What happens when you try to undo more than 50 years of storyline? DC gave it shot.
In 2011, DC Comics made a bold move by deciding to reset their entire universe, undoing more than fifty years of continuity to pave the way for a new generation of writers to recreate the characters as they see fit while creating an easy jumping on point for any new reader that might be interested.
At least, that’s what DC wants you to think.
Did you try rebooting?
In all honesty, the DC reboot isn’t as hard a reset as you might be led to believe. Actually, it seems to merely act as an excuse for DC to ignore continuity they don’t like without causing the fans to go up in arms about it. The changes they’ve made so far have been hit and miss, but there is one series that’s remained exactly the way it was before the reboot: Green Lantern.
The original Green Lantern (the one from that horrible movie that came out two summers ago) was Hal Jordan, a cocky fighter pilot with a desire to do good in his role as a space policeman (seriously, that’s pretty much what a Green Lantern is. Sweet). Hal had been a fan favourite for quite some time before the dreaded nineties happened. That’s when DC decided that it’d be more fun to make Hal a psychotic villain named Parallax that betrayed most of his friends and kill him off so that Kyle Rayner, who was thought to be a more “young” and “hip” choice, could take his role in the main series.
You’ll be shocked to hear that didn’t go over very well with fans that had been following Hal Jordan for quite some time and really cared about the character. As sales of Kyle Rayner’s book began to drop significantly, Geoff Johns, an up and coming star writer for DC, proposed they came up with a way to absolve Jordan of all the evil he had done while making him a Green Lantern once again. The result: Green Lantern: Rebirth, a brilliant series that actually served as my introduction to comics.
So, what is it about Green Lantern: Rebirth that makes it so overwhelmingly awesome? Let’s take a deeper look and find out.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead
Let’s start with the story
Jordan meets up with the other three Green Lanterns from Earth at a baseball game and suddenly realizes this isn’t the way his life was supposed to end up (cut to every classic Green Lantern fan nodding slowly). As Hal retraces his steps back to the ruins of his old hometown Coast City, several of the other major Green Lanterns’ rings start acting up, claiming Parallax is coming.
What follows next is the most awesome reveal ever: Parallax is actually the cosmic embodiment of fear, capable of taking over those who are emotionally weakened and causing them to do his bidding. Since Hal Jordan had been incredibly vulnerable after the destruction of Coast City, Parallax was able to take over his mind and commit all those evil doings. This also serves to explain the Green Lantern’s weakness to yellow: Parallax was the yellow impurity the whole time, hiding in the central Green Lantern battery ensuring green willpower could never defeat its counterpart, yellow fear.
So, in summary, Geoff Johns in one stroke did the following things:
- Absolved Hal Jordan of all previous wrongdoing, as he had no control over Parallax and could not have possibly been expected to fight off an enemy for which he had no way to prepare.
- Re-established the Guardians of Oa, the leaders of the Green Lanterns, as a rather shady bunch, as they knew of Parallax the whole time and never said or did anything about it, which created some true tension in the Green Lantern stories that followed, even to this day.
- Established a colour spectrum of power that would open the way for a total of nine lantern corps so far, each of which have their own unique personalities and provide countless story opportunities for the future.
- Brought back a classic Green Lantern villain (you can probably guess which one if you know anything about Green Lantern, but I want to save some secrets so you actually read it) and gave that villain an aura of true power.
- Opened the door for Hal Jordan to have all his old friends back, since mind control is a thing that has happened in the past and they get it, while also creating a nice layer of tension between Jordan and other Lanterns who remember or have heard about what he did and don’t trust him accordingly.
This is why Geoff Johns is an incredible storyteller. I could go into the rest of the narrative, but there’s really nothing more I can say than “He’s a really good writer.” I don’t know many writers who could have accomplished this much in one series, but he did it while perfectly nailing who Hal Jordan is as a character. It’s truly remarkable work on his part.
Like I said last month, art is by no means my strong point when it comes to analysis (I’m a writer, not a drawer), but Ethan van Sciver’s art accomplished everything for which the story called. Parallax is incredibly terrifying, and the heroes all look powerful in their own right. He really knows how to use the colour palette to make the green on the uniforms really pop, and the Green Lantern design is both sleek and authoritative. The best comics have writing and artwork that complement each other perfectly, and that’s exactly what happened here. It’s a joy to look at the art of this book, and it set a precedent for Green Lantern being a book that looks as good as it’s written that has lasted to this day.
One story just isn’t enough
While this mini-series didn’t have an official tie-in or anything like that, it’d be criminal not to mention Geoff Johns’ collaboration with Dave Gibbons (yes, that Dave Gibbons) that established the status quo for the rest of the Green Lantern universe, Green Lantern Corps: Recharge. While it didn’t have the same memorable beats that Rebirth did, the story is an action packed adventure that’s really fun, and sometimes, that’s enough.
The book served to assure readers that Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner weren’t going to disappear just because Hal Jordan was back in action. The two agree to work with Kilowog, everyone’s favourite drill sergeant, to train the newest recruits for the corps. Recharge is a perfect set up book, telling a fun story while also setting up the story arcs for a bunch of interesting side characters that would be explored throughout the series’ run.
Dave Gibbons would go on to write the series for about a year and a half before turning it over to the also talented Peter Tomasi. While one could argue the book never quite hit the heights of Johns’ core title, the book accomplished very different goals, choosing to focus on the relationships between members of the corps and how their very different backgrounds help them come together as a unit, or grow apart, as the case may be. It’s a great series, equally worthy of your time as you go back through DC’s history.
There’s a reason the Green Lantern Universe was essentially the only DC property to remain untouched by the latest reboot. Everything established in Rebirth and Recharge served to create interesting characters and story opportunities that are still being explored today, while also telling fun and interesting in their own right. While one could just jump in where the reboot occurred, I highly recommend that anyone legitimately interested in DC continuity, or comics in general, really, should go read the entire run of Johns’ Green Lantern and Gibbons/Tomasi’s Green Lantern Corps (Emerald Warriors is good too, but we’ll get there).
Next time, since Chris Pranger already looked at most modern Marvel story arcs, we’ll stick to DC and discuss Johns’ first big event comic after Rebirth: The Sinestro Corps War.