Last month, DC Comics kicked off the start of its Rebirth initiative. After a wave of criticism surrounding the way they have treated their characters’ rich histories since 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC has decided to rebrand. They hope that by restoring their characters’ pasts, they will restore readers’ faith in them as well. Do they succeed? That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu and entertainment editor Kyle Pinion are here to discuss. Book by book. Panel by panel.
Welcome to month two of DC Reborn!
Note: the review below contains **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on this book, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps: Rebirth #1
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Ethan Van Sciver
Colorist: Jason Wright
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Kyle Pinion: When Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps was announced, I was surprised to see Robert Venditti was still on the book. Not because I think he’s not up to the task of writing the ongoing adventures of the main Green Lantern, but more because the line had dipped pretty heavily sales-wise under his stewardship. I could imagine there’s a few factors at play there that I prefer to not dig into, but regardless, DC saw fit to keep the XO Manowar scribe around, though seemingly Hal is now relegated to the secondary title, with Green Lanterns taking center-stage (and Justice League membership). Actually, secondary probably isn’t the best word so much as “siloed”.
Based on the set-up presented by Venditti in the issue, this follows on from both his recent “Renegade” phase and the very good Green Lantern: The Lost Army (and the subsequent Edge of Oblivion). Hal is seeking out his missing Green Lantern Corps. He makes a new ring, of his own willpower, and casts aside the trench coat and gauntlet look for his classic duds. At the same time, a much older looking Sinestro is commanding Warworld, and his Corps takes over the segment of space once occupied by OA: the center of the universe.
There’s a few positives here I can point to right away, most pertinently the refocusing on the conflict between Hal and Sinestro. One of my favorite aspects of this entire Rebirth launch is how creators are aiming to work from a base that centers on some of the more successful interpretations and storylines of these characters. For my money, Green Lantern was rarely better than during the Sinestro Corps War. To get back to that head to head battle, and backgrounding the rest of the emotional spectrum is a welcome sight, even for someone who has (vocally) grown pretty tired of the ring vs ring battles that this series has devolved into. By that same token, I’m always happy to see Ethan Van Sciver doing top-shelf work with these characters. He’s generally the artist, along with Darryl Banks and M.D. Bright, that I most associate with this franchise. I think his Sinestro is second to none. I absolutely love the way he renders his facial hair and eyes, specifically.
If I have one complaint, and it’s not a minor one, it’s that this issue falls into the same trap that we’ve discussed quite a few times in these reviews. It’s more a prelude than an actual story in of itself. Honestly, that storytelling method feels more egregious here than maybe any other issue. Despite all the lovely pages and the intriguing premise, it all feels a bit thin. Still, I’m happy to note that I want to read more and see where Venditti and Van Sciver are headed next though maybe the art here is the main factor that leans me towards “buy” on my verdict. Alex, did you get that same sense from your read of the issue? Does the conflict here seem a bit more graceful in its construction than what’s happening in its counterpart title?
Alex Lu: Reading Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps: Rebirth raises so many questions for me. Why is Sinestro old? Why does Hal think all the Green Lanterns are gone while Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz are dealing with the Red Lanterns on Earth? What indeed, happened to Oa? Perhaps it’s because I’ve been reading Green Lanterns that the odd timeline of this book sticks out to me, but it does. I didn’t necessarily mind Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps: Rebirth, Kyle, but I can’t say that I really enjoyed it either. I ultimately just walked away feeling puzzled.
Indeed, as you mentioned, this issue serves as a prologue for the Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps series to come. In last month’s crop of Rebirth books, I saw it as a problem. In this month’s lineup, the lack of momentum in these one shots has started to feel actively egregious. There is so much momentum in a number of the ongoing series at this point that reading a book a book like this that lacks the same energy feels unsatisfying.
Credit where credit is due, I share your feelings about Ethan Van Sciver’s art in this book. He is one of DC’s greatest and most consistent talents and his work is a joy to behold throughout this issue. From the very beginning you get a strong sense of how much majesty and wonder he sees in the world of the Green Lanterns. Watching smoke rise up and out into the borders of the full-page panel as Warworld becomes the center of the universe is awe inspiring. Then, as the next page zooms into Sinestro’s aged face, the reader feels that same sense of wonder as they admire the detail with which Van Sciver inks every wrinkle on his visage. Bearing witness to Van Sciver’s take on Parallax is one of the most breathtaking moments I’ve seen in a comic this year. In a way, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps: Rebirth really does ask to be bought for its art alone.
Unfortunately though, art is not the only thing that carries a comic book. While I think Venditti does a solid job of establishing a set of mysteries for Hal to solve, I still am wondering how we got to this place to begin with. While it is obvious at this point that DC Rebirth was primarily created and built to serve the company’s core readership, a new set of first issues is a fresh opportunity to attract un-baptized readers to your books. With that in mind, it would be appreciated if the creative team behind Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps included some sort of summary of the events that led to the status quo this book leaps off from. Whether it is incorporated into the plot or is simply a summary page does not matter. What matters is that the reader has a sense of grounding for the series they’re approaching, and unfortunately there is none here.
Ultimately, that lack of explanation is what kills Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps: Rebirth for me. People often berate new comics fans for complaining about this fish out of water feeling and say that the onus is on the reader to do the research before jumping into a series. Frankly, I’ve never bought that argument and still do not. If you as a publisher are going to market a book as a first issue, then the onus is on you to provide enough background information so that a new reader can fully immerse themselves into your fictional world. To do otherwise and then berate would-be-fans for complaining is the worst kind of self-sabotage.
If you are a recent fan of Hal Jordan and have followed him through his adventures throughout the New 52, I suspect you’ll have no reason not to enjoy Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps: Rebirth. If, however, you are not up to date on your emotional spectrum history. I think you’ll find that some level of confusion awaits you in this series prologue. What do you think, Kyle? Does the conflicting timeline between this book and Green Lanterns bother you at all? Or perhaps it makes total sense to you as someone who has been reading these books. In that case, could you explain it to me?
Kyle: I don’t know, Alex. Sometimes I find that being thrown right into the thick of things is not a bad place to start. It certainly worked for Omega Men, and I rather enjoy that same feeling I get when I read something like Nameless, Prophet or Zero. I wouldn’t dare compare Hal Jordan to any of those titles, especially not with so little to go on from this first issue and how thin the actual storytelling is in these 20 or so pages. To be honest with you, I’d rather not think about Green Lanterns at all (and by comparison, this was a much more engaging read, warts and all). I’m really not all that sure the timeline conflicts as, if I had to guess, I’d chalk up having Hal’s appearance in Green Lanterns Rebirth taking place AFTER this one. Or it could be an editorial goof, OR even something as simple as DC wanting to be rid of the “Renegade” look at all costs and not confuse readers who may not be familiar with why Hal Jordan looked like Deckard from Blade Runner.
Anyway, in all, this is a very pretty prologue and probably worth picking up for the completionist. All others are likely okay just waiting for the first ongoing issue.
Final Verdict: Mixed– Browse.
Check back for our reviews of New Super-Man #1 and The Flash #2!