Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rewriting The Origins Of Hal Jordan, Geoff Johns Presents Green Lantern: Secret Origins For The Next Generation!

The Good: Engaging rewrite of the Hal Jordan backstory, Decent character introductions, Wonderful artwork
The Bad: Familiar story that has been (for the most part) written before.
The Basics: Green Lantern: Secret Origins rewrites the story of Hal Jordan to fit with the latest story arcs for the character and the Corps and is an engaging primer for those just discovering Green Lantern!

It is no secret to my regular readers that last year, which was supposed to be my Daredevil Year, as far as reading graphic novels went, quickly became a de-facto Green Lantern Year. I found all sorts of Green Lantern books that actually engaged me and I stopped making an effort to get my hands on Daredevil books. As a result, there are very few Green Lantern graphic novels left for me to read. At this point, I am mostly filling in the storytelling gaps left by reading the graphic novels out of order (the Green Lantern universe is a heavily-serialized story series, so this was a terrible way for me to approach it – you need not make the same mistake!). One of the last Green Lantern books I will have for a while is Green Lantern: Secret Origins.

Green Lantern: Secret Origins is a graphic novel that gives acclaimed Green Lantern author Geoff Johns his own opportunity to write the Green Lantern origin story. This is a story that has been told several times, like in Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn (reviewed here!). The purpose of Green Lantern: Secret Origins seems, initially, to be to give Geoff Johns the chance to tell the somewhat legendary story with his unique and established voice and to give the artwork a real polish. But what makes Green Lantern: Secret Origins actually worthwhile as something more than just an academic exercise is that the book provides a retcon of the Green Lantern mythos to both make it fit the current storylines and characters and to fix some of the problems that the original versions had. As a result, Green Lantern: Secret Origins both addresses continuity or logic issues that the readers at the time were not savvy enough to recognize and helps make the Hal Jordan mythos vital to the larger Green Lantern universe, especially as pertains to the big wars therein: the Sinestro Corps War, Blackest Night and the War Of The Green Lanterns! By adding in elements like Atrocitus and Hector Hammond, Geoff Johns is able to reboot the Hal Jordan story to put all the critical pieces on the board at the beginning!

The story, then, is likely to be one most readers of graphic novels – certainly Green Lantern graphic novels – are familiar with. Hal Jordan is a cocky pilot following in the footsteps of his father. His father, killed in a training accident while working for Ferris Air, was a role model for Hal Jordan and when he turned eighteen, Hal joined the Air Force, despite the fact his mother loathed that decision. When she is on her death bed, Jordan purposely gets himself kicked out of the Force. Around that time, an alien crashes to Earth and presents Hal Jordan with a powerful ring that transforms his thoughts into powerful physical objects. Jordan is then trained by the Green Lantern Corps to become one of 3600 space cops who patrol the galaxy maintaining peace and order through the force of their willpower.

How is Green Lantern: Secret Origins different, then? First, Geoff Johns has seven chapters to tell the Hal Jordan origin story and he spends the first one, almost everything he has until the appearance of the ring, building a legitimate psychology for Hal Jordan. More than any sort of monolithic pilot, Hal Jordan is characterized by loss, the desire for freedom and a strange amount of anger in Green Lantern: Secret Origins. In Green Lantern: Secret Origins, Hal Jordan is a child who is chasing after his father well into adulthood, well beyond what is healthy. As a result, Jordan has an impressive sense of character from the outset and Johns truly capitalizes on that.

In addition to making Hal Jordan a more realized character through rewriting his origin story, Geoff Johns uses Green Lantern: Secret Origins to hit home on several other important character or plot fronts. Johns introduces Carol Ferris, who was not in versions like Emerald Dawn, Hector Hammond, and, perhaps most importantly, Atrocitus. By including Atrocitus, the creature who will one day lead the Red Lanterns of rage, Johns creates a more comprehensive sense of scope. Atrocitus and the mysterious planet Ysmault being introduced in Green Lantern: Secret Origins makes the emergence of the other Corps’ seem like something of an inevitability. Moreover, it clears up the nagging question of what Abin Sur was doing in a spaceship when he crashed and died. By fleshing out Abin Sur’s story, Geoff Johns also makes Hal Jordan seem much more like part of a continuum, that the Corps preceded him and will survive him.

As well, Green Lantern: Secret Origins lays the framework for Carol Ferris as both a lover and rival of Hal Jordan’s. Hector Hammond’s introduction seems to be a very long story arc, but having him introduced early in the book is compelling. But what Green Lantern: Secret Origins arguably does best is delve into the relationship between Sinestro and Hal Jordan.

In Green Lantern: Secret Origins, Hal Jordan and Sinestro function almost like they are the subject of a buddy cop movie. Sinestro confronts Jordan following Hal’s training on Oa. Sinestro arrives on Earth as part of an edict from Ganthet, a Guardian who has taken a name. Ganthet is wary of the impending War Of Light and wants Sinestro to capture Atrocitus and learn what he can about the impending Blackest Night. While together, Johns helps establish Sinestro as a great ally to Hal Jordan and seeing Sinestro in the mentor role is engaging. Long a monolithic villain under the pen of other writers, Sinestro becomes downright heroic in Green Lantern: Secret Origins.

Green Lantern: Secret Origins has wonderful artwork and it is deeply enjoyable to be able to read Hal Jordan’s history in a form where the artwork is up to contemporary standards. With the characters looking familiar to the bright, rich coloring graphic novel connoisseurs have come to expect in recent years, artists like Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert have a lot to be proud of. They make Green Lantern: Secret Origins look phenomenal!

While some might argue that Green Lantern: Secret Origins is simply a primer for the film Green Lantern (reviewed here!), I found it to be much more than that. This becomes a vital retcon that establishes Hal Jordan as a troubled hero standing in the crosshairs of galactic history. And he is not the only one. That makes for a very cool story and a worthwhile addition to anyone’s Green Lantern collection.

For other Green Lantern-related books from this era, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Green Lantern: Rebirth
Wanted: Hal Jordan
Revenge Of The Green Lanterns
Green Lantern Corps: Recharge
To Be A Lantern
The Sinestro Corps War - Volume One
Tales Of The Sinestro Corps
The Sinestro Corps War - Volume Two
Ring Quest
Sins Of The Star Sapphire
Rage Of The Red Lanterns
Agent Orange
Emerald Eclipse
Blackest Night
Blackest Night: Green Lantern
Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps
Blackest Night: Tales Of The Corps
Brightest Day: Green Lantern
Brightest Day: Green Lantern Corps - Revolt Of The Alpha-Lanterns


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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