Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Green Lantern franchise's "Godhead" arc seems to be off to a good start.

I've frankly been rather surprised by the state of DC's Green Lantern line since the departure of Geoff Johns in 2013, which of course came after about eight years of Johns helming a franchise that grew up around the success of his Green Lantern: Rebirth and his run on the subsequent Green Lantern monthly.

When Johns left the then four-book franchise, so too did all the other creators, and DC had some of it's then-expected PR pratfalling regarding some of the new creators (Remember Joshua Fialkov being announced as the writer for both Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns and, within a matter of weeks, leaving over creative differences?). I haven't followed the line that closely since—I used to read Green Lantern monthly, and Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's Green Lantern Corps in trade—but I generally check out the beginnings of each crossover story, and, creatively at least, the franchise seems pretty healthy.

There aren't any writers of Johns' star status in the stable, nor any artists I personally like as much as pencil artists Doug Mahnke and Gleason, but the books never look that bad and, surprisingly, the writers have been quite emulative of the types of stories that Johns and the previous crew of writers used to tell: Big, sweeping, cosmic space stories involving the variously-colored Lantern corps that occasionally (alright, usually) take over all the books to serve in chapters of one big mega-story.

Fans of the characters or concepts who didn't care for the way Johns and company handled the book were probably dismayed that their style of Green Lantern story persisted even after they left, but the franchise did not go in any particularly new directions. It's still set almost entirely in space—in fact, Green Lantern's Green Lantern Hal Jordan is now based in space, and isn't even in the Justice League any more*—big crazy changes are a constant (Kyle Rayner is believed dead! Guy Gardner's mustache is insane!) and all the colors of the rainbow are always involved.

You'd have to ask a Green Lantern fan how exactly this stay-the-course course has been received. Sales have been slipping, but the franchise is still the same size. When it was announced that Larfleeze (the book starring the "Orange Lantern") was to be canceled, a new Sinestro book was put on the schedule immediately, and, for a month or two, the franchise swelled to six books as the last few issues of Larfleeze shipped.**

As for "Godhead"—which, yes, does indeed have a pretty dumb name—there's a pretty good chance that this is a storyline that could interest regular DC readers and DCU watchers who don't normally read any Lantern titles. It features the universe's many Lantern characters coming into conflict with the New 52 version of the New Gods, but that in and of itself isn't much of a selling point (Me, I thought that was a weird move, as no one writer seems to be in control of the New Gods in the current, rebooted universe; they pop up almost at random in many unconnected titles).

Rather, it seems like it will have more than a little to do with...whatever DC's up to with its Multiverse now (See the last few pages of Forever Evil, the last page of Superman: Doomed #2, Booster Gold: Futures End #52, and, Futures End and Earth 2: Worlds End for more). The plot involves Highfather and The New Gods, who see themselves as a vast army protecting the Multiverse from the forces of Darkseid, seeking an ultimate weapon with which they will be able to defeat the evil god should he ever find the Anti-Life Equation (So, an Anti-Anti-Life Equation, I guess).

Metron and Highfather think they've found it in the main DCU Universe of the New 52 version of the Multiverse (What Earth are we on now? I've just been calling it Earth-New 52; is it Earth-1 or Earth-O or New Earth or what?), a notable universe because this is where seven individuals repelled Darkseid five or six years ago in the first arc of Justice League (and they did so much, much more violently in that animated direct-to-DVD movie, Justice League: War. Did you see that? Holy shit man, there was swearing! And Barry Allen took a crowbar to pry out one of Darkseid's eyeballs!).

Also, the Source Wall has appeared in previous Green Lantern crossover epic "Lights Out" (and, more recently, in Futures End: Green Lantern #1).

The ultimate weapon the New Gods have their eyes on? The White Light of Creation/Life that comes from unifying the whole rainbow of rings, currently held by White Lantern Kyle Rayner, who was able to travel to the other side of the Source Wall and back.

So, to put it as simply as possible, it's The New Gods vs. The Lanterns, for ring-power.

The story kicks off in Green Lanterns/New Gods: Godhead #1, a 38-page, $4.99*** special written and drawn by just about every one. Look how Hal Jordan recoils in horror at the list of credits he's faced with!
Don't worry, Hal! Most of those are writers; it looks like all the Lantern writers collaborated on the story, while Van Jensen and Justin Jordan wrote the script for this issue. There are only ("only"...?) five artists involved in drawing the damned thing, and none of them have a remarkable enough style that there's any visual whiplash involved. I'd actually have trouble pointing out who drew what, although I think I'm pretty certain which pages are Ethan Van Sciver's and which are Pete Woods' pages.

By the way, the text-heavy cover featuring a pull-quote from the book's dialogue is apparently the cover design for the whole she-bang, based on the fact that the second part—labeled on the cover as "Act I, Part 2," is similar in design. I can't say I like the design, but it is distinctive, and thus I imagine it will pop off the comics racks, differentiating the books from their neighbors. It's also funny; the "Act I, Part 2" is Green Lantern #35, and it also features a character reacting in horror to the credits:
As for Godhead #1, it begins with a recap of the New 52 New Gods, who are an awful lot like Jack Kirby's original conception in a lot of ways, but quite different in design (Also, the good guys are total assholes, too).

If you've read Wonder Woman, you've already met Orion and Highfather and visited New Genesis, here a floating city orbiting a ruined planet destroyed in the war between the gods. If you've read Justice League, you've already met Darkseid and his new, weird football player design. I always thought he was scarier in a mini-dress than in shoulder pads, but what do I know?
There's a four-panel DCU creation story (still involving the giant hand), a two-page summary of New God history/mythology and then a fancy four-page fold out of The Source Wall, before which stand Highfather and Metron (well, stand and sit, respectively).

Highfather, like Commissioner Gordon, looks much younger and more virile in The New 52 than in the...old, pre-New 52 comics. He still has an Amish or Lincoln style beard, but it's now dark and clipped short. Rather than a robe, he wears military-style armor that looks a lot like Imperiex's, and instead of the cane/staff he used to carry, he now wields a megarod-esque mace, more suitable for hitting.

Metron looks pretty much like he always has, but he's got some circuit boards or something in his face...?

They chitchat about the rings and Darkseid and The Multiverse and such before deciding to make a super-weapon out of the rings, with Highfather dispatching various New Gods to take a ring from each Corps, a feat they accomplish quite quickly. In general, it takes about a page to steal a ring from, say, a Star Sapphire or Larfleeze, while the Sinestro Corps and Green Lantern Corps put up a bit more fight.

Here's a panel of Hal Jordan getting his stupid ring construct smashed by Orion:
Hal's shaft has no hold over Orion.
Highfather stuffs all the rings into a new mega-mace that his super-blacksmith makes for him, and then visits a planet in the hopes of hyper-evolving everyone that lives there into gods. Instead, it turns all the space goat-people that live there into monsters, and Highfather sighs and is like, "Well, we'll have to destroy this planet and everyone on it."

It's decided that they miscalculated, and can't make their own white light, but need the white ring that Kyle Rayner is posing with on the last page, apparently recreating the creation story scene from the second panel.

And if you found that intriguing, or just happen to read Green Lantern, it's on to part 2 of Act I of "Godhead," by writer Robert Venditti, pencil artist Billy Tan and three inkers.

These are the opening panels:
Just in case you weren't sure if you were reading a DC Comic or not. And don't worry, dismemberment fans! That scene of a ripped-off arm floating through space, tumbling away from its former owner is set "Soon;" the story will then jump back in time so you get to see the arm getting torn off as well!

Hal Jordan and his Green Lantern bros are on Mogo, the Alan Moore-created sentient planet GL that DC has gotten a ridiculous amount of mileage out of, who is slowly dying or losing sentience or whatever, because the GL ring Orion took was Mogo's ring (Oh, and the GL Corps are based on Mogo now. Did you know that? Well, they are). They are staring intently at computer screens and freaking out a little when they hear that the New Gods got the whole ring collection super-fast and made a weapon out of them and then destroyed a palent with 84.6 billion people on it.

That's right. The New Gods of New Genesis, the good guys in the New Genesis/Apokolips conflict, killed 84.6 billion people testing a weapon. So it will be kind of hard to root for Highfather, Orion and Lightray in the future, then.

The Green Lantern Corps confront the New Gods at the Source Wall, and Hal Jordan gets punched in the face:
And that's really all I want from a Green Lantern comic.

And then Highfather's stormtroopers chop up the Lanterns' ring constructs with their magic spear things, and Green Lantern The Wolfman gets his arm chopped off while a bunch of other Lanterns are likewise stabbed, cut and dismembered.
Metron tracks the White Lantern Ring and then Boom Tubes to New Genesis, and the decimated Lanterns decide to "rendezvous" on the last place anyone would look for them, Sinestro's planet...although the next issue—Part 3 of Act I, I guess—is actually Green Lantern Corps #35 rather than an issue of Sinestro.

So years after Johns left, DC is still producing Green Lantern epics, just the way Johns and company wrote them, and just the way you (likely) like them (if you liked the Johns ones).

How closely does the new class of Green Lantern writers follow the Johns template? Close enough that the good guys are still mostly a bunch of unlikeable assholes, and arms can be expected to regularly be removed.


*DC really needs to put one of their many Earthling GLs on the League roster, preferably John Stewart at this point, but Simon Baz works fine too. I suppose whichever Lantern they end up using in the eventual Justice League movie—John or Hal—will eventually re-join the Justice League. In the meantime, Johns seems to have replaced the team's need for a character with a green power ring by adding a new Power Ring to the ranks.

**I'm actually curious to see if and when the Green Lantern line takes a note from the Batman line and cancels its lower-selling books in order to launch a Batman Eternal-style weekly series. As has been the case with their many crossovers, the Green Lantern line is pretty much written as a weekly-ish book many months anyway, so it would hardly effect the storytelling. But I don't know, perhaps there are readers who read Red Lanterns every month and stubbornly refuse to follow the rest of the line, even if every couple of issues the book is subsumed into a crossover.

***Still a dollar less than DC is considering charging for Batman, by far its best-selling title, and maybe the only title posting such huge numbers based solely on the quality of the work of the creative team, rather than gimmicks and market massaging. I guess they're thinking if they sell over 100,000 copies of the book a month, and they raise the price from $3.99 (which I thought was a ridiculously inflated price as is) to $4.99, they can make an extra $100,0000 every month? If that logic is sound, maybe they should charge $51.99 for each issue of Batman and make each issue 1,040 pages, with the rest of the DCU line being back-up stories to the Batman cover feature....?


mordicai said...

This is just what Jack Kirby had in mind when he set up a story about the battle between love & hate, freedom & slavery. Gotta make those hippie New Gods of New Genesis into mass murdering genocidal psychopaths! That's the New 52 way, SO EXXXTREME.

Evan Dawson-Baglien said...

I can actually see someone stubbornly only reading Red Lanterns. Ever since the big creative team change it's been the best-written Lantern book by far. Of course, the author (Charles Soule) is leaving in March...

mordicai, the New Gods didn't intend for their weapon to have the effect, they were actually hoping to give the population of the whole planet superpowers. So their crime was one of negligence. I'm not sure if mass deaths have to be premeditated to count as genocide or not, but their moral character isn't quite that dire (yet).

SallyP said...

I bow to no one in my love of Green Lanterns...but seriously, this has been pretty awful so far. And yes, the Red Lanterns book has bee by far the best of the lot.

I like the New Gods, especially Orion and Metron...but I sure don't like them as they are portrayed here. The Orion in Wonder Woman is fabulous...unlike the miserable murdering Orion in the new book. And Highfather is as big a jerk as Darkseid! Actually more so, since he is supposed to be a "good" guy.