High Five! Comics

Posts Tagged ‘Green Lantern

“Fans come to me asking how this works or that works, and I say, ‘It’s a comic book. It’s not real.’ We already have a real world, why do you want fiction to be like that too?”
– Grant Morrison, 2010

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Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Golden Age comics. I know there aren’t many of my generation who appreciate this stuff, and I’m positive I don’t “get it” the way my grandparents did, but the mixture of innocence, desperation, and humanity I find in these old stories is quite compelling.

When my generation imagines old comics we think of Super Friends, but for all its glitter the times of the Golden Age were rather bleak. Thanks to Captain America and Wonder Woman we think the heroes of that first era were framed against the backdrop of WWII. This is not true. While it is true that Superman, Batman, and others came to stand for the American Way their personae were not forged in flames of war, but in the embers of Depression.

“We can do it!” Rosie the Riveter said that for the first time in 1942.  Superman debuted in 1938. We met Batman, Namor, and the Human Torch in 1939. Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and the Spirit first appeared in 1940 alongside most of the Golden Age crew. Wonder Woman is the only major character to appear after Pearl Harbor, and she also joins Steve Rogers in color coordination. All of these heroes were born into an era scarred by record unemployment and rising crime as the country completed a full decade of economic depression.

People were starting to lose hope and this, my friends, is the world Superman needed to save.

Superman saves a woman framed for murder.

Something I love about the early days of superheroes is the lack of super-villains. Oh, sure there were a few notable bad guys like the Joker and Wotan, but on the whole super-villains were exceptions to the norm of mob bosses, corrupt officials, and street thugs. This is what I meant when I said the Golden Age comics were desperate. America thought the problems of everyday life were bad enough to need heroes.

This reveals a real sense of hopelessness deep in the psyche of that generation. Rampant unemployment. Gang violence on the rise and crime organizing like never before. Times were desperate, and the Common Man felt he was quickly losing his place in the day-to-day life of America.

See, creators like Rob Kanigher and Len Wein saw comics as fantastical tales to thrill an audience with absurdity and bizarre scenarios. Jerry Siegel, Bill Finger, C. C. Beck, and Mart Dellon saw comics as a cathartic escape from the harsh reality of violence, corruption, and black-mail.

They saw comics as a weird mixture of hope and escape.

Never mind the crude drawings and clumsy dialogue. The heroes idolized by my grandfather didn’t need to fight aliens to have meaning. Superman was great because he could stop a lynching. We believed in the Green Lantern because he could expose a mob-boss who had framed an innocent man. These heroes didn’t protect us from the unknown; what they brought was hope in the face of something very real and immediate. Put another way, the Golden Age offered escape from reality simply by solving the problems of poor Americans. I cannot imagine anything sadder or more exhilarating. So, while 1938-1950 may not have produced the best art or the most clever prose, America has arguably never seen comics that had more meaning. And that is enough to make a Golden Age.

-Jonny

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Alan Scott dons his costume to protect innocents from loan sharks.

When I say the name “Red Tornado,” you undoubtedly assume I’m talking about DC’s modern incarnation, a big red robotic wind elemental guy from Rann who wants nothing more than to be human and love on his family. Well, come on! This is the DC Universe, where every character ever is part of some long, long legacy of somewhat similar (even if just by name) characters! And, as bizarre as it sounds, Red Tornado’s legacy goes all the way back to 1939, predating even Jay Garrick, Wonder Woman,  and Alan Scott (sort of) by a couple months.

Acquired in DC’s buyout of All-American Publications, Ma Hunkel debuted in June 1939’s All-American Comics #3, in which she started making repeated appearances in its Scribbly Jibbet features, written, penciled, inked, lettered, and edited by Sheldon Mayer. She was also a single mother of two kids, Huey (best friend of Scribbly’s) and Sisty (best friend to Scribbly’s little brother, Dinky). And she didn’t do much.

Finally, in November 1940’s All-American Comics #20, something happens. Ma’s brother-in-law strikes it big at the track and gives her the money to purchase the Schultz’s Grocery Store. As soon as she opens the doors, some local mobsters from the Torponi gang come in and try to shake her for protection money. Now, Ma is pretty burly and fights them off, but Sisty and Dinky hide in the Torponis’ car, pretty much kidnapping themselves. After the NYPD refuses to go after the Torponis, Scribbly tells her about the Green Lantern (who, at this point, was only four issues old). So Ma does the least logical thing possible and, instead of calling Green Lantern, the superpowerless Ma Hunkel puts on red tights, puts a cooking pot on her head, and goes out as the Red Tornado to rescue her kids (as far as I know, making her the first female superhero ever).

After she rescues Sisty and Dinky, NYPD police chief Gilhooley takes sole credit for bringing down the Torponi gang. When confronted by Ma Hunkel in her Red Tornado garb in front of the press, Gilhooley decries vigilantism and orders Red Tornado’s arrest. Ma evades capture by putting her costume on a gorilla, letting it get arrested in her place. Everybody all ready assumed that under the costume Red Tornado was a dude (what with how strong Ma is), but now they come to the conclusion that was the gorilla the whole time. Goddamn, Golden Age comics are weird.

My favorite (and probably the most famous) Ma Hunkel appearance was in Winter 1940’s All-Star Comics #3. Ma decides to gatecrash the first meeting of the Justice Society of America, hoping to join the ranks of her inspiration, Green Lantern. Unfortunately for her, she rips off her pants crawling in through a window, gets called the Red Tomato by an extremely dick-ish Hourman, and bails.

Other than a few more adventures with the Sisty and Dinky as the Cyclone Kids, Ma pretty much disappeared after Scribbly’s strip ended in All-American Comics #59. She did manage to have a one-panel appearance in July 1990’s Animal Man #25 (pushing a stroller full of cans in Limbo) and then, finally, a full-fledged re-appearance in February 2004’s JSA #55. It turns out that Ma Hunkel has been in the Witness Protection Agency ever since 1950 and, now that the last member of some gang is dead, she’s free to come out of hiding.

Currently, Ma Hunkel can be found in Manhattan taking taking care of the headquarters of and basically acting as housemother for the Justice Society. Plus, her granddaughter Maxine (who, just for kicks, I’ll assume is the love-child of Sisty and Dinky) is a member of the JSA All-Stars under the alias of Cyclone and has the power of flight and wind manipulation.

And, as weird as it sounds, I really hope that Maxine one day takes up the Red Tornado name. I mean, come on. Wouldn’t it be awesome for that legacy to come full circle?

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So, a couple days ago over on DC’s The Source blog, they put up a weird cover for a “Red Lantern/Red Arrow” cover tribute to Neal Adams’ Green Arrow Vol. 2 #76. I saw it, kinda went “Well, that’s odd,” and left it at that. Being a gigantic nerd about the show Fringe (to the point where I’m nerdily excited for Wildstorm’s upcoming Tales From the Fringe book), I was psyched for last night’s season finale. And then I saw that cover, along with four others on a wall behind Peter. The Source is going to reveal them in detail later today, but I kiiiinda got some sweet screencaps and figured, screw it, let’s look at them a little early.

From what I can tell, there’s alternate universe tributes to the covers of George Pérez’s Crisis on Infinite Earths #3, Dan Jurgen’s Superman Vol. 2 #75, Neal Adams’ Green Lantern Vol. 2 #76, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns #1, and Kevin Maguire’s Justice League #1. Awesome!

Check out The Source later today to see the covers in full detail.

Sometimes comics make us cry. Here are the top ten comic moments that made Maggie sob, Jonny bleary-eyed, and set ole Rob a-drinkin. These are pretty much ranked in order of how hard Maggie cried. Except one, but she’ll never admit which one.


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(10) Archie & Veronica’s Wedding – Maggie: SHUT UP. This issue will make 99% of women cry like babies, so just -HEY! SHUT UP!

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(9) Beak Beats Beast – Maggie: Cassandra Nova, that twisted, sick bitch, mind controls poor, confused Beak into beating the shit out of his mentor and bestest buddy, Beast. WITH A BASEBALL BAT. No matter how hard he tries, Beak can’t stop beating the good doctor, apologizing to him and crying the whole time. Man, imagine being forced to beat the shit out of your childhood hero.

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(8) Astounding Wolf Man’s Wife, Murdered – Maggie: The weeping moment here was less the murder itself than the fact that Gary was blamed for the murder. Frak, the ONE GUY you trust to help you deal with your lycanthropy (who happens to be a vampire) up and chomps your wife. Then you get framed for it and your ONLY daughter hates you. You also lose your fortune and your home. But man, when Gary didn’t even de-wolf and cradled his dead wife in his arms and shrieked, jeez.

cry 009

(7) Reddy Loses His Arm – Maggie: The Red Tornado becomes human, makes real hot sexytime with his wife, truly hugs his kid for the first time – it’s great. Then he gets into a fight with Solomon Grundy, who rips off his arm, practically killing him. While this is going on, his wife has to watch helplessly through an unbreachable portal. I didn’t know what my worst nightmare was until I read this. (Well, until I saw that one episode of Battlestar where Boomer, well, you know, with Helo.)

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(6) Tim Drake’s Father, Murdered – Rob: Pretty much the entirety of Identity Crisis could fit in this post (Ronnie & Sue!) but, when you think about it, nothing is as tragic as the death of Jack Drake. Tim was the only Robin who actually had some family left and that was all taken away from him when Jean Loring sent the original Captain Boomerang to attack. Despite getting shot numerous times, Captain Boomerang managed to throw a boomerang straight into Jacks’ chest, killing him. All the while, Tim is listening in on his dad over Oracle’s frequency, unable to get there in time. OOF.

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(5) Black Canary, Tortured – Rob: Oliver Queen had never killed anybody before. That was before he and Dinah moved up to Seattle, Washington and ended up taking up their own little projects, hers being trying to break up a drug ring. That’s before Ollie happens to hear that the head of the drug cartel was found dead and that he still hadn’t seen from Dinah. When he tracks her down, he finds her strung up, beaten to a pulp, bleeding profusely, nearly naked, and being threatened by a man with a knife. If that image isn’t heartbreaking enough, the only thing she can say to him while Ollie holds her near lifeless body? “Oliver, sorry I missed your birthday.”

cry 104

(4) Buddy Finds His Family, Murdered – Jonny: As a man there are certain survival instincts that nature puts in us (by the way I’m a man). Call it God, call it nature; we’re hardwired to protect our “zone” with our lives. Obviously women do this too, but for them it’s a much more holistic experience. Men, we want to fucking DOMINATE and OBLITERATE any perceived threat. We won’t get into the psychology of this. If you’re a dude you know what I’m talking about, and if you’re a woman you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Buddy Baker. He is one of the few, if any, super heroes who had a family integral to his story rather than some minor aspect of his background. Ellen, Cliff, Maxine. I still know the names of Buddy’s family, and as a man who was months away from getting married when I read this comic it was completely devastating to see Buddy’s family sprawled on the ground of his own home and lying in their own blood. This was all the more poignant because this wasn’t just a casualty of some war or what have you. This represented a fundamental failure on Buddy’s part. He chose to follow his dream and be a superhero, and while he was out with HIS dream, the family that he was supposed to protect with his LIFE was butchered in his OWN HOME. As a man I cannot possibly think of a more horrific scene to come home to, and this was the most gut-wrenching piece of literature I’ve ever read.

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(3) Kitty & Colussus in Astonishing X-Men – Maggie: So Kitty phases through about a million feet of metal to find presumed-dead for years Peter Rasputin captured like a lab rat. Imagine finding your long dead first love alive and well. She lands right in front of him when she drops into the sub-basement, he runs through her, she puts her hand to her heart. And then! They get together and it’s adorable. But then Kitty phases a giant bullet through the Earth, saving the world, and Peter loses her again. Fuck. I’m getting upset just typing this.

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(2) Snow Sends Ghost Away – Maggie: Snow & Bigby’s zephyr of a seventh child is a bit, um, special needs. Snow didn’t even know Ghost existed until Frau Totenkinder dropped the hint, but by the time Snow figured it out, it was too late, Ghost was wanted for murder. Snow sits alone speaking to her immaterial child, tells him to go, far, far from here and find his exiled Daddy. She bursts into tears. *I* burst into tears.

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(1) Coast City Solidarity – Maggie: So at the behest of Cyborg Superman, Mongul completely destroyed the place, along with nearly all of it’s seven million residents. As if that weren’t bad enough, it’s champion, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, freaks out in the wake of the destruction, gets possesed by Parallax AND the Spectre and then (mostly) dies. But once he comes back to life, he wants his city back. Coast City is rebuilt, but after the destruction, no one wants to live there.  During the Sinestro Corps War, Coast City is under threat yet again but just when the worst is about to happen and Hal himself has almost given up? Thousands of tiny green lights (shit, I’m getting choked up) start shining through the sparsely populated Coast City. Hal ends up kicking Sinestro’s ass over the rooftops of Coast City, which is reborn as “The City Without Fear.” Aaand I’m officially verklempt again.

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coverOK, seriously, somebody tell me if I’m missing something here because I am totally fucking lost. Keith Kenyon was a guy who believed that drinking a mixture of gold and seawater would make him invincible. Since that scheme is the dumbest fucking thing I have ever heard of, Hal Jordan took him out with one punch. Ten issues later, Kenyon’s changed his name to Goldface, suited up in gold-plated armor, and has somehow gotten hold of a “gold gun” that shoots “his golden spray” (haha, ewww) that can turn people and objects into solid gold.

Man, Silver Age comics were fucking weird.

guard

Anyways, the issue starts out with a pissed off Goldface (“the 24-Karat villain”) getting all set to rob a bank vault. Hal Jordan bested him before and Goldface is out for revenge! His plan is to turn some random security guard we’ll never see again into a solid gold statue and give Green Lantern an ultimatum: the security guard’s life for Hal’s!

Meanwhile, Hal (in his Green Lantern get-up) is getting all set to go Carol Ferris’ fancy cocktail party celebrating the release of “the Magnificent Girl in the Flying Machine,” a movie about Grandma Ferris which stars one Zu Zu Lamar (clearly a parody of then 49-years-old and five-marriages-in Zsa Zsa Gabor). Green Lantern shows up and immediately starts rubbing all up on Zu Zu (pissing off Carol) and this brings about some of the most horrible fucking dialogue I have ever seen in anything ever (and I’ve seen Juno). Seriously, check this shit out.

zuzu

Hal’s racist Eskimo stereotype sidekick, Pieface, probably isn’t invited and is busy at the dentist getting a gold filling put in when it (along with every gold filling in Coast City) starts yelling at Hal about the solid gold security guard and Goldface’s challenge. Now, I’m not sure how Goldface pulled this off. It’s never really explained. At all. As a matter of fact, a lot of things happen in this issue with zero explanation as to how they were accomplished. I guess we’re just supposed to assume that Goldface can just use alchemy and turn anything into gold from anywhere. And then project his voice through that gold? Because… GOLD.

Hal meets up with Goldface and two of his henchmen in the Coast City Museum and the most lackluster fight ever begins. Hal takes out the two goons while spouting some ridiculous smack talk. He takes out Goldface by punching a henchman into a chariot (“You’re taking a Roman chariot ride — straight to jail!”) which careens into a wall which falls onto Goldface which flips the little man into the cup which makes the cage fall and then MOUSE TRAP! And then Hal takes the goons away and just leaves Goldface behind because the Silver Age Green Lantern was the Forrest Gump of comics (both retarded and endearing).

GL makes it back to the theater in time to see the movie screening. Or so he thinks! Goldface changes some of the marquee letters and a microphone to gold and yells at Hal again, telling him to meet him at the Coast City Gold Mines for a final showdown. Hal macks on Zu Zu’s hand and takes off, swearing that “Goldface is going to be Fool’s Goldface when I get done with him.” Really, dude? Really?

Hal gets to the mine and find that everything is bathed in a golden light, making his ring useless because this was the Silver Age and Green Lantern was still allergic to yellow. That’s cool though, since Hal really just wants to start throwing regular old punches at this point. He manages to take out all of Goldface’s goons and throws a wad of aqua regia at him (no way, actual science?) that does nothing (oh, nevermind). In response, Goldface sprays Hal with his “golden treatment” and turns him into “solid gold!”

goldhal

Pffft. Solid gold, my ass. Less than one page after that, Hal has punched his way out of his chocolate Easter bunny prison. Less than one page after that, he discovers that the gold spray wasn’t actually gold (which begs the question, do I really want to know what it was?) and that Goldface’s helmet was what really turned everything to gold. Hal tricks Goldface into turning his own legs into gold, rips off his helmet, and turns the rest of him into gold as well.

But wait, Pieface has a good question. How the fuck did Hal get out of getting turned into gold? Easy! he just used his ring to rearrange the molecular composition of the air around him (although not directly around him, giving him an air pocket) and it was that solid air that was turned by Goldface’s alchemic powers! Then, while everybody thought Hal was a statue, he used his ring to turn the air pocket extremely gold, rendering the naturally soft metal shell brittle! See? It’s SO simple!

dancehalIn the finale, Hal misses the movie but is able to hit up the after party. He snubs Carol when she asks for a dance but shares a moment with Zu Zu because Hal Jordan can fuck whoever Hal Jordan wants to fuck.

Damn, dude, that was weird. It’s worth noting that this issue was also written by Gardner Fox, the man who created both the Justice League of America and the Justic Society of America. It’s also worth noting that every single piece of Goldface’s dialogue in this issue could totally be a pee joke. Hmmm…

I love comics. I find the stories, characters, legends, mythology, drama, and the inexhaustible “OH S**T!!!” moments to be thoroughly compelling and most importantly: entertaining. That I feel this way is hardly surprising; I am writing for this blog. Also obvious are the talents of our beloved authors who create these fine works of literature. Any connoisseur has their favorite author. Bendis, Moore, Morrison, Ennis- all of these come to mind. Some of us love a solid story about capes (Bendis or Johns), some of us love to see the boundaries of the medium stretched (Moore), and some of us just love to have our minds blown by convoluted stories of higher reality (Morrison- and before you give me crap for saying he’s convoluted: yes he is, I love his work, but he did write Seaguy).
While I’m sure most of you are thinking of someone I should have put in that list, I doubt many of you are surprised at my choices. But, let’s be honest folks: these guys are more than slightly one dimensional. Before you rush to post angry comments stop to think about it. I’m not talking about the characters they write for, or the scope of the events they depict so passionately. What I mean is this: when you read Moore you know that paranoia, dystopia, and god-hood are probably involved. Reading Morrison? I guarantee that you’ll read about a higher reality, that it will make a lot of sense until the last third of the story when you’ll have to re-read 15 pages to figure out what the hell happened. Johns or Bendis? Classic capes all the way. Are the stories good? No question. But, I’m sure you know the basic premise, scope, and range of the issues you’ll be reading before you open the book.
Again, wait before the angry comments of, “What about….” I’m not interested in exceptions and I’m most definitely not questioning the talent of these authors. My point stands: artists of any medium are usually good at one thing and they stick to it. But, that isn’t why I’m writing this post. What I really want to talk about is an author capable of doing more than one style. I want to talk about Mark Waid. My intense respect for this man may be less than mainstream, but let’s take a minute to look at the remarkable range of technique Waid uses with confidence and ease.
First let us tackle the obvious: Kingdom Come. Any modern comic library without this work is incomplete. No question about this. If you like superhero comics and you don’t own a copy of Kingdom Come then I question why you’re reading a comics blog. If you ever questioned why DC places so much importance on Superman you’ll find your answer here. And a whole hell of a lot more. Many characters are beautifully re-imagined, the intense story is delivered with surgical precision, and you’ll come to realize that Mark Waid understands superheros better than you ever will.
Keeping with precision story craft and impeccable understanding of character we see another great Superman tale: Superman Birthright. Birthright was important as more than just a modern imagining of the Man of Steel. Here we see not only a graceful depiction of the Godfather of superheroes (I mean Superman folks) but also a powerful consideration of Lex Luthor. I think this is the only TPB my wife and I both read in one sitting on the same night. Quite literally I read this, made her read it after me, and it dominated our conversation the rest of the evening.
Difficult for any fan of Waid’s modern interpretations of classic archetypes we see his bold usage of Silver Age style. Not characters. No, I mean style. In works like JLA: Year One and Flash & Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold Waid actually makes us feel like we’re reading something written in the 1960s, and more importantly we LIKE that he’s doing that. In these works you get more than dystopia or horror. You get something lacking in most modern comics: fun. How many authors would dare to have Martian Manhunter explode his head in an attempt to elicit laughter from a fledgling JLA? And how many would do that two years after writing something like Kingdom Come? I guarantee that many of you don’t like Waid because of these works. And if you feel that way I guarantee that you’re under 35. I’d further argue that if you’re over 35 you take my side on this one. Mark isn’t just campy or juvenile. He’s taking the same deep understanding he has for Gold and Silver Age characters and he’s applying it to Gold and Silver Age storytelling. Love it or hate it you have to admit that takes skill.
Next we consider something outside of the classic cape stories. A work Gregory Rucka has described as “…inspired, remarkable for it’s depth and ambition” we look at Potter’s Field. This is a timeless puzzle story of murder. Released on the fledgling Boom! imprint you’d never guess this was written by a man with unparalleled understanding of characters from DC and Marvel. Potter’s Field is remarkable not only for it’s intrigue and mystery but also for it’s gritty and fallible characters. There is no humor, there is no justice. Only mystery, compulsion, and atonement. If you didn’t read the spine you’d never peg this as Waid. (incidentally this book was given to us by the author in exchange for a Green Lantern ring which makes it even more awesome)
While my favorite Waid stories are his creator owned works like Potter’s Field and Irredeemable- arguably his most epic, ambitious, subtle, and nuanced work to date- it is his crystalline understanding of characters and genre coupled with masterful pacing of story that makes this man a winner. Whether you enjoy Waid as much as I do is irrelevant. What is undeniable is this here is a rare example of skilled writing in multiple areas of storytelling.  Somehow the dichotomy of being great at one thing vs mediocre at many things doesn’t seem to apply to Waid. While DC and Marvel seem to maintain a cold relationship with the man I, for one, love that. Plus he writes a deliciously cantankerous Twitter feed. My colleagues like to recommend a drink at the close of a post. Waid, you get a strong ale and held aloft with  sincerest respect. Feel the Power of Rock & Roll.
-Jonny

“… another testament to Waid’s skill as a writer; nothing is wasted.”

-Greg Rucka, February 2009

I love comics. I find the stories, characters, legends, mythology, drama, and the inexhaustible “OH S**T!!!” moments to be thoroughly compelling and most importantly: entertaining. That I feel this way is hardly surprising; I am writing for this blog. Also obvious are the talents of our beloved authors who create these fine works of literature. Any connoisseur has their favorite author. Bendis, Moore, Morrison, Ennis- all of these come to mind. Some of us love a solid story about capes (Bendis or Johns), some of us love to see the boundaries of the medium stretched (Moore), and some of us just love to have our minds blown by convoluted stories of higher reality (Morrison- and before you give me crap for saying he’s convoluted: yes he is, I love his work, but he did write Seaguy).

While I’m sure most of you are thinking of someone I should have put on that list, I doubt many of you are surprised at my choices. But, let’s be honest folks: these guys are more than slightly one dimensional. Before you rush to post angry comments, stop and think about it. I’m not talking about the characters they write for, or the scope of the events they depict so passionately. What I mean is this: when you read Moore you know that paranoia, dystopia, and god-hood are probably involved. Reading Morrison? I guarantee that you’ll read about a higher reality, that it will make a lot of sense until the last third of the story when you’ll have to re-read 15 pages to figure out what the hell happened. Johns or Bendis? Classic capes all the way. Are the stories good? No question. But, I’m sure you know the basic premise, scope, and range of the issues you’ll be reading before you open the book.

Again, wait before the angry comments asking, “What about….” I’m not interested in exceptions and I’m most definitely not questioning the talent of these authors. My point stands: artists of any medium are usually good at one thing and they stick to it. But that isn’t why I’m writing this post. What I really want to talk about is an author capable of working in more than one style. I want to talk about Mark Waid. My intense respect for this man may be less than mainstream, but let’s take a minute to look at the remarkable range of technique Waid uses with confidence and ease.

First let us tackle the obvious: Kingdom Come. Any modern comic library without this work is incomplete. No question about this. If you like superhero comics and you don’t own a copy of Kingdom Come then I question why you’re reading a comics blog. If you ever questioned why DC places so much importance on Superman you’ll find your answer here. Plus a whole hell of a lot more. Many characters are beautifully re-imagined, the intense story is delivered with surgical precision, and you’ll come to realize that Mark Waid understands superheros better than you ever will.

Keeping with precision story craft and impeccable understanding of character we see another great Superman tale: Superman Birthright. Birthright was important as more than just a modern imagining of the Man of Steel. Here we see not only a graceful depiction of the Godfather of superheroes (I mean Superman folks) but also a powerful consideration of Lex Luthor. I think this is the only TPB my wife and I both read in one sitting on the same night. I read Birthright, then made her read it after me, and it dominated our conversation the rest of the evening.

While many love Waid for his vision of the future- many take issue with his bold usage of Silver Age style. Not characters. No, I mean style. In works like JLA: Year One and Flash & Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold Waid actually makes us feel like we’re reading something written in the 1960s, and more importantly we LIKE that he’s doing that. In these works you get more than dystopia or horror. You get something lacking in most modern comics: fun. How many authors would dare to have Martian Manhunter explode his head in an attempt to elicit laughter from a fledgling JLA? And how many would do that two years after writing something like Kingdom Come? I guarantee that many of you read Brave and the Bold and thought: lame. And if you feel that way I guarantee that you’re under 35. I’d further argue that if you’re over 35 you take my side on this one. Mark isn’t just campy or juvenile. He’s taking the same deep understanding he has for Gold and Silver Age characters and he’s applying it to Gold and Silver Age storytelling. Love it or hate it you have to admit that takes skill.

Next we consider something outside of the classic cape stories. A work Gregory Rucka has described as “…inspired, remarkable for it’s depth and ambition” we look at Potter’s Field. This is a classic whodunnit. Released on the Boom! imprint you’d never guess this was written by a man with unparalleled understanding of characters from DC and Marvel. Potter’s Field is remarkable not only for it’s intrigue and mystery but also for it’s gritty and fallible characters. There is no humor, there is no justice. Only mystery, compulsion, and atonement. If you didn’t read the spine you’d never peg this as Waid. (incidentally this book was given to us by the author in exchange for a Green Lantern ring which makes it even more awesome.)

While my favorite Waid stories are his creator owned works like Potter’s Field and Irredeemable– arguably his most epic, ambitious, subtle, and nuanced work to date- it is his crystalline understanding of characters and genre coupled with masterful pacing of story that makes this man a winner. Whether you enjoy Waid as much as I do is irrelevant. What is undeniable is his rare ability to write so well without using the same hat trick over and over.  Somehow the dichotomy of being great at one thing vs mediocre at many things doesn’t seem to apply to Waid. I, for one, love him for that. Plus he writes a deliciously cantankerous Twitter feed. My colleagues like to recommend a drink at the close of a post. Waid, you get a strong ale held aloft with  sincerest respect. Feel the Power of Rock & Roll.

-Jonny

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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