“You thought I was ‘bad cop’, right?”
Grant Morrison, Liam Sharp and Steve Oliff are back with the second issue of The Green Lantern and as we’ve seen in last month’s debut issue, Morrison continues to blend elements from throughout DC and Green Lantern history in his modern take of a cosmic police procedural. Issue two takes the seemingly random elements from last month and starts pulling them together as the picture begins to look a little clearer about what’s going on in the intergalactic crime world. This second episode ends with a great old school style cliff hanger that can’t help but bring this series a little closer to the greater DC universe even thought it’s certainly something that will remain confined to this series.
The issue starts out with Rot Lop Fan, the F-Sharp Bell Lantern from the Obsidian Depths. I particularly liked how the book opened, giving reader for perhaps the first time an idea of what it’s like to live from Rot Lop Fan’s perspective. It’s genius in that the reader has no idea what’s really going on until the pitch black of the Obsidian Depths are lit up by the criminal element there to break Evil Star free. That’s right, I said Evil Star! Not the lame re-imagining that showed up in the pages of the Green Lantern Corps series during Van Jensen’s run, but the old school Evil Star. An interesting side note is that Evil Star was last seen in an image from Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #13 in an image that reflects Somar-Le’s recounting of her time as a Green Lantern in a story set some sixty years into the future. I really liked the tie back to continuity whether intentional or not. Just as smart is the idea of this particular location being the ideal place to imprison Evil Star where no light shines to allow him to use his Star-Band.
Two other blasts from the past make an appearance this issue as well. Much will be said about a Green Lantern with a living volcano for a head, a character who first appeared in 1985’s Green Lantern #190 in a story by writer Todd Klein and artist Kevin O’Neill. Liam Sharp’s interpretation of Volk, who’s last name I hope beyond hope is Anno, is miles ahead from his original character design. Volk has been seen from time to time in the background, most recently during the “War of the Green Lanterns” story from 2010. Volk is accompanied by Xax of the planet Xaos, a John Broome / Gil Kane creation that comes from the dawn of the Silver Age incarnation of Green Lantern from issue nine back in 1961. The original Xax was killed during the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and replaced by a new representative also named Xax who died during the 52 series only to return as a Black Lantern. It could be that Xax’s species have some way or reproducing duplicates of themselves as offspring, that Xax just happens to be a very popular name on Xaos or that Grant Morrison decided to ignore his death, but no matter how you slice it the diminutive insectoid is once again a member of the Corps.
The bulk of the issue revolves around the interrogation of the spider pirate Hal captured in the previous issue. There are some interesting elements here, among them that Hal has some aversion to spiders as evidenced both by his comments and the perspiration that Sharp provides on a couple of panels. But Hal’s uncomfortable feeling about spiders is of little deterrence as he and Trilla-Tru play “good cop, bad cop” with who turns out to be a spoiled rich girl who’s run away from home in a fit of rebellion. It’s here that the creative team really creates the “police procedural” feeling to the reader. At several points the issue gave me a Hellboy or Men in Black vibe where the characters interact in this wildly weird environment which seems so fantastic to the reader while being viewed by the characters as just another day in the cosmic neighborhood. It’s visually stimulating for sure, and the matter of fact behavior by Hal sells what could easily be perceived as seriously over the top as something commonplace. Just a word on Trilla-Tru as it is confirmed that she is indeed Xudarian, either removing Somar-Le from continuity or serving as a second Green Lantern of her species. I guess if we can have six or more Green Lanterns from Earth it’s certainly no stretch to accept two from Xudar!
I really liked how the interrogation played out as Hal demonstrates an understanding of the Spider Guild that allows him to build a relationship that allows for him to get the information the Corps is looking for that Tru is unable to fathom. It shows a Hal who’s experienced enough to have learned from his time in the Corps to be effective without resorting to the brute force tactics that we’d traditionally be provided with.
As the plot unfolds we get a much better idea of why Controller Mu and the Blackstars have been culling certain assets together while being introduced to another subplot revolving around the stealing of planets. The inclusion of the Dhorians without falling back on Kanjar Ro is a nice touch and helps to further flesh out the cosmic fabric of the DCU. While Morrison doesn’t give us all the pieces of the puzzle yet, we get enough to draw us deeper into the story that is unfolding at a pace that feels neither rushed nor dragged out. By the end of the issue the plot threads of Evil Star and the missing planets becomes entwined with an ending that feels like a shocking cliff hanger plot twist.
I continue to be a little concerned about Morrison’s voice for Hal Jordan. There is just some dialogue which seems out of character to me, things like “…I’ve been a bastard my whole life” which doesn’t parse well with my forty plus year history with the character. There’s that and then there’s the feeling that Hal is so experienced and has seen so much that he’s just going through the motions in a state of boredom. For me Morrison’s take on Hal as a character may be well thought out in terms of not ignoring anything from his nearly sixty year history but it also lacks the charisma that has been so much at the heart of character. Hal’s the kind of guy who on one hand can walk into a room and charm his way into heart of the prettiest woman he finds and the guy who’s OODA loop cycle processing and willingness to take risks combine to make him appear to be reckless on the other. Two issues in and while I’m finding the story to be interesting I can’t say that I feel the same way about the depiction of Hal Jordan himself. But we’re only a couple of issues in and I owe Morrison the opportunity to show me more before I can fully get my take on his take of Hal.
I have to really praise the art team in this issue with some of their creative decisions that really made the issue stand out to me visually. The depiction of Oa is really great, devoid of the traditional overpowering of green logos plastered everywhere. New Oa feels alive with activity and the Sharp / Oliff collaboration invokes equal amounts of Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko and the best of European comics. There’s also the aforementioned re-imagining of Volk which is fantastic looking and the great way in which the book opens with complete darkness which gradually gives way to the light. Sharp also throws a number of alien Green Lanterns with character designs which instantly make me want to know more about them. Whether it’s providing the reader with wonderfully creative aliens and vistas or portraying the grotesque images of horror Sharp has over the course of two issue made me a huge fan.
The Green Lantern #2 is another rock solid issue filled with wonderfully weird and spectacular visuals and writing which both mines DC history and introduces new fascinating elements. While I’m not sold on Grant Morrison’s portrayal of Hal Jordan yet, the pairing of Morrison with Liam Sharp and Steve Oliff is both stimulating and entertaining at the same time. Nine out of ten lanterns.