I can still remember the bitter tang of disappointment.
It was December, 2007. “The Sinestro Corps War” had just ended and “Green Lantern” #25 closed it out, not only with one of the best finishes of a major storyline in recent memory but with, as Geoff Johns is often wont to do, a teaser of storylines yet to come. And so, with the promise of multi-hued Lanterns and the whisper of the hint of the possibility of Batman going toe-to-toe with the reanimated corpses of Thomas and Martha Wayne fresh in my mind, I eagerly perused next set of DC Solicitations. What would be the start of such an exciting journey into a bold new direction of the Green Lanterns?
A Secret Origin?
Remember the shot of Bart and Lisa when Marge tells them instead of going to Itchy & Scratchy Land she’s planned a family vacation to the Highway Nine Bird Sanctuary? That pretty much summed up my initial reaction. Who cares about the origin of a forty year old character? What could we possibly not know? What could be fresh or relevant or exciting enough to actually care about? We’ve got awesome new Lanterns to meet and zombie Conner Kents to push around!
And yet, here we are at the third installment of Hal Jordan’s Secret Origin and it’s just as action packed, epic, and well-wrought as any of Johns’ best work. I don’t doubt that a more seasoned DC Historian (Confession: I didn’t really get into the DCU until “Green Lantern: Rebirth”) might find this storyline to be rife with retcons and highly disrespectful to continuity. Since I have only the most passing knowledge of Green Lanternalia, I couldn’t care less about all that, because this story is just fantastic.
One key piece to that puzzle is the work of Ivan Reis, who, through the crucible of “The Sinestro Corps War,” took himself from a merely great superhero artist into the very exclusive Pantheon of The Most Superb Comic Artists Working Today. With a Bryan Hitch level for detail and a disarmingly effective looseness in his depiction of emotion, his work elevates nearly every dramatic moment depicted in Hal’s life thus far. The strangeness and perspective shift that his sudden yanking from Earth to Oa causes is one of the great moments of the issue. The reader is just as overwhelmed by the transition as Hal must have been, and nearly all of this is thanks to the great work of Reis, Albert, and Mayor. Throughout the entire storyline, Reis and Johns have used splash pages and double page spreads to great effect. All the legendary beats that are part of Hal’s origin are given the proper weight.
And of course, what makes Secret Origin the most relevant to the overall story Johns has been telling for years now are the emerging clues about Sector 666 and what will eventually become the Red Lanterns.
So, I have to give Johns credit for turning what I thought would be a distracting and unnecessary step backwards into a really engaging look at the origins of his take on Hal Jordan. I think any reader of the title now has a much more immediate sense of what makes him tick and the story is taking its time exploring all the things in his past that have led to his status in the present. Even the Yellow Imperfection is handled with a knowing wink towards what eventually will be revealed about it. As I said, some might find this a wholesale rewrite of Green Lantern history, but I find it to be a fascinating and successful attempt at crafting a coherent past present and future for the Green Lantern Corps. Much like Grant Morrison is attempting to meld Batman’s past adventures into a coherent biography in his work on the flagship title, Johns is doing his best to make everything work under his vision for the character and his surroundings.
It’s a great story, well told, and it really helps make Johns’ run on the title a fantastic, epic, and (most importantly) cohesive whole.