Green Lantern: Rebirth
by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver
I’ll be honest: I don’t particularly get Green Lantern as a concept. I mean, space police, power rings, the fact that John Stewart is awesome, these are all things I get. But the Green Lantern approach to fear has always left me a little cool. Firstly, because it means that Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern for those unfortunate enough not to grow up on a steady diet of the DC animated universe, is a cocky, fearless pilot. As an Air Force brat, I only find this twentieth century archetype interesting when it’s played by Tom Cruise and set to the musical stylings of Berlin. So while I have seen (in slack-jawed amusement at its sheer badness) DC’s hilariously tragic attempt to bring Green Lantern to the big screen, I don’t really have any investment in the character.
But Green Lantern: Rebirth kept popping up over and over again as a good recommendation. Not so much to get into the character, but because it (like its spiritual sequel Flash: Rebirth) streamlines years of messy comic book continuity. When superhero comics are referred to as modern mythology, it’s largely because, like mythology, they consist of many stories (including often different versions of the same story) that are loosely but not firmly related featuring the same cast (including often different versions of the same cast). The accurate approach to adapting such a tentacled beastie is picking and choosing. This is how we end up with interpretations of Batman as varied as Batman: The Animated Series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and, as it is foretold, Batman v Superman: Grimdark Grimdark Grimdark. And, gloriously, they’re all valid—not only because all readings are valid, but because the source material encompasses all of those approaches. It’s an ever changing beast.
But sometimes it does pay to pare things down again, just to level the sandbox a little bit for the next group of creative kids to jump in. And that’s essentially the only thing that interested about Green Lantern: Rebirth.
I think Green Lantern: Rebirth is much more interesting in context. It is expressly and explicitly written for fans, by fans. After all, Hal Jordan was brought back because his rampage of a death and subsequent sacrifice to light the sun were sore subjects for fans. Brad Meltzer’s adoring introduction points out, over and over again, how Geoff Johns has brought back not only Hal Jordan, but the lore that made him beloved. Without having any grounding in said lore, I can’t engage with this miniseries properly. Seeing Sinestro turn up lacks oomph if I haven’t spent a few years thinking that he was dead.
But does this make Green Lantern: Rebirth a bad comic? I’m not sure. On the one hand, I think everything should be able to stand alone to a certain degree. There’s a coherent story here, of course, but it largely assumes your interest in having Hal Jordan redeem himself after everything he’s done under the control of Parallax. I found myself much more interested in Kyle Rayner, the Lantern who keeps the legacy alive in Jordan’s absence. He’s singled out as important and heroic because he can manage fear, even while he’s experiencing it. When the resurrected Jordan responds to Rayner’s protestations that he’s not brave enough to remain a Green Lantern, Jordan points out that Rayner has just been saving the world. (To which Kyle makes an adorable expression. I like this guy!)
On the other hand, the miniseries assumes your emotional investment in these characters. This is true for any franchise, but there are ways to remind the returning audience why they love these characters. I’m thinking particularly of Harley Quinn’s self-titled run from the early aughts, since she’s a character whose convoluted backstory and interpersonal relationships need explaining before you can go anywhere with her. But it worked, because the characterization was spot on and the pacing was tight. Since Jordan is introduced already more or less possessed by the Spectre, we don’t get much of a read on him as a person. And then there goes my personal bias again—I guess I was exposed to Hot Shots too much as a small child (I know, right?) to be able to like hot shot pilots.
Still, I do appreciate that Green Lantern: Rebirth explains the ridiculous and seemingly arbitrary classic Green Lantern weakness to the color yellow while also introducing a whole new emotional spectrum for writers to play with.
I rented this book from the public library.