Saturday, 12 September 2009

Comic review: A hero who eradicates evil "in brightest day and blackest night"

Enter another world of fantasy with me a second. Hal Jordan is a US pilot who was chosen by a dying alien to become part of and intergalactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corps. Each member has a glowing green ring which converts their will-power into any physical construct they wish; a brace to steady a jet that's crash-landing, a small vehicle, a wide variety of guns and projectiles, or as some prefer, a really big sword. The ring allows them to fly and travel through space – including to Oa, the planet where the Guardians live, the strange group of infinite beings who set up the Corps and created the rings (and give the orders).

Straight away this set-up allows for all kinds of fun. It can be a chance to explore strange new cultures and whether the Green Lanterns have any right to enforce justice. It can be like a cop buddy movie pairing two fearsome aliens from different sides of a bitter intergalactic war learning to work together as new members of the Corps. The whole idea of “will-power” overcoming “fear” can lead to some epic battles won by sure courage, ingenuity and endurance in the face of intimidating odds and a range of villains which explore what evil really is – for instance in Revenge of the Green Lanterns (collecting comics from 2006) you come across a cyborg who wants to reprogram human beings using nano-technology, wanting to cut off all ties with natural life – why? He's experienced the death of loved ones too painful to cope with and he wants to eradicate death. He doesn't know it, but his desire to order creation his own way is the most human part of him, and speaks of his own fragility.

As you can probably tell, I'm really enjoying the way this part of the DC universe has opened up lately. The 2004 miniseries which relaunched the character Hal Jordan is one of the best mainstream DC comics I've read, and is a good example of catharsis at work in modern pop culture. We cheer as Hal fights away all his demons and all those who have been manipulating him, after a long period in which he had become a villain, and we get to see him become a hero again.

This outstanding sell-out storyline Green Lantern: Rebirth is like an exciting big budget movie, giving a few characters some great moments of dialogue and cinematic-scale action and reinventing the whole Green Lantern mythos, while Green Lantern Corps: Recharge, which focuses on some of the newer Green Lantern recruits, is a bit more like Lost or Stargate, putting a few characters in precarious situations on faraway planets to see how they react. It feels remarkably fresh and I'm beginning to think reading the Corps comics is going to be quite a different experience to reading about Hal in the main Green Lantern comic. Recharge finishes with an explosive finale, a little cheesy, but truly epic, and I've yet to track down the next volumes of GL Corps, but Green Lantern has continued to impress with some good character moments as Hal rebuilds his life on earth, seeking to win the trust of his estranged family, get back into flying, and atone for his past mistakes.

If you like Rebirth try reading on in the volumes Green Lantern: No Fear and Revenge of the Green Lanterns, and then (skipping Hal Jordan: Wanted) move on to the epic-looking Sinestro Corps War, a war of ideologies that has been building since Rebirth. And watch out for Hollywood's take on the character, in a year or two.


Peter Brewer said...

Sound interesting, at any point do any of the corps or the guardians go wild - that could make for some interesting plot.

Richard Townrow said...

One villain I'm learning about started as a Green Lantern but ending up controlling his space sector with fear - and has been an enemy of the Corps ever since they tried to stop him. As for the Guardians, I think they are generally good guys.