Break from the Bat: Green Lantern: Earth One, Vol. 1

This article was originally published on Comics Now. Reprinted with permission.

What if the Green Lantern Corps were a relic of a bygone age? What if there were nothing but whispers in the stars and a handful of scattered rings to bear witness to its existence? Gabriel Hardman’s Green Lantern: Earth One imagines such a future, and places an older, disillusioned Hal Jordan in the midst of it.

The will awakens

At a high level, Earth One reminds me of the recent films in the Star Wars saga. The light in the universe is flickering, threatening to die out, when a chance encounter with an old ring propels astronaut/miner Hal Jordan on a journey of discovery that unlocks a power greater than he thought possible. This idea—that freedom waits in the stories told quietly by old-timers and outcasts—is a beautiful one, and a hopeful one. And Hardman succeeds beautifully in applying that idea to the Green Lantern mythos.

The most noticeable element in Earth One is the artwork. That is not to say that the writing is poor or inconsequential, but rather that the lines, colors, and visual storytelling are nearly flawless, and demand attention. The opening scene is awash in the dark ink of space, a perpetual blackest-of-nights in which every shock of color I see might be something terrifying. When Hal eventually lays hold of the ring, and cuts across the darkness with blazes of energy, my heart jumps. What is a Green Lantern but one who beats back the encroaching night with the fire of will?

Jordan Boyd pairs well with Hardman’s ink-washed aesthetic, rendering the ring’s energy in bright green slashes, like open wounds in the void of space. Ring-slinging has never looked so gorgeous, so powerful. Even in terrestrial scenes, the rest of the pallete remains muted, with little saturation, so that the weapon of the Corps lights up even the day.

Simon Bowland letters Earth One, and he does so with great skill. The font used for dialogue reads well, with a weight that is somewhat light, but not wispy. The balloons are laid out nicely, though an occasional scene might benefit from some space between two adjacents. There’s no excessive use of sound effects, but when they do appear, they nestle in nicely with the rest of the artwork, both positionally and aesthetically. Put simply, the lettering is effective without calling undue attention to itself.

The last lantern and the first

Once the artwork finishes dazzling your senses, you’ll find that Earth One is a very good piece of writing. Hardman and Bechko’s Hal has different baggage than his in-continuity counterpart, but his essence remains in tact. He is a man too stubborn to die, even as he suffocates in the frozen black of space. His path before the ring is a retreat—retreat from his disappointment in the world and himself; but he is fiercely loyal, and his desire is for justice, and such a soul endowed with such a tool as the ring is destined to become legend.

Hardman and Bechko include some familiar faces for those of us steeped in Lantern Lore, but it is Kilowog, most of all, who plays a prominent role in this story. He is at first the mentor and trainer, as fans may expect, but before long, he allows Hal to lead him. They develop a strong bond, and we learn the most about either character in the interactions between the two. Other famous Lanterns show up, and we even see a Guardian, but Hardman and Bechko wisely limit the cast in their most meaningful moments. The result is a book capable of stirring newcomers and long-time fans alike.

Earth One at its finest

Green Lantern: Earth One is the first book in the Earth One series to realize the potential of the line. Hardman and Bechko demonstrate a keen understanding of those elements of the Green Lantern story that are essential, and boldly strip away the rest, replacing it with a compelling alternate take on a franchise prone to stagnation. Whether you’re new to the Green Lantern mythos, or you’ve been reading about it for years, Green Lantern: Earth One is a tale worth reading, again and again.