Green Lanterns Rebirth #1 Review

"It was a test, Simon.  And you failed."

A brief preface

When it comes to this week's Green Lantern Rebirth #1 I'm not quite sure where to begin.  The Blog of Oa has been the outlet for my personal expression of my love of the Green Lantern universe and as nothing more than a fan I sometimes struggle to share my opinions about books when the don't line up with what I love about the universe.  Case in point - when the Larfleeze series came out I found the book such a poor representation of the character than I dropped the series after two issues.  I'm finding myself in a similar position with this title.  

DC Rebirth was an opportunity to get back to what's great about the DC universe and when it comes to both the Flash and Green Lantern families I think the company has failed those properties by leaving them overcrowded with characters that in my opinion make being a speedster or a person with a power ring less special than it should be, and in the case of the Green Lanterns I quite honestly feel that DC is using the franchise as a lazy way to show diversity in their lineup.  It's also certainly not the "swift kick in the pants this franchise needed" as Newsarama claims in my opinion.  So while I'm going to do my best to remain as open as I can to this direction I can't say for certain how long I'll cover this series, but I want to make sure that anyone reading this understands my perspective.

The review

The issue starts out very much like I'd expect a Green Lantern tale to begin in a comic with Geoff Johns' name on the cover.  There's something previously unknown out there, it's powerful and it's dangerous, and this secret carries a grave threat to the universe.  The Guardian of the Universe is a previously unknown character and while we don't get a lot of information here it's probably safe to say that his past is not unlike the Templar Guardians based on his wardrobe and the fact that he feels fear as he is surrounded by the Dominators - personally one of my favorite alien races in the DCU.  As this new power is unleashed the energy takes on the pattern of what is very likely a new symbol for this as yet unknown power and it would not be a surprise if at some point one of our leading characters may become the wearer of this new ring.
A new emotional spectrum symbol!? 

The Geoff Johns / Sam Humphries script shifts location back to Earth where they give readers a few pages to get introduced to Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz.  New readers are likely unaware of either Baz's or Cruz's backstory and while this issue skips on the details it provides you with enough information to get a sense of their history.  For Cruz this is a bigger issue as not much is known about her civilian life and it's a shame that more space wasn't devoted to her with her past being the much bigger question mark.

Johns and Humphries try a little too hard to show that the two don't get along with each other and Simon is pretty out of character at this point.  His disdain for Guy Gardner is incredibly off base considering the relationship they developed during Godhead and we haven't seen anything about the two that would indicate tension between the two.  The whole sequence seems forced to show that the two don't get along, and when Hal Jordan arrives to scold the two for not working better together the story goes off the rails for me.

DC seems intent on selling Simon Baz as a rookie and the problem is that he isn't.  The writers even go so far to say that Baz has only had his power ring for a few weeks longer than Cruz who has only just gotten hers.  But the fact is that Simon got his ring during 2012's Rise of the Third Army.  He's served as a member of the Justice League, fought during the Trinity War, battled Volthoom and the New Gods and has served as the Green Lantern of Earth during Hal Jordan's tenure as the leader of the Green Lantern Corps.  He's also been to the Edge of Oblivion, stranded in the universe before our own, for a considerable period of time.  So I'm not sure where this three weeks comes from let alone how anyone can consider him a rookie at this point.  And that Jessica Cruz doesn't even know she has a power battery is just so hard to understand considering she was casually talking with Hal over in the Rebirth Special - are we really supposed to believe that she's that clueless at this point!

The issue is over almost as soon as it began with the reveal that that the narrator who began the issue was Atrocitus and he has a plan for the Earth that our protagonists will have to deal with which includes the unknown power that opened the issue.  And with Baz and Cruz literally connected at the power battery they'll have to learn to set aside their differences to save us all, although I'm sure the Justice League could help in a pinch.  While the book does a good job in helping new readers who might be trying the Green Lantern universe for the first time understand a little about Simon and Jessica it provides too little context about who the Red Lanterns are for newbies to understand their importance or the nature of the emotional spectrum.
Hal's arrival anchors the series to the larger mythos

Both Ed Benes and Ethan Van Sciver share art duties and the results are hit and miss.  Van Sciver's cover is an ode to Green Lantern Rebirth #1 which certainly didn't go unnoticed.  His interior work is exactly what we'd expect from him and the full page spread showing Hal Jordan's arrival is arguably the best looking page in the book.  Some of his work later in the book isn't quite as strong, notably some awkward arm length and positioning with Jessica Cruz later on, Simon Baz's kooky eyes which really show why his gimp mask is a poor design choice and his cheeky rendition of Wonder Woman.  Those are slight issues compared to Benes' work.

Most of Ed Benes' pencils look rushed and he's never been one to do well with facial expression and this issue is no exception.  Apparently everyone in Michigan walks around with squinted eyes and Benes seems all but incapable of depicting faces with a depth of emotion, or many facial details at all for that matter.  He doesn't even seem to be able to get Jessica's trademark eye symbol correct.  His lack of detail runs counter to Van Sciver's attention to detail and even the wonderful coloring job by Jason Wright can't make them look cohesive.

In the end I feel that this book is a bit of a let down.  It's certainly not the worst book I've ever read but it's just average in my opinion.  It also doesn't give readers a true sense of what to expect from the series because, other than Sam Humphries, no on else working on this issue is working on the the ongoing series.  How much of this issue is Humphries' voice and how much is Johns'?  For anyone on the fence like myself I can't get a clear sense of what Humphries' writing is going to be like to determine if he can win over my general dislike for the premise of the series with this freshman effort.

In the end Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1 is a mixed bag with the unveiling of yet another intergalactic threat tied to secret Guardian history.  Simon Baz is given the disservice of having his firmly established Green Lantern resume overlooked in favor of trying to sell readers on having rookie status which, while new reader friendly, essentially tells the long time reader that what they have read before doesn't really matter.  Ethan Van Sciver once again graces the pages of a Green Lantern book with his spectacular artwork, although co-contributor Ed Benes falters with his share of the book.  A generous three out of five lanterns.






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About Myron Rumsey

Life long Green Lantern fan and co-host of the Podcast of Oa.  I'm a Barbecue snob and aficionado of blues music.  Hal Jordan is my co-pilot!

7 comments:

  1. Honestly I really liked this issue. I thought it was a cool premise where they're making a statement that there will be two lanterns on Earth while everyone else is off in the cosmos. I also liked that they even addressed the weirdness with just how many new lanterns of Earth there are, which makes me think that will be a story plot later on. I actually didn't notice just how much Simon has been through since his creation, and when you put it in that context I have to agree that he has more experience and wouldn't be a rookie, but I don't think I'd actually call him a full fledged corps member yet. I also feel like this issue was mostly Humphries with Johns just being the guy looking over his shoulder to make sure everything looks good. I'm excited to see where this goes.

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  2. I was contemplating getting both Lantern books with Rebirth, but my budget can only handle one 2x monthly book, so Hal and the GLC it is. Glad to see I won't be too disappointed.

    Also, what with the nature of comic publishing, I'm sure we'll see the GL family of books expand and contract as it has in the past. I'd guess within a year they'll split Hal's book up like it was in the past.

    I'm a bit confused, though, about the Corps' depiction as being back already, since the Hal and Corps book solicitations seem to indicate that the Oblivion plot isn't quite sorted out yet (especially since EoO's final chapter comes later this month...). It really just adds to the sense that DC wants to foist Baz and Cruz on us whether we have any desire or not.

    Guess we'd best keep our blue rings charged and wait for July!

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  3. I think it is a good opening issue and set up Baz and Cruz as protector of earth sector while Hal and his marry band of background earth lanterns (Obviously the way most true Half fan like to see them portrayed) are off fighting sinestro. It a good set up if you ask me.

    Question for you Myron: how would you actually like diversity showcased in the Rebirth DCU ? Being a comic book reader of color outside of Cyborg/ GL Stewart and Baz/ the new kid flash WW and Jamie Reyes I honestly don't see representation like that across the DC universe. I know you pointed out that Baz and Cruz only exist and have no purpose but unless they are fleshed out as character then they never will have a purpose.

    We may disagree on this particular title but I respect your knowledge of GL history and I'm all for hearing opposing opinion on how representation should be showcased.

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    1. Hey, Laron - thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share your perspective. I'm all for creating new characters that represent the diversity in our culture, but what gets to me is the need to make them part of an existing family of characters that's already overcrowded. And, at least to me, the Green Lantern family is the least lacking corner of the DCU. Hal's Jewish, John's African-American, Guy Irish and Kyle half-latino. Not to mention the aliens which truly represent racial diversity. I surely don't want to see stereotypes played up as we saw with characters like Apache Chief and such with Superfriends, either.

      It's just that creating a new Wally West or new Green Lanterns when none are needed to me is a sign of creative bankruptcy and lazing writing. Sure it's hard to introduce a new character in comics but when we do that we create something new for people to latch on to rather than watering down the characters we already have - and I'd rather have characters like Cruz and Baz stand out than be just another couple of Earth Lanterns.

      So I'd ask creators to try harder at making something unique, new and different. I also don't think putting the entirety of the rest of the GLC in one book helps anyone. If DC were deadset on the Cruz and Baz team I think they would have been better off having three Green Lantern books instead of two, and I would have gone with more well known creators for all of them. Green Lantern books have outsold Superman and Wonder Woman for years and while DC tries to prop them both up in terms of sales their lack of focus on the Green Lantern franchise has caused it fall back on hard times.

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    2. I'd agree it may showcase creative bankruptcy but I think adding Baz and Cruz into the lantern universe put a brighter spotlight on the lantern side of the universe and long term bring in reader that might not see themselves represented.

      I agree 100% shoving all the existing earth lantern into 1 book comes off very forced but looking back over the new 52 there were multiple lantern books that each spotlighted a certain lantern or group of lanterns and while some were better then other they just didn't bring in the audiences need to sustain the book. I'd argue the constant crossover eventually lead to the higher up slimming the GL books down to 2 for rebirth.

      Not sure if it creative bankruptcy or the fact that people pigeon hold new writer coming into the GL family of book into writing stories that are by the number or retreading of John epic material. Vendetti is a good writer but coming in after Johns run was going to be hard for anyone. My belief is giving him free reign of all the lantern toys in his book will allow him to create something epic (hopefully I won't eat those word in a few months).

      As for diversity I see myself in only a hand full of character amongst the big two publisher and even then when those character are propelled to headlining status it usually temporary at best.

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  4. So, my comic book shop put Green Lanterns on my pull list (I guess I wasn't clear enough about wanting HJ&GLC but not GLs) so I figured, what the heck, I'll buy it.

    I found it humourous that the authors had a running joke about the increase in Earth Lanterns. So it's not like the fact that there are 6 humans in the Corps is being taken for granted, and I'm pretty sure that means they've got some kind of plan or reasoning.

    In terms of Hal calling Baz a rookie who has only has his ring a few weeks longer than Cruz, I read that more as Hal being hyperbolic rather than as the authors dismissing the continuity.

    And, Myron, just to quibble over your identifying Hal as "Jewish", from what I've read, the arguments for his Judaism are pretty tenuous, amounting to his initial design being based on Jewish actor Paul Newman, his last name coming from the Hebrew word, and his once wishing Barry Allen a happy Hanukkah.
    To the first, the chosen model on which Hal was based is hardly a determinant of his character's religious affiliation, any more than the Guardians are Jewish because they were modelled on David Ben-Gurion.
    To the second, "Jordan" as a surname doesn't automatically equate to being of Jewish ancestry--unless Michael Jordan is Jewish (or the mediaeval Catholic Dominican friar Jordan of Saxony).
    Finally, the Hanukkah argument could easily indicate that the Flash, and not Hal, is Jewish. While I celebrate Christmas as a Catholic, I would wish my Jewish neighbour a Happy Hanukkah, and he would wish me a Merry Christmas, and not the other way around.

    On the other hand, a young Hal going to church (not synagogue) to light a candle for his father in the Darkseid War one shot, as well as Geoff Johns' statement regarding Hal's religious upbringing (if not current practice) would demonstrate that he is a Catholic.

    As far as diversity in comics goes, especially in the DC, I wish they'd done more to promote the DCYou book, We Are Robin. That was the other comic that my budget would let me get and it was incredibly well done.

    Back to the Green Lanterns issue, I just wanted to say, "Did someone die? I hope it was Guy Gardner!"--I'm sorry that the eds at DC didn't credit Bill Giancoli's help in writing the dialogue for the issue ;-)

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  5. Bit late to the party on this one but that "I hope it was Guy Gardner." (that died) comment from Baz really doesn't sit well with me. Especially when the last time Baz and Gardner worked together during Godhead, Baz made a whole thing about Guy pretty much wanting to die and convincing him that all life is precious. I know not every writer can be Charles Soule but come on. At least do a bit of research into the most recent GL universe stuff and get the characters right.

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