Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Pre-New 52 review: Green Lantern: War of the Green Lanterns

This hefty, 240-page hardcover collects the early 2011 storyline that ran through all three of the DC's Green Lantern titles at the time, and which, in retrospect, ended up being the climax of writer and franchise-runner Geoff Johns' six-year run on the character and concept prior to "The New 52" reboot/relaunch (A few more issues of the secondary Green Lantern titles would be published, and collected in another trade I'll discuss tomorrow, but they were merely exercises in schedule-filling; the "story" ends with a bang here...although Johns would actually keep telling his part of the story after the relaunch, having apparently earned some sort of reboot-proof pass).

Although each successive chapter of the ten-part storyline (plus a prologue!) appears in a different issue of one of the three Green Lantern books—Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps and Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors—and each chapter's creative team depends on which book it falls in (Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke, Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham and Peter Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin are the three writer/penciler pairings on the three books), it's all one, long story.

I had previously read five of the eleven chapters of this story, as I read Green Lantern but not the other two titles, as it was serially published; I was able to follow it remarkably well like that, thanks, in part, to the fact that each book focused on their primary star or stars up until the end of the storyline, in which all of the heroes unite together. It also helped, I imagine, that the story is so simple.

Provided, of course, you know the basics of modern Green Lantern lore, which Johns has made pretty sure most DC readers were familiar with over the course of spearheading the Blackest Night storyline/event.

Krona, a blue alien who rebelled against his fellow blue alien Guardians of the Galaxy one billion years ago, has been traveling the universe and collecting "The Entities," the god-like avatar/mascots of the seven colored emotions of "The Emotional Spectrum" that each of the variously colored Corps use as their power source. These are all monsters that look vagueley like H.R. Giger-designed Pokemon, with names that sound like refjected '90s X-Men: There's Ion, the green whale thing of willpower; Parallax, the yellow bug-dragon of fear, Ophidian, the orange snake of Avarice, and so on.

Krona sticks six of the seven monsters into the Guardians of the Universe, turning them into his possessed servants, and he sticks Parallax into the Green Lanterns' central power battery on Oa, which gives all of the Green Lantern costumes yellow highlights, and turn them into Krona's slaves.

The only ones spared are the four Earth Green Lanterns—Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart and Kyle Rayner—who are immune to Parallax-infection due to prior exposure. But they can't use their rings, so they choose differently-colored rings from the different Corps, and must take on the remaining 7,196 Green Lanterns, plus Krona and the Entity-possessed Guardians, as Sinestro Corpsman Hal Jordan, Red Lantern Guy Gardner, Indigo Tribesman John Stewart and Blue Lantern Kyle Rayner.

And poor John Stewart has to look like an idiot doing it.
I've made fun of Stewart's appearance in this storyline before; but oh man, it's even worse when you read the whole story.

Putting aside the aesthetic nightmare of his costume, putting aside the fact that the one black guy is the Lantern who has to join the Indigo Tribe, even putting aside the fact that no one uses the pink, love-powered Star Sapphire ring because they don't want to wear the skimpy costumes that comes with it,
the fact remains that he's a compassion-powered superhero who wears an army guy uniform and carries a compassion sniper rifle.

I'm afraid that's one element that is well on the "stupid" side of the awesome/stupid balancing act that is Geoff Johns' Green Lantern comics.

Okay, that probably took too many paragraphs to convince you that it's a very simple story. Let me try again. It boils down to this: Villain attacks Green Lanterns, all of the Green Lanterns fight, our heroes come to their sense and get new costumes and powers, they beat the bad guy. It's got all the complexity of a Power Rangers episode, although there's plenty of nuance and texture for those primed to enjoy it.

Me, I like seeing the new costume designs (even if John Stewarts' hurt my eyes and stomach), the possessed-Guardians designs, and all those colors on every page.
It was also a great pleasure seeing the four human Lanterns working together as a team. Despite the fact that they're all members of GL Corps, we only very, very rarely see the four of them interacting; Green Lantern: Rebirth and "The Sinestro Corps War" being the only examples I can think of. Generally Johns has Hal Jordan working solo, and various pairings of the remaining three show up in GLC.

I missed a few things by reading roughly every third chapter the first time I encountered this story. One was the not-too-subtle image of...well, of this, which Tucker Stone pointed out when it was first released.
Stone was right. There is exactly zero context for that panel. In the panel preceding it, we see Guy Gardner lighting a signal fire in the shape of the Green Lantern symbol with his ring. In the panel after it, we see Guy Gardner in the middle-distance, complaining about the weather and regarding a trio of alien animals that look like koala-headed rhinos with polar bear fur.

The other is a pretty big plot point, I guess: John Stewart kills Mogo.

Mogo is, of course, the Green Lantern who is also a planet created by Watchmen creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons for a short, one-off sci-fi twist story entitled "Mogo Doesn't Socialize" in 198-fucking-five. (One of the many, many, many things that makes me want to scream about this whole DC/Moore/Before Watchmen thing is the way the publisher has been continually, constantly exploiting every little bread crumb Moore gifted them with decades ago. Mogo is a joke character, yet at this point he's had more appearances than dozens of characters created to anchor their own books, and even appeared in the last Batman cartoon series).

After Geoff Johns' rejuvenation of the fallow Green Lantern Corps concept, Mogo was given a big role in the new structure, as an entity that is responsible for guiding the semi-sentient Green Lantern rings throughout the universe; sending them along their way to wroth recruits.

In this story, which of course features the required stupid fucking joke about whether or not Mogo socializes, Krona is using Mogo to send rings out like crazy, swelling the ranks of his mind-controlled army. John Stewart, the guy with the compassion powers, decides the only way to stop Krona is to put a compassion-bullet in Oa's planet brain, killing/destroying him, over the objections of Kyle.

This is weird, because...

1). John Stewart once destroyed a whole inhabited planet, in Cosmic Odyssey. How many planets are you allowed to destroy before they kick you out of the Green Lanterns...? (Actually, there probably isn't a limit; Hal destroyed all of existence in Zero Hour, and they let him back in the Corps).

2.) It quite obviously wasn't the only way to stop Mogo and Krona, since Krona was mind-controlling Mogo and, a few pages later, Hal and Guy are able to break Krona's mental control over all of the Lanterns. Of course, by that point, Mogo was already dead.

3.) I hate when superheroes find themselves in these "I have to do something shitty for the greater good" stories, because a good superhero should be able to find the third of two options—seeing only two options is a pretty limited way of looking at anything, really—and it's always an artificial reason. Stewart was only faced with that decision because the writers wanted to put him in that situation, and he couldn't come up with a non-dumb solution because either the writers couldn't come up with a non-dumb solution themselves, or because they wanted him to kill Mogo in order to follow up in a later storyline.
Anyway, Ugh.

That aside, it's a pretty good read, and the three writers' voices all mesh very well. The artwork could be more consistent in style—there are large gaps between the styles of Mahnke, Kirkham and Pasarin, plus that of prologue artist Ed Benes—but each of them do a pretty decent job (Mahnke's chapters are by far the prettiest looking, though).

At the conclusion, there are a few pretty big cliffhangers, including Hal Jordan being kicked off the team for killing Krona and Sinestro becoming a Green Lantern, which I know Johns has followed up on in the re-booted Green Lantern, and that made me somewhat curious about the other Green Lantern titles in the post-reboot DCU (Is Mogo still dead? Is everyone still pissed at John Stewart for totally killing him?)

And as with what Johns was doing in Brightest Day, it was clear that he was continuing to build towards future stories, rather than wrapping up the old DCU in order to make a brand-new one (this seems to be wear talk of a post-Green Lantern, "Third Army" to serve the Guardians first comes up).

One thing haunts me, though. At one point, Krona decides that since the Guardians of the Universe suck so bad at their jobs, because they try to run the universe without opening themselves to any emotions, he should make the four emotion-feeling Earth-born GLs the new Guardians, and he even captures Hal and Guy, dresses them in Guardian red robes and covers them with "ancient evolving bandages" that apparently turns people into giant-headed, tiny-bodied Guardians.

It really sucks that Mahnke didn't get to draw Hal, Guy, John and Kyle with giant, wized heads and tiny little floating bodies in robes. For a cover, if for nothing else.

Oh well, maybe I'll win the lottery and can commission Mahnke to draw that for me someday...

Anyway! This is a pretty good Green Lantern story arc, and I for one would like to see all four Green Lanterns get together more often than every few years.

Come back tomorrow night, when I'll waste a chunk of my Fourth of July holiday discussing War of the Green Lanterns: Aftermath, which is so horrible it makes War of the Green Lanterns seem like the complete works of Shakespeare, as illustrated by Michelangelo, on the ceiling of the Vatican.


Akilles said...

Oh. So it was Stewart who killed Mogo. Stupid, irritating, boring and sad.

"Come back tomorrow night, when I'll waste a chunk of my Fourth of July holiday discussing War of the Green Lanterns: Aftermath, which is so horrible it makes War of the Green Lanterns seem like the complete works of Shakespeare, as illustrated by Michelangelo, on the ceiling of the Vatican."

Now you spoiled tomorrows suprise!

SallyP said...

It IS a pretty good story, and I enjoyed the heck out of it. I agree though, that John was being a real jerk killing off Mogo...especially after the whole OTHER planet-killing thing. I think that the Compassion ring was MAKING him a scmuck.

But it wasn't John who got kicked out for killing Krona...it was Hal. apparently it is ok to kill a planet, but not an evil Ex-Guardian.

And Guy had all the best lines...as usual.

Caleb said...

Oops. I typed "John Stewart" instead of "Hal Jordan" there; I fixed it. But yeah, Hal got kicked out; they kept John around, but everyone thinks he's a jerk now.

I didn't think of it that way, but it IS kinda weird that the fired Hal for killing the bad guy, but not John for killing a co-worker (Well, I know the rationale was that they were afraid of Jordan's ability to kill a Guardian, but still).

I'd really like to get a look at the Green Lantern Corps Employee Manual some day...

bad wolf said...

I don't know how many books i've tired of because of that contrived two-option situation. It seems like a common situation in comics nowadays that i always put down to lack of imagination.

Killing Mogo sounds like another bad idea that didn't get reworked in the reboot. Along with the WIR girlfriend, continuing GL with minimal changes really missed a chance to repair some bit whiffs.

Avishek said...

Ok, I see where you're coming from but really, you have to see some of the context there.

John did not 'kill' Mogo because it was the only option, but because he was also corrupted by the Black energy.

As for the pic, I agree. No way to defend that iconography (and it was done to my fav GL!).

Through I believe Johns connected the Mogo death to the Legion's 31st universe where Mogo IS DEAD.

Through now, (SPOILERS) Mogo is back!