Graphic Novel/Comics Review

Green Lantern: Rebirth

(2005) Geoff Johns, Ethan van Sciver and others, Titan Books, 19.99, hrdbk, 174pp, ISBN 1-84576-131-6

It should be no spoiler to say that this book is all about the resurrection of Hal Jordan as the greatest Green Lantern of them all. With a title like Rebirth and a big picture of Hal as GL on the cover, what did you think it was about? Besides, the six-issue mini-series that this volume collects came out a year ago... But it's also about resurrecting the whole Green Lantern mythos, screwed up in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985), and forming part of the coming Infinite Crisis; a whole bunch of deaths and resurrections waiting to happen...

As near as I can recollect, some time after the 1985 event, Coast City (GL's old stomping ground) was wiped off the face of the Earth (I think by Mongul, but I wouldn't swear to it). GL went crazy, killed loads of the Green Lantern Corps and assaulted the central power battery, became a creature called Parallax, killed a whole bunch more people, was defeated, then gave his life to save the Earth, then his soul got used to house the Spectre. I think that's about it, more or less. Oh, and the Guardians of Oa 'ascended' out of this plane of existence. Since then Alan Scott, old-style Earth-2 (ie. Golden Age) GL has been around in the JSA; Guy Gardner, always a crap GL, got brain damaged, was shit in the then shit JLA, then became some other kind of living weapon through a DNA splice with an alien; John Stewart, a good back-up GL, was a decent enough replacement for a while, 'til he accidentally destroyed a planet, then got crippled, then got uncrippled; Kyle Rayner was the 'new' GL, but he was quite crap, though he did bring the central power battery back, and helped restore a new generation of Guardians to this plane of existence (after a fashion); and Ganthet, the only survivor of the original Oans, now raises them on Oa. With so much crap under the bridge (20 years worth!), this project was always sure to be a humdinger. This isn't just a restoration project, it's also an 'explanation' project. Just as 20 years of crap has to be overturned and explained in volumes like Identity Crisis and The Omac Project, so too is the case here, starting with why Hal Jordan would have behaved so atypically in the first place (7 million dead people in Coast City aside), and to put right the awful, stupid decision to make Hal (or at least his soul) the vessel for the Spectre (bring back Jim Corrigan, I say!). Up to the plate, bless 'im, steps Geoff Johns, one of what I think of as the restoration-of-the-Silver-Age Mafia (Waid, Johns, Loeb, Brubaker, Rucka and Meltzer, among others). So how did he do?

Pretty bloody good, as it goes; more than ably assisted by the delicious art of Ethan van Sciver (who I'd never heard of before, and this volume cites no credits to him in his biog, so where did he suddenly appear from?). SPOILER ALERT: stop reading now if you want to catch up by yourself. It turns out that the impurity in the old battery that made it vulnerable to the colour yellow (yeah, OK, that was always a bit stupid) was in fact due to a creature called Parallax that was imprisoned in the battery; when a supposedly dead Sinestro combined with it when he was imprisoned in the battery, the combination of the two "possessed" Hal and made him appear to be Parallax. Hal's body had (conveniently) been protected by its remnants of green energy while in the Sun; and his soul was safe in/with the Spectre. Mix elements well, separate out and, voila!, the real GL is safely restored. The art and writing fence with each other for brilliance giving us everything from Kyle's ship crashing recalling Abin Sur's Earthly arrival (the Lantern who 'recruited' Hal) to Hal's dialogue, "There's something wrong. None of this should have happened. This isn't me. This isn't who I am.", brimming with more meaning than is relevant to simply his situation as the Spectre (20 years worth of meaning). From the depiction of Hector Hammond to the tension between Batman and John Stewart. From the reappearance of Kilowog and the remaking of Guy Gardner to details like the story behind Hal's bomber jacket and what happens to his grey hair. From the various GLs' individualised contrails to the revelation about Parallax and the resurrection of Sinestro. From the fabulous splash pages to details like using the ring being a painful experience. From the excellent covers (and alternate covers) of the series to the Batman's last words. And they didn't even bother to bump off Kyle, which would have been tempting and easy (and would probably have wrung a few cheers from the audience). Damn, this is a good book. So, recommended, yeah?

Tony Chester

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