“I’m going to see what’s over this ridge.”
Since Green Lantern: Earth One was first announced I’ve been (im)patiently waiting for the book to be released, and now that time has arrived. Less a superhero’s journey and more a sprawling science fiction epic, the latest release in the Earth One series takes the familiar Green Lantern mythos, complete with all its trappings, and strips away years of world building to present a new take which feels both familiar yet brand new. The writing team of Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko have clearly done their homework, presenting a modernized origin story which could arguably been what we should have gotten when DC relaunched their line during the “New 52” era.
Back in 1959 when John Broome, Gil Kane and Julius Schwartz relaunched the Silver Age with a space age inspired Green Lantern, the notion of a test pilot was one of the most exciting careers, but now some fifty plus years later it’s no longer relevant to the times we live in. Hardman and Bechko ditch The Right Stuff in favor of Alien and they make the right call. By shifting the setting to one where space travel is a dirty and scary business there’s a weight to the opening of the book where we are introduced to a Hal Jordan who is weary from a life he feels has failed to live up to its potential and marred by a troubled past. I admire that the writing team has kept Hal true to some of this Silver Age roots that has been lost over the years and while Hal is once again a man with a scientific mind that doesn’t mean that the willful, push through all barriers character that readers are familiar with is gone. By putting Hal Jordan in a more grounded universe Bechko and Hardman seem to have put considerable energy into rethinking how the character works from the ground up. The gamble pays off as their version of Hal seems like Mark Watney (“The Martian”) with a power ring. Schwartz drew heavily from The Lensmen science fiction stories of the time back then and this version once again finds inspiration from the same literary genre.
Some familiar elements are changed from what long time readers have come to know about how Green Lantern rings work and the places that certain characters have in the ongoing story of the Green Lantern Corps. Green Lantern: Earth One strays away from the notion of the journey of a chosen one who rises above simply because he was meant to. That puts Hal in a position where his success is not guaranteed and every triumph feels earned. And while the Green Lantern universe here is not completely different from the original source material there is enough that is different to give the reader a sense of discovery over experiencing something new and we are learning right along with Hal. This is a complete deconstruction and reinvention of lore that is refreshing and new without ignoring the importance of remaining true to the core concept that is at the very center of the Green Lantern franchise.
The universe that the writing team creates is harsh and gritty, makes Hal’s journey of discover one that is filled with brutal challenges that would leave anyone feeling hopeless and ready to give in. In that Hal’s perseverance and will to see what’s over the next ridge drives him forward as a whole new reality unfolds in front of him. This is not some glamorous space adventure but one grounded in reality where lethal threats lie around every corner which makes Hal’s adventure and eventual triumph a great tale. There are plenty of seeds planted for additional volumes and if the book is as well received as it deserves to be then there’s plenty to look forward to.
Hardman not only co-wrote the story but he provides the artwork as well, making the chore of visualizing what the writer intends a much easier task! Space is dark and a hard place to exist and Hardman captures all of that with gritty realism. Hal is far less the muscle bound alpha male than a realistic looking human being placed in an incredible situation against overwhelming odds. His depiction of alien life swings between what Green Lantern fans expect from certain familiar races and original creations which stir the imagination. The book is really dark and the color work by Jordan Boyd keeps the palette muted. This works fine for the real world sensibilities that the book relies on and it also makes for a nice contrast when power rings come into play with a brilliant contrast of bold greens. In this Hal truly brings the brightest day to the blackest of nights in a barren universe that seems bleakly devoid of color.
If I have any real complaints it would be in the quality of the book itself. The binding on my copy was very tight, making opening the book difficult and I quite honestly thought I’d break the book. Once read it no longer closes flat and quite a number of the pages aren’t smooth and warped on the bottom. For a book with a $25 price tag I’m pretty disappointed in the presentation even though I love the content.
Green Lantern: Earth One #1 is a great first installment in what I hope will be several more adventures of this excitingly different take on the Green Lantern mythology. Corinna Bechko’s and Gabriel Hardman’s re-envisioned Green Lantern is a breath of fresh air for the franchise well grounded in reality and filled with the fantastic. This is science fiction tale of redemption and rebirth that is relevant to the times. Nine out of ten lanterns.