Friday, October 12, 2012

Green Lantern: Rebirth Trade Paperback Review

Green Lantern: Rebirth
DC Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
176 pages
$14.99 (2007)
$24.99 (2005) Hardcover
$75.00 (2010) Absolute Edition
$14.99 (2010) New Edition
ISBN 9781401204655

Contributors: Geoff Johns, Ethan Van Sciver, Prentis Rollins, Moose Baumann, and Rob Leigh

Reprints: Green Lantern: Rebirth #1-6 (of 6); Preview from Wizard Magazine (only in Absolute and New editions)

Synopsis: Kyle Rayner, once considered the last Green Lantern, discovers a secret on the outskirts of the universe and begins the long journey back to Earth to deliver the message - "Parallax is coming."  Meanwhile on Earth, Hal Jordan is spiritual host to the Spectre, the powerful spirit of vengeance.  Hal Jordan was the first member of the Green Lantern Corps from Earth and became the greatest hero among the legions of other Green Lanterns.  He fell from grace after his hometown of Coast City and all its inhabitants were annihilated by the alien warlord Mongul.  Losing control after the devastating loss, Hal attempted to resurrect Coast City with the energy from the central power battery on Oa destroying the Green Lantern Corps in the process.  He assumed the new identity Parallax and began searching for a greater power source to bring back Coast City.  Later he opposed the heroes of Earth during Zero Hour, actually killing several members of the Justice Society of America.  He sacrificed his life to restart the sun and save the Earth in a final bid for redemption during the Final Night event.
The Spectre, Hal Jordan, and Parallax wrestle for control

After his death, Hal Jordan's soul was bonded to the Spectre in another attempt at redemption.  The heroic spirit of the greatest Green Lantern working as a counterbalance to the Spectre's unforgiving vengeance wreaked upon the guilty.  The union has been incredibly difficult for both parties as each rails against the other's true nature in an ever-escalating battle of wills.  Something is awry in the bonding and Hal Jordan feels trapped as he watches the Spectre hand out successively more gruesome punishments to the guilty.  The Spectre defeats old Green Lantern villain the Black Hand and disintegrates his hand while Green Arrow helplessly watches.

Carol Ferris visits the old Ferris Airfield where Hal Jordan was a test pilot and she was the owner's daughter.  The two had a steamy relationship which eventually fell apart and Carol is now married.  The airfield is in disrepair and long abandoned.  John Stewart is another Green Lantern from Earth and reminisces with Guy Gardner, former Green Lantern.  Suddenly Guy's Vuldarian shapeshifting powers rage out of control as his body apparently begins rejecting them. John takes him to the Justice League of America watchtower for treatment.  The group is shocked to discover Coast City is slowly regenerating and rebuilding itself.

Meanwhile Carol watches disbelieving as Ferris Airfield returns to perfect condition right before her eyes.  Hal appears, but is he the former hero or a monster in disguise.  Batman suspects Hal has finally succeeded in harnessing the Spectre's power to rebuild Coast City where he failed in the past.  The JLA set out to stop him at all costs as Guy Gardner's body twists itself inside out.  Is Hal behind the resurrections or is there another even more sinister explanation?  What is the true nature of Parallax?
Kyle returns to Earth with a warning and a casket filled with...?
Pros: Johns writes a compelling comeback story for Hal Jordan, Van Sciver's ultra-detailed/realistic art is excellent, guest stars galore - a true universe-spanning epic which touches upon the entire history of Hal Jordan including the various other Green Lanterns, plot was exciting with twist after twist, explains the old "weakness to yellow" (yellow impurity) of the Green Lantern rings, rebirth done right, Absolute and New editions have great extras including Wizard prequel chapter and Johns' notes

Cons: Heavily laden with continuity - not for the uninformed/newbie, explanation of Parallax wiped out (or cast into doubt) some of the best Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories out there (the road trip saga), Batman gets the short end of the stick in this one, Sinestro drawn by Sciver looks pretty lame although he's just using the original character design (Sciver redeems himself by redesigning Sinestro later on in the Sinestro Corps War into an elegantly sinister villain)
Hal contemplates the return of Coast City and gets a shocking revelation
Mike Tells It Straight: Hal Jordan was replaced as Green Lantern in the 1990s by a young man named Kyle Rayner.  Long-time Green Lantern fans were appalled as Hal turned evil and was replaced by a punk kid "just to sell more comic books".  Some fans banded together to appeal the change and bring Hal back to his former glory, but DC editorial wouldn't take back their decision and instead used Hal as a villain in the blockbuster event Zero Hour.  Attempting to appease the stalwart Jordan fans he was given some bit of redemption (albeit at the cost of his life) saving the Earth in the Final Night event.  Another bid for redemption saw him become the host of the Spectre (an attempt to revive interest in that character), but interest waned quickly after the initial pairing.

Kyle Rayner's fan base slowly grew and he was accepted as the new Green Lantern, but sales began to decline in the mid-2000s and a restart was needed.  Along came Geoff Johns, a formidable writer (having proven himself on the title JSA) and diehard Hal Jordan fan, with a tale to reestablish the character's former prominence in the DC pantheon.  The story brings Hal back to his former glory along with the beginnings of a new Green Lantern Corps and revival of Coast City.  It touches upon important aspects of his history including his romance with Carol Ferris, the death of his father, and the destruction of Coast City.
Hal's battle with Parallax kicks into overdrive
Johns' story cleverly used the yellow impurity of the Green Lantern power rings (the impurity was removed when Kyle Rayner became a Green Lantern after Hal Jordan's destruction of the power battery on Oa) to explain Jordan's stint as Parallax and bonding with the Spectre.  It was sheer perfection in comic book story terms and fit like a glove.  It included the Justice League, all the other Green Lanterns from Earth, and the major Hal Jordan villains (Sinestro, Black Hand, and Hector Hammond).

Those Hal Jordan fans who grudgingly accepted Kyle Rayner (or dropped the Green Lantern series completely) rejoiced at the return of their one, true Green Lantern.  Those Kyle fans who never expected Jordan to return were mildly satisfied as Kyle was respectfully moved aside as the primary Green Lantern of Earth, but remained a strong supporting character (equal with John Stewart and Guy Gardner).  The story revitalized the franchise and Johns launched a new hit Green Lantern series afterwards which was very well received (check out my reviews of Green Lantern: No Fear and Green Lantern: Revenge of the Green Lanterns).

Rebirth is an incredibly successful character revival story with a lot of great moments and a rewarding ending.  It's truly one of the modern classics from DC and best stories of Green Lantern.  Both writing and art are top notch.  It's a continuity nightmare for those unfamiliar with Hal Jordan's history, but this holds true for any new fans trying to plug into any number of superhero "universe" (i.e. DC or Marvel) character's story. I knew the controversy of fans' preference for Hal vs. Kyle going into the story and could fully appreciate what Johns accomplished.  Some might say he tried too hard or made the story too complicated (too many characters), but I say he pushed the story to its absolute dramatic limit while still maintaining the plot's integrity for the big pieces (Parallax as yellow impurity).  Job well done, Sir!

TO BUY and Recommendations: