Not quite back to basics.
No two writers have done more to shape the tone and direction of the DC Universe than Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison. Even now, there’s always a sense of something missing when these two aren’t taking an active hand in shaping the DCU’s future. Therein lies the appeal of The Green Lantern. This new series is the first monthly DC project from Morrison since he wrapped up Batman Incorporated back in 2013. The result is an enjoyable mash-up of space fantasy and beat cop drama, and a great entry point for this long-running franchise.
Morrison is taking an uncharacteristically straightforward approach to this relaunch. Morrison claims that he and artist Liam Sharp are telling a grounded story about the day-to-day struggles faced by Hal and his fellow space cops. Whether the writer should actually be taken at his word here is very much up in the air. It stands to reason that, like pretty much any Morrison book, there’s much more going on beneath the surface than might be immediately apparent. There’s certainly evidence of that towards the end of issue #1.
But regardless, this first issue offers an easy gateway into Hal’s world. The status quo has reverted to some semblance of normality. Hal is no longer master of an entire Corps, but a lowly beat cop serving indifferent masters and trying to hack it as an ordinary Earthling again. The big change to the traditional formula here is that Hal is no longer juggling dual lives as a Green Lantern and a test pilot. Morrison and Sharp depict him as restless loner who can’t hold down a steady job and is now resorting to hitchhiking and couch-surfing. It’s actually a very welcome wrinkle to a character who’s normally defined by his cocky arrogance. Hal’s uneasy, tenuous connection to his own home planet makes him a more identifiable character.
This first issue also stands out in its efforts to depict the sheer weirdness of the Green Lantern lifestyle. As Morrison and Sharp frequently show, not all Green Lanterns are your standard bipedal humanoid. There are microscopic Green Lanterns and Green Lanterns that exist outside the visible spectrum and Green Lanterns that dwell in other dimensions entirely. This is a book that strives to make its alien characters actually seem alien. Even the language is directed toward that end. While most characters in this issue speak English, many of them are so heavily accented or distorted in their speech patterns that there’s no mistaking them for human. All of this serves to make Hal Jordan feel like a small player in a much grander cosmic tapestry.
More than anything, Sharp’s art helps set the new series apart from what’s come before and establish a unique tone. This isn’t a Green Lantern comic that prides itself on sleek superhero visuals. There’s actually a very grungy, shadowy quality to Sharp’s art, one that reflects his time working on the magazine 2000AD and characters like Judge Dredd. Sharp’s art is incredibly detailed, but also very off-kilter and mind-bending. It’s almost immediately apparent that his visual sensibilities are a great match for Morrison’s “out of the box” way of thinking. And regardless of where this new series is headed, it’s exciting to think of what might result from this new partnership.