Green Lantern’s rebirth

James brings the Green Lantern story up to date, with a look at his adventures in comics over the past five years...

With the cancellation of Hal Jordan’s ill-conceived Spectre title and sales dwindling on the solo Green Lantern book, in 2004 DC decided to bow to the inevitable and return Hal Jordan to the titular role of DC’s Emerald Knight.

But returning Jordan to the role and re-establishing a clean and easy to understand status quo wouldn’t be easy. To solve this seemingly weighty problem, DC turned to its fast emerging star writer, Geoff Johns.

A former assistant of Superman director, Richard Donner, Johns had started writing for the company in the late 90s on the short-lived, but well-regarded Stars And S.T.R.I.P.E. series. Thanks to his work on that title, Johns was swiftly assigned co-writing duties on the Justice Society Of America monthly and from there he swiftly gained control of The Flash franchise. But taking on those perennial titles was only a warm-up for what would be Johns’ career defining job.

A writer able to locate and focus on the iconic core of DC’s characters, Johns’ revitalisation of Green Lantern placed the focus back on the core concept of the original Silver Age book, and stripped it of much of the soap and needless frippery that had accrued over the years.

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Teamed with artist, Ethan Van Sciver , on the aptly named Green Lantern: Rebirth mini-series, Johns told a story that managed to not only separate Jordan from the Spectre, but also deal with the issues surrounding his fall from grace as Parallax, the return of Sinestro as a major villain, and the fate of the other DC ring slingers who’d filled the gap in Jordan’s absence.

Wisely choosing to keep Jordan’s replacement as Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner, as part of the new set up, Johns wasn’t simply bringing Hal Jordan back into play, but also renewing and updating the idea and concept of the Green Lantern Corps.

Doubling its membership from 3,600 to 7,200, each sector would now contain two Green Lanterns, with Sector 2812 to be patrolled by both Jordan and John Stewart.  The other human Lanterns, Guy Gardner and Rayner, were assigned the task of helping the Guardian recruit the 7,000-plus new recruits that would make up the new Corps. However, while they were off in space, back on Earth Jordan was busy re-engaging with his old life in the newly rebuilt Coast City.

Now teamed with artist, Carlos Pacheco, Johns’ first year on the newly relaunched Green Lantern ongoing title was far more domestically scaled than the book would later become. Taking its time to bed in the new status quo of the series, it would be a far cry from the widescreen space opera that the book would come to be known for.

This drift towards the epic began with the Sinestro Corps War storyline. Running in both the Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps books between August 2007 and February 2008, this storyline found Jordan’s archenemy, Sinestro, building his own corps of ‘yellow lanterns’ and waging war against the entire Green Lantern Corps.

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The story was an unexpectedly huge success and one that grew in length and scale as the series progressed. In fact, by the end of this universe-spanning crossover, it was revealed that the introduction of the Sinestro Corps was merely the beginning. Soon a whole raft of different coloured power rings and corps began to be introduced to the Green Lantern mythos.

Joining the familiar willpower driven Green Lantern Corps and its yellow fear- fuelled counterparts were the Blue Lanterns of hope, the Red Lanterns of hate, the Orange Lanterns of avarice, the Indigo tribe of compassion and the Violet corps of love. 

But these lanterns , with their different connections to the emotional spectrum, were merely precursors to the corps, who would be at the heart of the next big Green Lantern storyline, the Black Lantern Corps

The driving force of the multi-part Blackest Night crossover, the Black Lantern Corps were driven by the machinations of obscure Green Lantern villain, Nekron, who was using the power of death (the eponymous Black) to attempt to obliterate all life within the universe.

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Essentially another universe-spanning crossover, Blackest Night‘s hook was that the ring bearers chosen to join the Black Lantern Corps were the various dead superheroes of the DC Universe. Characters such as the original Superman, the Martian Manhunter and Don ‘Dove’ Hall, to name but a few, were revived as zombies to spread Nekron’s creed of death throughout the DCU.

Despite being a commercial success, it could be argued that Blackest Night was simply a bigger, louder and somewhat emptier crossover than the Sinestro Corps War. It appeared from the outside that, certainly for the first time since Rebirth, the franchise was simply riffing on itself, rather than telling a story with any real, lasting resonance for its main characters.

Perhaps with that in mind, since the end of Blackest Night in 2010, the various Green Lantern books have been in something of a holding pattern, with most of the heat surrounding the franchise centering on its upcoming big screen debut.

However, with the movie’s release now out of the way, things are beginning to heat up again for the Green Lantern titles, and this coming September will see DC not only launching two new ongoing Lantern titles, Red Lantern Corps and Green Lantern: New Guardians, but also restarting both Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps from issue one. 

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Regardless of whether this proves to be a sensible expansion of the franchise or an unnecessary overextension, one thing remains abundantly clear: Green Lantern‘s light shows very little sign of fading any time soon.

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Even more of our Green Lantern stories are found here.