Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Trade Waiting - Green Lantern: Rebirth

Since Blackest Night is just around the corner, it seems like a good time to take a look at the book that started it all, Green Lantern: Rebirth. The Green Lantern franchise was actually my first real exposure to the DC Universe. I started with the main series after Sinestro Corps War with Green Lantern #26 and got Rebirth shortly after that. Although Rebirth has set the ground work for everything that has lead up to Blackest Night, none of that plays a large part in the story, so Rebirth is not what I would call essential reading. Even though Rebirth may not be essential for Blackest Night, it is still a comic worth reading.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ethan Van Sciver
Collects Green Lantern: Rebirth #1-6

I guess I should start with the most obvious part of Green Lantern: Rebirth - the retcon that is Parallax. As mentioned above, I got into Green Lantern, and DC in general, well past the time when the stories being retconned were first published and I have not yet gone back and actually read any of those stories either, so I can't really tell how well Parallax works as a retcon.

However, the way Johns tell his story in Rebirth does work just fine for new readers, so I don't consider that a problem. The story does fell like a retcon story at times, though, with arbitrary and contrived events, mostly involving Guy Gardener and making him a Green Lantern again. The same can be said for the actual mechanics of Hal Jordan's return to life as well.

Rebirth, obviously, is also a return to a previous status quo, for the most part. Normally, these two things, the arbitrariness and status quo reset, would bother me, but Johns gets both a good story out of Rebirth, and his future stories, and the arbitrariness actually avoids the stupidity that can accompany most retcons. Retcons, by their very nature, are arbitrary, so Johns doesn't bother to get caught in the nitty gritty details and, instead, decides to focus on the story, which is a very good thing.

So, with that out of the way, how is Rebirth as a story? Pretty good actually, for what it is. Rebirth's goal is to bring Jordan back as a Green Lantern and tells a pretty good story about that. Instead of just getting from Point A to Point B, Johns takes care to actually tell a story that can stand alone from its retcon. The story starts off as something of a mystery with events happening, such as Guy having a "metahuman hemorrhage," Kyle Rayner crash landing on Earth with his ring warning that "Parallax is coming," Coast City's, Jordan's destroyed home, partial return and, finally, Hal, as the Spectre, maiming Black Hand by turning one of his hands into coal.

All of this leads to the Justice League, and especially Batman, believing that Jordan is returning to his villainous ways. Eventually, it is revealed that Parallax is actually the living embodiment of fear, that he was merely using Jordan as a host during his time as Parallax and that, after a millennium of hibernation, he was awoken by Sinestro, who is once again alive, having faked his earlier "death." After these revelations, Rebirth turns into a more traditional super hero tale with Jordan and Kyle taking down Sinestro and then the Green Lanterns, Jordan, Kyle, Guy, John Stewart and Kilowog, defeating and imprisoning Parallax. Not the most original or ground breaking story, but it accomplishes what it set out to do and manages to entertain at the same time.

Johns does a wonderful job of plotting Rebirth. In the early issues he manages to maintain a sense of mystery and impending doom and then, in the later issues, drops the mystery for an action driven climax. He makes a good transition between the two different tones, as well. Johns makes sure to make his revelations count and does a good job of building up to most of the reveals. Johns also makes good use of the flashbacks and expositions without bogging the story down.

The main purpose of Rebirth, as said before, is to reestablish Hal Jordan as the main Green Lantern. In order to do so effectively, this would require Jordan to do things like sucker punch Batman, which he does. Now, this could make Jordan unlikeable to some readers if Johns does it wrong, but, to me, he actually did a pretty good job of building up Jordan without bringing down other characters. Although, Batman, and just Batman, does come away a little worse for wear. Johns made up for it later in the eventual Green Lantern ongoing with a Batman guest appearance, though.

In addition to not having Jordan doing anything overly ridiculous, Johns also builds up the other Green Lanterns and, in particular, Kyle, which is important. In fact, Johns goes out of his way not to bring Kyle down and does, at the end of the day, prove that Kyle and Jordan can coexist under a capable writer. Guy, John, and, to a lesser degree, Kilowog all are shown in a positive light and Johns does a pretty good job of proving why all of these characters deserve to be Green Lanterns at the same time.

The art by Ethan Van Sciver is magnificent in Rebirth. In addition to his highly detailed art, EVS also manages to bring the Green Lantern's power to life. A lot of the effects of the rings are drawn fire-like in addition to being light constructs. While many of the main powers of the rings retain their strict, light construct look, a lot of the side or after effects are drawn like they are fire, or kind of liquid or fluid. This actually does a lot to redefine how the Green Lanterns looks. It also makes their powers look more dynamic and vibrant while losing of the generic-ness of their powers. Also, each Green Lantern's constructs are fleshed out and given unique looks and feels, such as Jordan's simple designs, Stewert's overly complex engineering constructs and so on. All around, EVS's work brings the book to another level.

Verdict - Must Read. A retcon story that not only manages to accomplishes its goals, but manages to tell a highly entertaining tale as well.

Like this review? Interested in this books? Purchase Green Lantern: Rebirth from Amazon.com and help support The Weekly Crisis.

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ModernTenshi04 said...

I became interested in Green Lantern after watching The New Frontier on DVD, and all the cool episodes John Stewart and the Corp got in the Justice League cartoon. Went to a local comic book shop looking to get into comics (new graduate+new job+loads of expendible cash = new hobbies sought for loads of downtime when not working), and he helped me get started with Green Lantern by having me start here.

I was hooked after reading it.

I even bought all 6 of the individual books plus some of their variant covers for real cheap at another comic shop in the area that does 40% off back issues on Tuesdays.

Loves me some Green Lantern.

Flip The Page said...

Rebirth is probably the best Green Lantern story I've ever read, simply because it understands the characters and then some. great review, glad ya did it

Matt Ampersand said...

The moment where they all recite the Green Lantern Oath is one of the biggest "FUCK YEAH!" moments in recent comic history.

Eric Rupe said...

ModernTenshi04 - Green Lantern is definitely one of my favorite DC properties.

Flip The Page - Thanks.

Matt - Yeah, that was pretty cool. I liked the way EVS laid out the panels.

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