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Archive for the ‘n00b Reviews’ Category

One of the goals of High Five! is to convert casual fans into obsessive fans. We’re constantly convincing our friends, that no, comics are so TOO for grown-ups! We also find ourselves fighting a constant battle to convince people that while we may have grown up with Marvel (and YES, I have Marvel titles on my pull list), DC is kicking a whole lot of ass these days. Today, we bring you the first (and hopefully not last) High Five! n00b Review! Our friend Hava is a voracious reader of regular books (you know, the ones without the pit-chers), but only in that last year or so has she been into comics. She hadn’t quite gotten into the Capes though, so rather than taking her the familiar Superman or Batman route, we foisted Green Lantern: Rebirth upon her – and I’m proud to say, we’ve got ourselves a convert. *sniffle* They grow up so fast…
I should point something out first. When I first got back into comics, my knowledge of superheroes was pretty much limited to Superman & Batman. I’d heard of the Justice League and I remembered the Flash from old issues at the grocery store (back when they still sold single issues at the supermarket) – but I’d never even heard of the Green Lantern. I (clearly) have a few friends who are hardcore into comics, and they praised the Hal Jordan Green Lantern up & down. Maggie proudly declared that he was one of her favorite superheroes ever. In the top 3, even.

What exactly, was so special about Hal Jordan, and why should I care about him? I wanted to find out.

First, I did a little preliminary research on Wikipedia (a respectable enough source of superhero arcana for a n00b). On the surface, the guy didn’t seem that exceptional. Wears green, works as a pilot by day, and carries a…lantern? Not exactly the Shakespearean torment of Batman, or the alien-disguised-as-a-normal guy persona of Superman. My first read that featured a Green Lantern, JLA: Earth 2 by Grant Morrison, didn’t exactly endear me to the concept either. JLA: Earth 2 featured a different Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner, and he came off as a smug Michael J. Fox type – and not in the good Marty McFly way. No, this was Alex P. Keaton, all bravado and show-offiness, no meat, no depth – not my thing. I’m a namby-pamby liberal, and I found I was far more intrigued by that other Green Dude (as in the Green Arrow).

250px-Greenlanternrebirth6I clearly needed a better gateway drug for Hal. My friends, helpful people that they are, handed me a great one – Rebirth and No Fear, the first two arcs of Geoff Johns‘ Green Lantern run. Rebirth is the story of the resurrection of Hal Jordan, the most important Green Lantern. Although there are many Green Lanterns (there’s one for every Sector), Hal Jordan is the greatest of them all. So unlike Superman, Batman, or really any other superhero that started out alone, Hal Jordan came complete with a posse of intergalactic space cops. My greatest fear was that this would render him faceless, a nameless number in the ranks. Why should I care about this guy over another Green Lantern? Or another superhero, for that matter?

But I did care. I’ll spare you the plot summary, because for me, that’s merely the skeleton, I’m interested in the meaty parts;  Hal Jordan’s psychological makeup, aka, What Makes Him Tick? Sure, a good plot is essential, but it’s only the backdrop for a character’s motivations, drives and desires. We got enough of nothing but fancy costumes and tricked out gadgets from comics in the forties and on up through the eighties. The eighties were something of a rebirth for comics in general, as writers tapped into their characters’ heads: as readers we care so much more when our superheroes are shown to be just as human and fragile as the rest of us. As a reader, I cared so much more about Bruce Wayne when I read about his family’s murder. I was much more attached to Clark Kent when he realized he’d lost his birth parents on Krypton. It‘s such a simple concept, but tragedy makes a superhero more interesting. And a tragic backstory is the easiest way to this reader’s heart.

Hal Jordan’s backstory is not particularly dark & twisted, but it is tragic. His pilot father was killed before his eyes when his plane exploded up in the air. The accident has haunted Hal ever since. It colors his relationships with his brother and on again/off again girlfriend, Carol Ferris. Whenever his soul isn’t being possessed by the Spectre (Holy Spirit of vengeance) or Parallax (Fear itself, personified), he is fighting a constant battle with fear. Against fear itself.

All the Green Lanterns go by a credo of “No Fear;” which is one of the coolest things I have ever read in a comic. This makes him the polar opposite of someone like say, Batman, who thrives on fear- which often makes for pretty bleak reading. I don’t know about you, but with so many realistically downbeat (read: depressing) storylines in the DC canon, it’s nice to have a little hope.

green_lantern_rebirth3So Hal is the Man Without Fear. Except when he got possessed by Parallax, and was eaten from the inside out by his own self doubts. Since the green ring he wears is solely powered by his own willpower, in a way, Hal Jordan represents every one of us, who each have our own Parallaxes to fight, overwhelming fears that cripple our willpower and prevent us from taking control of our own lives. Hal’s powers do not come easy, he wasn’t born with them, they aren’t innate. They come with a price. Each time he uses the ring to fight back, he is giving it his life. Each time he uses its powers, he pays with pain. It’s easy to empathize with someone whose superpowers seem as much of a burden to him as they are a gift. Unlike Superman, Hal could easily choose to give up ring-slinging and lay down the burden – but he doesn’t.

But it’s not all heavy lifting, either. Geoff Johns is a fan’s writer, in the best sense of the word. He doesn’t reach the majestic heights of say, Neil Gaiman, but he’s a more than able craftsman. Although the fanboy enthusiasm is apparent, he doesn’t just cater to the diehards. He knows well enough not to do that. His Rebirth is the Green Lantern legend, not just revamped, but revitalized. He honors the origin story without copying or rehashing old themes. He makes Hal Jordan’s comeback not just believable, but damn near watertight. Seriously, there are no plot holes in this thing. And the man is not without a sense of humor. When Rebirth’s resident villain Sinestro threatens Hal, telling him to “never to challenge those more powerful than you”, Jordan responds with typical flippancy. “Um…yeah. That’s not gonna work for me.” Homeboy’s got balls.

After careful consideration, and in keeping with the High Five! tradition of pairing a drink with a book, I declare that Green Lantern: Rebirth should be enjoyed with a couple of Miller High Lifes. (Lives?) Because that’s what Hal would drink. You know I’m right. Working class, but classy.

So now, I suppose it’s official: I’m a Green Lantern convert. But let’s not forget- a writer can either make or break a series- and Geoff Johns is a great writer. So thank you Geoff Johns. You’ve turned me into a fangirl.
Man. Is she gonna freak when she catches up to Blackest Night, or what?

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