The “Herald Profiles” is a new, ongoing feature. In it, you will find recommended reading titles to bring you up to speed on a variety of superheroes.
Today is the release of Green Lantern, staring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard and Mark Strong, with director Martin Campbell (who made my two favourite Bond films, Goldeneye and Casino Royale) calling the shots on one of DC’s most beloved characters. It’s currently getting ravaged by the press, and at the time of writing sits at 21% on Rotten Tomatoes. To mark the release, I have sifted through the massive Green Lantern library and picked out a couple of stories worth reading, even if the film leaves you seeing red rather than green!
First, an overview of Hal Jordan, the greatest Green Lantern. Jordan was a fighter test pilot for the Air Force. That all changed one fateful day, when he was mysteriously transported to a crashed spaceship. There he met Abin Sur, a member of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic police force who wield power rings that harness the emotion of will. Abin Sur was dying and offered Hal the opportunity to succeed him. He accepts, and with the ring in his possession, Jordan became the first human member of the Corps.
He would later become a founding member of the Justice League, and has helped save the world (and the universe) countless times. But Hal couldn’t save his hometown, Coast City, which was destroyed by the villainous Mongul and a cyborg incarnation of Superman, killing millions. The event shattered Hal and sent him on a dizzying course of destruction. He tried to use the power of his ring to resurrect Coast City and its citizens, but the Guardians of Oa, the leaders of the Corps, forbade him. This sent Hal on a mission to get the full power of the ring from the Central Battery on Oa. The events seemingly turned him mad, when a parasite creature entered his body and Hal ceased being Green Lantern and emerged as Parallax. His bid to restore Coast City destroyed most of the Corps and Guardians of Oa. Parallax was set to redo history as he saw fit, with the full power of the Lantern’s Central Battery, but the heroes of the DC universe managed to stop him. Among them, was the last of the Lanterns, newly appointed Kyle Rayner, who was given the power ring by Ganthet, the last of the Guardians.
Secret Origin (2008)
The birth of a character is always a good starting point for non-converts, and Secret Origin is the latest version of Hal Jordan’s first flight. Geoff Johns is the Green Lantern from a writing standpoint, and has taken this character across bumpy terrain in the last decade or so, reinventing him and making the book one of the best-sellers of the DC catalogue. His run has proven so popular that it spawned the movie (and another two if box office is substantial). This story takes us right back to Jordan’s early days, inluding his relationship with his mentor and fellow Green Lantern, Sinestro, as well as his rocky start in the Corps. Johns, along with the beautiful art of Ivan Reis, gives an old story a very fresh coat of paint, while still respecting the legacy.
This is where Johns’ run began. We find Jordan working as the Spectre, an entity that carries out the wrath of god. The story has him battling with ghosts of his past, who come back to haunt him. He is also reunited with Sinestro, and has a comical (well, I found it amusing) confrontation with Batman. Johns saved the character from extinction, and in the process, made a brilliant story that anyone could pick up, read and enjoy.
Sinestro Corps War (2007-2008)
If you’re a big Star Wars fan like myself, then this particular title will be your cup of tea. It focuses on the battle between Jordan and his new nemesis Sinestro, who has built his own Corps of Lanterns who wield yellow power rings, thereby harnessing the energy of fear (an element of the mythology that has always drawn giggles from detractors). Sinestro’s Corps declares all-out war on the Green Lanterns. The struggle boils down to a 350-page, action-packed rollercoaster, and from the opening panels detailing Sinestro’s plan, to the climatic battle on earth, Johns delivers a thrilling space opera. It’s the oft-used tale of a pupil taking on his former master, but written with a great deal of conviction. Rebirth also planted a lot of seeds in the Green Lantern mythos, which have been coming to fruition recently in the DCU. I can’t find anything to criticise in Rebirth, as it is so well structured and looks great. It is possibly one of the best stories, not only for the Green Lantern, but for the DC universe as a whole.
Green Arrow/Green Lantern Collection
This is the classic 70’s run from writer Denny O’Neil and legendary artist Neal Adams. When Jordan is confronted by the Green Arrow, they hit the road to see what America is really like. The stories tackle politics, racism and drug use (the series is renowned for the storyline involving the discovery that the Green Arrow’s sidekick, Speedy, is a drug user). It is a catalogue of topics that are seldom touched upon in comics, giving the run an adult credibility. Some of these real-world issues altered not only Green Lantern, but comic book history, and the medium has been on a progressive trend since.
There are many notable Green Lantern comics in existence, as you’d expect from a mythology that began in 1940, but the ones I have suggested are fitting primers for those daunted about following a character with seven decades of history. And you can always visit your local comic book store and ask for some recommendations. Whatever the fate of the film franchise, the Green Lantern universe will continue to thrive.