Review: Green Lantern: In Brightest Day trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

DC Comics may promote Green Lantern: In Brightest Day (not to be confused with the limited series by the same name) as a kind of "greatest hits" volume as chosen by Geoff Johns in advance of Blackest Night, but here's what it really is: origin stories, if you like that kind of thing. You'll find here the first appearances of Guy Gardner, Sinestro, Krona, Laira, and Mogo, and also significant origin-type stories for John Stewart and Stel. Much like Tales of the Green Lantern Corps, if one thing you're digging about the current Green Lantern series is all the history, here's a whole lot of history for you.

[Contains spoilers]

Geoff Johns introduces each issue or section in this book with a text page similar to those in the 52 collections, and Johns' choices are as revealing about the ongoing Green Lantern story as they are about the writer himself. I tend to be less worried about the final fates of Alan Scott, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and Kyle Rayner after Blackest Night when Johns includes a story about each of them; one aspect of Johns' Green Lantern run that I've always liked is the deference he pays to Kyle Rayner, discussed here, as the character who preserved Green Lantern's popularity in Hal Jordan's absence.

The reader also learns that Johns' first Green Lantern issue was #188, a notable issue for John Stewart and the first appearance of Mogo; we can intuit how this sets the tone for Johns' Green Lantern run as something collaborative rather than singular -- not just about Hal Jordan, but about the wide mythology of the Green Lanterns, any of whom might be able to lead their own books.

More interesting, however, are the less relevant stories that Johns chooses. Johns name-checks a couple less-well-known Green Lantern contributors, including writer Todd Klein and longtime DC editor Joey Cavalieri. Klein's "Apprentice" and Cavalieri's "Progress" follow a similar short story pattern of build-up and twist, and are good examples not only of how the Green Lantern mythos can be applied to any of a number of different canvasses, but also of the comic book short story genre in general -- Cavalieri's story, in particular, uses strong familiar images to tell a story that's otherwise mostly silent.

I also enjoyed Johns' explanation of Elliot S. Maggin's "Must There Be a Superman?" as an example of a shift in writers' thinking about Superman. Johns cites the story as some of his own inspiration for the character of Lex Luthor, positing Superman not as a benefactor but as a threat to the otherwise normal development of humanity on their own.

The real meat of In Brightest Day, however, is the origins. Guy Gardner's first appearance is fascinating, inasmuch because of how different that Guy is from the later Justice League International incarnation, especially, and also for the revelation that if Guy had become Green Lantern before Hal, Guy would have died and given his ring to Hal anyway. Sinestro's first appearance is equally revealing, in that his relationship with Hal Jordan is far less intimate than how it would be changed later (for the better, I think). And while it's not Katma Tui's origin here, I delighted to her good-natured rivalry with Hal since I hadn't previously experienced the character "live."

As a continuity note, it's worth reading this book in conjunction with the first volume of Tales of the Green Lantern Corps. In Brightest Day's Alan Scott/Hal Jordan team-up story leads right in to the first part of Tales; the aftermath of a character's death in Tales is revealed In Brightest Day. Also, Arisia makes a cute cameo in In Brightest Day after Tales; it's a brief scene, but gives more insight into this character's early days.

I love DC Comics history (as evinced by the DC Trade Paperback Timeline) and especially when old stories are directly relevant to the events of the day. The hand-picked stories here (like 52: The Companion and Justice League Hereby Elects) have that great blend of old and new; especially if you're wary of delving into the Golden or Silver Age because of the difference in story structure or quality, In Brightest Day is a good starting book.

[Contains introduction pages]

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2 comments:

  1. Regarding Green Lantern, at Trouble With Comics, http://troublewithcomics.tumblr.com/ I posted a review of the Blackest Night Green Lantern Corps collection (we got our books a day early up here in Canada). I'll be interested to read your take on the book when you get it.

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  2. I read Booster Gold: 52 Pick-Up after these stories, and got a kick out of how in one of the "alternate futures" in Booster Gold, Guy ended up dying from the same thing that killed him in his original GL appearance! Not surprising, I guess, since Geoff Johns was the co-writer of that Booster Gold issue.

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