Thursday, October 05, 2006

Out of blue comes green

I´m not reading GREEN LANTERN. When the series started I was excited ( as with any series that has Carlos Pacheco on art chores ) but the first issues were not what I expected from the return of Hal Jordan. The stories were just not outer spacey enough for me so when Carlos Pacheco left the series with the number 8 it was also time for me to ditch the series. Especially after I saw the brokeback Batman cover for issue 9. You know which one I mean. " Ooh, Batman, our lips are so close. "

Now I always was a fan of the whole Green Lantern mythos. Especially in the first golden age issues when the green lanterns didn´t know who the guardians were or where their home planet was. That added a nice touch of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE to the series when they just got their mission orders from their batteries. The whole idea of an interplanetary policelike force to bring order to the universe just spoke to me. I mean how can you not like a series that gave us everything from a green lantern that was a planet to a green lantern that was a chipmunk - who later ended as roadkill in the GREEN LANTERN : MOSAIC series. Which by the way is the best Green Lantern series ever. If you are a Green Lantern fan you just have to get the series. You can probably find the issues in dollar bins since despite it´s greatness there are not that many outspoken fans of it. So get the issues before there is an article in Wizard about it and the prices start to soar.

Reading Green Lantern began for me with Hal Jordan. In the beginnings of my comic voyage Green Lantern was a member of the Justice League and his name was Hal Jordan. He was friends with the Flash, Barry Allen, and his ring didn´t work on anything yellow. I always speculated that it was because the guardians, being the mischievious little cheapscates they are, outsourced the green lantern ring production to Taiwan. So the people down there built in an impurity against their skin color - not because they wanted to take over the world. But if the guardians refused to pay them then they were powerless if the guardians could just use the power rings against them. Yes, you read it here first. The whole impurity against yellow was because the guardians are such moneygrubbers.

Coming back to the first issues of Green Lantern I read, most of the art was done by Joe Staton and Neal Adams. Of course it was as the german translation as Grüne Leuchte from Ehapa that I was introduced to the character. There was an earlier series that published the golden age issues under the name Grüne Laterne ( which was a far better translation of the name ) from the Williams Verlag but at that time I was much more interested in the adventures of the Marvel heroes like Spider - Man, Avengers or the Fantastic Four. But Green Lantern got his own series from Ehapa and I grabbed all issues I could get. During that time I was very interested in Science Fiction and devouring anything I could get my hands on, it didn´t matter if it was the Mark Brandis series from the library or those little poket books ( about the size of a matchbox ) from Pelikan that cost one Deutschmark. So Green Lantern was ( almost ) the best concept in comics : superheroes in space ! There is only one series that has a better premise and that is the Legion of Super - Heroes. Teenage superheroes in space - in the future ! You just can´t top that.

I read most of the Green Lantern series when DC started with a new number one back in the good old days, when Pat Broderick was doing the art and Guy Gardner and Gnort were members of the corps. But I stopped reading after the whole Parallax / Kyle Rayner debacle. I can say it outright : I never liked Kyle Rayner and I never will. If you grew up with such green lantern pros like Hal Jordan or John Stewart it´s just impossible to enjoy the exploits of such a blundering fool like Kyle Rayner. And it was not that Kyle Rayner had to start from scratch, that I could have accepted. It was that he never evolved, he never learned and he never understood what it means to be a green lantern. He. Just. Didn´t. Get. It.

There he was, the last and only green lantern left who was now not only in charge for space sector 2814 but for the whole freakin universe. But instead of patroling outer space he spend most of his time on earth. Never mind all the alien civilizations being wiped out by intergalactic supervillains. Just wait till they come to earth. And he never trained or learned to use his ring better. Never asked Guy or John or some of the other Green Lanterns for some tips on ringslinging. No Sir, why ask anybody for advice ? He was always more interested in doing fancy designed stuff than focusing on the task at hand. I mean I can understand it if it´s more interesting for the artist this way. But being an artist ( which by the way is the worst dayjob for superheroes and the least imaginative ) Kyle should know the first principle of design : keep it simple. The best designs are always the most simple. Another thing that bugged me was the fact that Sandman had to tell Kyle Rayner that he had a wish ring on his finger. Well, duh, what did Kyle think he was wearing ? Something form a Cracker Jack box ? But let´s not turn this post into an episode of " I hate Kyle " - that could be a post all of it´s own. Let´s just agree that Kyle was the worst green lantern ever and leave it at that.

Now, in all my discussions with Kyle activists the main argument was always that I didn´t like Kyle Rayner because I grew up with Hal Jordan as a green lantern and therefore he was my favorite green lantern. The only reason I hated Kyle was because of Nostalgia. That´s the biggest piece of bull§#!+ I ever heard. Because while I DID grow up reading the adventures of Hal Jordan he´s not my favorite green lantern. Because there is only one true green lantern : Guy Gardner. The best there is. The best there was. And the best there ever will be. Part of the best incarnation of the League of all times and just one of the most interesting characters in comics. Because no matter if you loved him or hated him he was always honest. If he was an asshole he was an outspoken asshole. You knew which side he was on. So, no, sorry to disappoint all you Kylehuggers out there but the whole nostalgia argument just doesn´t count. The simple reason I hate Kyle is that next to lanterns like Hal Jordan or Guy Gardner Kyle just doesn´t make the cut. One of the things I always joked about was the fact that when Guy or Hal used their power ring it was like a cross between the Encyclopedia Galactica and an universal translator. But Kyle never used it that way. So I always said that one day Kyle would say a question out loud ( more to himself ) and the ring would answer.

Kyle : Ring, why didn´t you speak to me before ? I sure could have used your help.

Ring : You never asked.

Sounds stupid ? Yes, that´s what I thought till this scene appeared in Green Lantern : Reborn. Seems I was not the only one who had Kyle pegged for an idiot. Speaking of the reborn mini series, the best about this series was that all the fans of Kyle Rayner got a taste of their own medicine. After years of hearing the same arguments why Kyle Rayner was the greatest green lantern ever it was just very satisfying to see that it was not so funny when they had to part with the green lantern THEY had grown to love. Enough of all the " Oh, you big bore. You just don´t like new things. " or " You just don´t want to evolve. You have to be open for change. " or " You have to be more tolerant. Hal Jordan is a thing of the past and we just have to embrace the new lantern. " Now it was more along the lines of " You killed Kyle Rayner ! You bastards ! " or " I want my old lantern back. " Now that´s Schadenfreude for you.

Back to Green Lantern, the comic, I had thrown it from my pull list. But the other day I went to Stuttgart to pick up my mother at the airport and missed her because I was too late. Since I had already paid the train ticket to Stuttgart I went to my emergency comic shop in Esslingen so that it would not be a total waste of time and money. And there I stumbled upon issues 12 and 13 of Green Lantern containing part 3 and 4 of REVENGE OF THE GREEN LANTERNS. So after I got a look at the fabulous art by Ivan Reis I went down to the catacombs where I found issues 10 and 11 ( together with some issues of Supergirl & the Legion of Super - Heroes ) and bought them right away.

Sadly, the story was not what I expected, namely some green lanterns going after Hal Jordan to make him pay for all the green lanterns he killed when he became Parallax and torturing him for days before executing him publicly. But the story is almost as good as that ( and who knows - they may still do it ). Now before I start with the story I want to say a few words about the artist Ivan Reis. What´s wrong with DC ? Why isn´t he a superstar ? He draws like a mean son of a bitch but he is just one of the many artists at DC. They need to promote this guy better. He could be the next Neal Adams. Because I have seen art from this guy, first on Lady Death and later on series like Action Comics and Rann / Thanagar War but his art never looked as good as in these issues. One of the reasons for that is the inker who takes over the inking chores with issue 11 : Oclair Albert. I don´t know who this guy is, I never heard of him but from now on he better ink all of Ivan Reis works. And if DC knows what is good for them they will put himon all books done by Ivan Reis. Because there are some dream teams of pencilers and inkers that are just greater than the sum of their parts : John Buscema and Tom Palmer, Alan Davis and Mark Farmer or Jim Lee and Scott Williams. And now Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert. While the art in isue 10 looks really good from issue 11 on it just is cool beyond words. From metal to clothing to textures Oclair Albert does it all easily and with a love for details that boggles the mind. It looks like a cross between Carlos Pacheco and Neal Adams combining the best of both artists.

Before I go off on an endless art rant I want to say a few words about the story. If you haven´t read issue 10 to 13 of Green Lantern you should not read what follows now because there will be some spoilers in it. Just skip the rest ot this post and buy the isssues. Now, REVENGE OF THE GREEN LANTERNS takes place ONE YEAR LATER as we find Hal Jordan at odds with the Rocket Reds because of a violation of russian airspace and mainly introduces us to the new status quo of the " one year later " world. Things get really interesting when at the end of issue 10 a spaceship crashlands during a ceremony for Hal Jordan and two of his fellow pilots who are about to be awarded the P.O.W. medal for something that happend during 52. The ships only passenger : Tomar Tu, green lantern of space sector 2813.

One of the green lanterns Hal Jordan killed. Or so we thought.

Going through my back isues of Green Lantern I found out that Tomar Tu, and the other supposedly dead lanterns appeared on the last page of issue 3. Which would have been a shocker if my brain somehow registered that all these lanterns were supposed to be dead. But since the story where Hal Jordan killed them all off happened so long ago I just didn´t remember.

Anyway, when it turns out that Tomar Tu hasn´t come to earth to seek Hal´s help, which they deduct when he begins screaming : " I will kill Hal Jordan ! ", Hal of course wants to find out if any of the other lanterns he thought dead may be alive again. So he asks the guardians if he can go look for them - of course the guardians say no. And of course he goes anyway and even takes Guy Gardner with him who kind of volunteers for the mission. Is it just me or is Hal like the guardian´s bitch ? He´s always like : " Come on, let me do this. " and they are always like : " Shut up, bitch. Know your place. " This guy just never learns. Hal, you always do what you want anyway. Just stop asking the blue guys and think about Nike´s motto : just do it.

Now I don´t want to spoil more of the story but if you check out the pics I posted you already know who the villain is so what the heck.....just some things I wanted to mention.

One of the best elements of the story : Guy Gardner. Geoff Johns seems to channel his inner Guy because this is the best Guy Gardner I´ve read in a long time. From him calling the guardians " smurf " to the moment where he only follows Hal´s orders to get power Girl´s home number this is just Gardner gold.

Maybe DC should put on certain comics not only the ONE YEAR LATER symbol but also a POLITICAL CORRECTNESS sign. I mean what happened to the women in the green lantern corps ? Boodikka used to have boobs that could rival Power Girl´s power girls. Now she´s not even in the regular superheroine size area. And why was Arisia´s origin changed ? Seems that DC thought that her old origin where she was a thirteen year old girl who used her power ring to change her body to the body of a full grown woman was too dangerous for today´s comic readers and made Hal into too much of a womanizer - I mean more than him changing girlfriends like other people shirts. Since all kids just imitate anything they see or read DC didn´t want to come off as promoting adultery since Hal used to stick it to Arisia. So now her " new " origin is that thirteen years on her homeplanet are like two - hundred and forty years on earth. So now Hal did it with some really old bat who obviously took advantage of him and the adultery is the other way around. It seems that´s now more accectable for society. Hip hip hooray !

And what´s with the flying green lantern emblem ? I don´t know if this is a new thing but this green emblem just hovering a few inches above his chest ( or the chest of other green lanterns ) just looks stupid. And it serves no purpose whatsoever. Is this supposed to be like a cop´s badge ? Why not just put a big sign saying " Hi ! I´m a Green Lantern. " on the chest ? Dude, if you haven´t figured out who the guy in the green suit is you deserve being arrested.

Speaking of arresting people : whish I knew who is responsible for the atrocious covers for the issues. I mean I remember a time when the sole purpose of the covers was to sell the comic. But recently more and more comics have come out with worse art on the covers then inside the comic. It should be the other way around. That´s also the main reason why in this case I did not post the covers but rather the interior art. This may spoil a thing or two for you but I already warned you and at least you can see the penciled versions and the inked and colored pages. It was one hell of a job to find some art from the issues but I think it was worth it.

To end on a positive note : any comic with Evil Cyborg Superman is a good comic. It is not very often that a villain from one hero´s rogue gallery can be successfully be integrated into another hero´s super villains. But it worked pretty well with Hank Henshaw a.k.a. Evil Cyborg Superman who became one of Hal´s top villains when he detroyed his hometown Coast City. It also helps that this guy is even more indestructable than the Terminator and crazy as a bat. And of course he just wants to help people - by killing everyone so they don´t have to suffer any more pain. Who ever thought that such a great villain would emerge from a cheap Fantastic Four rip off story that DC ran in the pages of a Superman comic ?

So this story has it all : a really cool Guy Gardner, some green lanterns who haven´t forgotten who killed a lot of the corps, various interesting subplots like the Global Guardian´s membership drive or the yellow ring seeking members for the Sinestro Corps, underage lanterns suddenly turning into hundreds of years old women, more manhunters than you can shake a stick at and Evil Cyborg Superman. REVENGE OF THE GREEN LANTERNS is the best green lantern story I have read in a long time. If you suffered through GREEN LANTERN : REBORN you should definitely check out this book. It´s worth it for the art alone and definitely a read well worth your money.

Knife to the eye !