Green Lantern #1
“Sinestro, Part One”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Christian Alamy & Tom Nguyen
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover artists: Ivan Reis & Joe Prado (regular)/Greg Capullo (variant)
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
When the previous incarnation of this series wrapped up with the revelation that Sinestro would be filling the title role and not Hal Jordan, I was excited to see what came next. While I’m not so naive to think this is a permanent shake-up in the property’s status quo, casting the villain the role of the title hero is a novel idea. The story picks up where it left off a couple of months ago, so this isn’t the most accessible of the New 52 comics, but it’s not impenetrable for new readers either. What makes this first issue so interesting and compelling is its focus on characterization, and not just on Sinestro. Hal Jordan is still going strong, and his story arc helps to bring the cosmic action and conflict of the Green Lantern Corps down to earth. If that weren’t enough, this issue features some of the strongest, crispest art we’ve seen from Doug Mahnke is some time. Green Lantern is still clearly a labor of love for Geoff Johns, and given the strength of this issue, I have no doubt this title will remain one of the publisher’s top sellers.
Hal Jordan, the greatest Green Lantern ever to wear a power ring, has been drummed out of the Green Lantern Corps and dumped back in his life in Coast City on Earth. His ring has chosen a new wearer, and it’s the Corps’ greatest enemy, Sinestro, a former Green Lantern and leader of the yellow-ring-wielding Sinestro Corps. The Guardians allow Sinestro to keep the green ring, though, seeing this development as a chance for Sinestro to redeem himself. Meanwhile, Hal finds normal life to be more a challenge than fighting malevolent aliens, because super-heroics never required a credit check. He needs a job — a regular job — but the one offered by an old friend isn’t exactly what he had in mind.
Mahnke has always been a skilled artist, and he’s done some great work during his tenure at DC Comics. But this issue stands out as particularly impressive. There just seems to be a crisper look here, a finer eye for detail and smoother lines at play. After reading this comic book, I came away with the feeling the art was more… deliberate, as though the artists (remember the inkers) were able to take their time with it. Many of Mahnke’s Green Lantern earlier this year were inked for three, four, maybe five inkers, signalling perhaps the work was done a tight deadline. Sure, there are two inkers at play on this new No. 1, but it doesn’t show. The art is consistent and clean throughout, and Mahnke’s style suits the intense nature of the new title character.
I was interested to see that with this relaunch, Mahnke hasn’t altered the GL costume design significantly. In the recent Flashpoint limited series featuring various Lanterns, the costume designs were in line with what we saw on the big screen this summer — a more textured, even organic look for the uniform. Linking the visuals of GL comics to the Green Lantern made some sense, but that approach doesn’t continue here. I think the flatter, cleaner, traditional look works better in comics, so I’m pleased. As for the cover artist, I have to admit that of the two covers, I really enjoyed the variant more. Capullo’s art is not only more consistent with Mahnke’s, but he still portrays Sinestro as a corrupt, plotting figure, whereas Ivan Reis’ regular cover image makes him seem more stoic, even heroic.
That brings me to my next point: Johns has surprised me with his characterization of Sinestro in that it’s consistent with how he’s written him before. What I mean is that in a story about a villain becoming a hero, the obvious storytelling choice would be to portray him as regretting his past actions, as trying to make up for his sins. Now, that may come to pass in some way in future issues, but here, Sinestro remains the same dickish, arrogant figure he’s always been. He’s no hero. His conflict stems from his quest to be rid of the green ring, not to live up to the ideals he abandoned years before. Putting Sinestro back in a Green Lantern uniform was something no one expected, and Johns continues down that unexpected path.
Also unexpected was an equal focus on the “defrocked” Hal Jordan, and furthermore, Johns doesn’t depict him as trying to reclaim his place in the GL Corps. I also loved how Johns plays around with Hal as a fish out of water, and there are a number of truly funny scenes in this issue. The writer toys around with the idea that Hal has been playing cosmic cop for so long, he has no idea how to handle the most mundane of tasks in the “real world.” He also can’t really relate to others around him, not only due to his extreme experiences over the past few years but because he’s completely self-involved, focused solely on his plight and not how his words and actions impact others.
The best thing Johns does in this book is show Hal trying to cope with regular life. It brings an important balance to the incredible notions of magic rings, immortal overseers of the universe and other fantastic elements inherent in the property. More importantly, though, it gives the reader something with which to connect on a personal level. I think we’ve all been behind the eight ball financially at times in our lives, and Hal’s problems provide a gateway into this world of the impossible. The strongest scene is the one in which Carol essentially tells Hal it’s time for him to grow up. Jordan has been living a fantasy life, flying through space, fighting bad guys with a ring that can do anything. Now in civilian life, he faces some tough choices, and Carol tells him even his earthly fantasy life as a test pilot is no longer within his reach. Her speech about one’s job and one’s life not being synonymous is right on point, and it’s another example of some down-to-earth dialogue that helped to set this issue of Green Lantern apart from so many others before it. 9/10
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