In a world where comic continuity and what comes before influencing what comes after, there is a long running belief that the big two only cater to the long term fans who care about continuity, shunning those who want to come in and read comics that are new. Therefore, both DC and Marvel have made strides to have initiatives to have jumping on points or use the multiverse concept to allow creators to make a story about established characters without pigeonholing them. Notable examples of this would be Marvel’s Ultimate universe, DC’S Black Label, and the universe in question today, DC’s Earth One initiative. Earth one was a means to tell more grounded, original stories that where not bogged down by years of rules and established storytelling. From well known writers like Geoff Jones, J. Michael Straczynski, and Grant Morrison taking on their interpretations of the trinity, the job of interpreting the resident ring slinger fell to Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman. This is a new Hal Jordan for a new era.
To quickly summarize the gist of volume one of Green Lantern, Harold Jordan is an astronaut miner who happens across the sole Green Lantern ring amongst a wrecked spaceship on an asteroid. After a mishap trying to use the ring that awakes the inactive manhunter robot, Hal must learn on the fly as he uses the ring to destroy the robot. After reawakening on an alien planet after the battle, he meets Kilowag who gives him the history of the Green Lantern Corps, how they where hunted and nearly wiped out by the very robots he just destroyed. After a series of events where they assemble with fellow ring bearers, become overwhelmed and enslaved by the Manhunter robots, and finally all coming together to destroy the barrier cutting off their power to the central battery, turning the tide against the machines.
Picking up three years after the events of volume one, humans have begun to contact other alien races in the wake of Hal’s return to earth with the ring. As negotiations go on, trouble is brewing the background as someone sabotages the talks, instigating the space station to fire on the alien ship. Hal begins to insert himself, trying to settle tensions, only to be interrupted by a new yellow lantern, who casually dismisses him with a blast. Realizing he is out gunned and possibly starting an intergalactic incident, he decides to fall back for now, trying to find backup to rescue the human hostages. Once the other corps members see the power of the yellow lantern and the man behind them, the only surviving Guardian of the Universe, he proposes they cast away their “obsolete” green rings for his new and improved yellow rings. Anisa and the green lanterns decline initially, but some have second thoughts, and the corps splits. Once the Guardian deals a crippling blow to the corps by cutting off their power and hunting their ranks, Hal’s hot-headed nature gets the best of him as he rushes to stop them. Meanwhile, the human hostages containing John Stewart, are freed by their yellow lantern guard, who grows a conscience and gives them his ring to free themselves. When Hal’s attack plan fails, he is rescued in deep space by Stewart and the scientists, still getting used to the new ring. Once they formulate a plan to strike back at the Guardian, all forces converge on Oa, as yellow and green clash, and sacrifices are made in a bright and shocking climax.
Volume two had a lot of moving pieces to utilize in its second outing for the emerald lantern. The author/writing duo juggle a great mix of established characters and history while also streamlining it for newcomers. Any green lantern story that comes after the landmark time of Geoff Jones has big shoes to fill, as well as a treasure trove of ideas to either mine or utilize. It is a delicate balancing act for any writer and artist to not rip them directly off but also bring something worthy to the table. I can say, in my opinion, that Corinna and Gabriel do this very well. Taking the great elements of what came before in the yellow lanterns and scheming Guardians and placing it in this new continuity to striking effect. Characterization is consistently great, from Hal’s constant hero complex and daredevil attitude to a fault, and John Stewart’s calculated and precise military/scientific mind balancing out the bravado. Sinestro goes down a familiar path to longtime readers of his stories yet remains true to his morals and beliefs. Even through all his scheming, the Guardian is always working toward his perception of what a peaceful galaxy could be.
One of the most striking and visual elements of this graphic novel is the brilliant art by Hardman and his team, using darkness and mutated colors to their advantage, giving this story a very gritty and dirty feel. Green Lantern stories in the main continuity have been known for their color and detailed art for years now, but in this universe, Hardman has established a unique look for a galaxy that looks worn, lived in, and dangerous. The flashes of green and yellow contrast well against the dark background of space, color used effectively.
In a more grounded and alternate universe like Earth One, it is refreshing to still see unique and entertaining storytelling being done with the emerald sentinel of the stars. Corinna and Gabriel deliver another exciting and action packed outing for Hal Jordan and the corps he calls home, juggling the tensions of a earth new to alien contact, heroic sacrifices, double crosses, and a beacon for more to come in the future. I hope a volume three comes out to see what else this team has in store for their take on Green Lantern, remixing and reimaging the corps for a new audience.
8 power rings out of 10
Writers: Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman Artist: Gabriel Hardman Colorist: Jordan Boyd Letterer: Simon Bowland Publisher: DC comics