That bag-of-dicks Ian is off somewhere pleasuring himself to an old issue of Tiger Beat, so, while he handles himself, I’ll be handling the comic column.
The World’s (Fourth and Fifth) Finest
Next to Superman, Batman and arguably Wonder Woman, DC’s next two biggest guns are Green Lantern and Flash. One thing that immediately separates them from the former trio is that the characters are based around legacy. Every major era in comics had it’s own Green Lantern and Flash. In the Golden Age they were Alan Scott (GL) and Jay Garrick (Flash), whereas Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have remained essentially the same people throughout their uninterrupted publishing history. Consensus has the Silver Age of comics beginning in October 1956 with the introduction of Barry Allen, the new Flash. Three years later came cocky test pilot Hal Jordan, the new Green Lantern.
Geoff Johns, DC’s main superhero writer and go-to for providing streamlined, definitive versions of it’s biggest characters, grew up on these characters and, while his writing is modern, his fondness of all things Silver Age bleeds through in all of his work. Again, over the span of three years, DC would launch series starring Barry and Hal as Flash and GL. Geoff was given the task of re-introducing them. He would, however, have considerable hurdles to overcome.
A Sinner and A Saint: The Death of The Silver Age
In the ever-darkening post-Dark Knight/Watchmen world of 1990s comics, the event would reign supreme. A speculator’s market, the comic stands were filled with flashy variant covers with substance-less interior pages. Every collector was just looking for the next big thing. After the smash success of the Death and Return of Superman, DC set out to do what the Jokers and Lexes of the world never could, and proceeded to kill and maim their superheroes, one by one. Batman had his back broken and was replaced by an even Darker Knight – one that killed and wore a much shittier, Image Comics’ style costume that looked more like a cactus made of knives than a bat.
Green Lantern had an even worse fate. In the final act of the aforementioned Death and Return of Superman, among the many other casualties was Hal Jordan’s entire hometown and all of the people in it. From there, Hal would go insane, turn into an evil murderer and cosmic despot and ultimately die. He was rendered irredeemable. And he was beyond broken. Motherf@¢$er was dead! Then he was a ghost (don’t ask). And they had replaced him with a new Green Lantern for the Modern Age: Kyle Rayner. A sensitive, young, hip artist that lived above a coffee shop you would probably find Joey and Chandler in.
Barry’s predicament was essentially the exact opposite. In the 1985 story-to-end-all-stories (literally), Crisis on Infinite Earths he sacrificed himself to literally save reality. And his former sidekick, Wally West, took over as the new Flash and thrived in the role, reaching heights even his mentor hadn’t and being unanimously accepted by fanboys. Barry’s legend grew larger in death than it had been in life. Returns from the grave are common in comics, but his was deemed one of the untouchable ones. It would invalidate his martyrdom.
What the f@¢# was Geoff gonna do?!
Green Lantern: Rebirth
I should have never doubted Johns. He is known for stepping into convoluted-beyond-repair titles and, through ret-cons and meticulously planned out explanations, embracing rather than erasing all that has come before in a way that revitalizes concepts without going the ‘it was all a dream’ route. Not only did he plausibly (for a comic about space dudes with super-powers) resurrect the character, he modernized him, set up the whole franchise for the future (from villains to supporting cast), addressed the question of what to do with Hal’s now ten year old replacement, and how to redeem him without ignoring all of the murdering! (No chance I’m telling you how he does that. You’re gonna have to read the s#!%) He even took some of the hokier old concepts (like a Green Lantern’s one weakness being the color yellow) and provided explanations that made them cool and make sense. Revealing the true form of Parallax, Johns gave us a perfect new enemy for our hero. What better villain for The Original Man Without Fear (A special ‘Eat S#!%’ goes out to Daredevil and his biggest fan, Ian “The Maxipad” Explosivo) than Fear Itself?
Artist Ethan Van Sciver also contributed his all. Putting a lot of thought into how to convey the Green Lantern’s powers, he eventually decided that a weapon, fueled and limited only by it’s bearers willpower and imagination, would manifest itself differently depending on the bearer. Hal’s ring fires tight and precise. John Stewart (an architect) has dense, pieced together constructs where you can see every working part. Artist Kyle’s are wild and sketchy, constantly erasing and ‘re-drawing’ themselves. Bully-ish, angry Guy Gardner’s ring is always seething and fires out chaotically. The guest-starring Batman, constantly in shadow, is a perfect contrast to the bright Lanterns. His mistrust of Hal, due to his murderous rampage, oozes all-encompassingly off him. Ethan sure has come a long way since Cyberfrog.
Epic in scale, this series made people finally see that Green Lantern could be more than some asshole in spandex flying around with a magic ring. This was space opera. Star Wars without the wooden Lucas dialogue. Hal Jordan is basically the Han Solo of superheroes. No seat belts. Leap then look. Shoot first. F@¢# questions. (And f@¢# Greedo!) He always gets the girl, and he always has his way. Because, after all, where there’s a will…
The many delays in shipping, and the other big event that’s currently unfolding over at DC, stole some of the thunder away from the Scarlet Speedster, but not enough for me to not recommend this. Taken on it’s own and read in one sitting, this series is more satisfying than my initial months-apart reading of each issue individually.
Structurally similar to it’s green sibling, the series also accomplishes the same mission. It places the middle child of the Flash family back on center stage without tossing out a single thing that came before or since his initial run. Just like GL: Rebirth it addresses every thread the fans were skeptical of, and some they hadn’t even thought of. From whether a rebirth would cheapen his heroic sacrifice, to what would become of the fan favorite current Flash, Wally West, to why Barry wore bow-ties. Johns sets the status quo for the upcoming on-going series with gusto, panache and definitive, satisfying answers.
As you would surmise based on the fact that the series is about a guy who runs fast, the main themes revolve around speed, time and chasing things you can’t quite catch, literally and figuratively. It once again updates an overly simplistic and dated origin (guy standing in front of wall of chemicals gets struck by lightning and doused in those same chemicals, gaining super-speed rather than cancer) in a way that adds poignancy and pathos. He links Barry and his greatest enemy and ties them into each other’s beginnings in a perfect snake eating it’s own tail. There is a nod to the Superman/Flash races (a tradition since 1967) and teases throughout of what lies ahead, but some of the coolest plot elements revolve around the mystery of ‘The Black Flash’ that chases dying speedsters.
And, once again, Van Sciver kills it on the art front. This is a busy book, with all of the lightning, colorful costumes and speed lines, but it’s an intentional chaos that flows flawlessly from panel-to-panel, and gets even more intense as it builds to the end.
F@¢# the naysayers, Geoff. You and Barry proved that lightning does indeed strike twice.
Ian: Rebirth (coming soon)
Put one in the air…
NEXT ISSUE: INVASION!!!! TUNE IN: SAME IAN-TIME, SAME NUV-CHANNEL…