“This is not how I wanted things to end”
When Green Lantern: Earth One Volume One appeared in 2018 I described it as “a breath of fresh air for the franchise – well-grounded in reality and filled with the fantastic.” It went on to be nominated for an Eisner award for Best Graphic Novel the following year. I’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the second volume and, despite a pandemic induced delay, we now have the new installment to dive into. There’s always concern about whether sequels will be as good as our first exposure to something, and with this new 144-page hardcover I’m delighted to say that the sequel is even better than the first book in my opinion.
Volume two picks up a few years after the events of the first volume and Hal Jordan finds himself at odds with the political climate on Earth and secretly working in partnership with Ferris Galactic on a project they are keeping secret from Earth’s leadership. Hal’s also dealing with a bit of a public relations problem with people divided into two camps about him – those who think he’s doing great things for the planet as a Green Lantern and those who feel his role as a Green Lantern draws unnecessary attention to Earth from aliens who may not have the best of intentions.
The team of Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman keep the book grounded in a very realistic world, where space travel is a brutal business and no one really knows who can be trusted. As the book opens, humanity is about to have its first major meeting with an alien species, who seem willing to share their advanced technical knowledge in exchange for agricultural resources. This introduces us to the Earth-One version of John Stewart, an engineer in the three-person team meeting with the Llarans aboard their ship in orbit around the Earth. That’s when bad things happen which catapults us into the main story that includes Krona, the multi-verse, and more.
I got a major Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country vibe from the incident which thrusts Earth into the role of an intragalactic agitator. This explosive encounter puts Hal Jordan in a position to decide between saving lives or recovering John Stewart’s team from the fleeing Llarans, and of course, Hal chooses to save those he can. Rescue effort complete, Hal is ready to go after the Llarans but winds up literally in the crosshairs of Earth’s Central Command. Just as Hal is not getting the support of his homeworld, he finds himself in a similar situation with the Green Lantern Corps who refuse to get involved in the resulting hostage crisis. This drives a wedge between Hal and Kilowog the results in regret by the time this tale is done.
If the interplanetary incident wasn’t enough, Hardman and Bechko sprinkle a good dose of their own brand of the Sinestro Corps War into this tale which really ratchets up the tension, especially when both of these plots collide. The creative team splinters the forces of the Green Lantern Corps just as they’re finding their place again in the universe. This unhinges any sense of stability for the ring bearers, and no one feels the burden of that more than Arisia. I really love the fresh take on Arisia, who in my mind has always been one of the most interesting female Green Lanterns, human or otherwise. Bechko and Hardman’s version of Arisia is such a great, strong leader who sees the bigger picture and isn’t afraid to make the hard choices. While this series of graphic novels doesn’t dive into Arisia’s desire to live up to her family’s long Green Lantern legacy she’s a great reminder of all of the great alien characters that deserve more attention than they get.
I can’t make a reference to the Sinestro Corps War without mentioning Sinestro, and this version of him is equally as great. Hal considers Sinestro an extremist, which may be true, but he’s also a very layered character who begins with the end in mind, perhaps to a fault. Always one to speak his mind, Sinestro at first sides with the rest of the Green Lanterns, until a little privacy opens the door for him to speak his mind. I enjoy the interplay between Sinestro and Arisia as it seems that he has her ear and is a trusted voice in the Corps’ leadership structure, but here he ultimately is a voice of division which ultimately leads to the break-up of the Corps’ ranks. But like the Sinestro we’ve all come to know, Earth-One’s version is just as unwilling to be someone’s lap dog, particularly when he discovers that their ideologies no longer align.
The Yellow Lantern rings are significantly more powerful than their green predecessors which creates for a completely lopsided affair, and a brutal one it is as a number of ring bearers are reduced to little more than memories. Providing the Yellow Lanterns which greater firepower creates an unfair playing field, which does a good job of making the reader feel like there is no good way out of this for the Green Lanterns. Cue up Hal Jordan, John Stewart, and a small band of humans who attempt to do the impossible, using intelligence and science to try to set things right.
This sets the stage for the finale as secrets are revealed, alliances uncovered and allegiances shaken. To go into greater detail would undermine the reading experience for anyone who hasn’t read this yet – and you should read it. This is a very strong tale that contains some story beats familiar to Green Lantern fans but is certainly in a universe all its own. With anything on the table, there’s a sense of real tension and drama as the story heads towards the conclusion, and the ending paves the way for a third volume that needs to happen. This is the way to merge the Green Lantern mythology with pure science fiction, by pairing excellent writing with a respect and understanding of the original source material.
I’ve used the word “cinematic” quite often when describing this series and there are a couple of very specific reasons for that. One is the lack of traditional thought balloons and narration boxes, relying solely on the spoken word and some locational notations. Then there’s Gabriel Hardman’s art style and page layout that showcases the skills which have led him to be a successful storyboard artist for a number of motion pictures. There are times when I feel like I’m looking at movie storyboards with the script dialog added. It feels like an event to me, and something very worthy of any Green Lantern fan’s time and money.
Green Lantern: Earth One Volume Two is a fantastic follow-up to the 2018 initial installment. The creative team of Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman return to the universe they created and deliver a fantastic sequel that builds on what came before and sets the stage for more adventures. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. Ten out of ten lanterns.