Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 Review

The Four Corpsmen. Forever.

After months of anticipation the waiting is finally over now that the Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular is here.  We’ve seen all the variant covers and been teased with some of the pages, but now it’s here for us to all enjoy.  With ten new short stories and some special features in one celebratory issue, this is something special as the list of creative talent involved shows.

Like this super-sized issue, this is going to be a super-sized review because I’m going to cover each story on its own before I give a final score. Be aware that I’m going to be talking about the stories in detail and not holding back when it comes to spoilers.

“Dark Things Cannot Stand the Light” by James Tynion IV, Gary Frank, Steve Oliff, and Tom Napolitano

This issue starts out with a story featuring Alan Scott, and rightly so. Martin Nodell and Bill Finger’s creation first debuted in All-American Comics #16 in 1940 and this story builds on his iconic origin. Alan is driven by Derby “Doiby” Dickles to the home of Doris Henton, the mother of the young man that points out the green flame to Alan before passing away in the train crash. The conversation between Alan and Doris is intercut with recreations of the train crash and Alan bringing those responsible to justice.   Tynion does a nice job making the conversation feel grounded and awkward as it would be in this circumstance.

Tynion also outs Alan as a closeted gay man. I’m admittedly not a fan of changing characters in a hollow attempt at diversity, so this did turn me off. I was not bothered by the post-Flashpoint Earth 2 Alan Scott’s sexuality as he was a new version of the character, but this isn’t a Alan Scott, it’s THE Alan Scott. If this is the direction DC wants to go with Alan I don’t think this was the place to start with it.

But where that one aspect of the story took it down a notch or two, the rest of the script and Gary Frank’s amazing artwork were great. Tynion’s point about light being there to show the way encapsulates the Green Lantern mythos perfectly.

Frank’s visuals really elevate the script because of his immense talent at visually telling emotional stories. His facial expressions are some of the best in comics. I particularly like how he captures regret and sorrow at the same time, and the image of Alan Scott as he confronts Dekker and his men are just fantastic. You can see all the emotion in Doris’ features and Frank makes you feel her sense of loss. All in all a pretty good way to kick off this special.

Alan and Doiby….together again!

“Last Will” by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, Alex Sinclair, and Rob Leigh

This is one of the stories that I was most looking forward to, an introspective piece centering on Hal Jordan and his last words to those who mean the most to him.  I was sold on this one from the moment it was announced but I still tried to go into it without any expectations. Hal, on a world his ring can’t identify, only has enough energy left to send three messages before it runs out of its charge. Hal’s choices say much about how Johns interprets the character.

Hal is often perceived as uninteresting by people who don’t get him. He’s not the type of guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve, it gets in the way of getting the job done. Under the notion that this will be his last words his guard starts to come down, but not before doing the dutiful thing by sending the first message to the Green Lantern Corps. It’s short and sweet but captures Hal’s natural graciousness that reveals itself particularly when things “get real”.

Hal’s second message, to Batman, was a bit of a let down considering how close he is to Ollie and Barry.  And let’s not forget Hal’s brother Jim and his family living in Coast City! Or Tom Kalmaku! Johns has always had a thing for Hal’s relationship with Bruce so I guess I should not be surprised but it feels forced to me. I’m not sure I buy the idea that Bruce had much to do with Hal overcoming Parallax but the overall sentiment of the message rings true to how Johns has built their dynamic. This second message is more personal than the last, signaling that Hal is accepting of his fate and wanting to get real closure on some things. I still would have preferred it be to Barry, Ollie, Tom, or Jim.

The final message being to Carol Ferris was what I’d hoped for and Johns delivered a great bit of dialogue. At the end of the day, Hal and Carol are two people who truly love each other but know they can’t give as much of themselves as they feel the other person deserves. Hal admits his one true fear in a moment of pure emotional honesty. His wish for Carol is one of true love and my only regret is not getting to see her reaction to it.

To expand on that point, for an eight page story I felt that the first two pages could have been compressed to one so that there could have been more panel space for storytelling. I’d gladly take a page showing Carol and Batman getting their messages and seeing how they receive Hal’s “last words”.

The story ends with the big reveal, that the damage inflicted kept Hal from knowing that he’d crash-landed in the desert outside of Las Vegas! I was expecting a last-minute rescue rather than a complete swerve.  Part of me thought it was funny, but at the same time I wished that Johns could move away from making Hal look foolish. That leads to the finale, showing Hal being made sport of by the Justice League.

Despite some misgivings, “Last Will” is still one of the three best stories in the book in my opinion based on what it gets right.

Hal finds himself alone and in trouble again.

“The Meaning of Fear” by Cullen Bunn, Doug Mahnke, David Baron, and Carlos M. Mangual

Geoff Johns may have retooled Sinestro for the 21st Century, but Cullen Bunn is the first person I think of when it comes to writing the character. Alone with a Green Lantern he doesn’t know, Sinestro recounts his origins and reveals how the realization of all of his fears empowered him to truly master them.

I love seeing Sinestro’s perspective on things because they challenge me to question myself. Behind every action, Sinestro is motivated by his own truth which almost always makes me pause and ask myself if maybe he just might be right. If Hal represents a humanist viewpoint, Sinestro represents a pragmatic approach with a broken moral compass.

Listening to Sinestro tell his story from his perspective you can almost find yourself rooting for him. Sinestro and Hal Jordan are two sides of the same coin, two individuals who’ve faced great challenges but deal with their losses in different ways. In the Green Lantern mythology, there is no greater dynamic than this.

The whole story is a character piece on Sinestro as Cullen Bunn peels back the layers on this particular pink skinned onion. Overlaying the script are the always amazing pencils of Doug Mahnke – although he did fall prey to one of my pet peeves and put the power ring on Hal’s left hand. Aside from that, though, this was another solid entry.

Sinestro turned a corner and he can never go back.

“Time Alone” by Dennis O’Neil, Mike Grell, Lovern Kindzerski, and Clem Robins

With the recent passing of Denny O’Neil, this is likely the last Green Lantern story we’ll see from him, and perhaps even his last work ever. I was glad to see that Denny was paired with Mike Grell, their “Space Travelling Heroes” run was great and I actually prefer it to the much-lauded run with Neal Adams.

“Time Alone” is clearly set during the same time period given the costumes and the mention of Black Canary. Ollie is his usual gruff self, carrying a chip on his shoulder that Hal needs to knock off. Once the Clock King is dispensed with the story picks up steam as O’Neil focuses on the strength of Hal and Ollie’s friendship.

Denny goes someplace really unexpected with Hal in this story as he recounts time spent away from Earth, fueled by Henry David Thoreau’s classic American novel, Walden.  Unlike the “Hard Travelling Heroes” days, this time it’s Hal who enlightens Ollie in the realization that they are both letting the world shape them instead of them shaping the world. Perhaps at this stage of O’Neil’s life he, too, looked inwards like Thoreau to seek a place of harmony.

Grell’s artwork is top-notch and I really enjoyed seeing him work with Hal and Ollie. There’s a coloring error in the story (Hal’s eyes are brown), but it certainly doesn’t take anything away from it. Another good story and one that in the end is bittersweet.

Hal and Ollie – on the road again!

“Legacy” by Ron Marz, Darryl Banks, Hi-Fi, and Josh Reed

I have to say that so far I’m really impressed with the creative teams that DC Comics brought together for this book, and this one is bound to have Kyle Rayner’s fan cheering. The creative energies of Ron Marz and Darryl Banks informed the Kyle Rayner era and laid the groundwork for the characters 10 year run as the main Green Lantern of the DC Universe.

As one might anticipate, “Legacy” is a personal story that has Kyle reflecting on his time as the torchbearer. Kyle’s attempt at helping Guy Gardner by retrieving some of his Warriors memorabilia of course goes sideways when an overgrown robot gets activated, but that’s just a means to an end.  This tale is one of self-reflection and if you’re a Kyle fan you’ll appreciate the growth shown as the character recounts his place in Green Lantern history.

Darryl Banks is also given the opportunity to display what he brings to the table in terms of creativity. The Marz/Banks run was characterized by Banks’ ability to come up with creative constructs and he certainly lives up to his reputation.  This is another solid entry in this special issue.

Kyle fans have to be happy with seeing Marz and Banks together again.

“Heart of the Corps” by Peter J. Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin, Wade Von Grawbadger, Gabe Eltaeb, and Rob Leigh

Getting another chance to enjoy a Peter Tomasi Green Lantern Corps story is a great gift from DC. Tomasi is often the unsung hero of the Green Lantern revival and I’m so happy with the story he chose to write for this special. Like “Last Will”, “Heart of the Corps” is one of my three favorites in this book.

Kilowog is such a great character and it’s a real shame we haven’t seen him used much since the Robert Venditti run. Tomasi has the  Bolovax Vikian front and center with this tale as the big guy struggles to get through his birthday, which just happens to coincide with the destruction of his planet and the death of his family.

Tomasi does a wonderful job internalizing Kilowog’s struggle and he’s the type who’s going to wrestle with his feelings without weighing anyone else down with his emotional burden. Cue Guy Gardner, the perfect choice to lighten the tone of the story and add some colorful dialog along the way. Salaak sends the two on a rescue mission which turns out to be little more than a distraction so that the Corps can surprise Kilowog.

Fernando Pasarin does a great job supporting Tomasi’s script, which is just a sentimental story that could tug at any Bolovax Vikian sized heart.

Kilowog and Guy to the rescue!

“Reverse the Polarity” by Charlotte McDuffie, Chriscross, Jordi Tarragonna, Luis Gerrero, and Steve Wands

While every other story in this special has been a character piece, “Reverse the Polarity” is a straight-up adventure tale starring John Stewart and Hawkgirl. This one is definitely geared for fans of the Justice League animated series given the relationship between the characters and the art style. The story is also co-written by Dwayne McDuffie’s widow, Charlotte.

There’s not much to say about this story other than it is full of nostalgia for fans of the cartoon and of the John/Hawkgirl relationship. There’s no real depth to the story other than to serve as a reason for the characters to interact, so it’s not particularly meaningful other than getting to relive some fond memories.  No disrespect to any of the creators of the story, it’s not bad but it does pale in comparison to everything else we’ve seen so far. The “Meilstonium”/Milestone easter egg was clever, though.

John and Hawkgirl face Dr. Polaris

“Four” by Robert Venditti, Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona, Ivan Plascencia, and Dave Sharpe

“Four” takes one of the main themes of Robert Venditti’s run on Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps and jabs us right in the heart with it! This one is in my top three stories in this issue and it all revolves around Venditti’s script and it’s my favorite of the whole special.

Set in the future, Hal, John, Kyle start their reunion without the tardy Guy to join in the revelry. It appears to be an annual thing with them, meeting in this particular Baltimore pub to share drinks, fond memories, and gentile barbs. The dynamics between the “Four Corpsmen” was the greatest strength of Venditti’s post-New52 run and the writer always shined when it came to using the voices of the characters to illustrate how much camaraderie they share.

It’s fun seeing older versions of the three of them sharing old war stories and having a little fun at each other’s expense. The conversation around the table eventually turns its focus on the absent Guy, but he’s there in spirit as the rest of the former Green Lantern regale each other in some of Guy’s wilder moments while showing their deep understanding of their comrade. Like most of the stories in this special, “Four” is a celebration of the characters who’ve worn the ring and an exploration of what makes them so special.

I also loved seeing Rafa Sandoval on this story given his stint on the Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps series.  He and Ethan Van Sciver would wonderful on that book so it’s great to see one of them given another chance at these characters.

Just when Robert Venditti has us enjoying this light-hearted tribute he plunged the knife in our hearts and twists it with the revelation that the reason why Guy is not there is because he died. The story concludes with a heartfelt moment as the three survivors salute their fallen comrade. Rob, you big meanie!

I can’t even type a proper caption for this! Sniff!

“The Voice” by Mariko Tamaki, Mirka Andolfo, Arif Prianto, and Gabriela Downie

I was a little surprised when I got to this story considering how DC brought together so many creators who’ve had careers closely associated with Green Lantern. “The Voice” is a Jessica Cruz tale that is set during the Green Lanterns run by Sam Humphries, but Humphries has zero involvement with this special. I’m unfamiliar with Mariko Tamaki’s work, but I think that fans of the Jessica Cruz character will like this story for its internal monologue and the depiction of anxiety.

That said, I didn’t find the story particularly interesting, but that’s because I’ve never been a fan of the character in the first place. I felt like this was too much of a retread and didn’t offer any new insight to the character.  The story also reminded me of some of the things I didn’t like about Humphries’ run, like Simon Baz making a big deal over a simple knife construct. I appreciate trying to depict anxiety through the inner monologue, but I was bored out of my mind with it.

How indeed

“Homegrown Hero” by Sina Grace, Ramon Villalobos, Rico Renzi, and Andworld Design

I’m not familiar with Sina Grace’s work, but it’s clear by this tale that their shared Middle Eastern roots gives Grace a unique perspective to writer stories using Simon Baz. The relationship we have with our Middle Eastern-Americans neighbors has been strained since 9/11 and this story tries to illustrate the tensions that still exist today.

Where I had a problem with this story was in the ham-fisted, in your face portrayal of the man about to cause violence in the art exhibit. While the red ball cap lacked a MAGA statement it’s pretty clear what the creative team is trying to imply.  Certainly in the Venn diagram of those people who are Trump supporters and those who are domestic terrorists there’s a degree of commonality, but to purposely do something incendiary like that undermines the conversation you’re trying to stimulate with the readers. The ingredients in a stirred pot never come together.

There’s an irony in this story as well if you consider how the story unfolds. Simon calls out Sira for racial profiling and Sira reacts by declaring it “hyper-awareness of your surroundings”. Moments later Sira’s concerns are validated when Simon discovers that the man is armed. To flip that around, one can just as easily rationalize the anxiety and suspicion people feel around the presence of Middle Eastern people who set off warning signs to them as well. So is Grace trying to say that racial profiling is okay? It’s a complex issue and one that deserves a far deeper conversation that you can get in eight pages.

Ramon Villalobos’ art was a little weak with this one as well.  There is a lot of empty backgrounds in this story, and the design of Simon’s costume proved to be too much of a challenge when it comes to conveying emotion. This story overall had some potential, but the execution falls flat for me.

Simon Baz takes a page out of Batman’s book, but with a lesson attached.

Pinups and Secret Files

The special has eight pinups and while they serve as palette cleansers between stories I honestly would have preferred those pages used as another story rather than filler.  Jo Mullein, Tai Pham, and Keli Quintela, aka “Teen Lantern”, find their sole representation in these pinups. While their art is okay I think their fans will find the characters under-served by the one page images. The Hal Jordan pinup by Bruce Timm harkens to Green Lantern: The Animated Series and I love it so much it’s now my phone and computer wallpaper. The second Hal pinup by Rafael Grampa was one I really didn’t care for as he tries too hard to make a styled costume which looks way too over designed. I was pleasantly surprised to see some Joe Staton work, in particular a Guy Gardner pinup.  Like I said, these aren’t bad (for the most part), but I’d rather have squeezed in one more story if I had my say. I also find it odd that there was no group shot, or a Green Lantern Corps pinup to encompass the entirety of the mythos.

Lastly there are eight pages of “Secret Files”  in the back which highlight various members of the Green Lantern Corps. The files give a nice broad representations of the characters that have shown up on the pages of Green Lantern comics over the years. Like the pinups I’m not sure that they are the best use of eight pages when you could have had more story content, but in the end they do add something different to the mix.

So there you have it, the Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 is a collection which features some of the greatest Green Lantern characters from the past eighty years as told by some of the brightest talent alive who left their mark on the mythology. There are some real bright spots to be found here, as well as a few clunky bits – but it’s true that there really is something for everyone in this special. It’s certainly worth the $9.99 price tag. Nine out of ten lanterns.

About the author

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!

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Comments

  • Mark Zutkoff June 25, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    Great review. I loved the issue, perhaps a tad more than you did, but you make a fair number of valid points. I wish you had mentioned my criticism of “Reverse the Polarity”, which is that John Stewart has NOT been shown to be overconfident in recent years the way this story indicates; in fact, not since Xanshi. I forgive the miss because the tribute to Dwayne McDuffie and the animated Justice League series is so heartfelt, but I wish they had structured it truer to the character. I also wonder if there’s any chance the events in “Four” will ever come to pass in continuity, since these characters rarely age. And while I agree with you that Jessica Cruz, initially, was hard to like, her character has matured and improved over the last year or so, particularly in Justice League Odyssey. (And her arc in the animated Justice League vs Fatal Five should be adapted – and adopted – in the comics. Just saying.)

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