Weekly Geeky Question #48: Green Lantern by Geoff Johns…a wishlist

Well, it’s Weekly Geeky Question time, and we’re up to Week #48–almost the end of the year!  Jingle bells are jinging, that sort of thing.

Anyway, my friend Rod is back with another question this week, and it’s all about Green Lantern, one of my favorite comic book heroes.  The question is about the celebrated Green Lantern run by author Geoff Johns, and basically the question is

What things would I change about Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern run?

Green Lantern No Fear

 

If you’re a fan of Green Lantern, then you probably know all about Geoff John’s run on the character.  It started in 1994 and went on until about 2011.  It was a big deal because back in the 1990’s, DC decided that the main Green Lantern character, Hal Jordan was Not That Interesting Anymore, and to shake things up writer Ron Marz was hired to write a story in which Hal lost his mind and went evil, and was replaced by young millennial Kyle Rayner.

Green Lantern Secret Origin

The story was called Emerald Twlight, and it was a mess, possibly because it was written in an incredible hurry.  DC was fully confused about the idea of what they were doing with Hal, trying to make him a “fallen hero” while still remaining “cool”.  What they weren’t confused by was the sales results, I guess, since by all accounts it was a financially successful move, and breathed new life in to Green Lantern comics for quite a while.

But to every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.  And so in 2004, it was decided that it was time to redeem Hal Jordan and make him the focus of the Green Lantern corner of the DC Universe.  By this time, Hal had been partially redeemed by turning him into the most recent host of the Spectre (basically, moving Hal from literary Hell to literary Purgatory).  Johns wrote a miniseries called Green Lantern Rebirth, which not only reestablished a strong status quo for Hal Jordan, but for everything associated with him:  the Green Lantern Corp, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Sinestro, Hector Hammond, Carol Ferris…everything.

Green Lantern Rebirth

And mostly, it was pretty good.  As you can glean with your special powers of comprehending my words, I’m not a big fan of Emerald Twilight, although I have nothing against Kyle Rayner in particular.  Johns went on from Rebirth to write a whole bunch more Green Lantern comics, with art by dudes like Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis and Carlos Pacheco, in which developed things in noteworthy and surprising ways for years to come, shaping not only his own books but the various spin-off books by others.  A lot of it was good.

But it wasn’t perfect, obviously.  So this post is about my wishlist–things I would have changed.

It should be noted that I haven’t actually read most of this stuff in a long time, so I borrowed a bunch of collections that Rod owns, and read some and skimmed others.  So that’s what we’re working with here, on my Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern wishlist:

Make Batman less of a jerk

All through Green Lantern Rebirth, whenever Batman shows up he’s the jerk who assumes that Hal Jordan is and always has been an evil jerk, and deliberately interrupts Jordan to demand to know what’s going on even when it’s clear that he’s dealing with a big scary monster.  It’s idiotic characterization, though to be fair it’s from before Infinite Crisis, back when Batman was all about being a jerk to Hal and others for their mind-wipeyness.

Green Lantern Sinestro Corp

Make Hal less punchy

For the first little while of Geoff John’s run, it seems like Hal was forever punching people to deal with his problems.  And not just little punches, but “big big knock someone to the ground punches.”  I get the idea, but it lacks subtlety and intelligence.

Make everything less icky

Mongul jr knocks his sister’s head off.  The Shark eats some midnight swimmers.  Star Sapphire blows away some overzealous backpacker dude.  Especially in the early days, it seems that Johns felt obligated to highlight how dangerous every villain was by having a scene where they gruesomely killed some innocent bystanders in a deliberately terrible way.  It was unpleasant and usually kind of gross, and ultimately unnecessary, at least so repeatedly.

Green Lantern Hal Jordan 2

Realize that willpower is not an emotion

In John’s run, he established the idea that there were rings for every major color, not just green and yellow, as we’d seen in the past.  And every different color was based on energy that arose from a particular emotion, so red was “rage”, yellow was “fear”, indigo was “compassion” and so on.  Green was supposed to be “willpower”, which of course has always been a big part of the Green Lantern mythos.  Clearly, however, “willpower” isn’t an emotion, but rather a way of describing self control.  It would have made more sense, I think, to identify green with courage, which is a bit closer to an emotional state and, is another major theme of these Green Lantern stories.

Do more with the Ten Laws

During the justifiably well-regarded Sinestro Corp War story, there is a bit where the Guardians decide it’s time to change the Book of Oa and add ten laws to their Green Lanterns.  The first of these is that using lethal force against members of the Sinestro Corp was suddenly permitted.  This had major implications upon the story, and worked quite well.  The promise with something like this, obviously, is that the rest of the laws (which began to be announced slowly, over time) were all going to be really interesting and compelling as well.  Turns out, it seems like nobody really thought about these before Johns created the concept, and ultimately things didn’t really pan out.  Johns and his fellow writers did create a few more laws, but as far as I know not a whole lot has been done with this whole idea.

Green Lantern Orange Lantern

Get your eyes off of the whole rainbow lantern thing

Perhaps more than anything else, Geoff John’s Green Lantern run is known for expanding the mythos into a whole “emotional spectrum” of rings.  He took Sinestro and turned his yellow power into a whole Corp of its own, based on fear.  He repurposed the Star Sapphires into a Corp of power-bearers built on a distorted version of love.  Then he also invented the Blue Lanterns, the Indigo Lanterns, the Red Lanterns and the Orange Lanterns (or singular Lantern, actually).  As things went on, we found out that the some of the different lights also had their own embodying “entities”, and there was also a White Light and a White Light Entity and so on.  It was dizzying and spell-binding, but threatened to grow tired and repetitive.  I remember when we got to the back half John’s epic Blackest Night story and it seemed like all the time was spent dressing up different characters in different colored lantern costumes.  In all this attention on epic concepts, it was easy to lose sight of plot and character.

Work with the whole Mosaic thing

One of my favorite Green Lantern things out there is Green Lantern Mosaic, a short-lived book about John Stewart that was published during the previous heyday for Green Lantern.  The concept was about a Mad Guardian who had kidnapped cities from around the galaxy and shoved them all on the same planet as a crazy experiment.  The Mad Guardian had been defeated, but the “normal” Guardians had decided the experiment was a worthy one and didn’t undo it, leaving John Stewart as the Green Lantern assigned to make the whole thing work.  It was an interesting book combining elements of superhero action, psychological drama and surrealistic horror (sort of like the Twin Peaks of Green Lantern comics).  The writer / creator has since gotten himself into all sorts of personal trouble, so that’s pretty sad, but the book was intriguing and different from anything else out there (which by some accounts is why it was cancelled).

Green Lantern John Stewart 1

Anyway, the whole Mosaic concept was written out of things as quickly as possible once Emerald Twilight took place (a necessity, since it actually doesn’t make any sense that Emerald Twlight even could happen if the Mosaic status quo was being taken seriously), and has rarely been referred to since.  I’d have enjoyed seeing the concept followed up upon, especially as I feel it’s the most interesting John Stewart has ever been, and Johns’ Green Lantern struggled a bit to keep things interesting for all of its main characters.

Speaking of which…

More of a vision for Kyle Rayner

The problem with a comic book’s plan to “return to its roots” by bringing an old classic iteration of a character back to prominence is what to do with the all of the new characters and concepts that have been introduced since.  Kyle Rayner was the character created specifically to replace Hal Jordan during the whole Emerald Twlight event that Green Lantern Rebirth was specifically created to redress.  Fans of Kyle were used to him being not just the main Green Lantern, but the only Green Lantern.  When Geoff Johns helped to bring back not just former star Hal Jordan but an entire galaxy of Green Lantern characters, that meant that one of the biggest questions was what to do with Kyle.

The thing was, Kyle was a good character who had a lot of fans, so you couldn’t just “Coy & Vance Duke” him out into the sunset.  Fans wanted him to have an ongoing role.  The answer to this was to basically just make him a member of the Green Lantern Corp (something he’d never really been associated with before), but it was hard to figure out what made the character unique.

Green Lantern Kyle Rayner

He couldn’t be the greatest Green Lantern–that was Hal Jordan.  He couldn’t be the toughest Green Lantern–that’s Guy Gardner or Kilowog.  He couldn’t even be the smartest or most damaged Green Lantern–that’s usually John Steweart.  So instead Geoff Johns and other writers struggled to make sure that we knew that DC thought Kyle was great by calling him “the Torchbearer” and having everyone else admire him.  They said he was “Ion” (the living embodiment of the green willpower), he was the White Lantern, he was the leader of the “New Guardians” who brought out the best in all the other colored Lanterns…he was all sorts of stuff to try to give him a sense of prominence.  But it was like nothing would stick very long.

I think, frankly, that he should have been left on earth as the Green Lantern of the JLA.  Hal’s adventures on earth didn’t really last long under Geoff Johns, as after the first year he was too busy with all the galactic mythology epic battles.  So Kyle could have hung out there, living his life and doing his thing, connecting with the Corp when the story really demanded it.  It would have freed up space in the Green Lantern books and it would have kept Kyle unique (and still present in JLA) until a writer who really had vision for the character came along.

Green Lantern Hal Jordan 1

 

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