Green Lantern: Earth One Volume One original hardcover graphic novel
Writers: Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman
Artist/Cover artist: Hardman
Colors: Jordan Boyd
Letters: Simon Bowland
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $24.99 US/$33.99 CAN
DC almost invariably grabs my attention with these Earth One graphic novels, with the promise of innovative reinterpretations of familiar characters and some strong talent. I was looking forward to this one, in part for Hardman’s art, but moreso for the fact that the creators here toss out Hal Jordan as a cocky test pilot and reinvent him as a disillusioned astronaut. There’s no denying that Hardman and Bechko have completely turned the Green Lantern Corps concept on its ear, transforming it into a story of corruption and war. But after reading the book, I felt like something was lost along the way. I’m fine with a new take on Green Lantern, but what’s missing here is the sense of wonder.
With a crew on a private-sector contract mining for metals on asteroids, astronaut Hal Jordan happens upon something unexpected embedded in the rock in the dead of space, and that discovery will take him away from everything he’s ever known into deep space. There, he finds himself immersed in a mystery. Why is the ring he found so inconsistently powered? Why are there others who similarly possess these unreliable weapons? How created them and why? And what role do the murderous and despotic Manhunter robots play in the unimaginable and seemingly eons-old drama?
Hardman’s vision of space is dingy and dangerous, and given the harsh nature of the Manhunters’ onslaught against all species it encounters, it’s certainly suits the wartorn plot. It’s interesting the Lantern rings don’t cover their bearers in slick, gleaming uniforms of the Green Lantern Corps. Instead, the Lanterns are featured just wearing regular clothing, with an occasional Lantern symbol turning up on their chests. I was surprised that the Lantern ring design here is pretty much what we’ve seen in the past; I expected something different and new. Since these Earth One graphic novels offer blank slates, why make a ring the way Lanterns manifest their power? Hardman’s designs for the various aliens are plausible, though the artist doesn’t stray far from established looks for various alien Lanterns. Honestly, my favorite scene visually was the opening scene in the asteroid belt. It was less chaotic and far more convincing.
The opening scene, in which Hal discovers the ring and battery, is the strongest in the book. I like the notion that his crewmates endeavor to save him and communicate with him, and their caution over the green energy surrounding Hal makes perfect sense. Honestly, I think there was so much more potential in this aspect of the story; it’s a shame the title character is whisked away to deep space for alien encounters. The writers offer some subtle commentary on mankind’s abuse of natural resources — Hal and company are mining for metals in asteroids because those ores have been depleted back home — and I was honestly interested in learning more about the socio-political differences in this reality. The concluding scene offers that promise for the next book, but it feels as though two stories have been divided in half here.
There’s only a fleeting moment of joy in this book, when Hal realizes flying with the aid of the ring instead of an aircraft or spacecraft is the feeling he’s longed for throughout his life. Other than that, the miracle of a power ring isn’t really acknowledged. It’s simply a tool of war. No one is really amazed in this story. The story is lacking a sense of wonder one expects from the central premise of a Green Lantern origin story. The writing is intelligent, but I just didn’t feel any passion here. Hal and Kilowog are driven by duty and ethics, but I never really felt the spark or sense of inspiration that one might expect from characters who can make anything their imagine a reality.
The storytelling is capable and clear throughout this book, and there are some novel changes made to the more familiar Green Lantern origin stories from the past five decades. But ultimately, I was left with the feeling that this book was, well, just OK. And for $24.99 US, I expect a lot more than something middling. 6/10