Today’s Super Comic — Green Lantern #100 (1998)

green_lantern_vol_3_100Want a team-up involving a dead character? Time-travel can facilitate that!

Green Lantern #100 brings together then-new GL Kyle Rayner and then-deceased GL Hal Jordan by sending Kyle roughly a decade into the past, to the Green Lantern Corps’ glory days. Kyle, his era’s sole and randomly chosen GL, serves as the reader’s viewpoint into this wondrous sci-fi world of fearless heroes as the Corps battles Sinestro at his old-school villainous best.

I started reading comics early enough that Hal was and is “my” Green Lantern, but Kyle was the reigning GL throughout my adolescence. Ron Marz wrote a lot of good Kyle stories, but seeing Hal back in action was always a treat. So this was the perfect way to celebrate the 100-issue milestone and show us how fun comics can be.

And the cliffhanger’s even better.

Writer: Ron Marz

Penciler: Darryl Banks

Inker: Terry Austin

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Omega Men #12 (2016)

omega_men12You have to admire a comic that aims high.

I finished reading Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda’s Omega Men, and I remain impressed. The series tackles complex themes about war, freedom, and heroism, and it crafts compelling characters. While there’s always room for a sequel, #12 brings the book to a satisfying conclusion. If these twelve issues were the only Omega Men comics there ever were, it would feel complete.

That’s not a criticism of any previous iterations of the comic (which, again, I’ve barely even sampled). DC and Marvel both have many lesser-known properties that have ample potential but simply never caught on, for whatever reason, leaving them ripe for talented creators to come in, take some risks, and produce something special that only they can produce. In that way, The Omega Men reminds me of the Battlestar Galactica reboot from the previous decade.

The book also features the best use of Kyle Rayner in a long time. He was introduced as a replacement Green Lantern when Hal Jordan went crazy and dismantled the entire GL Corps. But after Hal made his shocking but inevitable return and the GL Corps became whole, Kyle languished in the background of the DC Universe as a superfluous Lantern. Here, however, he feels purposeful again, and his established backstory informs his actions. He’s the only Green Lantern ever chosen at random, rather than due to worthiness, and he’s always had much to prove.

So yes, I highly recommend the whole series. (But it’s not for kids.)

Writer: Tom King

Artist: Barnaby Bagenda

Cover: Trevor Hutchison

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Comixology; included in The Omega Men: The End Is Here (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 16 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Omega Men #3 (2015)

omega-men-3I never bothered much with the Omega Men, outside the rare guest appearance that barely made an impression one way or the other. Being set in a region of space that not even the Green Lantern Corps was allowed to enter, they had little opportunity to become an integral part of the DC Universe.

But then I stumbled across the trade paperback of the Omega Men’s latest incarnation. The art by Barnaby Bagenda made it look like something special and different, and I saw the writer was Tom King, who’s been doing phenomenal work on The Vision. So I took a chance. I’m not finished yet, but so far my impulse buy is justified.

Admittedly, it took me a couple of issues to get into it, but everything clicked as of #3. We meet Princess Kalista as the Omega Men kidnap her and lock her up with their other captive, Kyle Rayner, the former Green Lantern who’s now apparently the White Lantern (whatever that means…I can’t keep up with everything).

So yeah, these Omega Men don’t act the least bit heroic. At this point, I’d consider them terrorists, and I’m eagerly waiting for Kyle to reclaim his lost power ring and pummel them senseless. But it’s also clear that not everything is as it seems. Kyle’s the only character in this book that I “know”—he’s my entry point into this star system, the only one I trust to do the right thing (even if I don’t know the difference between a Green Lantern and a White one). Everyone and everything else is a slowly unraveling mystery.

And Bagenda deserves all the extra credit for his skill with a nine-panel grid. His staging of the kidnapping is fantastic—I just wanted to slow down and admire the choreography.

Now to see if the quality continues. I’m optimistic.

Writer: Tom King

Artist: Barnaby Bagenda

Cover: Trevor Hutchison

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Comixology; included in The Omega Men: The End Is Here (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 15 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85-86 (1971)

green_lantern_vol_2_85DC Comics brought Green Lantern down to Earth in the early 1970s. GL partnered with Green Arrow, initially playing the role of Hal’s conscience, and the duo fought the most fearsome super-villain of all time—social problems!

Few mad scientists or bug-eyed monsters were in the mix during Green Lantern/Green Arrow, but the green guys instead tackled issues ranging from racism to pollution, as well as drugs in #85 and 86. It was a DC series different from any that had come before, one much more grounded than the usual imaginative sci-fi fare the publisher specialized in during those days. And for a little over a year, it worked because of the other team-up the title featured—writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams, two of the best in the business at the time, who excelled with down-to-earth takes on superheroes.

These comics aren’t subtle—they’re downright preachy at times—but they’ve got good messages for kids and adults alike. The drug storyline is not only a warning to stay away from drugs, but also a warning that the person you least expect can become hooked on them. In this case, Green Arrow’s former sidekick, Speedy, reveals he’s been using, and with the help of Black Canary, he strives to kick the habit. And this forces Green Arrow to confront the possibility that he may have failed in his most important duty—being the boy’s guardian.

Before this series, DC superheroes had seldom seemed so fallible or human.

Writer: Dennis O’Neil

Artist: Neal Adams

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Green Lantern/Green Arrow vol. 2 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comics — JLA: Year One #1-12 (1998)

JLA_Year_One_1I loved this miniseries when it first came out, and it still holds up excellently. Written by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, JLA: Year One chronicles the formative days of the Justice League of America, when five novice superheroes—each destined for greatness—were learning how to be a team.

The Justice League tends to fall into a certain trap from time to time, one laid not by any super-villain but by its stars’ respective ongoing titles. Any major developments in Superman’s life, for example, should ideally happen in Superman’s solo books, and the Justice League title merely gets to borrow him at whatever his current status quo is. Nothing wrong with that necessarily; there is plenty of fun to be had in seeing DC’s greatest characters teaming-up and interacting in character as they save the world. Many a thrilling JLA story has followed the blockbuster format to superb effect.

But JLA: Year One enjoys the best of both worlds. It stars five great DC characters—the Flash (Barry Allen), Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Black Canary, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter. They’re all portrayed perfectly in character, but the series takes place in the past, minimizing the need to coordinate and share with other books. Sure, they can’t contradict their present-day counterparts, and you know none of them are going to die (because some are scheduled to die later), but they have no competing contemporary versions—hardly even in back issues either, thanks to DC’s mid-‘80s continuity reboot.

Thus, the characters are free to drive the story, and over the course of a year we get to watch them grow and develop as heroes. The big world-shaking events are still there, of course, but the characters come first. And they are terrific, classic characters indeed.

If this had been an ongoing series, I would’ve kept reading it.

Writers: Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn

Artist: Barry Kitson

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; JLA: Year One (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame (2000)

Green_Lantern_Superman_Legend_of_the_Green_FlameNeil Gaiman wrote a Superman and Green Lantern story, and it almost never saw the light of day.

The story behind “Legend of the Green Flame” is almost as interesting as the story itself. Actually, no, that’s not true. The story includes Superman in Hell, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) driven by the loneliness of losing most of the GL Corps, and the bond shared by two old colleagues and friends. It’s a great short story in that distinctive Neil Gaiman way.

And a continuity snafu killed it for years.

In the late 1980s, DC Comics converted Action Comics to Action Comics Weekly, an anthology book with separate features starring Superman, Green Lantern, the Blackhawks, Phantom Stranger, and others. The company soon realized the book wasn’t working, so editor Mark Waid tapped rising star Neil Gaiman to write a grand finale bringing all the Action Weekly characters into a single book-length tale (with a focus on the two big stars, of course).

And Gaiman did. But he hadn’t reckoned with the continuity monster. This wasn’t long after DC rebooted its continuity in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and not everyone was on the same page regarding what the new canon was. Gaimain’s script hinged on Superman and GL being old friends who knew each other’s secret identities, but DC editors had decided to put the “secret” back in Superman’s identity. Only the Kents, Lana Lang, and Batman were allowed to know. And yes, the script would have lost some heft if Superman and GL were mere casual acquaintances.

So the script was banished to limbo, and upon its rediscovery, DC realized it could just publish the story as an out-of-continuity prestige format book. After all, a great story isn’t worth killing because of a continuity glitch.

So track it down and read it, because it’s Neil Gaiman writing Superman and Green Lantern and doing a superb job of it in limited space.

Writer: Neil Gaiman

Artists: Various

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: no individual issues, it’s just Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Green Lantern: Rebirth #1-6 (2004-05)

Green Lantern Rebirth 1Hal Jordan’s character became a bit of a disaster for several years’ worth of comics. (Though the Green Lantern movie remains the greatest tragedy to befall the character.)

To recap, his hometown was destroyed, he went crazy and beat up his Green Lantern colleagues so he could go yell at the Guardians, the Guardians let him absorb the power of the central GL power battery, Hal became Parallax and nearly destroyed the universe in a company-wide crossover, he languished in the background for a while as a pseudo-villain, he died saving the world in another company-wide crossover, and in yet another company-wide crossover, he became the new Spectre.

And that’s where his character was at when the Green Lantern: Rebirth miniseries rolled around. Hal Jordan, the manifestation of God’s wrath!

Yeah, he needed a rebirth. (But the movie remains worse than all of that.)

Fortunately, writer Geoff Johns came along to untangle this mess and restore Hal as the Earth’s preeminent Green Lantern. Quite a chore indeed, but Johns and artist Ethan Van Scriver succeed in making this deck-clearing exercise incredibly entertaining. Not only do they set the stage for a great run of Green Lantern comics to follow, but they never get farsighted along the way—they make sure the journey of these six issues is a fun ride from start to finish.

This miniseries restores Hal Jordan to greatness and reminds us why the character is great.

Writer: Geoff Johns

Penciler: Ethan Van Scriver

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Green Lantern: Rebirth (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Green Lantern #1 (1990)

Green_Lantern_Vol_3_1If you can, forget the Green Lantern film. But if that memory proves regrettably indelible, then at least remember that the book is always better than the movie. And “always” applies even to Green Lantern, too.

With decades’ worth of stories, the quality will inevitably vary, but several bright spots leap to mind. Let’s stick to one for now, the beginning of a run I’ve always had a soft spot for, by the writer who was still charting GL’s course when I started reading the series a few years later.

When DC Comics relaunched Green Lantern in 1990, Hal Jordan just wanted to keep his feet planted on the ground and reconnect with the real world.

By this point, Hal is a seasoned superhero, even with having taken an extended break or two along the way. He’s seen it all—he’s traveled the universe, helped establish the Justice League of America, and battled beings of incredible power and prevailed. And his temples are grayer for it. But now it’s time to get back in touch with humanity.

The idea of someone whose perception is colored by extraordinary experiences now interacting with ordinary daily life is a concept that has always fascinated me, and Green Lantern proves to be a great choice for such a role.

But don’t misunderstand—the series still showcases its fair share of action, and cosmic threats are always lurking right around the corner. A fellow Green Lantern, Guy Gardner, performs admirably as a foil, antagonist, and ally (all in one obnoxious package!) for Hal. And a third earthman Green Lantern, John Stewart (the one from the excellent cartoon), is also in the picture but not exactly gung-ho for duty at first.

Green Lantern tends to lose my interest whenever he spends too much time in space, but his time on the ground here served him well indeed.

Writer: Gerard Jones

Penciler: Pat Broderick

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Green Lantern: The Road Back (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up