Monday, June 27, 2011

Graphic Novel Review: Green Lantern: Rebirth

When the Man Without Fear becomes the darkest villain his allies have faced- and been defeated by- in centuries, what does it take to redeem him and save them all?

For somebody who never owned more than three issues of Green Lantern before 2011, I'm about as big a fan as you're likely to find. This winter, I spent a lot of time reading comics at the Borders Cafe, and what kind of comic nerd would I be if I spent all my time reading Dark Horse? One of the first DC novels I had to get my hands on was Green Lantern: Rebirth.

The only issue of Green Lantern I own featuring Hal Jordan is from 1983. At least, I thought it was. I also thought that was the issue in which Hal Jordan destroys the Green Lantern Corps. So either that happened twice, the comic had a startling moment of prescience, I had an incredibly realistic dream, or a very strange mismemory. I can’t find that comic, though, so I can’t check.

Anyway.

Green Lantern: Rebirth by Geoff Johns is the story of Hal Jordan’s return to the Green Lantern Corps, and as such the return of the relevance of Green Lantern. Not to be cynical, it’s just that the GLC being relevant to DC without Hal would be like a friend of Peter Parker’s putting on the Spiderman suit and maintaining his pre-eminence. Never mind that I hear that’s what they’re doing with Captain America? According to Gutters. Anyway, I would hope that with a title like Rebirth, what I just said wasn’t a spoiler.

Rebirth is, on top of all that, one of the greatest examples of retcons that fans like. Without having read the past decade of Green Lantern, from my understanding none of the revelations in Rebirth existed before this volume was written. Everything in it comes completely out of left field- however, when fans demand it, is it really out of left field?*

I’m aiming for a brief review, but sometimes, you’ve just gotta talk. If you know the deal with Parallax, you can skip most of this. Anyway, in 1993, during the events leading to the return of Superman, Coast City, the hometown of Green Lantern Hal Jordan, was destroyed. The story, as the grapevine describes it, is that he lost it, went crazy, effectively destroyed the GLC, the Guardians, and the central power battery himself. He snapped his long-time foe Sinestro’s neck in a fit of rage, and became the villain Parallax. As Parallax, Jordan went on a reign of terror before finally sacrificing his life to save the sun.

But Hal Jordan isn’t dead- he lives on in the ghastly Specter, who took him on in the hopes of destroying… Parallax. Parallax is revealed to be an independent sentient, and one of incredible power. Sort of like if Return of the Jedi ended with a battle between Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader. Yet, with how Rebirth explains it all, Hal Jordan’s fall and redemption comes across as more realistic than the falls of Anakin Skywalker and Arthas Menethil’s best points put together.

This is one of the best written comics I’ve ever seen. While characters can be disagreeable, there are no moments that I would consider poorly characterized- the biggest “what the hell?” moments that I encountered were the sudden appearances of characters such as Kilowog where they hadn’t been before. It’s sort of sequential, but sometimes the use of first-person narration in Kyle Raynar’s scenes caused me to question whether certain things were flashbacks or not. It’s possible to read this scene and not be confused- that’s not the way it happened for me, though.

Ethan Vans Sciver’s art (not to mention the work of the rest of the art team) is phenomenal. I’ve seen well done comics, although the truly impressive ones are relatively limited. Many are either cheesy or simply sufficient; only Star Wars: Legacy really stands out in my mind as a comic that I’ve read in the past few years and the art really impressed me, as sequential art goes. Rebirth surpassed that. I think the defining moment of the art in this comic is where Kilowog appears, steaming with rage and under the influence of fear.

I’ve always loved ‘Wog’s appearances, mostly as an example of ridiculous character design combined with a serious character in serious situations. He just combines cheesyness and awesomeness in every panel he’s in. Not here. There is nothing cheesy about this Kilowog. At least, if you don’t automatically see the humanoid equivalent of an angry pink hippo or rhino as amusing. The detail on this guy leaves me awestruck. For the first time, I could envision Kilowog as a live action character.

Oh, and let me not forget Parallax. I’ll let the character design speak for itself here.

What to say about the story itself? Well, it’s about as poignant and emotional as a story that declares itself a retcon over and over again can be. And apparently, that’s pretty damn emotional.

Coming into this as I did, after reading Blackest Night, there’s a ton of foreshadowing here. (That’s not to mention the unintentional parody of naming individual issues “Blackest Night” and “Brightest Day”, just going to show how overused those terms are in Jordan’s saga, and with good reason.) Black Hand’s appearance, for instance… I imagine maybe people saw it as nothing more than a cameo, and presumed that the character would vanish from continuity for a few years. Yeah.

But as for this story… well, we have Batman, Green Arrow, Kyle Rayner, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Hal Jordan and Sinestro. In classic dramatized comic style, every character’s strengths are up-played and there are a ton of hardcore finishing moves (and lots of cameos). Sinestro is brought into play as badass as he possibly can be, in league with the embodiment of fear itself, facing off against the old and new Green Lanterns.

Green Lantern: Rebirth is a must for any fan of Green Lantern or comics in general. It might be a little confusing for anybody not familiar with the backstory, but a token effort is made to explain Hal’s fall and return, which I think was handled fairly well for its position as a minor detail to the story. If you’re the type of reader who enjoys seeing iconic characters return to their glory (not just Jordan!) or seeing things like a Guardian of the Universe laying a smackdown or even younger heroes officially accepted by the great legends of their time, this is a story you might want to check out.

*If it’s not, it’s certainly written as it is. I did include all necessary disclaimers.

The Man in Black is a weekly review at Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin' News & Reviews. For more of his reviews, you can visit his home page at www.MiBreviews.com

4 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds better than the movie.

Budd said...

great review and quite a bit more detailed than my own.

starship_blogger said...

AMAZING review, I agree with Charles.. it does sound better than the movie

The Man in Black said...

Thanks for the comments, and I agree, Rebirth would have made a much better movie.