The Green Lantern #1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colors: Steve Oliff
Letters: Tom Orzechowski
Cover artists: Sharp (regular)/Frank Quitely (variant)
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US
It was just a matter of time before writer Grant Morrison turned his attention to the Green Lantern mythos. He’s left his marks on Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and even the Flash, so GL was a logical step for his next project with an icon of DC super-heroes. When the project was announced, I was pleased. While I thoroughly appreciated Geoff Johns revitalization of the property several years ago, I’d lost interest in the Green Lantern Corps more recently. I expected Morrison would offer something decided different with his take, and he does — but then again, he doesn’t. The writer’s script is an odd one, somewhat inaccessible — not in terms of plot, but language. Everything about this bit of storytelling feels alien, which may be the point, but the result is there’s little with which the reader can connect… not even its human hero.
A quartet of Green Lanterns is dispatched to contend with three assassins in deep space, but things don’t go according to plan, and the threats escape. Meanwhile, on Earth, a benched Hal Jordan meanders through life, with no responsibilities and no purpose but apparently, plenty of opportunities to indulge his more hedonistic leanings. But when a fellow Lantern crashes to Earth and warns of impending threats, Jordan is quick to charge his ring once again and resume his duties as the greatest member of the Guardians’ space-faring police force.
In the 1980s, the ongoing GL series regularly featured “Tales of the Green Lantern Corps” backups with short stories about various alien members of the Corps; if memory serves, there was also a three-issue mini-series in the same vein. Many of those stories featured the work of British creators who were relatively new to the American comics scene at the time, and among them were many artists. The Green Lantern seems clearly designed to reflect those unusual and inventive stories, and that holds true with Liam Sharp’s art. It’s full of weird details and a strong sense of wonder. His rendition of a “spider pirate” put me in mind of artist Kevin O’Neill’s contributions to 1980s GLC stories, and the fight scene between Hal and the three alien thugs boasted a gritty, Mark Texeria look. However, Sharp’s artwork here is rather busy and cluttered, especially in the opening pages, and that contributes to the confusing and somewhat impenetrable nature of the storytelling.
I was struck by the shift in the art when our attention is turned to Hal. The sparseness of the backgrounds makes for a sharp contrast with the Venturan setting in the opening scene, and Sharp’s depiction of Hal in a two-page spread reminded me a great deal of the style of the late Steve (Preacher) Dillon. I was also struck by his design for and depiction of a Lantern named Chriselon; Sharp, aided in no small part by colorist Steve Oliff, conveys him as truly alien, but still manages to instill an emotive quality in the figure as well.
Morrison has always had a strong grasp about past DC continuity and a great ability to explore it and expand on it. In delving into Hal Jordan, he basically examines how Jordan is something of a… well, loser. He can’t hold a job. His personal relationships are a disaster. As he espouses in this issue, it’s because his duties as a ring-slinging space cop have always gotten in the way of his regular life… but is that the truth? When we encounter him at first here, he’s powerless, ousted from the Corps. His duty to the universe is on hold, but he’s idle in his own life. He relies on others almost exclusively, and he seems to use the woman with whom he’s living at the moment. It’s a telling bit of characterization, but unfortunately, it doesn’t make for a very likeable protagonist either.
Writer Alan Moore contributed a few of those “Tales of the GL Corps” stories decades ago, and it seems to me Morrison’s exploration of this corner of the DC Universe is specifically inspired by them. Moore excelled at focusing on the truly alien and varied nature of the members of the Corps, and he also explored radically different and inventive notions of sentient life and alien biology. Morrison does the same here. It’s weird and colorful and amusing.
However, Morrison’s focus on alien elements permeates every panel, practically every line of dialogue. I get that the beats, the syntax of alien language would be different, but it’s difficult to figure out at times exactly what’s going on in the story. Even when the spotlight is on Hal, there’s something of a distance, a disconnect between his dialogue and the audience. There’s almost a stream-of-consciousness vibe to the scripting and pacing; reading and appreciating this story felt like trying to interpret one’s dreams the morning after one devoured an anchovy and LSD pizza the night before.
I also have to take issue with the price. While we do get 30 pages of story here, it didn’t feel like the reader gets $5 worth of bang for his/her bucks. It could be due to the inaccessible tone of the script, but it felt more like we’re paying for Morrison’s name and reputation for the higher price than anything else. We do get a double-page spread after the conclusion that teases what’s to come (and I’m pleased to see Morrison will be bringing different versions of GL from the Multiverse into play in this series), but it also comes off as filler. Overall, I was a bit disappointed with The Green Lantern — which was surprising, given the talents involved — and for that cover price, disappointment shouldn’t enter the equation at all. 5/10