First introduced in the 1940s, Green Lantern is one of the oldest superheroes not just in the DC Universe, but in comics. Over the years the character’s origin and identity have changed multiple times - from Alan Scott in the original comics to characters like Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz in the modern era. Their origins are all varied, but they’ve always been some of the most creative heroes in modern fiction.
Of course, very few people are ever going to even attempt to read seventy years worth of comic books. So this list distills all of that down to some of the best and most important Green Lantern comics you’ve never read, not just from this era, but from all of them.
10 GREEN LANTERNS: OUT OF TIME
Out of Time occurred during the Rebirth era of the DC Universe. Focusing on the newest Green Lanterns Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, the story sees the two of them learn about the origins of the Green Lantern Corps. They meet Volthoom, the person responsible for the original Lantern, then get catapulted back through time while fighting him and wind up meeting the original seven Green Lanterns. From there things only get crazier, but this story arc is crucial for defining the original history of the Corps, as well as showing off these two characters at their very best.
Covering the fallout of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps’ previous arc where the Green Lantern Corps and the Sinestro Corps are forced to fight against a man from the future with the power to counter their abilities, Fracture sees the Green Lantern Corps done in by some of the secrets they’ve been keeping. This is easily the most relevant Kyle Rayner story of the modern era, with his relationship with long-time girlfriend Soranik Natu becoming permanently damaged thanks to one such secret, which also leads to the dissolution of the tenuous alliance between the Sinestro and Green Lantern Corps.
8 GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW
Marketed as “The battle of values that shook a nation”, the team-up comic between these two “Hard Traveling Heroes” had a lot to live up to. Though Hal Jordan is seen as someone who flaunts authority now, this 70’s-era comic saw him as the exact opposite—someone who built his life on respect for the powers that be. This made way for fireworks as the creative team of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams placed him alongside the left-leaning Ollie Queen to show Hal a different viewpoint of the world. Dragging Hal out of space to help the common man, this comic is the foundation for Ollie and Hal’s friendship today.
7 SINESTRO'S LAW
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps is an underrated comic. Working with the theme of Rebirth, writer Robert Venditti did his best to restore to the Green Lantern mythology as possible. With the story Sinestro’s Law, he managed to re-introduce the Corps back to the DC Universe, then proceeded to place them up against the Sinestro Corps again.
Despite just barely surviving their time in a dead universe, the group immediately get to work and prove why they should be the premier peacekeeping force in the universe. Sinestro’s Law feels like a mission statement for the Green Lantern Corps in the modern era as peacekeepers who hold themselves to the highest standards because they hold the most powerful weapon in the universe.
6 FLASH/GREEN LANTERN: BRAVE AND THE BOLD
During the '90s, it was entirely possible to have never read a comic with Barry Allen or Hal Jordan that weren’t retrospectives focusing on how they affected other characters. Fortunately, along came Mark Waid and Barry Kitson to give us a mini-series focusing on how their friendship developed. It’s a story made all the more bittersweet because at the time people believed both of them were gone for good. For fans of both Barry and Hal that want to see what their relationship was like during the halcyon days of the Silver Age, this mini-series is a must-read.
5 GREEN LANTERN: A NEW DAWN
There’s so much of this that’s non-canon now in the wake of Rebirth, but a good story no matter what continuity says. For anyone looking to learn more about Kyle Rayner and where he came from, this is the comic. Though Rayner starts out from humble origins (if you call drunkenly stumbling out of a bar “humble”), Ron Marz and Darryl Banks quickly get our hero into the swing of things. Over the course of just four issues, he gets his ring, creates his own unique costume, and gets into it with multiple supervillains, all of which would’ve taken him a year and a half in modern comics.
4 GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD KNIGHTS
For much of Kyle Rayner’s career in the ’90s, Hal Jordan was something of an inscrutable figure. He was described as this incredible, legendary hero... but all he’d ever known was Parallax, the monster. But leading up to Green Lantern vol. 3 #100, writer Ron Marz changed all that by having Hal Jordan from the past wind up in Kyle’s present day. Over six issues we got to see both Green Lanterns not only interact with one another, but see how “good” Hal was treated by others in the superhero community. In the end, Hal is forced to go back to face his past, but this gave Kyle a “real” meeting with the man whose shoes he’d been filling.
3 GREEN LANTERN: SECRET ORIGIN
When people think of Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern, they think of the biggest points of the series: Rebirth, Sinestro Corps War, and Blackest Night. What they often forget is that in between there are some strong stories which are crucial to the development of Hal Jordan in the post-Crisis era.
Specifically, Johns’ rewrite of Jordan’s early years sees him seamlessly insert Atrocitus and the Blackest Night prophecy into that history, while also giving us a modern retelling of Hal and Sinestro’s first meeting. Though it occurs halfway into Johns’ run with the character, Secret Origin works as the perfect entry point for fans wanting to understand the Green Lantern mythology.
2 GREEN LANTERN: POWER OF ION
As if having the most powerful weapon in the universe on your finger isn’t enough, Judd Winick decided to take things to another level with Kyle Rayner when he gave him the entire power of the Green Lantern Corps at once. Over the course of eight issues, Kyle deals with the power of godhood and decides how to balance it with his humanity. His true character is put on display as he ultimately decides to help restore the Green Lantern Corps’ Central Power Battery, putting us on the road to what would eventually lead to a Rebirth for the Green Lantern franchise.
1 THREE OF A KIND
In the late ’90s there was a sense of progression at DC Comics. Though Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman had only gone through minor changes before reverting to their classic costumes and selves, everyone around them was different. New heroes were everywhere, even in top tier places like the Justice League, where there was a new Green Lantern, Flash, and Green Arrow. Three of a Kind sees the three decide to go on a vacation together to learn more about one another and cooperate better as heroes. Of course, the cruise eventually goes sour and leads to some superhero shenanigans, but given how only a few years later things would revert to the Silver Age heroes, this is one of the few times we get to see these characters working together, and it’s worth cherishing for any fan of '90s heroes.