It’s been over a year since we’ve had an ongoing Green Lantern series, but the franchise is back and if this first issue is any indication, it’s back and better than ever. DC Comics is using the new series to feature their two most popular ring bearers, Hal Jordan in a series by the creative team of Jeremy Adams and Xermonico, with a backup feature starring John Stewart, led by the creative team of Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Mantos. Both stories get off to a great start with this first issue, which has left me feeling more positive for the franchise than I have been in some time.
It’s clear with the Hal Jordan story that Jeremy Adams is going to tell us a story that balances Earth-bound adventures (at least at first!) with a Hal Jordan who’s seemingly left his Green Lantern life behind him and is struggling to find his place on an Earth which certainly hasn’t stopped spinning while he’s been off protecting Sector 2814. Now, we know that Hal was on Earth for the entirety of the last run, but it’s not clear how long it’s been from then until now. As the setup page informs us, the United Planets have continued to flex their muscles and are now in charge of the Green Lantern Corps now that the Guardians have disappeared. Sector 2814 is under quarantined because it’s too much of a liability and all the Earth Lanterns have been reassigned to other sectors…..except for one who told the United Planets where to go before quitting – any guesses who? Yeah, that’s right, the williest willer who ever willed, that’s who!
Adams’s first script jumps around a little bit timewise, getting the reader acquainted with Hal’s situation and how he goes from having a juiceless ring to one with a charge, manages to tick off Carol Ferris in less than twenty pages and reveals that someone else has joined Hal on Earth. It’s no surprise that Adams gets Hal’s voice right, he did write two episodes of Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and as he shared during his interview with us on The Podcast of Oa episode 222, he’s putting Hal through a personal journey which will showcase how difficult it is spending all that time experiencing what he has in space when he has to come back down to Earth.
The first issue does a superb job of balancing the personal journey with humor and action. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but my experience with the first issue left me feeling like I’d come home to a Green Lantern book that seems both new and yet comfortably familiar. Almost like the creative team has captured some of the best things about Green Lantern of the past, but more layered and nuanced than that. This is the Hal Jordan I know and love, but with a sense of self-awareness that many writers have ignored. Hal’s introspection, while he’s enjoying his view of the stars, shows a Hal Jordan that isn’t sure he did the right thing by leaving the Corps, and his first, best destiny, behind.
I particularly like some of Adams’s musical choices for songs that are playing during certain moments of the book. They inform the reader that Hal isn’t going to have an easy go of it, and seeing Hal trying to adapt to the future of unmanned flight while working for a Carol Ferris who has moved on are clear signs of that old adage that you really can’t go home again. And let’s not forget the cameo of Sinestro, who’s lurking about Coast City himself! There’s a tease for an appearance in the second issue of the Demolition Team, a group that first appeared in Green Lantern Volume 2 #176, that made me smile. Hal has a pretty extensive rogues gallery of his own, and I’m glad that Jeremy Adams is going to revisit some of them as well as create new antagonists for Hal to take on. There’s certainly a lot to unpack yet on how we got from where to were to where we are, but based on this debut issue I’m confident that we’ll see more revealed as it becomes relevant to the story being told. An important thing to point out is that this book is very new reader friendly – you don’t need to know much about Green Lantern to jump in and enjoy it. And if this is your first Green Lantern issue – welcome to the Corps!
Xermanico’s art is absolutely gorgeous in this issue, and he seems a perfect pairing with Adams for this new series. I really liked Xermanico’s work on Green Lantern: Blackstars a few years ago and while this series is certainly different tonally, I think he’s just the right artist for the book. When Hal has his power ring on you can see the joy on his face and that this is a person who in the moment feels he’s right where he belongs. The facial expressions are right on the money as well, from Carol’s look of horror when she realizes that Hal is back and she’s going to have to deal with him to Hal’s look of determination when he decides to take on Steel Fury with nothing more than his guts and a pickup truck. The splash pages are used sparingly, and really when the story calls for something visually dramatic. I admit that at first I wasn’t thrilled with the return of the black shoulders, but seeing the retro design actually kind of works for me. One minor nitpick – Hal’s eyes are brown, not blue – but I can look passed that.
The last eight pages kick off “Rise of the Revenant Queen”, a story that will lead to a John Stewart mini-series by Phillip Kennedy Johnson later this year. In stark contrast to the Hal Jordan part of the book, the John Stewart story is going all out science fiction and cosmic adventure. “Rise of the Revenant Queen” clearly ties back to Johnson’s Dark Crisis: World Without a Justice League: Green Lantern one-shot from last year, in which we saw another version of John Stewart who was essentially his Earth’s greatest hero. Johnson is bringing back the Radiant Dead and the Bright Revenant concepts with the appearance of the Revenant Queen.
Before we get to the cosmic elements we get to see our John Stewart spending some time on Earth with his mother, Shirley. The scene between mother and son is a great one, and I’m not sure I can recall the last time I saw John content and happy just building something. It’s clear to me that Johnson is going to be using more facets of John’s character, which is refreshing. As he has said in interviews himself, John has offered suffered from one-note characterization that leans too far into his military experience when there’s more to him than that. While John only appears in three pages, we understand that John is also at a point in his life where he’s pausing to re-evaluate his purpose, and going home to see family is very in character for him.
But we know by what follows that this bit of R&R isn’t going to last long when the scene shifts to another time and place, and we see the fallout from the battle between John’s Watchtower team and the forces of the Bright Revenant. To be clear, if you didn’t read the one-shot it’s not required reading, but if you did it’s a nice reward for having done so. We see that the Revenant Queen is out to exact revenge on that universe’s John Stewart, and there’s no doubt that these two threads are going to merge very soon. We also don’t know exactly what led John to this moment, but it’s clear that John’s gotten himself to a place where he finds himself able to put his ascended life on pause.
Like Xermonico, Mantos’s art is the perfect fit for the story. He brings the epic feel to the visuals that Johnson is aiming for and really hits a home run here. There’s a sharp contrast between the lighter moments John spends with his mother and the more dramatic ones as Guy Gardner and a new member of the Watchtower or fighting for their lives. The look of absolute joy and happiness on Shirley Stewart’s face is just perfectly captured here, as is the contentment and inner peace we find on John’s face. I also really liked that there’s a subtle piece of artwork that ties this story back to Hal’s and establishes that these stories are in sync with each other time-wise. It makes both halves of the both seem more connected than they are, but I like the cohesiveness that it brings.
Green Lantern #1 nails it on all counts, from the engaging storytelling of Jeremy Adams and Phillip Kennedy Johnson to the perfectly conveyed imagery of Xermanico and Mantos. This issue is a gem and a brilliant way to kick off what I hope is an Emerald Resurgence of sorts, where the Green Lantern franchise can once again rise to the great heights it deserves. The series is off to a fantastic start and I’m eagerly awaiting to see where it goes. Ten out of ten lanterns.