Review: Green Lantern: Secret Origin collected hardcover (DC Comics)

Monday, January 26, 2009

[Contains spoilers for Green Lantern: Secret Origin]

Geoff Johns makes it seem like he's been writing Green Lantern: Secret Origin all throughout his Green Lantern run, whether he actually has or not. Secret Origin, in a way not unlike a good mystery novel, dips and climbs through a number of episodes we've already seen in flashback earlier in Green Lantern, revealing more going on than we were originally lead to believe. All of this is in service of the forthcoming "Blackest Night" storyline which, admittedly, begins to feel over-hyped to me, but there's a bunch of great characterization in Secret Origin focusing on Green Lantern's earthbound supporting cast that I enjoyed very much.

Johns' Green Lantern title takes a deserved breather after the Sinestro Corps War. I had thought that Secret Origin moved between the present and Green Lantern's beginnings, but indeed this story is set in the past only; Secret Origin forwards the current action by implication only, not in fact. There's some value in this, especially if the next Green Lantern remains as cosmic as the one previous; I miss the stories of Hal Jordan, superhero, rather than Hal Jordan, space warrior, and Secret Origin at the least brings Green Lantern planetside for this seven-issue tale.

Being therefore an origin story, Secret Origins reduces Green Lantern to its principle players: Hal Jordan, Carol Ferris, and Tom "Pieface" Kalmaku. Whereas in Superman Geoff Johns has brought Clark Kent back to basics with his Lois-Perry-Jimmy supporting cast, in Green Lantern he's largely absented Hal from his regulars in favor of Jillian "Cowgirl" Perlman, General "Herc" Stone and others. Me, I'm a traditionalist, and there's something gigantically comforting about an adventure where Hal Jordan flirts with Carol and confides in Tom, just like the old days.

It's Carol, and the not-yet-renegade Lantern Sinestro, who really shine in this story. Johns parallels perfectly Hal's loneliness at the loss of his father and Carol's loneliness at the disintegration of hers; when Hal finally remembers that Carol cried harder when Hal's father died than even he did, it's clear to the reader why these two characters care about one another.

And Johns makes even more clear the grudging friendship between Hal Jordan and Sinestro; in Hal, Sinestro sees a kindred spirit, an ally, even a younger version of himself, someone just perhaps even more willing to question the Guardians than Sinestro is, while Hal can't resist the first Green Lantern he meets that doesn't play by the rules. This Sinestro seems far more rational, even, than the Sinestro we know today, and Johns suggests today's Sinestro may very well be infected by the fear that ultimately killed Abin Sur. If so, it's intriguing to think today's Sinestro might very well be redeemed, or at least that Hal Jordan might once again have a chance to speak with his old friend, if only he can reach Sinestro's sanity.

Green Lantern: Secret Origin is probably not a story we necessarily needed, but it's a interesting oasis among all the big Green Lantern events. I'm still holding my breath for "Blackest Night," however -- I'm eager, and hopeful, to see whether this story can deliver on so many stories worth of build-up.

[Contains full covers]

We'll follow the threads of the Sinestro Corps War a little longer now, with Blue Beetle: Endgame up next.
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5 comments:

  1. I think this is the perfect book to read before the craziness ahead in "Rage of the Red Lanterns" and the politics and creepiness of "Sins of the Star Sapphire".

    It reminds the reader of the Hal/Sinestro relationship which seems to be very important and starts what might be a very interesting arc for the both of them.

    Its pretty much like reading "Batman: Year One" which is a (relatively) quiet read to remind readers why Batman is Batman and provides a interesting perspective on the his environment/cast before the action of, say, a "War Games" or "No Man's Land" or "Hush" storyline.

    If you didn't read this and went on to the "Rage of the Red Lanterns" arc or even "Blackest Night" straight after "Sinestro Corps. War" you would miss a very part of the emotional core of the story.

    So, basically, awesome scene-setter.

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  2. Sinesto makes a lot more sense to me after this story; there's some argument for reading it before the Sinestro Corps War, even.

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  3. Yeah, thats what my sister did and she's enjoying the Sinestro/Hal dynamic a lot more.

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  4. Reading Green Lantern monthly can be trying, since the book changes landscape for 7-8 issues at a time. As you alluded to, Hal's supporting cast (old and new) has been largely ignored for the sake of the larger narrative, and a stronger focus on the Corps, Guardians, Sinestro, etc.

    To me the strength of the early post-Rebirth series was the fleshing out of the relationship between Hal and his brother Jim, who since 2006 has appeared (I think) only twice. Green Arrow, promised to be a supporting cast member in this story, has also disappeared from GL's sphere.

    As long as the stories engage, the tradeoff is worth it. But this story offered Johns a chance to get back to basics with Hal, Carol, Tom and Sinestro. And flesh out their characters and history.

    I suspect Johns aimed this story at the readers newer to Green Lantern - those that came in the door either with Rebirth or Sinestro Corps. Certainly most of us old-timers have read the old Showcase stories and Emerald Dawn. In fact a lot of longtimers have registered disappointment that Johns redid Jordan's origin at all, given how much of it he's shown in flashback throughout his run. But obviously Johns is building up the importance of these touchpoints in GL history.

    For new readers, this is perfect. I'd bet Secret Origin explained the principle characters very well.

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  5. This story is awesome.

    This could work as a movie.

    Johns´ words seem so real soemtimes are forget that they are just comic book characters.

    Amazing!

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