Tuesday, June 11, 2013

In Brightest Day In Blackest Night A Green Lantern Retrospective

I wanted to review Green Lantern #20, but I couldn’t write it without either spoiling the issue, or going over Johns’ whole run on the book. So I figured with the issue being out for almost three weeks now, whatever I mention here is not really a spoiler (unless you live under a rock), and I get the chance to look at his run as a whole.

I have been reading Geoff Johns’ work for years now. I started with Stars And S.T.R.P.I.E.S. From there I followed him to JSA, Hawkman, Flash, Teen Titans and then to Green Lantern, which is what this article is all about.

First I must preface this with what happened before Geoff Johns came on the book. Comic books have always been up and down in sales. In 1993 Green Lantern sales weren’t where DC wanted them and looking to boost sales and bring in a new audience they decided to do something daring, turn Hal Jordan, “The Greatest Green Lantern Ever” evil. The plan was to replace Hal with a new guy, Kyle Rayner and give him a bold new start as the sole Green Lantern, no Guardians, no Corps, just him. What DC didn’t expect was how fans would react to the replacement. DC had seen success when they killed off Barry Allen and replaced him with the younger Wally West as the Flash, and thought fans would accept Kyle. The big difference was that Barry died a hero and fans had grew up with Wally as Kid Flash, so when he took over his mentor’s role it felt like a natural progression, the circle of life. With Green Lantern though fans felt DC disgraced a beloved character by having him go psycho and tear the Corps apart not caring about his friends.

The backlash from fans was so great that DC tried to rectify it by redeeming Hal Jordan in 1996’s Final Night, where Hal would save the world and sacrifice himself in the process. Hal Jordan died a hero. But even Batman didn’t accept this as redemption and fans echoed his feelings. Now enters Geoff Johns. Many people think Geoff started with Green Lantern Rebirth, but he actually started in the 1999 DC event Day of Judgment. In this mini The Spectre’s host Jim Corrigan had finally ascended to heaven, leaving the “Spirit of Vengeance” without a host. Geoff Johns made Hal Jordan the host, and changed the Spectre from the “Spirit of Vengance” to the “Spirit of Redemption.” Geoff would use Hal Jordan as the Spectre in his Flash run, giving Wally West his secret identity back. None of this was enough for Green Lantern fans.

DC had a tricky situation while Hal had his fans, so did Kyle. In 2004 DC released the 6-issue mini-series Green Lantern: Rebirth by Geoff Johns. The mini-series was true to its title, a rebirth of Green Lantern. Like sales during the end of Hal’s time as Green Lantern, Kyle’s sales were down, and Rebirth gave the title and all of comics a huge boost. Geoff Johns told an epic story on a scale that had not been done until then. Geoff used 60 years of the character’s history in comics to weave a tale that explained how Hal Jordan was possessed by an evil entity named Parallax. Johns explained that Parallax was the embodiment of fear and connected to the yellow power introducing the Emotional Spectrum.

Johns along with artist Ethan Van Sciver showed us how Hal Jordan became possessed by Parallax, explaining everything from Hal’s premature graying, to the rings vulnerability to yellow. Johns used his first issue of the newly relaunched Hal-centric Green Lantern title to set up future stories promising us epic wars. Fans knew Johns had big plans for Green Lantern, but none could fathom the level he would achieve.

Johns introduced the Emotional Spectrum setting up different Corps, each representing a different color, and each color a different emotion, or trait. With the Green light representing Will, Johns tied other Green Lantern-like powers to the spectrum with Sinestro’s yellow ring tapping into the Fear, the violet ring of the Star Sapphire: Love, and even giving the old Green Lantern foe Black Hand a ring that represented Death.  He introduced new Corps with Red/Rage, Blue/Hope, Orange/Avarice, Indigo/Compassion, and White/Life. Each Corps had a guardian entity like Parallax and with it Johns had changed the Green Lantern Mythos forever.

In 2007 the second part of the promised trilogy from Johns started in the Sinestro Corps War, an 11-issue story that pitted Hal Jordan and the newly reborn Green Lantern Corps against Sinestro’s own twisted group, the Sinestro Corps. The event played out on an epic scale and led to the third chapter in this trilogy, the Blackest Night in 2009.  By the time the Blackest Night came along the Green Lantern Universe had grown to cover all the colors of the emotional spectrum and the mini-series and its tie-ins left no corner of the DCU untouched. Fans from all titles flocked to the mini-series with their favorite character brought back from the dead as members of the Black Lantern Corps. Johns used his encyclopedia-like knowledge of the DCU history to resurrect characters from the mega popular like Earth-2 Superman to the little known Teen Titan Kole, and affected everyone. After the Blackest Night, DC had its Brightest Day a special event that brought in the White Lantern power and brought back characters that had died.

In 2011 DC decided to gamble and dump over 70 years worth of its history to relaunch every title. DC relaunched Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps and released two more titles, Red Lanterns and Green Lantern The New Guardians in the New 52. The Green Lantern Universe was bigger and more successful than ever, and Geoff Johns was responsible for it. As popular as he had become, fans began to lose faith in Johns with the lackluster “Rise of the Third Army” arc in the Green Lantern books. DC announced that Johns along with all current Green Lantern title creative teams were going to leave at the conclusion of John’s final Green Lantern event “Rise of the First Lantern.” Fans all over began talking about how he would end his nine year run. Some feared that it couldn’t live up to his previous work like Blackest Night, which many hold up as the best of his work to date. Throughout the crossover event fans pretty much had the same reaction while, Johns told a good story in the Green Lantern title itself the rest of the issues connected to the other Green Lantern titles dragged the overall story down. Fans began to let the fear of Johns going out on a fizzle and not a BANG creep in.

Johns is known for pulling rabbits out of his hat. He has taken on characters and books that have been deemed impossible to get people to read due to unpopularity or the weight of constant reboots and revisions weighing them down and make them popular and easy for new and old readers to jump on. With Green Lantern #20 he pulled out another rabbit. Just when fans thought they were going to get another disappointing arc like “Rise of the Third Army,” Johns in true Hal Jordan fashion pulled up at the last minute and made a successful landing.

The issue not only wrapped up the “Wrath of the First Lantern” arc, or his 9-year run on the book, it wrapped up the Green Lantern title. You could close issue 20 and walk away from Green Lantern feeling satisfied, whether you’re a Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, Sinestro or any other Lantern fan. Johns didn’t end a run, he ended an era. An era that I am sure will be talked about in 25 years from now and beyond as epic and revolutionary. The conclusion of the “Wrath of the First Lantern” arc wasn’t all that eventful, it was actually anti-climatic by action standards, but it was the personal moments and the character development in this issue that made it in many fans (mine included) opinion comic of the year.

Every character in this book achieved their fandom’s ideal happy ending with Guy Gardner still being true to himself knocking a guy out with one punch using an ongoing JLE joke. John continues his fight for the everyday man not as a Lantern, but as a political leader while finding love with Fatality. Kyle fulfilled his role as the Torchbearer by bringing light to those all over. Every Corps is touched on with some finding new loves, and others their inner spirit. Hal Jordan and Carol got their happy ending as parents, grandparents, and always as Lanterns. While those scenes were nice, the true heart of this issue fell to Hal and Sinestro. When Hal asked Sinestro if they had ever been friends, Sinestro lets him know that, that is the true tragedy of all of this, that they will always be friends. That moment said so much about these two characters and their six-decade long relationship and touched the hearts of the fans.

Many saw that as “the moment” of the book, but for me it was the one between Hal and his younger self. I lost my father a few years ago, and when Johns put the moment where Hal lost his father as the time he felt real fear hit home. Even though I was an adult when I lost my dad, my relationship to him was close, he got me into comics, he was my hero, and was my best friend until the day he passed. The scene where Hal hugs his younger self giving the young boy that feeling of closure was something I connected to on a personal level.

While Johns delivered a lot of action in his run, introduced a mess load of characters, and new creative concepts that will forever be a part of the Green Lantern mythos, I think the true legacy he left behind is the heart and soul that he gave each character throughout his run. He built bridges between fans of Hal and Kyle, John and Guy uniting us all as Green Lantern fans.

Let us know what you think about Green Lantern #20 and Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern in the comments. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter to know whenever we post more reviews, news and previews on Comic Frontline.

Thank you too all those that contributed to this retrospective.

Contribution Links
Brant Fowler
Comic Bloc
Comic Book Corner 2.0
Comic Uno
Zone 4 Podcast

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