GRAPHIC NOVEL and TRADE
PAPERBACK (TPB) REVIEWS

by The Masked Bookwyrm


Green Lantern / Green Arrow Reviews Page 2 of 4

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Green Lantern Annual, No. 1, 1963 1998 (SC TPB) 80 pages
a.k.a. Giant Green Lantern Annual

cover a collage of Gil Kane illustrationsWritten by John Broome. Pencils by Gil Kane, Alex Toth. Inks by Joe Giella, Murphy Anderson, Frank Giacoia.
Colour reconstruction: Anthony Tollin. Letters: unbilled. Editor: Julius Schwartz.

Reprinting: Green Lantern (1st series) #37 (1949), Green Lantern (2nd series) #9, 12, 13, 16 (1961-1963) -- except for #13, the stories reprinted don't represent the whole original issue.

Additional notes: intro detailing GL's publishing history; mini feature on drawing GL by Gil Kane; guide to GL appearances -- up to 1963.

Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 3

One of a number of quasi-TPBs DC did as homages to the time when annuals used to be collections of reprints, this "lost" 1963 annual (it was actually put together in 1998) reprints early 1960s stories of the Silver Age Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) plus an older story featuring the Golden Age GL (Alan Scott). Also included, as part of the "gag" that this is a lost 1960s annual, are ads for then-current, but now out of print, comics. Though, just to confuse things, there are also a couple of genuine ads for some other, recent "lost" annuals.

I won't detail the various times I almost had this in my hands, only to have the opportunity slip away -- suffice it to say, I had been trying to get a hold of this for, literally, a couple of years. Maybe it was because of that long quest that I actually found it a bit disappointing once I did get a hold of it. I wanted it too much.

It reprints four Silver Age stories (collected from a narrow period between 1961-1963). Since comics back then often featured a couple of short stories per issue, most of the stories don't represent the whole comic, and the stories here run from as little as 7 pages to a full, feature length tale of 26 pages.

DC's Silver Age stories are, generally, more simplistic than today, with little -- if any -- significant characterization or human drama. But they can be fun for their good naturedness, outrageous ideas, and plot-heavy stories. Perhaps that's why the best of this collection is the feature length tale, "Duel of the Super-Heroes" (GL #13). It features the first teaming between Green Lantern and the Flash, characters who would go on to be best friends in the 1960s comics and frequently guest starred in each others' magazines. Because of its greater length, the story is allowed to be a story -- to unfold, with twists and turns, the plot actually taking its time in spots, quietly building suspense, all in a tale involving other dimensional aliens, and a brain-washed Green Lantern (allowing the Flash to be an equal star). For my part, there was an added nostalgia. I had never read a true, silver Age Green Lantern story before this, but I had read some Flash stories from that period (usually in reprint digests) -- including a couple of other Flash/GL team ups.

Although not bad, the other stories aren't especialy memorable. Though for those interested in GL mythos, one features arch foe Sinestro in only his second appearance, employing his yellow ring for the first time as well as having an appearance by the GL corps ("The Battle of the Power Rings" #9) -- perhaps the first appearance of a group of GLs. And another first introduces villainess Star Sapphire from #16 (though considerably less malicious than the psycho she would become years later).

I read somewhere the claim that early GL stories put an emphasis on GL's personal life, and his relationship with Carol Ferris (at least in back up stories) -- essentially the kind of soap opera-y stuff one associates with comics from a few years later. I don't know if the person who wrote that just misremembered, or whether the stories here just fail to highlight that aspect, but there's little of that human drama here -- stuff that could give the stories a liittle more depth. Yet neither are the stories that clever or imaginative. A story in which GL has to go into action even as his ring is just moments away from running out of power ("Zero Hour in the Silent City" #12) should've been an interesting "hook" premise, but it doesn't really live up to the possibilities. Even GL's power ring, usually used to make weird and outrageous contraptions, is here as often as not just used to zap things. The fun of contemporaneous Flash stories (or even Superman) is to see how they employ their powers in new and unusual ways. Maybe that's another reason I enjoyed the teaming with the Flash.

Even Gil Kane's art fails to excite. Certainly, it's competent enough work, getting across what needs getting across. But he hadn't evolved yet into the dynamic, explosive artist most of us remember him as being.

Art wise, it's Alex Toth's work on the Golden Age Green Lantern story (from more than a decade earlier!) that impresses. I knew Toth was a legend, and I'd seen a bit of his later work, but this early art is a real eye opener. Using a style reminiscent of such folks as Milton Caniff and Frank Robbins with lots of high cheekbones and rumpled suits, Toth's art is full of atmospheric shadows and, for the time, unusual composition and dynamic angles that makes the story energetic and visually surprisingly modern. The story, "Too Many Suspects", is an interesting idea, but GL's ring is hardly employed at all! It might as well have starred Batman...or Dick Tracy. Still, next to the GL-Flash team up, it's the second best story in this collection.

When I first got this, I had never read an actual 1960s GL tale before (though I did have reprints of old Flash and Superman comics, etc.) but subsequently I have come across a few -- and ones I'll admit, I liked better than some of the stories here. Although, to be fair, a couple of the stories here -- the Star Sapphire one and "Zero Hour..." -- had been reprinted before in a 1980s digest, indicating clearly they were well regarded (yet that old digest actually featured a few other stories I thought were better).

This mock Green Lantern Annual is certainly an O.K. read, giving a glimpse at a long ago period (and is certainly cheaper, if you just want a sample, than one of DC's exorbitantly expensive Archive volumes). The Flash team up is a genuinely good story, and the Golden Age GL a decent page turner.

Cover price: $6.95 CDN./ $4.95 USA. 


Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn 1991 (TPB) 144 pgs.

Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn - cover by M.D. Bright/Klaus Janson/Eric VincentWritten by Jim Owsley (#1) and Keith Giffen (plot) & Gerard Jones (script) (#2-6). Drawn by M.D. Bright. Inked by Romeo Tanghal.
Colours: Anthony Tollin. Letters: Albert DeGuzman. Editors: Andy Helfer, Kevin Dooley.

Reprinting: Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn #1-6 (1989-90 mini-series) with covers

Rating: * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 4

This is kind of an odd beastie to assess, because I tend to have mixed feelings about it -- yet there's no denying it's eminently readable. And that for a six part saga, it trundles along nicely, easily holding my interest.

The review I first posted here -- composed after reading the story twice -- leaned toward negative, even though I conceded there was a baseline readability to it and, indeed, I had re-read the thing all in one evening...which surely I couldn't have done if I found it an utter slog. Now, after some time has passed, I've read it yet again...and find I like it more than I recalled. Admittedly, it's hard to say which is a "truer" review. Maybe a first impression review is too hasty, missing the nuances and subtlties that can be appreciated only with subsequent readings...or maybe assessing it after a few readings is the less true, as you're no longer holding it up to an objective standard.

Emerald Dawn attempts to tell the origin of Green Lantern/Hal Jordan. Published at a point when DC had released a slew of similar projects attempting to re-tell (and re-interpret) its heroes' beginnings for modern, "sophisticated" readers, it was a six issue mini-series whereas the original origin (published in 1959) was only 6 pages -- and subsequent retellings hadn't expanded much upon that.

The first issue is written by James Owsley (a.k.a. Christopher Priest), and the rest by the team of Keith Giffen and Gerard Jones. It's kind of odd to switch writers in a mini-series, but I think the behind-the-scenes story was that it took so long for DC's brass to actually okay the series after Owsley/Priest wrote the first script that, by then, he had moved on to other projects. Not that you notice a significant change, as it all seems part of the same narrative. Though I would argue Owsley/Priest's issue is maybe just a bit better written, the kitchen sink/human drama aspect of Hal and the supporting characters more evocative, and the oft depicted scene of Hal being summoned by the dying alien, Abin Sur, is neatly portrayed (as a voice Hal can't pinpoint begins lecturing him philosophically).

The whole series is drawn by M.D. Bright (inked by Romeo Tanghal) -- sometimes working from Giffen's storyboards. And it's quite appealing. Nice, clean, realist art -- the kind that particularly suits a story that is trying to be as much about the man as the super.

And most of these guys (Owsley, Jones, Bright and Tanghal) had -- or would have -- an on going association with Green Lantern. Save Giffen, interestingly enough, whose only involvemnent with the character was this and the sequel, Emerald Dawn II (reviewed below). Giffen went through a phase at DC where he seemed to have a lot of influence, plotting and storyboarding a few projects for them (in other words, he wasn't actually writing or drawing them...but was still given top credit! -- and most of them had, to my mind, similiar vices and virtues)

Emerald Dawn is trying to be ambitious, and trying to shake up the squeaky clean, Silver Age traditional idea of Hal Jordan. Here the story isn't just about how he physically becomes a super hero...but his emotional/spiritual growth, too. This Hal starts out as a bit of a reckless, impulsive...well, whiner. He's just been demoted from his position at Ferris Aircraft and within the first few pages he gets into a drunk driving accident that leaves a friend in the hospital.

Unfortunately, in setting out to be a deeper, more complex character study...the story kind of has to deliver. And it doesn't, not fully. Understanding why Hal is the way he is, or how he grows and matures over the course of the story...is more something we are left to take on faith, rather than because we actually see and understand it's occurring.

And the plot itself can seem a touch thin for such a lengthy re-telling. Sure, we get Hal being bequeathed his power ring by a dying alien, Abin Sur, and we get his first encounter with other GLs and receives boot camp-style training on the planet Oa, and it's all wrapped around a battle with a golden armoured alien (yellow being, of course, impervious to the rings' power) who is the one who killed Abin Sur. It's not that it's slow or anything. As mentioned, it's all quite readable and clips along. Actually, there is a deliberate pacing to it -- but that can actually be kind of appealing, letting the scenes and moments breathe. But still, at 130 plus pages, it's not exactly overflowing with plot twists and sub-plots. And the grand climax involves Hal saving the day by doing something...that neither he, nor the Guardians of the Universe, can explain. Maybe it was being left as a mystery for a later story...but I'm not sure it was ever followed up upon.

There are some moments that seem to want to gel into tackling big, weighty ideas...but tend to fizzle. Legion, the alien would-be assassin, has a grudge against the Guardians and their self-appointed position as judge and jury of the Universe, but the writers never quite crystalize their point about power, authority, responsibility...if any. And when, at one point, one of the good guys refers to coming up with a "final solution" for dealing with the villain...one isn't sure what to think. I mean, surely that phrase has too much baggage in the latter part of the 20th Century to be used without recognizing its historical resonance?

Still, there are good scenes, nice action bits, and some clever ideas and wryly funny sequences -- the yellow armoured alien, Legion, not quite grasping how inexperienced Hal is, is constantly befuddled by Hal's unorthodox strategies, not realizing it's simply because Hal doesn't know any better!

Curiously, I enjoyed this more having re-read it after reading Geoff Johns' Secret Origin, which was also an epic re-telling of Hal's origin. And, frankly, I preferred Emerald Dawn to Secret Origin. Though both cover much of the same plot bases, with a conceptually similar bad guy (even as it's not the same plot) and still wrapped around a character arc/growth for Hal -- it's not exactly the same take on his character, but similar, both purporting to be about how Hal needs to grow up, and grow into his new found role.

(It's also funny how comparisons can alter one's views. When I originally read Emerald Dawn, I complained about the slightly harder, more militaristic tone of the Corps Giffen & Jones portrayed -- but such a reaction on my part seems silly now that I've read Johns' even more extreme take on the Corps!)

Although I'm all for character growth, and emotional arcs, I also recently re-read that old 6 page origin from decades back (ain't I the thorough reviewer?). And frankly, I think both mini-series maybe missed an opportunity. Making Hal a flawed, weak character seems like an interesting starting point...but it's actually just as interesting to do a story about a level headed, clean cut guy grappling with the awesome responsibility of becoming a Green Lantern, because matters of power & responsibility, right & wrong are still something he must grapple with. Besides, it really calls into question the whole Green Lantern Corps when they're so willing to recruit a guy clearly not quite ready for the responsibility. I mean, the point of the series was Hal was "chosen above all other earth men".

(Also as a little sidebar, elsewhere I've commented how DC has gradually "dumbed" down its heroes over the years, basically suggesting to its readers that a right hook is more important than an education, and reading that long ago GL comic, I realize it is said that Hal "designed" the flight simulator he's using, implying Hal is more than just a pilot, but a brain as well...whereas in this and John's version, Hal is just a jock).

And for an origin story, it kind of ignores what one could argue are important parts of the (then) mythos. Buddy Tom Kalmaku doesn't even appear! And though Carol Ferris is around, and their relationship is touched upon, it's not developed or explored much.

As I say, I'm mixed on this series...but view it more favourably over the years. More pretense at character exploration than a profound character study, it's a long ways from being the GL equivalent of Batman: Year One. But there's no denying that, even after a few readings, it can still get me turning the pages...which is what storytelling is all about!

There was a follow-up mini-series, Emerald Dawn II -- which was only collected as a TPB in 2003.

Unlike most TPBs, this was originally printed on newsprint-style paper, making this not quite as glossy as some, but certainly much, much more economical -- and agreeable for that alone. But it was re-issued in 2002 as a more conventional, and expensive, TPB

Original cover price: $5.95 CDN./$4.95 USA.
Re-issue price: $__ CDN./ $12.95 USA.


Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn II 2003 (SC TPB) 140 pages

cover by Alan Davis/Mark FarmerWritten by Gerard Jones (plot by Keith Giffen). Pencils by M.D. Bright.Inks by Romeo Tanghal.
Colours: Anthony Tollin. Letters: Albert DeGuzman. Editors: Andy Helfer, Kevin Dooley.

Reprinting: Emerald Dawn II #1-6 (1991)

Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 2

Emerald Dawn was part of the wave of DC Comics' projects arising after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, overhauling established characters, retelling their beginnings in "year one"-type stories...in this case, then Green Lantern, Hal Jordan. The first Emerald Dawn retold Hal's origin, his first encounter with the Green Lantern Corps, etc. Emerald Dawn II takes place, not so much after Emerald Dawn, but inserted into the last pages of the original mini-series. Emerald Dawn ended with Hal, accepting responsibility for a drunk driving incident, entering a prison then, cutting to a few months later, being released. Emerald Dawn II -- originally given the additional sub-title "90 Days" -- transpires during those months in prisson.

Ever since I was a kid, I thought it would be a unique premise to have a super hero who was a convict. You know, sneaking out at night to fight crime, but having to be back before the morning head count, etc. (I've subsequently learned there was a Golden Age hero who did just that, I think). Presumably plotter Keith Giffen thought much the same. But in addition to that, the story has Hal being tutored in the ways of his power by another Green Lantern...Sinestro. Long time fans know arch villain Sinestro was once a member of the Green Lantern Corps himself. That always had been part of his backstory, but I don't think it was ever before portrayed. So it's neat finally seeing Sinestro as a member-in-good-standing of the Corps, and that provides part of the drama as Sinestro's villainy is discovered by Hal and the Corps.

I had mixed feelings toward Emerald Dawn. It's readable, even as, intellectually, it doesn't really pay off. Emerald Dawn II, by the same creative team, is even more of a mixed bag. On one hand, it benefits from a more original story...the Hal in prison, the tutoring by Sinestro, plus mixing outer space with earth-based scenes. On the other hand, it still seems like a six issue saga that might've been better tightened into three or four issues, and one where various sub-plots are introduced, but not developed particularly well. As well, at least the first mini-series built to a grand climax. This doesn't generate the same drive. Hal's a rather passive protagonist, not really impacting on much of the story. In fact, when Sinestro is finally caught and tried by the Corps...Hal has very little to do with it. Which might be fine, if the story was meant to be more of a Green Lantern Corps story, except other Corps members aren't especially well-fleshed out in his stead.

Perhaps part of the problem is the decision to make this about a young, novice Hal -- he doesn't really seem like Hal Jordan for the most part, who both pre-Crisis and post-Crisis, was usually portrayed as a seasoned, confident, thirtysomething. There is some nice attempts to weave in thematic threads, involving power and responsibility, as Hal sees in Sinestro the dangers of misusing their abilities. But even that isn't realized as fully as it could be. As well, the story ends with Hal admonishing the warden that the prison is in need of reform...but prison reform never really seemed to be much of a theme in the body of the story!

It's also awkward the way the hard-nosed judge who sentences Hal at the beginning is treated as a bad guy because he wants to send a message about drunk driving. Given the fact that drunk drivers kill more people that do guns (I believe), do Giffen and Jones really want to send the message that the law shouldn't take it so seriously? Sure, I think they intend it as part of a theme about abuse of power...but really, it just comes across as an indictment of the "Don't Drink and Drive!" crowd.

Easily the best part of the story is the portrayal of Sinestro. Previously just a super-villain megalomaniac, here he is presented as more complex -- as well as more terrifying and deranged. This Sinestro really believes himself a hero, believes his iron fisted control of his sector is for his people's own good. He's basically a paranoid-schizophrenic, and his unravelling when things fall apart for him is particularly well handled. It's probably the most chilling -- and convincing -- portrait of mental illness I've seen in a comic. In fact, this story could've been a benchmark in the evolution of Sinestro, turning a one note "super villain" into a complex character -- moving him up onto the same level as Magneto or Two-Face. Unfortunately, I'm not sure it had much impact upon later portrayals of the character -- even by the end of this mini-series, they seem to be repositioning him as just a guy who vows to do evil henceforth. Not exactly the most nuanced of motives.

M.D. Bright's low-key, realist art is also appealing. It's nice to read a comic where the people look like people, where when they stand, or bend, or twist, their bodies seem to follow the same physical principles as the rest of us. Admittedly, Bright's composition isn't the most dynamic -- even with Giffen credited on layouts for a couple of issues -- but it tells the story with clarity annd confidence.

(As an aside: in the script, the cons often tend to use terms -- like "homey" and "blood" -- that one tends to associate with black slang...yet Bright draws most of the characters as white).

Ultimately, Emerald Dawn II is not a great read, nor is it terrible. It's more original than the first series, but tends to meander to a resolution, rather than build to a climax. Unlike the first Emerald Dawn, which seems to inch its way up in my estimation every time I read it, Emerald Dawn II still fails to be all that...interesting. Maybe it's because, for all that the elements are more original...what Giffen's and Jones' do with them is fairly straight forward and unsurprising.

Along the way we see early introductions of Guy Gardner and Katma Tui. But Jones, who wrote the regular Green Lantern series without Giffen's help, did better work on his own. Sure, it was uneven, but the characterization was more adult, and his plotting could be more eclectic. When I first read his Green Lantern: The Road Back, I liked it, though noted its flaws, but a second time through, I really liked it. Likewise, I appreciated some of his other work on the title more, as well (Green Lantern #20-24, 1990s series, f'rinstance).

Unlike the first series, Emerald Dawn II was not collected in a TPB when it first came out. So why some twelve years later, at a time when it had little relevance to then current stories (released at a time when Hal was no longer GL -- having been killed off, then becoming the new Spectre -- and the Green Lantern Corps had been destroyed). It seemed a curious editorial decision. Of course, now that Hal is back as GL...the TPB no longer has any relevance to continuity, having been basically overwritten by Green Lantern: Secret Origin.

And if DC really wanted to drag out some old Hal Jordan stories for TPB collections, there are many better ones out there.

This is a review of the story as it was originally serialized in the mini-series.

Cover price: $__ CDN./ $12.95 USA.


Green Lantern: Ganthet's Tale 1992 (SC GN) 62 pgs.

coverWritten and illustrated by John Byrne (from a story by Larry Niven).
Colours: Matt Webb. Letters: John Byrne. Editor: Denny O'Neil.

Rating: * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Reviewed: Feb. 2015

Well...that was odd.

Sorry, but that was kind of my reaction reading Ganthet's Tale. It's a Green Lantern one shot/graphic novel with the story credited to Larry Niven, a popular science fiction writer and novelist with no particular association with comics, and written and illustrated by John Byrne, a veritable giant of the biz but with no particular association with Green Lantern of which I'm aware (though I'm sure he's written and/or drawn for the character before, if only guest starring with Superman or something).

It's kind of hard to summarize even as conversely, it's actually quite a thin plot. But that's because it draws upon pre-established Green Lantern lore. Namely that millennia ago, a rogue Oan -- Krona -- sought to discover the origins of the universe, despite such a quest being taboo. In so doing he unleashed evil for the first time upon the universe, which then led the other Oans to become the Guardians of the Universe, feeling responsible for his primal crime.

So the plot here has Green (Hal Jordan) Lantern approached by one of the Guardians of the Universe who identifies himself as Ganthet, who wishes Hal's help -- first to locate an off-shoot of the Guardian's own race who migrated to earth millennia ago and were the inspiration for, um, well, leprechauns. Then, after recruiting a single one of these off-shoots (though Ganthet was hoping to acquire more) the three of them head off into space to stop another rogue Guardian from repeating Krona's experiment -- along the way, Ganthet also reveals that the traditional story about Krona (and how he glimpsed a mysterious cosmic hand that created the universe) wasn't entirely true.

The plot itself draws heavily upon established Green Lantern mythos, implying this wasn't simply a generic story Niven tossed off that could've applied to any character (unless Byrne and the DC editors were involved in shaping it to that mythos -- perhaps Niven's "plot" was simply the "sci-fi" stuff involving entropy and looping the end and the beginning of the universe). Yet it doesn't gel with GL lore in other ways (such as a character claiming the GL Corps has members on every inhabited planet in the universe, when their designated space sectors usually encompass many inhabited worlds).

Though some of that may just relate to the whole pre-Crisis/post-Crisis quagmire DC created when it tried to reboot its universe in the mid-1980s, where comics were constantly re-telling (and re-inventing) established backstories. For instance, Ganthet claims the story of the primal hand was actually a cover for a greater secret the Guardians had been protecting relating to their true origins. Except nothing about their true origin seemed a surprise to me, as I thought it was long established -- at least in pre-Crisis lore. It's a bit like doing a Superman story where the surprise revelation is that Krypton exploded! It also just doesn't make a lot of sense, or at least it seems implausible (though I'm trying to be vague to avoid spoiling anything) -- since it requires that people throughout the universe just assumed the Guardians were as old as creation.

But even besides that, the story, as I say, just seems odd -- which is really just my polite way of saying it wasn't very good, but it wasn't very good in an odd way. Starting with the whole leprechaun thing! Or maybe starting with why Ganthet is even seeking out this off-shoot of his people at this particular time. Or why he seems to then invite them to become members of the GL Corp -- but if that's all he was doing, recruiting GL's, why did they have to be fellow Oans? Or, like -- how would the story be much different if they had dropped that aspect entirely?

Or how about: why is Ganthet the only one looking into this matter of the rogue Oan? Why does he not explain what's going on right away, and why doesn't GL seem more curious?

Frankly, you almost wonder if Niven didn't so much turn in a story as he handed in some random ideas and left it to Byrne to stitch them together.

There's a certain glib light-heartedness to the story, the characters themselves acting rather blasť, which means there's little dramatic oomph to things -- even when we get toward the climax and the fate of the universe is at stake.

Since the story is called "Ganthet's Tale" you can suspect two things: a guy named Ganthet is going to be pretty paramount and he's going to do a lot of talking. Both of which prove quite true, and not necessarily to good effect. While Hal has next to no personality. As mentioned, I'm not sure Byrne had written much for the character before. The result is Hal seems more like a plot device than a person. And not even an especially relevant plot device. .

Byrne's art is certainly solid enough. Better, in fact than some of his latter day work, though the inking is rather thin, not really adding much shape or contour to the figures or atmosphere to the environment. I think he was trying for a sketchier, feather-ier line work at that time, in the style of Joe Kubert or Gil Kane, without quite pulling it off with the same aplomb.

This is one of the few stand alone Hal/GL graphic novel/specials and, sadly, it's underwhelming.
Cover price: __.


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