I had some trepidation starting to read Green Lantern: No Fear, as word on the street was that many had found the Green Lantern monthly series rudimentary after Green Lantern: Rebirth, and I still had my misgivings about Hal Jordan's ressurection anyway. Instead, as someone who was never that much of a Hal Jordan fan to begin with, I quickly came to understand the charm of the character. Geoff Johns delivers his trademark deeply layered work; not only do we get a heaping of rejuvinated villains, but also the beginning hints of a dark alien conspiracy, and a book that is at heart a story about Hal Jordan and the sacrifices he's made in his life for his own family.
Newly reborn, Hal Jordan both returns to Coast City, rejoining the Air Force. He discovers an experimental plane based on Manhunter technology, just as he's caught in the crossfire of a new Manhunter hunting an older version. His old enemy Hector Hammond tells Green Lantern of a race of aliens that experiment with human evolution, that have now returned to Earth; Hal is kidnapped by the aliens along with the Shark. Hal fights an alien-empowered Black Hand to save himself, the Shark, and Hammond from being used as Thanagarian weapons.
I read a little Green Lantern back around issue #25 of the third series, where Hal fought Guy Gardner to be Green Lantern of Earth; I thought I might keep reading it, but dropped it soon after. Hal was the leader of the Justice League Europe around that time, and while I remember some of the heroes were happy to see him, others thought Hal might be too stodgy and conservative. Even as Guy Gardner was played for laughs, I couldn't help but agree when Guy called Hal a "whiner." Certainly I liked the Green Lantern concept; when Kyle Rayner came along, I collected every issue. When Oliver Queen came back, and then Hal Jordan, I felt a certain amount of dismay; though I would grant that Connor Hawke's adventures had never really taken off like Ollie's, it seemed a step backward. I still feel that way, to an extent; even as I enjoy Judd Winick's writing on Green Arrow, it's necessarily the story of an old man, of someone past his prime remembering the good old days, and in ten years I'm not sure that'll make interesting reading. So I worried that a Hal Jordan title might be much the same, and that as soon as the newness faded we'd be looking at another "Emerald Twilight."
But by grounding Hal Jordan firmly on Earth--the Guardians want Hal to do nothing more than patrol his own sector with partner John Stewart--and stripping some of the mythology from the man--many of the new Green Lanterns don't even know who Hal Jordan is--Geoff Johns has created a Hal Jordan that feels new and accessible. I very much enjoy the dilemma Johns has created with Hal's new supporting cast, making Hal a solider in the Air Force where his morally-questionable general knows Hal's secret identity; and moreover, the social relevance of Hal's life in Coast City is spot-on. It's hard to say where the writing and planning of Green Lantern corresponded with Hurricane Katrina, but the parallels of Hal Jordan encouraging families to move back to a devestated city couldn't be more clear. Johns echoes themes between his protagonist and the hero's adopted city just as he did with the Flash and Keystone; the Green Lantern with no fear lives in a city learning to overcome its own. And Hal Jordan is whiny no more, with a certain James Bond kind of charm; I especially liked the scene where Hal, in a crashing jet, with no power in his ring and a Manhunter trying to kill him, turns to the reader and thinks, "Believe it or not, I still got a plan."
Of course, it wouldn't be a Geoff Johns series without formerly lame villains recreated into some of the scariest things you've ever seen. But where I really think Johns shows his mastery here is in his portrayal of Hector Hammond. Even more than Captain Cold in the Flash, we know from the get-go that Hammond is unquestionably evil, but when helping Green Lantern against their common enemy, Johns allows their enmity to blur; additionally, Hammond's new fan-like adoration of Hal is just so creepy it's funny. In this way, the villains become as interesting as the hero--the only exception being the Shark, whom I remember as having a pink-tinged head; this Shark looked almost exactly like Superboy's King Shark, and I wonder if someone else wasn't mixing up the two.
Suprisingly, I was less impressed with Green Lantern: Rebirth artist Ethan Van Sciver's rendition of Green Lantern here; the inks on his work (his own inking, I believe) seem too dark, with far more lines that necessary. Alternatively, Carlos Pacheco is an excellent fit for this book, drawing a fluid, youthful Green Lantern that matches the character's rejuvination. And the final chapter by artist Simone Bianchi feels jarringly out-of-place, though it does give the finale a good horror-movie feel.
I was impressed with the make-up of the Green Lantern: No Fear collected edition. As a hardcover, with very few chapter titles, the book reads even more as one story, instead of a collection of issues, than Green Lantern: Rebirth did. More than many others, the story feels like a graphic novel, buffeted by the way that Geoff Johns makes this a slowly unfolding story about Hal, his brothers, and his relationship with his mother, in addition to all the superheroics. In a way, there's a lot in No Fear that demonstrates the potential for collected editions to come; I give this one a pretty high recommendation.
[Contains full covers, a history of the Green Lantern Corp.]
Well, with this adventageous beginning to the outer space aspect of Infinite Crisis, I'm on now to Hawkman, before the Rann/Thanagar War. Moving right along!