'm all for a rich mythology. Johns' work in Rebirth was a perfect blend of modern writing with a new mythology that retroactively worked to create a compelling story. Apparently, Johns saw this as free reign to totally whip up an expanded history for the Green Lantern Corps and more specifically the faults and failures of the Guardians of the Universe. Again, I enjoyed every last bit of GL lore thrown at me from the last half-decade, but as a new reader, it can be nigh impossible to break in without doing weeks of reading (or a week, if you're dedicated.)

Which is why I was actually disappointed in the Green Lantern presence in DC's new 52. Four books feature characters primarily connected to Green Lantern: Green Lantern v5, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians, and Red Lanterns. Nearly all of GL's continuity from the pre-new 52 universe has carried over. It makes sense, seeing as "Blackest Night", "Brightest Day" and "War of the Green Lanterns" collectively took three years to tell and it would be a damn shame to flush it all down the toilet the moment it wrapped up. Also, "Blackest Night" was DC's most popular event of the past ten years, so they sure as hell didn't want to alienate all the new readers brought it by that story.

Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps pick up exactly where they ended in their previous runs. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising if it was revealed that some of the work done for the scrapped "War of the Green Lanterns: Aftermath" was used in these issues. Even New Guardians and Red Lanterns sees their main characters as they are immediately after the events of the "War."

I still love Green Lantern, and no amount of new mythology will change that. It's a bit unfortunate that the character didn't receive an awesome reboot treatment like Aquaman or Superman. Fortunately, Hal Jordan no longer has a ring, Kyle Rayner is intertwined in some weird new super-group made up of Lanterns from each color Corps, while John and Guy are holding down the fort in their own title. This is the chance writers have to tell interesting stories without having to resort to cosmic events to do so.

Review: Aquaman - "The Trench" (#1-4)


Aquaman: The Trench (#1-4)
Geoff Johns - Writer
Ivan Reis - Pencils

Geoff Johns is one of my favorite writers in comics today. He relaunch my favorite superhero, Green Lantern, in 2004, and has since contributed consistently excellent work that focuses on characters, letting stories build around their natural tendencies.

So I was excited when I heard Johns was taking the reigns with Aquaman with DC's New 52 relaunch. Arthur Curry is a character that gets love in all the wrong ways. Most writers who get their hands on the (arguably) least popular DC hero ever, they feel the need to 'reinvent' him, change his personality or simply make his stories crazier to compensate for a lack of fresh ideas.

Johns understands that a good story needs good characters to be compelling, and Aquaman is a perfect example of this. Instead of an alien invasion, some crossover or a 'secret origins' style retelling, Johns tells a rather simple, yet effective, story about a species of carnivorous deep-sea dwellers whose natural food source has run dry. Desperate for sustenance, they travel up.

The fight against the deep-sea creatures isn't the focal point of this first story arc. Instead, it's designed to give readers an easy introduction (or re-introduction) to a character who has historically been DC's scapegoat, one who is highly misunderstood and who can be the protagonist of a highly-readable book. Johns addresses Aquaman's unpopularity, excellently weaves Arthur Curry's history into the storytelling - without going into exposition mode - and opens up a little more of Aquaman's world. 

When asked how he talks to fish, the wet wonder replies that he, in fact, does not talk to fish at all. He explains that fish aren't intelligent enough to talk, and his connection with sea life is more of a light psychic control. While this may seem small in the grander scheme of the Aquaman world, it's a trademark technique of Johns, one used to give readers a better understanding of the character, leading to a deeper investment into their stories.

Many of the titles under the banner of the New 52 are excellent. Aquaman stands out as a prime example of what makes comics great. The past ten years seen the constant thickening of continuity through perpetual 'crises', crossover events and 'everything will change' mini-series. Titles like Aquaman are taking the medium back to a style that made them popular in the first place: stories about characters.

Story Arc Grade: A-