Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Ethan Van Sciver (p), Marlo Alquiza, Mick Gray (i), Moose Baumann (colors)
Publisher: DC Comics
The revisionist project of this miniseries is more or less complete: Hal Jordan is separated from the Spectre, his past crimes against humanity explained and expunged, and his return to the hero fold represented by a duel with Sinistro. The final issue of Green Lantern: Rebirth, then, is free to revel in the pure superhero fun that a title centered around a sci-fi fantasy ring should exhibit. Issue #6 is dedicated to Green Lantern as a team book, its cover adorned with the bright lights of GL history—Hal, Kyle, Guy, John, Kilowog—and the bulk of the book depicts their assault on the Parallax-infected Ganthet. The inventive concepts on display in this fight are projected in gorgeous Techni-Color by virtuoso penciller Ethan Van Sciver and colorist Moose Baumann, but Geoff Johns’s writing is, unfortunately, not always able to keep pace with his own ideas.
The highlight of GL:RB #6 is two four-panel pages that spotlight each of the Lanterns’ fighting styles. Showing what the character contributes to the power ring rescues the whole Green Lantern concept from being simply a story about a guy with a neat weapon. That the will of the wearer determines the nature of the ring’s power keeps the focus on the human (or in Kilowog’s case, space pig) element. The personality of the characters and the bizarre, gee-whiz quality of the rings are fused in John Stewart’s geometrically-precise Erector-Set handcuffs, Guy Gardner’s rough and ready buzz saw, Kilowog’s Howitzer blasts, and especially in Kyle Rayner’s absurd artist’s hand holding a pencil. Van Sciver depicts Kyle floating before the gaping maw of Parallax, legs crossed, hand on his chin in artistic contemplation as he uses the eraser of a giant green pencil to “refine” the contraption he has created to hold the monster’s mouth open. Batman and Robin running across the keys of an enormous typewriter comes to mind, and the association is a pleasurable one.
What mars the brilliance of this scene is the poorly conceived verbal images writer Geoff Johns chooses to accompany some of the panels. Consider this conceit, intended to characterize Guy Gardner’s approach to the business of power-ring wielding:
Gardner’s ring is like a leaky water faucet. Sparks always fly. Even when he’s just standing still. His will power can’t wait to get free.
Beyond the obscenely mixed metaphor of sparks flying from a water faucet, one has to question the choice of bad plumbing as an image connoting unrestrained power. The input of an editor who isn’t loath to call the writer on such failings would benefit Johns greatly. Van Sciver for the most part ignores this clunky simile and instead focuses on the buzz saw ripping into Parallax’s chest in order to convey the bluntness of Gardner’s methods, thus saving the scene from complete disaster.
Occasional groan-inducing prose aside, GLRB #6 augurs an entertaining future for the title’s relaunch. This month sees the release of Green Lantern: Secret Files 2005 which teams Geoff Johns with star artist Darwyn Cook (New Frontier) followed by Green Lantern #1. One hopes that the new series will feature the rest of the corps as much as it does Hal Jordan and that the ratio of soap-opera drama to giant pencils and space pigs will favor the latter, giving readers the over-the-top fantasy this sci-fi book calls for.
The final issue of Rebirth presents an extended battle between five Green Lanterns and the Parallax entity, bookended by Hal’s confrontations with Batman. The fifth issue had presented an extended battle between two Green Lanterns and Sinestro, and I’m left wondering if this mini-series is a tad… bloated. If you asked me to recount the events of each issue, I’d be hard pressed. Contrast this with the fact that six months after the last issue of Identity Crisis hit the stands, I could still tell you the significant events of every issue of that mini-series. But not Rebirth. Undoubtedly, there have been some wonderfully vivid and memorable moments presented in every single issue: Black Hand’s agony, Parallax shredding its “Hal Jordan shell,” Sinestro battling with Oliver, Kyle and Hal; Oliver wielding the Green Lantern ring. I must assert though that a four issue story has been presented in six issues. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because it means rather than getting to look at 88 pages of Ethan Van Sciver artwork, we were given 132 pages of Ethan Van Sciver artwork.
The mini-series presents (to me at least) a satisfying solution to the dilemma of re-establishing Hal Jordan as a Green Lantern without simply retconning out of continuity his genocidal actions as Parallax. Hal could not have re-assumed the Green Lantern role without being absolved of his Parallax actions, and perhaps the only way to do this was to create the “external entity” and put the onus on it. Could Hal have been absolved in another more satisfying way? I’d be interested to read the possibilities.
Geoff Johns cleverly mimics some readers’ cynicism when at the end of Rebirth #6, he has Batman approach Hal and ask, “Do you expect me to believe this? That you were influenced? Possessed? Is that what Parallax was? An outside force that--” I wouldn’t go so far to claim that Hal’s response (“I don’t expect you to believe anything.”) is also Geoff Johns’s (or Dan Didio’s) response to the disbelieving readers, but the scene is both an interesting parallel to boisterous message board comments and a way to cement some conflict between Batman and Hal. We’ll see if the hostilities between these two last.
To be sure, the final issue of Rebirth does not present a “complete” resolution. Many questions remain about the Green Lantern Corps, the Guardians, the yellow impurity and Hal’s new role in the DCU. These are questions I’m sure will be addressed in the Green Lantern on-going, and since these are all interesting questions, the Rebirth mini-series has successfully hooked at least this reader to the on-going.
My lasting impression of Rebirth though is that it’s a series where Van Sciver placed himself into the highest of echelons of comic book artists. With tremendous assistance by Prentis Rollins and Moose Baumann (I can imagine Baumann would prefer to stay away from the color green for a while), Van Sciver now is a maestro. Of course, Van Sciver has produced distinguished work before Rebirth, but just think about how comic book readers a generation ago only finally realized George Perez’s magnificence once he drew New Teen Titans (even though he had been drawing super-hero comic books like The Fantastic Four for years already). Or think about what happened to John Byrne’s stature once he took on Uncanny X-Men. Rebirth will have a similar effect on Ethan Van Sciver. He has now earned an enormous fan following who can’t wait to see the next brilliant work he can produce.
From: Field Agent Michael Deeley
To: The Commission for Mediocrity in Entertainment: Comic Book Division, and team leader Steve Geppi
CC: All double agents in the industry, especially Our Man at Marvel, Johnny DC, The Image “Eye,” The Darker Horse, and Steve Geppi.
Subject: Green Lantern: Rebirth #6
The sixth and final issue of the mini-series Green Lantern: Rebirth was released by DC Comics this week. Hal Jordan, the Silver Age Green Lantern, once again reassumes the role of Green Lantern. Other Green Lanterns are also present, laying the foundation for a new Green Lantern Corps.
The obvious long-term ramifications of this series include a new Green Lantern series, character Guy Gardner returned to his former status as a Lantern, the return of Sinestro and other Green Lantern villains, and the formation of a new GL Corps. “New” Green Lantern Kyle Rayner retains his power and will be active in the new mini-series Rann-Thanagar War. John Stewart also keeps his power and position in the JLA. All the series has really done is re-establish a status quo overturned over 10 years ago.
But deeper reading reveals a threat to our organization and our goals. Jordan has been portrayed throughout the series as fearless and proud. But contrary to our purposes, he has also been inspirational. There exists a distinct danger in the presence of a hero who is so confident, so self-assured, so fearless, that he can move the reader to act the same way. Case in point: Hal Jordan knocks down Batman with a single punch. Batman, our best revenge fantasy, our poster man-child for other man-children, is defeated and dismissed by Jordan. (The punch and Gardner’s reaction also recall the late 80’s Justice League series, an unfortunate success in honest writing and original thought.) With one punch, Jordan dismisses the Batman and everything he stands for: misery, cynicism, and self-hatred; the very qualities necessary to continue our control of the population.
Even worse than Johns’s portrayal of a noble, fearless hero is the art of Ethan Van Sciver and the inking team. Their work has a quality of realism rarely seen in corporate comics. There is detail, life, motion, and power. Every page makes an impact. Characters have a texture you can almost touch. Such a high level of artistic quality will undoubtedly raise expectations in readers. They will grow dissatisfied with the mass produced comic art found in most books. They will demand actual, talented artists. The fact Rebirth continued to sell well despite delays shows readers are willing to wait for quality. Patience is a virtue all Commissions must eliminate (as per the “McDonald’s Directive”).
Green Lantern: Rebirth represents a growing trend in comics that could undermine our efforts, if left unchecked. The return of Silver Age characters can lead to the return of Silver Age values: stories that are thinly disguised social commentaries, more single-issue stories that new readers can easily understand, and characters that inspire readers to overcome their fears and rebel against mediocrity. Combined with honest dialogue and rich artwork, the comic book medium threatens to break out of its cultural ghetto and once again infect mass culture with its ideology.
I know I’ve been called an alarmist; that I’ve been warning of such catastrophe for years. I humbly remind the Commission my warnings about manga breaking down society’s artificial gender roles, alternative comics reviews in our propaganda literature, (Time Magazine, USA Today, etc.), and the growing number of small-press conventions around the country. I’m warning you now. Green Lantern: Rebirth marks the return of a traditional hero. We can’t afford to let that happen.
Hal Jordan and Earth’s Green Lanterns shrug off the concerns of the Justice League to face off against Parallax for the last time. Now possessing the forms and powers of Ganthet, one of Oa’s Guardians of the Universe, the Parallax impurity that corrupted Hal Jordan is more formidable than ever before. Yet, with the combined might of Jordan, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, and the alien Kilowog, the Green Lantern Corps may still triumph in this Blackest Night.
“One Punch.” While Hal Jordan once again steals the glory from his fellow Lanterns (in this case Guy Gardner), the scene on pages two and three is still quite satisfying. Ironically, though, while Hal’s confrontation with Batman showcases his might as the brightest and most able of the Corps, it also rather brings into focus that Hal is really not the most interesting of Earth’s Green Lanterns. This is further emphasized during the big showdown with Parallax—Hal is the most powerful, but the others show much more personality in using their rings. In short, it may be good for Sector 2814 that Hal Jordan is back, but it’s not necessarily good for readers looking for an accessible character. Still, if any writer can inject some life into fearless and faultless Hal Jordan, it’s Geoff Johns, and it will be interesting to see how the regular series go.
Even so, Rebirth has brought more than the return of Hal Jordan—there is also the return of Guy Gardner to the Green Lantern fold, and his association with this high-profile project can only help his profile. Kyle Rayner seems to have cemented his position as the GL of space, with a Dave Gibbons-penned miniseries on the way to establish a greater Corps. And with Happy Hal not in any danger of rejoining the Justice League, John Stewart’s role is secured.
Ethan van Sciver’s art throughout this series has been rendered awe-inspiring by the talented colorization by Moose Bauman. So many panels are simply shocking due to the compliment or contrast of assorted hues and their interaction. Van Sciver’s talents shine through best in action sequences—that is, panels in which action is not only meant to be taking place, but actually is. Unfortunately, too often characters are rendered stiff by an apparent desire by the artist to create a poster, as the characters pose in unlikely configurations just to look cool. Still, the two-page “oath” sequence is very nearly perfect, which more than makes up for heroic posturing elsewhere in the book.
For fans of Hal Jordan, this is vindication. For enthusiasts of the Green Lantern Corps, this is a resurrection. Whichever Lantern a reader favors, Green Lantern: Rebirth has featured enough action and assortment of heroes to satisfy all tastes. While some may regret that Kyle will no longer star in the regular title, he seems to be keeping busy in this week’s Rann/Thanagar War and the forthcoming Corps mini.
In Brightest Day…
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