The State of the Green Lanterns – Winter 2011

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Let me start off by saying that I’ve always thought Green Lantern was a terrible character. When I was a kid I totally would have taken Aquaman and his ability to talk to his fish friends over Green Lantern’s stupid magic ring and glowing fists. It’s terrible, and Hal Jordan’s lack of a personality never helped things. So if you were to tell me there would come a day that I’d be reading three monthly Green Lantern titles and really enjoying them, I’d have thought you were crazy. It’s a HUGE tribute to Geoff Johns’ writing ability that Green Lantern was ever even an exciting title; let alone soaring at the heights it hit during the Sinestro Corps War and the lead up to Blackest Night. Blackest Night didn’t really work for me overall. The Black Lanterns were mostly annoying rather than horrifying. The tie-ins all told the exact same story, but the series still had some really nice moments such as Lex Luthor becoming an Orange Lantern, the Scarecrow joining the Sinestro Corps, and Sinestro himself being the first to wield the white ring. Which leads us to today and the question we are now faced with: What is the current state of the Green Lanterns?

Green Lantern
To me, the resurrection of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern is hands down the most impressive success Geoff Johns has pulled off to date. Hal Jordan was dead and gone as a character. His run as the Spectre had been cancelled and younger readers had no interest in the character. But starting with Green Lantern: Rebirth , Johns brought Hal back from the brink and forced readers to care about him. Johns expanded the Green Lantern mythos by introducing a number of different colored lantern corps fueled by different emotions. It was a must read title throughout Blackest Night, and recent issues have focused on a mysterious cloaked figure attempting to hunt down and capture the various entities associated with those rainbow lantern corps. After the excitement of The Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night, the run is starting to feel a little stale. Maybe it’s time to find some closure to the rainbow lantern corps story and move on to something new for awhile. Hopefully the upcoming War of the Green Lanterns will bring back that sense of excitement that the title currently lacks.

Green Lantern Corps
Green Lantern Corps has largely focused on the adventures of Kyle Raynor and John Stewart along with a number of second tier Lanterns since Blackest Night. Tony Bedard recently took over the writing reigns and the book hasn’t missed a beat. The most recent storyline has seen the Lanterns caught up in a feud between the Weaponer of Qward and Sinestro. The Lanterns are faced with how to defend the people of Qward from the onslaught of the Sinestro Corps without violating the truce between the two corps. Bedard plays out the tension between the corps perfectly and the Weaponer of Qward is a real threat to everyone involved. I think this is currently the best of the Green Lantern titles. With Firestorm arriving on Qward in the most recent issue of Brightest Day, I’m hoping there is a plan in place to pull these various subplots together and it’s not all just coincidence.

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors follows Guy Gardner and Kilowog on a quest into the unknown sector to investigate Krona’s attempt to control all of the lantern entities. Along for the ride on this trip is the Red Lantern Bleeze and the Green Lantern Arisia. The quest’s origin comes from a secret pact to explore the unknown sector forged by Gardner, Atrocitus, and Ganthet in response to horrific visions of the future shared by Gardner and Atrocitus. The book is enjoyable enough, but there is some forced tension between the main characters due to Gardner not being open enough about the true reason for their journey. This tension rings false because Gardner’s secrecy seems uncharacteristic of how he’s behaved since the latest volumes of Green Lantern titles were relaunched. There’s also a subplot here about telepaths controlling Green Lanterns. I sense this is all designed to set up the War of the Green Lanterns. If half the Lanterns end up just being mind-controlled during the war, I suspect that it’s going to prove to be a disappointing, overhyped series.

Brightest Day
It’s no secret that I kind of hate this title, but somewhere along the way we decided to write a series of columns chronicling its misadventures so I’ll stick with it until the end. The book has lacked focus and some of the subplots are far more interesting than others. Having said all of that, the last few issues have seen some improvement and Johns and Tomasi have plenty of time to stick the landing. My biggest complaint is that it feels like each story could have been told in an individually satisfying four issue mini-series rather than being stretched out for 26 issues over the course of the year.

Red Lantern Corps
DC recently announced that Peter Milligan will be writing a new title focused on Atrocitus and his rage fueled Red Lantern Corps. I’m not sure that they’re the Corps I would spinoff into their own book, but they are scheduled to be the main antagonists of the upcoming Green Lantern Corps animated series on the Cartoon Network. I guess that explains one motivation for this title, though I’d rather just have the previously promised Dex-Starr Valentine’s Day Special that was scheduled to team the Red Lantern house cat with Superman’s dog, Krypto, and has been pushed back at least a year. Atrocitus just isn’t that interesting to me on his own. I think the fact that both Atrocitus and the Orange Lantern Larfleeze are supposed to be billions of years old was a poor character decision on Johns’ part and makes them fairly unrelatable. Milligan can definitely write though so I’m on board at least at launch.

So having admitted my anti-Green Lantern bias and reviewed the various titles DC is publishing, I kind of feel like we’re still in a golden age for the character, even if creatively the era probably peaked sometime during the fallout of the Sinestro Corps War or maybe with the origin of Black Hand in Green Lantern #43. There’s never been a moment in Green Lantern history before that I’m aware of that the powers-that-be at DC believed the Green Lantern Corps could sustain four monthly titles. The entire concept would have seemed crazy prior to the Sinestro Corps War. But here we are at the beginning of a year that will see the debut of a fourth lantern title in addition to a Green Lantern major motion picture. The continuity among the three current ongoing titles runs almost flawlessly which is one of their key strengths. While the core Lantern concept allows for multiple characters to wield the Green Lantern power and as result allows each Lantern title to showcase a different cast, I still can’t help but feel the characters are coming dangerously close to being overexposed. Maybe DC will pull off something amazing with the upcoming War of the Green Lanterns and I’ll look silly for being so skeptical after an undeniably successful 60-plus issue run of the main title, but I just can’t help but feel the Green Lantern titles overall are better than we have any right to expect. I just don’t believe there’s a any way the momentum can continue on forever.

Also check out our thoughts on The State Of:

The Batmen (and Women) – Winter 2010/2011
The Supermen (and Girl) – Winter 2010/2011
The X-Men – Fall 2010

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