It’s not the elegant image of Hal Jordan and power battery that truly struck me as regards the cover of The Green Lantern #1, it’s the copy. ‘Beware my power!’ warns an above-the-logo slogan. ‘Earthman Hal Jordan brings justice to the stars’ notes the log line. And then there’s the story arc title, ‘Intergalactic Lawman’. Green Lanterns have been around in comics since 1940, the Hal Jordan version since 1959, and here’s DC acting as if this is the debut of any hero with a magic wishing ring.
And I love it; cover image and copy together evoke a pulp magazine feel, and feel appropriate. Yes, there are unlikely to be buyers unfamiliar with space cowboy Hal and his cosmic police squad, but writer Grant Morrison and artist Liam Sharp make Hal and his world, around for six decades now, feel amazingly fresh. So while we have references to Hal’s spotty, to be polite, career history, the recap is in service to today’s story – it shines light on his personality. Holding the spotlight is a character rarely seen since the Silver Age, Eve Doremus, one of Hal’s shortlived girlfriends. Remembered, if at all, for the way she rocked a ‘doiby’ hat in the Sixties, the 2018 version should be remembered for for insight, and straight talking.
This short scene is one of the highlights of a debut issue stuffed to the gills with great moments. The story opens with one of Hal’s fellow Lanterns tackling space pirates.
Oops, talk about giving your enemy the finger. But Maxim Tox, ‘13th Earl of Everglow on the planet Melmoor’, isn’t one to be deterred by a detached digit and he carries right on.
On Earth, Hal is attacked by aliens and frankly, he’s more than sanguine about it. Because he’s currently without a powered ring, his Lantern having been commandeered for an upgrade by bosses the Guardians of the Universe, and he’s so very, very bored.
Soon afterwards, Hal experiences deja vu when a spacecraft housing an injured Green Lantern crashes near him. Crystal cop Chrisalon warns him that ‘the deadliest killers in the galaxy’ are heading to Earth. Again, that’s fine by Hal, he doesn’t do fear. And the lack of his power battery? No problem, with a colleague to hand whose battery is right there in his ship.
This is a 30pp story but I’ve gone light on the details because if you haven’t read it, I’m hoping you’ll be doing so soon. This is the best Hal Jordan tale I’ve read in years, as Morrison introduces characters and concepts with the minimum of fuss, sets up a mystery or two, gives us plenty of action, and even a little romance… well, what passes for romance in a 2018 comic book rated Teen Plus. The dialogue is sharp, with some fine gags, and there’s an intriguing cliffhanger. Best of all is the characterisation of Hal – not great at everything, but being a space cop, that, he’s brilliant at. Plenty of writers have showcased Hal’s knack for strategy, but here we’re reminded that when it comes to space races, customs and plain old science, he’s the business. Plenty of people claim Hal is boring but Morrison puts a lie to that, not inventing anything that hasn’t been seen previously, or denying his flaws, but emphasising the aspects that make him a great hero.
I’d love to see Morrison using an omniscient narrator, who can go where dialogue alone can’t, but he’s either following the fashion or – more likely, because Morrison doesn’t follow the pack – challenging himself to tell the story without using all the tools available to him.
I’m pretty sure Liam Sharp is using every tool he can get his hands on, because the art is spectacular. From packed space scenarios that nod towards the work of fellow Brit Kevin O’Neill – vilified by the Comics Code Authority for his imaginative, visceral storytelling in one of the most influential Green Lantern stories ever – to desert scenes of quiet beauty to our hero, THE Green Lantern, in all his glory, this is era-defining work. When he’s not dazzling us with a cornucopia of cosmic cultures, Sharp quietly impresses with the most naturally falling clothing this side of the late, great Steve Ditko, liquid shadows defining shape and fabric. And his storytelling is faultless. Plus…
… Hal Jordan’s patented Acme gag constructs. Also worth mentioning is an immortal Guardian of the Universe who doesn’t look like David Ben-Gurion, rather, he’s a suitably wizened alien, and Sharp’s ability to imprint emotion on a fellow whose head is basically a diamond.
In costume, Hal looks perhaps a head taller than I’m used to, but maybe he’s thinking big, he wouldn’t be the first Lantern to improve his physique, Kyle Rayner having upped his muscle tone via Oan energy. And then there’s Arisia…
Moving on, Sharp and Morrison are joined by two of the best in the business when it comes to colour art and calligraphy. Steve Oliff gives costumed Hal a warm glow that’s a massive leap beyond the traditional emerald energy shell that’s surrounded him, and delineates the numerous aliens and objects with real skill. Legendary X-Men letterer Tom Orzechowski, in a rare DC outing, does a splendid job with alien languages, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the drama of Hal’s oath so well captured on the page.
Sharp and Oliff provide that cover I like so much, while Frank Quitely gifts us an impressively dark variant. With the creative team they’ve assembled, clever editors Jessica Chen and Brian Cunningham have captured lightning in a bottle, and I hope they keep it corked for quite awhile.
From start to finish, this is a superb superhero comic, a great new start for Hal Jordan – The Green Lantern.