Break from the Bat #17: Catching up on the Green Lantern books

Welcome back to Break from the Bat, our monthly exploration of what’s happening outside of Gotham. I don’t know about you, but some weeks, I have trouble keeping up with all of the books I want to read. Family stuff needs more time than usual, work gets crazy, and titles that aren’t at the top of the stack pile up. Such was the case for me recently, and I fell behind on both Green Lantern books. A few days ago, I caught up, and I’m so glad I did!

Green Lanterns

The greenest of Lanterns, Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz seem to have a polarizing effect on fans—some insisting that they (especially Jess) get far too much exposure, and others feeling like they’re some of the best new characters to come along in some time. I fall into the latter camp, and reading through the two most recent arcs of Green Lanterns reminded me why.

Writer Sam Humphries knows how to write his two rookies incredibly well. Comics that feature large amounts of narration can easily become tedious, but GLs has my full attention in every issue, precisely because we get to spend so much time in Jess and Baz’s heads. They each have their own quirks and insecurities, and seeing them work through them and grow makes for excellent reading. I really appreciate the time and care  Humphries has taken with their development. It hasn’t been easy at any step along the way, and they’ve earned everything they’ve received. Green Lanterns is about the weak having the will to overcome the powerful—the promise of the ring—and Humphries does an outstanding job of playing that concept out across various arcs.

The book’s greatest weakness is the same as it was from the start: the artwork. And that’s not to say that the artwork isn’t good, either. There are some absolutely stunning issues (especially #25, drawn by Robson Rocha, with inks by Daniel Henriques and colors by Alex Sollazzo), but we typically have a different art crew each issue. I would love to see this title drop to a monthly schedule and gain some visual consistency.

In spite of that, I still love reading it, and I can’t wait to see what Humphries is cooking up next.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps

Art by Ethan Van Sciver and Jason Wright

If Green Lanterns is about the promise of the ring, then GLC is (at least at the moment) about the tragic limits of that promise. The ability to overcome great fear offers no certainty, only possibility, and the combined might of the Green Lantern and Sinestro Corps is cracking as the Emerald Knights give into fear and rage.

Hal may come first in the title, but for me, it’s the GLC that makes this book a winner. Whether it’s Kyle finding a new spark for an old flame, Guy teaming up with Arkillo, or Kilowog steadily marching toward his billionth use of the word “poozer”, I love spending time with this group. The personalities are enormous, and the nonchalant space-trekking is exactly where I want to be.

As with Green Lanterns, though, the artwork suffers from excessive variety. And here, it is perhaps more pronounced, as the big three pencilers—Ethan Van Sciver, Rafa Sandoval, and V. Ken Marion—all have such distinct styles. Again, I don’t hate it, and it doesn’t wreck the book for me, but I really wish we could get an arc from one art team.

Overall, the Green Lantern brand is in very capable hands right now. I would love a stronger visual identity, but the numerous artists are all talented, and each issue still represents a strong, complete package. If, like me, you got behind on your books, take some time and catch up—you won’t regret it.

That’s it for our catch-up review of Green Lanterns and Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. Thanks for reading Break from the Bat! If you’d like to enter this month’s digital comic giveaway, follow me on Twitter @mrwarshaw, and tweet at me with the hashtag #bftbguygoescommando, and you’ll be entered. I’ve got codes for Defenders #2, Black Bolt #3, and Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1. And thanks to Funko’s Marvel Collector Corps, I also have an extra Spectacular code for a runner-up. Hit me on Twitter!

Superman: Secret Origin

Art by Gary Frank, Jonathan Sibal, and Brad Anderson

Over the past three decades there have been just as many “definitive” Superman origins. First, there was John Byrne’s classic The Man of Steel, which still sits at the top of the list for me. Then there was Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu’s Birthright, a story that was fine enough, but too long by at least half and full of half-cooked ideas that never went anywhere. Nestled between the two in terms of quality, but coming last by release, is Secret Origin. Written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Gary Frank, this story is closer in quality to Byrne’s classic, but still not quite enough to make it to the top of the litter.

What I like the most about Johns’ storytelling is how unabashedly proud it is to be a superhero comic. He incorporates things like Clark and Lex knowing each other in Smallville and the “fandom” of the Legion of Super-Heroes, both of which are Silver Age ideas through and through. It’s also a story filled with a lot of heart, containing the “you are my son” scene that served as an inspiration for a similar beat in Man of Steel. Gary Frank’s work is just as good, full of detail and expression that sells the optimistic tone of the story. Still, he steps too close to the uncanny valley too often, as his attempts to make Clark look like Christopher Reeve are occasionally distracting. For adult Superman, the look is fine, but Clark as a kid is… kind of creepy. But when Frank gets it right he absolutely nails Supes, and his Legion is some of the best I’ve ever seen the team.

Even at six issues it still runs a bit long, feeling like housekeeping at certain points rather than just an opportunity to tell Superman’s origin. Besides that, though, it’s a great read that’s engrossing more often than it isn’t, serving as a great standalone adventure and introduction to the Man of Steel.

– Jay