Review: The Green Lantern Season Two Vol. 2: Ultrawar hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

If Grant Morrison’s The Green Lantern series appeared at the beginning to be a slightly more straightforward endeavor than Morrison’s usual work, that perception is well and truly buried by the end of The Green Lantern Season Two Vol. 2: Ultrawar. We are not hardly quite in Final Crisis territory just yet, but neither does Morrison make it easy on the reader — present here are Morrison’s trademark invading hordes from other dimensions, near incomprehensible to human thought, steeped in metaphor and speaking in poetry.

Artist Liam Sharp remains as much a chameleon as he’s been throughout, his renderings swinging wildly from lush and painterly to the intentionally flat and mundane, with moments of Silver Age nostalgia, Frazetta fantasy, and outright psychadelica. In certain respects Ultrawar is Morrison writing a familiar tune, but Sharp performing it in a brand new way — top volume, but with intention, every page suitable for framing.

[Review contains spoilers]

I thought at one point Morrison’s The Green Lantern would serve as a back-to-basics approach for Green Lantern Hal Jordan, jettisoning some of the complicated mythology and returning him to the role of regular space cop (if not, maybe one day, Earth-bound superhero). That doesn’t seem to have been Morrison’s plan, however, and to a certain extent this last “season” marks the final act of the long story putting Hal Jordan out to pasture as Green Lantern.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

After 10 years of Kyle Rayner as the main Green Lantern, Hal returned in 2004 with Geoff Johns' Green Lantern: Rebirth and remained the Green Lantern headliner continuously for almost 20 years through Robert Venditti and now Grant Morrison. But in that time, though the Green Lantern franchise grew in popularity, arguably Hal’s star dimmed — less and less interaction with his fellow heroes in the DC Universe and a real inability by any writer to give Hal an interesting internal life or to mature him beyond adolescence in his personal life even as he led as a hero.

Meanwhile, the world moved on without him. Given the larger population’s familiarity with John Stewart as Green Lantern over Hal, the overdue push for diverse representation among superheroes, and the antiquated elements of Hal’s romantic foibles, Hal seems less and less the right choice for DC’s premier Green Lantern. Following The Green Lantern will be the first time in at least a few decades that DC’s main Green Lantern title (no “Corps” or etc.) won’t primarily star Hal Jordan, nor that, it seems, Hal will even be a major player. As such, we might say Hal “returned” with the original Rebirth, replacing Kyle, but another way to look at it might be that the last 20 years has been Hal’s good-bye tour on his way out.

This is explicit in Morrison’s Ultrawar, where among other things a momentarily re-Spectre-ed Hal is queried about his “complex,” “inconsistent”, and “random” nature, from test pilot to insurance salesman. Hal has an answer (because Hal has an answer for everything), that his seeming contradictions make him more well rounded, that he is “a corps.” But lest the reader mistake that Hal has actually learned something from a near-death experience (and seeing Carol Ferris centered on Hal’s own emotional color spectrum), his next romantic overture toward Carol a couple issues later is just as ham-fisted as it always is.

Hal makes an ask of Carol that he can’t see is too big, more focused on having a companion for his fancy-free tour of the cosmos than he is about considering Carol’s own wants and needs; clearly Hal’s overture is not actually about Carol. And this is not different than any number of Hal and Carol’s encounters in the past. Hal can’t change here — Morrison could cause Hal to change if they wanted to, but they don’t, either because they see how these flaws are inherent in Hal’s character or because DC already made up their own mind that Hal is on his way out due to the character’s failure to be changed in the past. Not that Hal hasn’t changed in 20 years — he’s risen to leadership in the Corps, though maybe that’s just reclaiming previous territory — but not in the intrinsic ways that would update him as a hero for our times.

As often in Morrison’s work, they target slavish devotion to fiction, people needing comics to be too consistent or sensible or unchanging, as the root of destruction, not to mention the undertones of the destructiveness of political and social divides. The army of the invading Nomad Empire manifest themselves as plastic action figures, and in the end Hal must give up his own “grown-up action figures,” his planetary swords-and-sorcery action playset, to bring about peace. I did appreciate that Morrison has Hal end this ultimate, cosmic “ultrawar” without throwing a punch, simply by dint of negotiation, and, as the narrator tells, through will and love “together.” (Though notably, indeed, the “love” seems to be the bond between Hal and his ring AI, not any real human connection, whereas elsewhere in the book, in the opposite anti-matter dimension, the evil Qwa-Man finds actual love with his universe’s Sinestro.)

Again, Liam Sharp really earns the label “mind-bending” with his art in this final volume. See Sharp’s Golden Giant scanning the multiverse in the third chapter, with a head like something Dave McKean would render on a Sandman cover and wounds revealing techno-organics underneath by way of H. R. Giger. As bizarre as Hector Hammond has often been, Sharp makes him downright unsettling in the last chapters, depicting him with a carapace somewhere between the Cheshire Cat and a trickster god that splits to reveal Hammond’s dour face underneath. The final pages visually depict Hal Jordan’s will in a way many action sequences can only dream of.



It’s a rare writer, if any, who can do what Grant Morrison does; if anything, the question now is whether Morrison can do something else. They skillfully convince the reader of the overwhelming power and ineffability of the Nomad Empire, but they did the same with the threat of the Sheeda, Darkseid and his Anti-Life, even Mageddon. It’s all impressive, and in pairing Morrison with an artist like Liam Sharp, it even takes on the trappings of newness, but what’s here in The Green Lantern Season Two Vol. 2: Ultrawar isn’t new exactly. Always I’m eager to see what Morrison does next even as they’ve announced stepping away from DC, though at least Superman and the Authority is still on the horizon. Will that be Morrison back to superhero basics? We’ll see.

[Includes original and variant covers, pencils]


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