Written By: Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman
Art By: Gabriel Hardman
For those of you who may not know about it, the Earth One series from DC is an alternate world take on some of their most iconic heroes. It’s a project in which creators are allowed to reinvent characters for a new age and, hopefully, bring the best out of them and their stories.
In many ways the Earth One series is a throwback to DC’s Elseworld titles, where anything could, and usually did, happen without any narrative thread or tissue linking them to other Elseworld titles. Those fantastic ideas were eventually welded into the DC 52 Earth Multiverse. The Earth One line takes over that mantle right now, providing some new, though not overly extreme, takes on DC’s heroes without tying them together into one discernable universe.
Hal Jordan, the greatest Green Lantern of them all, is the latest character to receive the Earth One makeover.
Jordan’s story is set at some unspecified point in the Earth’s history in which it seems that corporations run a dystopian world with military might. Humanity has advanced technologically far enough to mine asteroids for minerals but not enough to leave Earth behind.
The two biggest changes to Hal Jordan have to do with his character and his backstory. Gone is the original Hal Jordan for whom many writers mistook his confidence for arrogance. So too is the brash, cocky and damaged man with father issues that Geoff Johns' re-imagining of his story brought to the modern age.
Earth One re-imagines Jordan as an astronaut on one of these mining expeditions who doesn’t want to return to Earth after having placed his faith in the wrong people. The confidence usually associated with Jordan takes a back seat to a humbled man whose only desire was to do the right thing and help people, just to see that goal perverted. It’s a breath of fresh air reading about a hero who is just a man trying to do the right thing even when the fight isn’t his.
This time round, the ring isn’t bequeathed to Jordan via a dying alien, but rather discovered in the corpse of an ancient spaceship that had crashed into the asteroid on which they are mining. Before long, through another tragedy, Jordan is flung to the other end of the galaxy to fight for his life against rogue Manhunters while desperately trying to save the galaxy from their tyranny.
The iconic Green Lantern power rings, along with the history of the Corps, receive a new makeover that really shakes up the future story possibilities for the franchise. The rings are no longer driven by the strength of a users will, but rather are simple tools using energy that anyone can manipulate. But it was nicely telling at the end of the book that, of all the new ring slingers brought into the final conflict, that it’s only Hal who manages to create an incredibly basic construct from the ring while everyone else is just using them as blasters and shields. With rings scattered throughout the galaxy, and no way of policing who receives them, it’s going to be interesting to see where this goes should the book sell well enough to warrant a sequel.
I’m not a fan of Gabriel Hardman’s art for this book though. However, I did enjoy the use of black and shadows along with the sparing use of colour within the book. In most forms of entertainment, space is depicted rather gorgeously, like a travel postcard of “don’t you wish you were here” usage. Here, Hardman makes use of a lot of dark colours and a wonderful smattering of black that highlights the despair that this universe has settled into. From the stagnated Earth culture to the ruins of the enslaved worlds, to the dark between the stars, you know that this is a universe without hope. Only on Kilowog’s peaceful world do we find a bright aesthetic brought to bear which clashes wonderfully with what came before, and what follows after once the Manhunters make their way there.
As with previous Earth One titles, Green Lantern poses both moral and cultural questions. What do you stand for? Who do you fight for? Should you help anyone at all?
As with previous titles though, it doesn’t do enough to explore those questions either. I think this has more to do with the books other failing than it does with the writing. And that failing is space. Each Earth One title has a story to tell in just a little over 140 pages, and here, as with many of the series' other titles, it really just isn’t enough. Not for the amount of story that the writers have tried to tell in it, let alone exploring the complex themes they introduce. Jordan’s and Kilowog’s space journey to find help alone could easily fill two trades, but here it’s squished into 10 pages. Plot threads are introduced that immediately fall away, unless they’re being kept for a sequel, and a major plot thread isn’t quite given the space it needs to truly smash home just how much larger the fight for the future is.
The books other failing, and this also is a failing of the entire Earth One line, is that, despite the changes made, there’s still too much of a need to impose some form of DC’s heroic status quo on the line. Superman still becomes Superman and ends up fighting most of the same baddies as in his main series, and Sinestro’s one line in the book already has you going: “Guess this guy's gonna be a problem.” Hopefully as the Earth One line continues forward, these tropes can be allowed to slip away for even more interesting storytelling.
Physically this is a gorgeous hardcover trade in keeping with the rest of the Earth One line. A softcover version will appear down the line, but I really do urge you to collect this hardcover version instead.
If you’re looking for a new take on the Green Lantern story, then you need to read this.
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