Monday, April 5, 2010

Review: Green Lantern: Rebirth

Review Green Lantern Rebirth Geoff Johns Ethan Van Sciver Hal Jordan DC Comics Cover trade paperback tpb comic bookWriter: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ethan Van Sciver
Collects: Green Lantern: Rebirth #1-6 (2004-05)
Published: DC, 2006; $14.99

In Green Lantern: Rebirth, Geoff Johns had the unenviable task of fixing more than a decade’s worth of DC completely mishandling the Green Lantern mythos. He was also tasked with restoring Hal Jordan, the original Green Lantern, to the focal point of the franchise. I can’t imagine this was an easy task for him, and the end product isn’t entirely perfect. With the help of the extraordinarily talented Ethan Van Sciver, though, he manages to pull it off fairly well.

The mess created in the decade prior to Rebirth really can’t be understated. Not only had Hal Jordan become a crazed mass-murderer, but he was now the embodiment of the Spectre (God’s Spirit of Vengeance — whatever that means), and his replacement as Green Lantern was a younger, “hipper” character (Kyle Rayner) who still had yet to be truly accepted by many fans. The Guardians of the Universe and the Green Lantern Corps, intergalactic organizations that had been staples of the Green Lantern universe from the very beginning, had been completely removed from the books. Likewise, Hal’s mortal enemy Sinestro had been rather anticlimactically killed off. Oh, and Guy Gardner (Earth’s Green Lantern in reserve) had become a super-muscled half-alien with the ability to morph his body parts into weapons. God bless the ’90s, right?

From the first issue of Rebirth, Johns does a great job of establishing these characters’ personalities and the current status quo of their collective universe. This makes the book a great place to start for people who aren’t very familiar with Green Lantern. Before I read Rebirth for the first time, my only knowledge of the character came from having read about a dozen issues of the first Green Lantern series (published in the early 1960s), and I felt like I understood the characters in no time at all. But Rebirth also appeals to long-time Green Lantern fans, who I imagine were happy to finally see some justice done to their favorite characters when the series began in 2004.

The main thrust of the story is that the atrocities committed by Hal were actually caused by Parallax, an entity made of pure fear that corrupted his mind and took control of his body. While that may sound like a lazy explanation at first, Johns makes it all work by incorporating Parallax into the pre-established Green Lantern mythos. Hal’s ring has always been powerless over the color yellow, and by establishing Parallax (the embodiment of fear itself) as the ring’s “yellow impurity,” Johns actually gives meaning to a limitation on the character that’s always been somewhat arbitrary.

Considering some of the more clichéd comic book conventions Johns could have used to absolve Hal of his actions (clones, time travel, etc.), this explanation works pretty well. In fact, while I haven’t read many of the stories that were effectively undone by Rebirth, I suspect Johns’ new explanation for the events they portray is actually better than the original ones were. I can’t help but wonder if, by some weird literary retrofitting effect, those stories might actually read a little better now if we keep Parallax and the yellow impurity in mind.

But as Brad Meltzer notes in the book’s introduction, Johns doesn’t stop with simply restoring Hal to his former grace. It would have been easy to kill off Kyle, and maybe even Guy, but Johns breathes new life into them instead. He gives them a purpose again, one that both supplements Hal Jordan’s role in the DC Universe and works in its own, self-contained right. (In fact, the story of Kyle, Guy, and another Green Lantern, Kilowog, actually continues in the miniseries Green Lantern: Recharge, which then becomes the ongoing series Green Lantern Corps.)

However, I do have one major bone to pick with Rebirth, and it’s Johns’ characterization of Batman. Throughout the story, Batman is depicted as a bad guy for being suspicious of Hal and the fact that he has returned to life. Realistically, this makes perfect sense; Batman would have to be pretty ignorant to just blindly accept that a man responsible for so much death and destruction is suddenly one of the good guys again. The worst moment comes toward the end of the book, when Batman demands an explanation and Hal’s response is simply to punch him in the face and fly away. Even if Batman’s suspicions were groundless, Hal has just been “reborn” — shouldn’t he try to take the high road in this new life, and start off on the right foot with his fellow heroes? Shouldn’t he have grown as a character as the result of his rebirth, or should we be content with him being exactly the same character he was before DC editorial decided to make him a murderer all those years ago? If anything, the whole conflict makes Hal look like an even bigger jerk than Johns seems to think Batman is.

I also don’t buy Johns’ attempt to make Batman and Green Lantern into diametrical opposites — as manifestations of fear and hope, respectively. Batman is not a character defined by fear, as GL is by hope; rather, Batman instills fear in his enemies. Green Lantern does the exact same thing (as do most superheroes, for that matter), even if he doesn’t go about it as theatrically as Batman does. The center of Johns’ analogy simply doesn’t hold, and the ending of Rebirth rings hollow as a result.

That said, there’s still a lot to like here, and it’s thanks in large part to Van Sciver’s artwork. I particularly like the way he draws each of the five Green Lanterns in the story (Hal, Kyle, Guy, John Stewart, and Kilowog) as having different ways of handling their powers. Each has a visually distinctive method of flying, and the way energy emanates from their respective power rings in the final battle against Parallax is unique as well. Little touches like these make it clear that Johns and DC intend to treat these characters with the individuality and respect they deserve, and that we don’t have to worry about the mistakes of the ‘90s rearing their ugly heads any time in the near future. Welcome back, Hal.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


  1. I agree with you all throughout this comic, and while I probably would've given it a 4/5 I see your point. I especially hated the way Batman was portrayed. Like you said he had great reasons to be skeptical and Hal's punch was unwarranted. I hated that Batman was made to look like a bad guy while he's the only one who's suspicious. In hindsight everyone should have been a little wary of trusting Hal. But excellent review man, I doubt I could do any better, I may just try my hand at Recharge instead :P

  2. Actually, I'm going to have to disagree with Jason Todd (great name by the way) I like that Batman is still sometimes portrayed as the bad guy, it's what makes Batman, Batman.

  3. Interesting that you would say that, Jozeph. I was never a big fan of the direction they pushed Batman's character after Identity Crisis though, and his portrayal in GL Rebirth just seems, at least to me, like an extension of that.

    In Johns' original proposal for this series (which is provided in the back of the book), the tension between Batman and Green Lantern is brought to a much more reasonable and emotionally balanced close. I think a lot of my frustration with Rebirth comes from knowing how much better it could have been if they had just stuck with the original plan.

  4. Huh, only a 3.5 out of 5 for Rebirth? Wow... I probably would have gone all the way for Rebirth, but I can definitely understand where you're coming from, Marc. As for the whole Batman/Hal thing, I think the main point Geoff was trying to get across was that this was the same Hal Jordan pre-Parallax, not a different one, which is why he ended up slugging Bats. We should all realize by now that Geoff REALLY likes the Silver Age Green Lantern and Flash.

    I just don't know if I'd go so far as to call Bats the bad guy here... Paranoid, suspicious, unforgiving, sure, but bad? I saw Bats more as the voice of reason as opposed to the bad guy. I just don't like to think of Bruce as bad or evil...

    Bats and Hal did have some closure in one of the earlier issues of the GL series. I'm not sure how Geoff's original plan went, but maybe he simply held it off until that GL comic. Regardless of all that though, seriously great review Marc, and I'll be looking forward to your next one.

  5. I understand what you are saying, and I agree with you to an extent, I don't want a big dramatic Romeo and Juliet Esc scene, but I'm going to have to insist that one of Batman's biggest feature is that he is an unbreakable egg. (Pardon the metaphor) Plus if you think about it Batman, and Green Lantern are opposite characters so it is obvious one would not understand the other.

  6. I'm glad Hal got another shot as Green Lantern. I have a question is he still assigned to Earth?

  7. I forgot to introduce myself I'm Hulk (originally Iron Man) and it is my task to get followers to my blog . Because I have none. So Hello!

  8. Thanks for reading, Hulk. I'm not exactly sure of Hal's current role in the DC universe as I haven't read Blackest Night, the Green Lantern story which just ended this month. If you're really curious I'm sure there are still issues available at your local comic store.

    Gaining followers is no easy task, and unfortunately there's no quick way of doing it. So far I've been very lucky to have a lot of interest and comments on this blog. The best advice I can offer you is to make quality posts on a fairly consistent basis, so people will want to keep coming back to your site. Good luck!

  9. I am thankful for your advice I guess what I've been doing mostly comedy but thats a bout to change. By the way ( not refering to Blackest Night Series) but do you like Sinestro or Hal Jordan better. Happy Comic reading!

  10. Two things, one mark: could you review the Flash blood will run?
    and two Hulk you could always try doing a comic review, instead of just comic news

  11. Wait you guys have always checked out my blog?

  12. I agree with mostly everything you said. Hal was brought back in a way that not only made logical sense, but it really set up the whole color spectrum dealio quite nicely by adding logic to it from the beginning.

    I agree that it was kind of silly to have Hal respond to Batman by simply punching him in the face. It was out of nowhere and seemed kind of unneccesary.

    The only part we disagree on is the Fear vs. Hope comparison. I honestly didn't see anything that was smashing you over the head with that comparison. I think the major problem with Batman's depiction in Rebirth is the fact that he was the only one questioning Jordan's return that strongly so it stood out. I think the punch only made matters worse as well.

    Overall, I enjoyed Rebirth and it's what got me into Green Lantern so I don't have many bad things to say about it, but I agree with most of your "cons".