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Triumph of the Will

 

Green Lantern: Rebirth

Geoff Johns, Ethan Van Sciver

DC, 2005

Rating: 3.7

 

Posted: November 15, 2005

By The Gentleman (exclusive to Shaking Through)

For more than a decade, the fate of Hal Jordan has been a sore point for many fans of superhero comics. Driven mad by the destruction of his home, Coast City, in the events following the early-'90s death and rebirth of Superman, Jordan -- also known as the dashing Green Lantern, member of a sort of intergalactic police force -- turned against his comrades, killing many of them as the villain Parallax. This enraged many Green Lantern fans as much as the destruction of his city had enraged Hal Jordan, resulting in one of the more heated comics debates/scandals of the 1990s. Even when Parallax sacrificed himself to save the sun, and Jordan later was reborn as/merged with the Spectre, an otherworldly agent of vengeance, those fans weren't appeased.

With Rebirth, fan-favorite comics scribe Geoff Johns attempts to rectify all of that. After years of DC Comics standing by its decision to sully Jordan's legacy, Johns, a devout fan himself, was given the green light to "fix" things, and return the character of Hal Jordan to his perch as one of the most inspiring heroes in the DC canon. Against overwhelming odds, he mostly succeeds. As he did with Hawkman, Johns takes on a convoluted backstory, establishes plausible rationales for those convolutions, and works them into a story that salvages the core of the character and restores its luster.

It helps, of course, that he's aided by artist Ethan Van Sciver (New X-Men), inker Prentis Rollins and especially colorist Moose Baumann -- color (specifically the hues of green, cast here as the color of willpower, and yellow, the color of fear) plays a large role in this tale. Van Sciver's layouts can be a bit jumpy at times, but he delineates Jordan and his fellow heroes with appropriate square-jawed intensity (especially Green Arrow).

A point-by-point recitation of the plot would make picking up the book pretty much pointless, but suffice it to say that Johns critically establishes Parallax as a separate entity, a demonic-looking embodiment of fear that managed to work its way into the psyche of the fearless Jordan, a former test pilot whose unwavering confidence in the face of long odds made him one of the more relatable heroes in DC's stable. More than Batman, who's often cited as the ultimate regular-guy-turned-superhero, Jordan embodies the everyman champion. His feats of heroism come not from being born on another planet, or having studied under martial-arts masters and enjoying a vast fortune at his disposal, but simply his own willpower -- channeled by his power ring, the only weapon in a Green Lantern's arsenal. (A showdown between Jordan, a man without fear, and Batman, who thrives on creating fear in others, is a highlight of this collection.)

Johns deftly explains how and why Parallax was able to infect Hal Jordan, just as his tenure as the Spectre seems to be eating away at his noble core. He also works in Green Lantern's supporting cast, including Ganthet, the last of the Guardians who formed the Green Lanterns; the brash, trash-talking Guy Gardner; Kyle Rayner, the current Green Lantern; Jordan's close friend Green Arrow; and his arch-nemesis Sinestro, the former Lantern turned anarchistic rogue who seeks the overthrow of all that the Green Lanterns and the Guardians represent. (As a bonus, he ably explains away the ridiculous idea of the Lanterns' rings being unable to affect anything yellow -- the credibility-gobbling Achilles' Heel that has dogged the many Green Lantern comics over the decades.)

Sinestro's involvement in Jordan's downfall will surprise no one, and his return is but one of the many rewarding moments that Johns packs into a gripping adventure tale that firmly establishes the true character of Hal Jordan and finally separates him from his problematic role as the Spectre. There are a few sticking points yet to be worked out -- one hopes that Jordan doesn't simply whitewash what happened during his "infection," that he accepts his own responsibility and works to redeem himself. But on the whole, Rebirth satisfactorily clears the table of all the clutter that has surrounded the character.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: Breaks new ground
 4.0-4.9: First-rate
 3.0-3.9: Solid
 2.0-2.9: Mediocre
 1.1-1.9: Bad
 0.0-1.0: The worst

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