Thursday, October 6, 2011

Green Lantern #1

DC Comics, 22 pages, $ 2.99

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciler: Doug Mahnke
Inkers: Christian Alamy and Tom Nguyen
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Cover artists: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis

The Green Lantern concept is one of the most frustrating ones in comic-book history. In theory, you’ve got a guy with a magic ring that conjures up anything he can imagine. In practice, “anything he can imagine” gets you heavy chains, a telescope and a garrote.

To his credit, Geoff Johns is trying to make this accessible. Starting out with a Hal Jordan who’s been forced to retire as the Green Lantern and a reluctant Sinestro taking his place is an effective way of introducing the characters and the concept while getting the plot underway.

But the whole Green Lantern Corps thing still seems like an R-rated and particularly harebrained version of the Care Bears. On the one hand you’ve got “Green” and “Yellow” Lanterns and mustache-twirling bad guys named “Sinestro,” while on the other hand somebody gets killed with a garrote over four panels. This fetishized mixture of grade-school-level complexity and extreme graphic violence is typical for Geoff Johns, of course, and he’s clearly found an audience for it in the comic-book stores. That said, though, it’s also creepy and disturbing, and not in a good way.

The kinky fetish quirks aside, Johns also proves to be utterly tone-deaf when it comes to writing characters with emotions resembling those of actual human beings. His Hal Jordan displays the emotional intelligence of somebody raised in a cave by wolves. More generally, for someone who’s been working in this medium for a long time, Johns’ lack of comedic timing in the dinner scene is embarrassing. I’m sure a good writer—or anyone who knows when to get the hell out and leave well enough alone, basically—could have made that old gag work. Johns doesn’t.

I’m a big fan of Doug Mahnke’s art, usually, but for some reason, he’s for the most part decided to trade in his stylistic range and expressive visuals for a take that somewhat recalls Gil Kane and George Pérez, but in a terribly wooden and bland fashion.

Then again, it’s not like he’s got much to work with here. Green Lantern—like Justice League as well—is emblematic of a massive and depressing failure of imagination among the people who run these companies. They could literally have dreamed up anything here, and what they come up with are chains and garrotes and a general approach to storytelling that makes Top Gun seem like a bright and sophisticated experience by comparison.

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Grade: D-

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