Most superheroes worth their salt get their origins re-imagined every few years. While Green Lantern is one of those DC Comics characters that’s remained the property of the comics geek for most of the last few decades – at least in comparison to mainstream stable-mates like Batman and Superman – that could all change with the imminent release (at the time of writing) of the Green Lantern movie.
Green Lantern is a very different character to DC’s mainstream fare. Batman is relatively grounded in reality (albeit skewed into DC’s superhero universe) with no superpowers but a reliance on training and intelligence. Superman starts off as a creature of science fiction but quickly evolves into an archetype of the American dream thanks to his refugee status – alien yes, but more bought in to American society than most Americans.
Green Lantern, on the other hand, is all too human. Seemingly chosen by fate to take over the role of a dying Green Lantern – who happened to crash land near his place of work – test pilot Hal Jordan is deemed to have the requisite absence of fear to take the mantle of the green ring and lantern. However, the remainder of the Green Lantern Corps – alien defenders of the universe numbered in what must be the millions – don’t seem so sure that a Green Lantern from a technological and cultural backwater like Earth is such a great idea. To a certain extent Jordan justifies their fears, but then this is an origin story, so you’ll need to accept that there needs to be a little artificial drama inserted into the hero’s journey from headstrong daredevil to defender of the universe.
Despite the fairly predictable course of events – there can be few true surprises in an origin story – Geoff Johns turns out a fairly decent superhero yarn. Although Jordan’s visit to the Green Lantern home planet Oa throws up a pleasing variety of aliens, Johns manages to hold back, keeping his core of characters at a relative minimum. This is a good thing for new readers, and quite unlike much of Johns’ other work, which tends to reference (and require of its reader) an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the DC Universe.
Ivan Reis’s art is impressive at times, particularly in the splash pages – full pages or double-page spreads that take up the entire page. The panels that form the bulk of the story are less dynamic though, even when the action is intense. There’s little particularly wrong with it, but it feels hum-drum in places.
If you’re here looking for a heads-up or a refresher on Green Lantern before you see the movie, it’s a good place to start. In the book’s introduction, Actor Ryan Reynolds states that he used the book as a character study on which to base his role of Hal Jordan in the film. You can’t get much better a recommendation than that if it’s the movie that’s pulling you into the book. Just don’t expect one of the all-time superhero greats.