Comics Time: Green Lantern #43-51

Green Lantern #43-51

Geoff Johns, writer

Doug Mahnke, artist

Ed Benes, artist on issue #47

DC, 2009-2010

22 story pages each except #50 which was longer

$2.99 each

Off the top of my head, here’s the stuff you’ll find in these Blackest Night tie-in issues of the ongoing Green Lantern series: Black Hand, Black Hand becomes the embodiment of the Black Lantern Corps, Martian Manhunter, Abin Sur, Abin Sur’s sister and Sinestro’s girlfriend Arin Sur, Barry Allen, John Stewart and that planet he blew up, John Stewart was part of Black Hawk Down, the Star Sapphires vs. the Sinestro Corps, Sinestro vs. Mongul for control of the Yellow Lanterns, the new Rainbow Lantern team featuring the Flash and Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor and so on, the Spectre, Parallax, Hal Jordan deliberately becoming Parallax again, Parallax getting kidnapped by some force only Hector Hammond is aware of, the Predator escapes from Zamaron, Blue Lanterns vs. Orange Lanterns, Red Lanterns vs. Green Lanterns, all the leaders of the different Corps teaming up, Orange Lantern Lex Luthor figures out that the Black Lantern Corps works the same way that the Orange Lantern “Corps” does, Ganthet becomes a Green Lantern, it looks like the Spectre might be to the Red Lanterns what Parallax is to Yellow and Ion is to Green and Predator is to Violet and Black Hand is to Black but he’s not but there’s a Red entity out there someplace…It’s crazy. The Yellow Lantern Scarecrow gets crucified at one point–in Siege, the weight of that one beat would anchor an entire issue, but in this storyline it’s like half a page.

What you have here, in other words, is supercompressed storytelling as filtered through the sensibilities of someone who really isn’t interested in formal play (unlike Grant Morrison and…uh, um, those other writers who do supercompressed superhero comics besides Grant Morrison, you know the ones) so much as just taking every aspect of the greater Green Lantern mythos and exploring every possible permutation of it in as rapid succession as possible. Having had no brief with Green Lantern before Geoff Johns started writing him, I’m surprised to find myself enjoying this stuff this much, and on this geeky a level. I mean, when I read today’s issue and realized that the Spectre might be the Red Entity, I actually gasped out loud. And I couldn’t care about the Spectre less! It’s just that kind of comic. If you enjoy the world Johns has built from the pieces of Green Lantern he found lying around and started connecting, watching the increasingly elaborate edifice he’s constructing here is a true treat.

And when you sit and read it all at once, it’s not even incoherent–it’s just like a constant stream of rad shit hitting your eyeballs, and provided you have the kind of brain equipped to file away genre arcana and recall it as necessary, it flows from one thing into the next with the clarity and purpose of a freight train. Artist Doug Mahnke is an indispensable part of why this works. Mahnke rapidly ascended into my half-dozen or so favorite contemporary superhero artists over the course of his past three major projects; his segue from Final Crisis/Superman Beyond to these key Blackest Night tie-ins is arguably the first smooth transition from one project to another that any of DC’s event-comics artists have pulled off. (Seriously, Rags Morales, Phil Jimenez, J.G. Jones, and Carlos Pacheco all disappeared from DC after their star turns.) What makes him such a good fit here is both his proficiency with horror and monster-movie imagery (standout moments include Black Lantern Abin Sur using his ring to create a ravenous horde of giant floating disembodied black skulls, like he’s Stardust the Super-Wizard or something, and the way he paced Parallax’s fight with the Godzilla-sized Black Lantern Spectre to interrupt Orange Lantern Luthor’s tussle with Orange Lantern Larfleeze with the fall of one mighty foot) and the way his thick line, emboldened by inker Christian Alamy, holds the bright colors that the material demands. The funny thing is that the “dudes zapping dudes in all different directions” fight un-choreography I always complain about when I see it in ’90s X-Men books or contemporary Avengers titles is inherent to how these characters operate, but Mahnke’s visual imagination and ability to harness those effects and make them feel consequential rather than full of sound and fury but signifying nothing gets them over as involving battles anyway. This storyline–especially when read divorced from the larger plot points of Blackest Night with which it intertwines–is one of the great gonzo thrills provided by genre comics right now.

7 Responses to Comics Time: Green Lantern #43-51

  1. Tim O'Neil says:

    I just read GL #51 and I have to agree with you on every point – this is some crazy-ass shit, no buts about it. I think back on all the boring-ass Green Lantern comics I’ve read in my life and I wonder why the hell they were all so boring when Johns was able to get so much out of just some very basic riffing on the concept.

  2. Why am I so surprised to hear you’re digging this, Tim? Had you said something negative about Johns’s GL in the past that I’m dimly remembering? Anyway, absolutely, with a few simple tweaks and twists and expansions Johns has basically opened up a franchise with the storytelling fecundity of almost any other superhero concept you’d care to name. And he’s not squirreling his ideas away, either–he’s just letting ‘er rip, confident that he can come up with more.

  3. Tim O'Neil says:

    Did I say something like that? It’s possible – I may have said something about the gore early on, or something like that, but I have to admit the Grand Guignol tone doesn’t bother me so much.

    But no, it’s good stuff. It’s sad, considering how much of a Marvel fan I have traditionally been, but outside of the DnA cosmic books, they’ve totally abdicated this kind of book in favor of what really is basically the Bendis school of event, which was novel at one point but now seems unbelievably pokey next to this. Siege is just so somnolent next to this, it’s embarrassing.

  4. Aah, I probably made it up. Never you mind. Anyway, yeah, it’s just got a lot more going on than Siege. It was mentally linking Scarecrow’s crucifixion with Ares’ dismemberment and comparing the way the two were handled that made it click for me.

  5. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Hey, watch those spoilers. Not only wasn’t I aware of Ares being dismembered, I wasn’t aware there’s a character called Ares.

  6. zack soto says:

    hahahah- Spurge wins.

    Mahnke has been a favorite of mine since those early Mask comics he did. I followed him to Major Bummer, JLA, Stormwatch PHD, etc etc, almost regardless of the quality of the writing.. But he’s really ramped it up onto a whole new level with the Superman Beyond stuff, and he’s consistently topping himself. I always liked the way Tom Nguyen inked him, but Christian Alamy is pretty excellent here. Though I’m looking forward to the end of Blackest Night as an event, the core issues of GL and GLC are some of my favorite nutso superhero comics in a while.

  7. What’s your take on the GLC issues specifically, Zack? I think they’re a lot of fun, if not quite as jam-packed as the main GL tie-in arc, and play with the mythos in the same fun fashion, but they’re undermined by resolutions to problems that amount to “we’re going to fix this unfixable problem because we want to really badly.” Kyle gets brought back from the dead because they love him so much, Guy gets purged of the Red Lantern cooties from Mogo’s magical red-lantern-cootie-purging abilities that we’ve never heard of before, and so on.