Review: Green Lantern: Rage of the Red Lanterns hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, August 17, 2009

I find I like Geoff Johns' Green Lantern title increasingly not for the story itself, but for the issues Johns uses the story to address. Sure, Green Lantern: Rage of the Red Lanterns is about a burgeoning War of Light fought by a bunch of new Corps, leading up to Blackest Night -- but it's also a story about police officers and soldiers, and about capitol punishment, and it's those aspects that give this book my recommendation.

I didn't "get," at first, Green Lantern Hal Jordan and renegade Lantern Sinestro's friendship. To me, Sinestro's always been this weaselly-looking guy with a pencil mustache who taunted Hal and acted superior, evil just for evil's sake. But the Green Lantern: Secret Origins collection opened the two men's early friendship to me in a way I hadn't seen before, and now their every interaction drips with the love/hate often saved for Professor Xavier and Magneto, or Smallville's Clark Kent and Lex Luthor.

To that end, Red Lanterns finds Hal Jordan at the door of Sinestro's prison cell, post-Sinestro Corps War, letting him know that Sinestro will be the first prisoner executed on the Green Lantern Guardians' new death row. The scene drips with Hal's indecision, mourning the coming execution of his once-friend even as he tries to convince himself Sinestro is too far gone to rehabilitate. In true Geoff Johns-ian fashion, the interior of this story is also the exterior, and later the new Blue "Hope" Lanterns and Red "Rage" Lanterns represent Hal's warring loyalties.

Most superhero comics can be separated into Superman or Punisher camps: those heroes who do kill and those who don't. Indeed, even when we have an instance like the recent where Wonder Woman killed Max Lord, her action came with a great deal of soul-searching and consequence -- the Superman camp. What I enjoy about the debate Johns has opened with the Guardians allowing the Green Lanterns to kill is that without punishment, the Lanterns choose whether to kill or not based on their own belief systems, and must deal with their own moral feelings on the issue, as must any police officer or combat soldier. Killing isn't a given (nor forbidden) but rather something being discussed, and that seems to me a new layer in superhero comics.

(Of course, the fact that this decision by the Guardians was in some way influenced by Sinestro, a fact only Hal Jordan knows, only deepens the delightful tension.)

The meat of this collection ought be the new hues of Lanterns populating Hal Jordan's world, but personally I found these confusing. I think the Red Lanterns spit their ring creations, but I'm not sure; it seemed that in trying to make the other Lanterns different from the Green Lanterns, Johns doesn't give us much to recognize. It didn't help that the Blue Lanterns apparently lie to Hal about their powers, such that in the end I wasn't certain what was true and what wasn't.

I did enjoy the complication of the Green Lanterns having to side now with the Sinestro Corps against their joint foe the Red Lanterns with a sense of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." I also liked that Johns name-checked the 1990s DC Comics space series Darkstars -- any old Darkstars characters that Johns wants to use in Green Lantern, I'm happy to see them -- and will use the Controllers from that series to head the Orange Lanterns. Only, it's strange that in all the hues and all the Lanterns, only Green Lanterns are the good guys. Perhaps I might feel more of a connection to some of these new Lanterns if they had some purpose other than the Sinestro Corps' mindless conquest and the Red Lanterns' equally-mindless rage.

DC released the first part of the "Rage of the Red Lanterns" storyline (chapter four here) as a Final Crisis tie-in, but be advised the ties are minimal at best. Hal Jordan references the beginning of Final Crisis, but the two stories don't meet again; the Alpha Lantern characters that appear in Final Crisis get an origin in this volume's first story, but the Alpha Lantern central to Final Crisis doesn't appear here either. I imagine that readers who bought Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns the first time around might've been disappointed, though it's a good story nonetheless.

[Contains full covers]

In all, this remains quality Green Lantern work from Geoff Johns -- not earth-shattering necessarily, but certainly a well-written and enjoyable comic.
Collected Editions 2014 Comic Book Gift Guide
Get the Collected Editions scoop before anyone else -- on Facebook!

12 comments:

  1. Everything Geoff writes is amazing. No wonder he is THE writer that saves DC from sinking.

    Dini is the other.

    Morrison is way to strange today to go against Marvel´s writers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm with you on Johns, but Dini? I liked his stories on Detective, but it didn't strike me as frontline work on par with Johns. And don't even get me started on Countdown. Tell me more about your take on Dini.

    ReplyDelete
  3. With pleasure.

    Dini is a guy that was born to write Batman (or Batman´s world).

    Of course Dini is not in Johns league!!!

    But he has a great touch with narration. Example: Heart of Hush. The Zatanna/Batman ´tec issues. I think Hush is a stupid villain but Dini has transformed him into a menace.

    Dini cannot save DC like Johns does. His work on Countdown sucked because it was obviously a request by Didio.

    But Dini could be a lot better. I remember that I did not like Johns when he wrote Infinity Crisis, and other stories. I started to love Johns with Sinestro Corps. And then I loved JSA and then I loved Legion of 3 Worlds.

    The point is Dini is now where Johns was in 2004.

    So, my take is Dini could rock DC; I´m not sure he knows it yet. Everything he writes on Batman does NOT suck (even the lighter Gotham Sirens that is just plain fun).

    But Marvel has taken all good writers from DC (that´s why Marvel rules right now).

    Didio better wake up.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I probably need to read this book one of these days. But the previous GLC left me REALLY cold.

    Lucho: I don't think it's fair to pass off the blame from Paul Dini onto Dan Didio's shoulders. Yes, Didio commissioned that series and its endless stream of spinoffs, but Dini was the HEAD WRITER. I mean, come on now.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Argh, the first paragraph was supposed to be about Sins of the Star Sapphire.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Previous GLC as in Ring Quest, or previous GLC as in the 1980s series? I always had a hard time getting into the last series, but this new GLC series is constantly one of my favorites.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'd like to point out that while I really enjoy Geoff Johns now, that Day of Judgement (where Hal Jordan became the Spectre), written by Johns back around 1999, was pretty bad.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Strangely bad, even. Whereas Johns' titles have for the most part been of even quality, Day of Judgement is a weird anomaly -- especially given Johns' later good work on Hal Jordan. I've never seen an interview where Johns addresses Day of Judgement, but I'd be curious ...

    ReplyDelete
  9. I meant the new GLC. It was generally okay, but I guess I was looking for an excuse to ditch it and save money.

    ReplyDelete
  10. DOJ It was bad.

    But look at Johns now!

    Nobody begins knowing....

    ReplyDelete
  11. Day of Judgement came to Johns by lottery: The basic idea - making Jordan the Spectre - was lifted off the DC AOL chat boards by a DC editor. They had trouble finding a writer who would actually sign on - it reeked of trainwreck. Johns took the gig as a means of getting his foot further in the door at DC.

    Most of his own ideas for the project were fiddled with or dropped by editorial. So he's not fond of the project at all, and actually apologized for it at a Green Lantern panel a few years ago.

    ReplyDelete
  12. robinboywonderarmour11/15/2011 12:34:00 AM

    Hey I know I'm kind of late to this, but I agree that Paul Dini is an epic writer, his batman stuff is always pitch-perfect, everything i've read by him on batman is top-notch stuff

    Geoff Johns is also legendary, and Peter Tomasi is pretty epic too, since the new 52 relaunch DC have got some serious writing talent on their side

    ReplyDelete