Any Hal Jordan/Green Lantern origin story has to compete with the memory of Darwyn Cooke’s “New Frontier”, and I’m sure Geoff Johns knows that. Luckily for him, he has Ivan Reis on his side, and Reis is one of the greatest mainstream pencilers in the business. If you had any doubts about his skill — although I can’t imagine why you would — “Green Lantern” #29 proves his greatness. It’s one thing to draw manic space battles with dozens of characters, as Reis did with style during the climax of the “Sinestro Corps War,” but it’s another to create dynamic composition while your hero wears street clothes. Reis can do both with the utmost skill. He’s the aesthetic descendant of Neal Adams (as the images of the boyish Hal Jordan show), but his characters are a bit smoother, shinierï¿½”a perfect style for a book about a guy with a magical glowing ring.
How does the story compare with what Cooke accomplished in “New Frontier”? Why do we need another story about how Hal Jordan became Green Lantern, anyway?
You might be asking yourself those questions, because I know I did.
First, “Green Lantern” #29 takes a completely different approach to Jordan’s character. Obviously, New Frontier was about Hal Jordan in his original historical context, as a post-Korean War test pilot. Cooke portrayed him as a rocket jock with a death wish. Here, Johns portrays the in-continuity Hal Jordan as a boy who watched his father’s plane explode and knew “there was nothing left to be afraid of” after that. Johns’ young Jordan is reckless and wild, but not out of anger. Not because he has something to prove. He’s reckless because he feels that life holds no mysteries, no boundaries. He’s seen the worst that can happen on that tarmac the day his father died, and he’s not going to hold anything back.
Second, we need another story about how Hal Jordan became Green Lantern because we haven’t seen Johns’ version yet, and although the big picture will turn out the same (we know Abin Sur will bequeath the ring to Jordan), the small details are the ones that matter. Johns is establishing himself as the quintessential Green Lantern writer, and it’s important to give him a chance to tell the whole story of Hal Jordan, not just the story of how he punches guys with yellow rings.
As any regular reader of this current “Green Lantern” series knows, Geoff Johns is a story architect. His “Sinestro Corps War” story had been building for years, as far back as the “Green Lantern: Rebirth” story, and the end of issue #25 featured a preview of events not scheduled to occur until 2009. Since distant planning and story structure are integral to the Johns approach to comic book scripting, we must assume that there’s a reason why Johns wanted to retell Jordan’s origin at this point in the overall scheme of things. And the final page of issue #29 seems to demonstrate the reason. He’s not just retelling the origin of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, he’s showing us the events leading to Abin Sur’s death. That death, it seems, has something to do with the future of the Green Lantern Corps.
Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis are at the top of their professions right now, and if you’re not reading “Green Lantern”, you’re missing one of the best superhero books on the market.