THIS WEEK: Hal Jordan returns to Earth for the launch of a new Green Lantern ongoing series.
Note: the review below contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comic in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Green Lantern #1
Writers: Jeremy Adams and Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artists: Xermánico and Montos
Colorists: Romulo Fajardo Jr. and Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artist: Xermánico
Moving back home after being away for a while can be an intense experience. For one thing, there’s whatever reasoning one has for doing it. Beyond that, everyone has a different conception of what ‘home’ is, whether it’s a specific place or a specific person or group of people. Regardless of the specifics, time marches on, and things change, whether we want them to or not. Thomas Wolfe knew what he was talking about.
Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern of space sector 2814, has returned home. After years away from Earth, he’s back in Coast City, and the first issue of the new Green Lantern ongoing series finds Hal trying to pick up his life where he left off. Writer Jeremy Adams, artists Xermánico and Romulo Fajardo Jr., and letterer Dave Sharpe are bringing Hal back to basics, though it doesn’t look like it’s going to be as easy as he’s hoping.
Adams takes the familiar trappings of a classic Hal Jordan story – the test pilot job, Carol Ferris as a love interest – and puts an interesting, modern spin on them. The former is the most surprising and also most logical change, as Hal’s in-flight shenanigans get a new twist that reflects the realities of modern flight and drone warfare. It also removes an element of Hal that’s long felt essential to the character – that daredevil quality where he stares death in the face on a regular basis and always walks away. Sure, that’s the life of a superhero, but making it an element of his civilian identity as well was part of what made Hal unique among DC heroes, which may be a sticking point for longtime fans.
Luckily, the issue’s visuals overcome any storytelling issues that might get in their way. Xermánico and Fajardo Jr.’s work is beautiful, classic superhero cartooning with a modern sensibility. Xermánico’s storytelling ability is impeccable, his page layouts visually interesting. But his greatest strength is in his characters, each of whom is expressive and kinetic and just plain alive. Fajardo Jr.’s colors pop off the page, giving Xermánico’s lineart depth and driving home the emotion evident in the characters’ faces. They’re a perfect team and they deliver fantastic work on this issue.
I need to address the big green hard-light elephant in the room. I’m on record as not being a Hal Jordan fan. I’ve never cared for him as a character, and I’ve always thought he was way more interesting when he was either Parallax or The Spectre. Things that I’ve always found annoying about Hal – primarily, his bravado and his recklessness – are on full display in Green Lantern #1. But I’ll tell you this: here it sort of works. Maybe it’s because I’ve recently been through some significant life changes that have forced me to move back to my hometown as well, so I find him a little more relatable this time around than I ever have before. Yes, Hal bugged me a little, but I didn’t hate him outright. Honestly that’s progress as far as I’m concerned, and no one is more surprised by this than I am.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the backup story from writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson, artist Montos, colorist Adriano Lucas, and letterer Sharpe. It’s a John Stewart-centric tale that finds John also having returned home after being off-planet for a while, though in John’s sense he’s literally returned home to his mother’s house. It’s only eight pages so there’s not a ton of meat on it, but the team does a nice job with a powered-down John’s characterization. Having his mom as a sounding board is a smart way to get John to open up without it feeling forced. There are also some pretty solidly gnarly visuals in the back-half of the issue as a group of alien Green Lanterns take on a new threat that’s coming for John. As the first part of a backup serial, it’s a pretty solid hook.
That’s really true for all of Green Lantern #1. It’s a pretty strong introduction to the character and his current status quo, with some great character moments and a few intriguing mysteries set up for future issues. Even if you don’t care for Hal, there’s still something worth checking out about this issue; it might even start to change your mind.
Final Verdict: BUY.
- Elsewhere in new series debuts, DC’s “We Are Legends” initiative for AAPI Heritage Month kicks off with Spirit World #1 from Alyssa Wong, Haining, Sebastian Chang, and Janice Chiang. Readers got a glimpse of new character Xanthe and their world in one of the Lazarus Planet one-shots a few months back, and this issue picks up right where that story left off, with Xanthe and John Constantine trying to find a way to rescue Batgirl Cassandra Cain from the titular Spirit World. It’s an entertaining adventure that introduces the character and the mythos well without getting bogged down in exposition.
- Wrapping up this week is Stargirl: The Lost Children from Geoff Johns, Todd Nauck, Matt Herms, and Rob Leigh. This six-issue series has been a lot of fun, introducing a boatload of new characters and establishing new, unexplored corners of the DC Universe in the process. Johns is never better than when he’s writing his signature creation, and Nauck is never more in his element than when he’s drawing large groups of teenaged superheroes. They’re a perfect match on this book, and it was a delight from beginning to end.
- Tom King, Jorge Fornés, Dave Stewart, and Clayton Cowles’s Danger Street reaches its midpoint this week, as the book’s disparate cast of characters continue to cross paths in new and interesting ways. Reading this issue, with so much going on, I’d almost forgotten that there were main players we hadn’t even met yet, so their introduction in the issue’s final pages was a surprise and, frankly, a shock. To hear King describe The Outsiders I was very curious how they were going to fit into what is otherwise a fairly grounded book, and this issue answers that question: very weirdly. I can’t wait to see where this goes next.
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So I guess we are not getting that John Stewart book DC promised. Typical.
“Things that I’ve always found annoying about Hal – primarily, his bravado and his recklessness…” This comment interests me because I’m wondering when exactly this characterization “stuck.” I’ve re-read a bunch of Silver Age/Bronze Age GL stories as well as stuff from the 1980s and 1990s and can’t say this was how Hal was ever portrayed. I’d almost apply that description more to Green Arrow. Yes, Hal started as the jet pilot, but then he became an insurance investigator, a toy salesman, a wanderer. I’m not sure during those decades I spoke of he showed any more or less bravado/recklessness than Batman, Superman, Aquaman, the Flash and a bunch of other male DC icons. Not a criticism of your review, Joe, but more of an observation of what you mean by “always,” ’cause I’m thinking maybe you mean over the last 20 years or so, not during the publishing life of the character. Maybe Mark Waid was the first to make Hal a bit cocky in JLA: Year One and then Geoff Johns picked up on it? It makes sense. In a way it’s kind of a stereotype of the hot shot jet pilot. But my point is I don’t think Hal really WAS that stereotype up until his more modern incarnations. Other people complain that Hal is boring/has no characterization.
Also I would recommend Gerard Jones’ Green Lantern series from the 1990s. His Hal Jordan grappled with a mid-life crisis, grey temples and all, and was re-assessing himself. It’s still fun GL escapades but has a bit more depth than you might expect as well.
Joshua, the John Stewart book is coming later in the year. These backups lead into it.
I was glad to see that Danger Street has reached the point every series by Tom King reaches: where the basic incoherence of the writing smashes to atoms any attempts at storytelling
Is this another retcon, like New 52?
Elfworld, this isn’t a retcon. It’s a new status quo for Hal, though, following up on events that have been happening in the greater universe (the disappearance of the Guardians, the formation of the United Planets).
@robstaeger: Thank you!
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