“Is Earth facing Armageddon or just another Wednesday?”
This week marks the release of the third issue of Grant Morrison’s The Green Lantern series and for anyone who was wondering what this series was going to be like this is probably the most Morrison-y of the three so far. From the Earth being sold for auction to Hal arresting a god (sort of) this one is not only one that will challenge your imagination, it also is sprinkled with the usual references to DC’s past as well.
Starting on the first page we see Volgar Zo running the auction for a shrunken Earth with various cosmic beings throwing their bids out for consideration. That includes Steppenwolf, the Dominators and Grayven, one of Kyle Rayner’s rogues from his ten year tenure as the only Green Lantern in the universe. Just looking at the collection of cosmic beings at the auction has me trying to identify all of them because they are likely characters from throughout DC’s publishing history that are more than a challenge for my 54 year old brain. It was also neat to see Morrison make reference to the Gamma Gong, a weapon that debuted all the way back in 1961’s classic Justice League of America #3 by Gardner Fox. It’s the second time in as many months that the Earth has been shrunk which is kinda of funny.
A new character is introduced, the Shepherd, who appears very much like a God/Zeus figure who manages to win the auction at the steep price of 10,000 Jilli-Stellars. Okay, I don’t know the exact cosmic exchange rate, but since no one outbid him I have to assume that’s a whole lot of money! Once the auction is over Hal and the Green Lanterns jump into action and Morrison once again mines DC history to include Medphyll, M’Dahna, Karkum, Venizz in addition to using Chriselon again. To be honest it made me feel a bit nostalgic seeing all these classic characters again and it supports the vibe I get when reading this series in that it feels old yet fresh at the same time.
Morrison’s script is never afraid to embrace the fantastic no matter how crazy a synopsis of his stories may seem. Coupled with Liam Sharp’s fantastic visuals and the color work from Steve Oliff and you have a series which one moment to be this anachronistic with today’s comic book sensibilities and extremely relevant the next. The idea of Hal Jordan putting the entire Earth population under arrest while confronting God about buying stolen goods is WAY out there, but then in the matter of a flip of the page you have to consider how easily people manage to sell out the future of the planet for their own selfish gains the next. It’s preposterous – and it’s great!
God of course isn’t what he seems to be and while Hal is investigating the situation we seem him have a brief conversation with Tom Kalmaku which implies that the state of their friendship is much better than it was in the days when Hal was the Spectre and he willed a struggling Tom his power ring with no instructions beyond the words “fix it” (see 2002’s Green Lantern: The Last Will and Testament of Hal Jordan). It was great to see Tom even if only for an instant and it serves as a reminder that Morrison has challenged himself to incorporate the entirety of Hal Jordan’s sixty year history in this book. While we don’t get Carol Ferris this issue, Eve Doremus does appear and name drops her.
Morrison said that readers might be challenged by his depiction of Hal and this issue gives us perhaps the greatest example of that in the issue’s closing. It certainly appears that Hal crosses a line, but there are a couple of things that Morrison has stuck in this issue that lead to alternate explanations – things like aliens who can change their appearance, those who can influence the minds of others, and that Hal doppelganger from the first issue – that leaves this as a cliffhanger that could be a bit of a green herring. We’ll know more next month when we see where the story goes.
This isn’t a criticism of the series or Morrison’s writing but I do think that this book is not necessarily as inviting to new readers as it could be and it does require an investment beyond the cover price. This is a book that demands you read it more than once in order to soak it all in and appreciate the richness of both the script and the artwork. For some that may be a turn off and I share that perspective for anyone reading my reviews who is considering jumping on. The Green Lantern is not a book that you can pick up, read through it in 10-15 minutes and then just put down.
I’ve referenced the art a couple of times and for the third time I’ll heap some praise on Sharp and Oliff. Like the script the visuals seem like a flashback to the seventies combined with the best of European comics. The art fills the pages in a combination of pages layouts which match modern books but sometime veer into something you’d see Jim Steranko do in Dr. Strange with a little Kirby crackle added for good measure. One page you see a fairly straightforward space battle and then you turn the page to see Hal launch a giant winged boxing glove at God or wrap the Earth in green energy crime scene tape. It’s wildly imaginative and a whole lot of over the top fun!
The Green Lantern #3 is another cosmic romp that you’d expect with Grant Morrison’s name on the cover. With a combination of far out cosmic commerce, police drama and a satirical look at the shortsightedness of the human race this issue has a bit of everything going on. Liam Sharp and Steve Oliff do a great job bringing it all to life in this great issue. Nine out of ten lanterns.