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A Comic Fan Searches For A New Hero: Part 1, Green Lantern

Check out the introduction for background on this series of posts!

The first stop on my journey to finding a new favorite superhero is to revisit the hero that had been my favorite for so long, Green Lantern. As mentioned in the introduction, I will be judging these heroes based on particular criteria, following a brief introduction to the character. Without further ado…

Who is Green Lantern?

Green Lantern

Green Lantern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Green Lantern, more than any other superhero,refers more to a position rather than a particular person. Having said that, the person most closely identified with the position is Hal Jordan, current Green Lantern of Earth (and has been, more or less, for 50 years). The Green Lantern Corps have been protecting the universe for untold millennia from threats both cosmic and mundane. The rings that they wear are able to harness and project the power of will, limited only by the will and imagination of the bearer. To this end, the rings themselves choose bearers based on their ability to overcome fear. Recently, the Green Lantern mythos has expanded to include “lanterns” from other colors (or emotions, if you will) such as blue for hope, yellow for fear, orange for greed, indigo for empathy, red for rage, and violet for love. They are organized and deputized by beings called the Guardians of the Universe, small blue humanoids that have seemed more bent on order than justice since their first appearances. Now, onto the criteria for judging:

Is this character heroic? Yes! The Green Lanterns are more or less defined by their heroism. Their ability to overcome fear and act purely based on will, while often times misled, is nearly always for the good of others. While justice continues to be in the eye of the beholder as far as whether or not they do a great job of making the universe a better place, no one can doubt the sincerity or the concrete actions that the Lanterns take in the line of service to their worlds. (1 point)

Does this character represent the “powers” or fight against them? Tough call. The problem here is that the Green Lantern corps, specifically their masters the Guardians of the Universe, represent the ultimate “authority” in the universe. They come as close to a “universal” government or force as comic book worlds get. By extension, the Green Lanterns are often seen as tools of this order by the very worlds they are trying to help. That being said however, one of the reasons I have liked Green Lantern in the past, is specifically because Hal Jordan of Earth (along with the other Earth Green Lanterns: John, Guy, and Kyle) often subvert the Guardian’s authority and fight against what they see as unjust uses of power. In the past, it has been these very Earth-born Lanterns that have humanized the corps and sought more creative and indeed less violent solutions to problems.Unfortunately, the Guardians have been overthrown, the creativity has been replaced with blunt force, and there no longer seems to be a subversive voice.* (A case could be made that Kyle Rainer, former Green Lantern and current White Lantern is that voice, but he is no longer a Green Lantern, and is still so new in his position that it remains to be seen how long he remains in it). (0.5 points)

Does this character kill? Unfortunately, the Lanterns DO kill. This has been a very recent phenomenon, actually. In the last few years, a long standing prohibition, built into the rings themselves, prevented the Lanterns from killing. In the face of an overwhelming evil, the use of deadly force was enabled. Of course, the threat was dealt with, but the “no killing” rule was never reinstated. Also, it is very seldom that the Lanterns seek to humanize their enemies. When they do, it is almost always the leader lanterns of other Corps, such as Sinestro, Atrocitus, and Larfleeze. This is problematic for me, however, since it implies that the leaders of the groups who commit atrocities are not held accountable, but given passes while their foot soldiers are killed with impunity. This is one of the things that turns me off most about the current status quo of Green Lantern. (0 points)

Does this character have a spirituality? Well, this is difficult to say. For one thing, Hal Jordan has had contact with God, served as a literal spirit for the Almighty, has battled spiritual forces across the universe, knows all about creation and the light that battled the darkness, knows about afterlife, has been to heave, hell, and purgatory, and yet… is pretty much severely handicapped by his facade of hedonism. the great irony of Hal’s life is that he is afraid of loss, and so he never gets close to anyone. He is a serial womanizer, has no spirituality that even remotely comes across in the comics, and routinely ridicules “hope” as a worthless emotion. As a corps, the Green Lanterns come off as a “science over and against faith” sort of operation, with a few members being religions, but not often. Hal may or may not be religious, but it is never talked about, despite the experiences mentioned above. Likewise, Hal almost never does any introspection, which is the hallmark of any spiritual journey. (0 points)

Does this character have an interesting (and sustainable) story to inhabit? Without a doubt, yes. This is why, even if Green Lantern is no longer by go-to superhero, I will still read the Green Lantern books. The story is great! The world and mythos that have been built around this character are staggeringly broad and multifaceted. From the Corps itself and its tremendous and illustrious history to the brand new corps and their nearly infinite stories that have yet to be told, the characters and villains of the Green Lantern will be interesting and sustainable as long as any writer worth her salt wants to write them. (1 point)

Does this character have a supporting cast that isn’t just around to make them look good? This one is iffy. There are quite a few non-Hal lanterns that have been around long enough to get their own stories. The obvious examples are Guy, John, Kyle, Kilowog, Tomar-Re, Arisia, Salaak, Ch’P’, and quite a few more notables. Also, Hal’s love interest Carol Ferris, is one of the more fleshed out and active romantic interests that exist in comics (topped only perhaps by Lois Lane or Steve Trevor). However, she rarely shines in this book, and often falls into the classic damsel in distress. However, more recently, this is changing, as she has permanently become a (violet) lantern herself. That is where the good stops, though. There have been far too many unnamed lanterns that have been killed for no real purpose other than to prove how bad-ass the villain is. Literally, I can think of at least three times in the last decade that nearly every member of the corps was killed, and the result was a few weeks or months downtime before the corps was up and running like normal again. This trope is really bothersome as the loss of life is never really counted and never truly mourned, except to move a story forward. The frequency is desensitizing to readers and really precludes investment in the premise itself. (0.5 points)

Does this character have a T-shirt I can buy in size XL? Yes. Lots. (1 bonus point)

Does this character represent, in broad terms, an outlook on life that I can support? No. Unfortunately not. In broad terms, yes, I can get behind good guy tries to save the world from bad things. Too often, however, this means, “throw more power at them until they go down.” And too often, power translates into killing people. Sympathy is given to all the wrong people, and blunt force as a first option from people who are known for their unlimited resources of will and creativity is beyond frustrating. (0 Points)

Are this characters powers (or lack thereof) interesting? Yes! The ability to use light to overcome fear with willpower? That is a great power, and one full of potential, as the light itself is stated to be part of the original light of creation. (1 point)

Verdict: 4 out of 8 points

Tune in next time for a discussion of Captain America….

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On 1 Million Moms, Green Lantern, The Culture Wars, and Nonviolent Theology

Green Lanterns of two worlds: The Silver Age H...

“In Brightest Day, In Darkest Night, No Evil Shall Escape My Sight, Let those who Worship Violence’s Might, Beware My Power, Yoder’s NonViolent Light!”

So, io9 reports that the re-introduced Alan Scott (the original Green Lantern, now being put on Earth 2) won his first bad against One Million Moms who attempted an online petition against DC Comics making a comic book character from the GLBTQ community. 1MM is temporarily off of Facebook, because, in the Culture Wars, if you lose, its seen as a shame, but they will be back. In Christianity, we see Culture Wars as a war of efficiency, if we can only get the majority in this industry and that industry, it’s like a high school with popularity contests. Efficiency is placed over faithfulness, as John Howard Yoder so long ago pointed out in his ground-breaking The Politics Of Jesus.

In Yoder’s The War of the Lamb:The Ethics of Nonviolence and Peacemaking, he makes several points that I believe are highly relevant to Christian approaches to politics, and in particular, the culture wars over human sexuality. Taking a Radical Reformation (Anabaptist) Realist approach to politics, Yoder argues in “Gospel Renewal and the Roots of Nonviolence” that “Recourse to an ancient charter need not to be antiquarian, nor need to deny continuing historical change; however, it does affirm that the movement called upon to undergo reformation has a normative foundation within history, which it is possible to deny and therefore also possible to reaffirm” (page 44). I think this is especially pertinent when we talk about the debates over traditional marriage. Groups such as 1MM more often than not, have a theological bias against historical criticism (and therefore changes) in the biblical narrative including the norms about marriage. Plural marriage, concubines, and forced marriages between captive foreign women are all in the Bible, but Right Wing culture warriors [as a side note, being a culture warrior is not an exclusively bad thing, in my view, conflict is part of life, being en la lucha] act as we do not have to deal with these histories. On the opposite side, I continue to have my reservations about comparing the marriage equality movement to the fight against anti-miscegenation laws; there is a HUGE difference between racism/racial identity bound by biology and pseudo-scientific arguments and arguments about a person’s identifying themselves according to his/her sexual non/behavior.

This leads me to Yoder’s second point, found in another essay “Conflict from the Perspective of Anabaptist History and Theology,” and that is, if conflict resolution is to be personal, with reconciling intent, rooted in (from a Christian context) Christian Community, then conflict is best resolved through ritual (page 143-144). Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and confession may be among the first three that come to mind. But if we think about the stories in Genesis 1-3, the conflict after the Fall between men and women, from a narrative stand point, needs resolution. Christian marriage as a nonviolent sacrament between one man and woman should be seen as the way forward, as I have previously argued [linked here].

Lastly, and I think this last suggestion is a call for even more hard work, is for Christianities to accept the risk of dialogue. This risk recognizes the the ever crucial Gospel paradigm of enemy love as an extension of neighborly love (111-112). This means in the course of dialogue, for both sides Right or Left, to honor the way in which the Other understands themselves (of course, Yoder does not recognize the need for certain limits, such as the need to ban hateful speech promoting violence against the Othered and minorities). Dialogue on either end DOES NOT mean that we are lending credibility to one side or the other side, but it may mean that we are willing to use the language of other persons who bear the Image of God, in recognition of the person’s human dignity as a gift of the Triune Creator.

Savage Nerdery: Week Two of DC’s new 52: Simulblog Reviews

The following is a simulblog. You can read about this week’s new DC Genesis from Josh Toulouse’s Fat-Train here, and from Justin Tiemeyer’s Caveman-Go here. You can read my previous posts here, and here with links to the others as well. It also occurs to me that after opting out, Arthur the Lesser has opted in here.

This is week 2 (week 3 if you count Justice League) of the new DCU relaunch,  We’re gonna take it nice and slow, so grab a beverage. Out of the 13 new books released this week, I reviewed 11 (plus 1 for going back and picking up Swamp Thing from last week). The two titles that I didn’t pick up were Deathstroke and Grifter, which really didn’t interest me much. Let’s get to it!

 

*********Spoilers to follow: Ye have been warned.************

 

RED LANTERNS #1

There was something that I liked about this book. I just can’t remember what it is. I really wanted to like it, probably because of how well the characters have been portrayed in the Green Lantern series, but I found myself holding back my affection.
Atrocitus, the main character, formed this Red Lantern Corps as a way of taking revenge against the Guardians of the Universe for destroying his homeworld. Got it. His power came from his rage, like the Green Lantern’s come from will. Got it. He found out that the Guardians were not responsible for the death of his planet, instead it was Krona, a rogue Guardian. Got it. Someone else kills Krona before Atrocitus can get to it. Got it. All that stuff happens before issue 1, but the reader is caught up quickly. But here’s the rub.
If the motivating force behind Atrocitus’ rage is gone, then where does his power come from? The funny thing is, Atrocitus wonders that himself and spends the rest of the issue trying to justify why he is still a Red Lantern and how, like Stella, he can get his groove back. Unfortunately by the end of the issue, I just didn’t care anymore. Red Lanterns, like Venom, Sabertooth, Magneto, Juggernaut, and Emma Frost (yep!) just don’t work for me as heroes, no matter what motivation they discover. Anger can only be redemptive in spurts. But like Jesus taught us on the Sermon on the mount, if you hold onto it, it will consume you. Sorry, Red Lanterns, I am not waiting around for the consummation.

Verdict: Possible, but highly unlikely this will make the buy pile next month. 

 

BATWOMAN #1

There is a problem with Batwoman for me. The problem is, I just don’t care. She isn’t as likeable as Batgirl. Her origin is laughably derivative (and in Gotham, that is saying something). And I think what bugs me the most is that, while she is a Lesbian, she (along with every other female in her books) is clearly sexually marketed toward men. Regardless of how you feel about gender and sex issues, no group should be used exploitatively to fulfill the desires of others. LGBTQ issues don’t move forward here, they are simply marketed and touted as diversity.

Also, the issue was just blah. Also, there is way too much exposition about what came before, and felt like an epilogue issue to a very long story arc, not a first issue in a relaunch. Horrible jumping on issue.

One thing that struck me though. In this issue, Batwoman teamed up with Flamebird, a relation of hers, to fight crime. A nice throwback to the original introduction of Batwoman and Batgirl in comics. Flamebird mentions that she was a member of the Teen Titans. I thought the Titans were rebooting and meeting for the first time in their issue #1. I could be wrong, but this might be the first continuity hiccup in the new DCU.

Verdict: Nope. Not for me. 

 

 

LEGION LOST #1

This issue does a really good job of letting us know who all the main characters are and what their powers do. Which is really good, because I have never really followed the Legion of Superheroes, and so I don’t really know anything about them. That is why, although the heroes are well introduced, the plot was really hard to follow. Clearly there was something going on before this issue that makes sense of what was happening, but I didn’t get it. The villain was treated as if we should know who it is, but I had no idea. And finally, when two of the characters kicked the bucket, I didn’t care at all. I suppose longtime Legion readers would be saddened by these deaths, but they felt meaningless to me. I really wanted to like this book, to get a fresh jump on point to a long-running DC staple book, but this just failed on all levels for me.

Verdict: Nope. Legion, you lost me.

SUICIDE SQUAD #1

This book was a nonstop joy from start to finish. Some readers will have at least some knowledge of these characters (Harley Quinn from Batman, Deadshot from Batman and JLA, Amanda Waller from JLA and Green Lantern the movie), but most are pretty new, or unused enough to seem new. The premise is simple. Take a bunch of hardcore criminals and give them a chance at redemption by sending them on missions that are almost certain suicide. The US government is behind it, so it actually seems plausible. Harley had a great line in which she was staring down a thug who was torturing her. She laughs in his face and says, “Hee…That’s so cute. You think you‘re scary. But mister, I’ve seen scary. And you ain’t got his smile.”

The book brings together a pretty fun and broad cast, and the end sets up the idea that there are really no good guys in this book, but there are people who will call what they are doing “good” and use whatever means they can to further their interests. Like I said, since its the US gov, it seems plausible to me.

Verdict: Sure. One more week of this mindless fun couldn’t hurt. 

 

RESURRECTION MAN #1


The idea behind Resurrection Man is that every time he dies, he comes back to life with a different super power. This time, he has electrical powers, which are pretty cool. The addition of the supernatural element was a surprise, but the way it was handles leaves me a bit scared for the future of the book. It seemed like a really tired rendition of the Heaven Vs. Hell thing that was tried ad nauseum with Spawn back in the 90’s when that kind of thing was almost cool. Nowadays however, I want my supernatural, especially my theological supernatural, to have at least a bit more nuance to it.

So great, you can’t die, and so the Devil wants your soul really bad. That just isn’t really a good hook to a series. My hope is that this has all been a sort of red herring and that the series really will nuance itself later.

Verdict: This book has 1 life left. If  #2 doesn’t work, its dead to me.

 

FRANKENSTEIN: AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. #1

This book introduced a whole lot of new ideas. First, Frankenstien as a hero? Ok, I can go with that. Frank as a bad-ass hero who works for a secret-agent type organization that has thier headquarters in a small metal ball that floats above the city? Ok! You have to shrink to get in the ball? Great! Wait, what is that? You brought in Ray Palmer (the Atom in the old Universe. Is he Atom still?) to be the science officer-guy? Awesome! Frank goes off to save his 4-armed wife? I love this stuff! It was almost as if someone thought, “how much ridiculous stuff can I throw in this book before people rebel at its incredulity?” But you know, it kinda worked for me. At the end, Frank is teamed up with a who’s who of genetically engineered monsters from Universal, including a fish-woman, wolf-man, vampire-guy, and a mummy. It all seemed in the spirit of fun, and didn’t take itself too seriously, which I liked.

Verdict: Not my favorite of the bunch, but maybe another month.

BATMAN & ROBIN #1
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I know Josh didn’t care for the way Damien was portrayed, but I felt like all of the progress that Robin (now Damien Wayne, Bruce’s son) had made while working with Dick (Batman while Bruce was away) wasn’t erased, but it took a backseat to Damien’s regression once his father was reintroduced into the picture. This seems like typical fare for a son who is forced into late intamacy with a father who he idolized, but never really knew. Bruce feels responsible for this kid, more than even the other Robins, and this leads to a series of mess-ups for Bats as Damien continues to try and prove himself. Batman has two blind spots now. The Joker, and Damien. And at this point, I am not sure who is more dangerous to Batman.

Verdict: Yep. Solid read. I’ll come back for more. 

 

 

SUPERBOY #1

I found lots to like here. I don’t particularly care for Superboy, but the way he is being handled here smells more like a well grounded piece of long-term storytelling than a rehash of an old storyline for a new audience.

We are introduced to Caitlin Fairchild, who some readers will recognize from the old comic Gen 13, but with no powers…yet. She does share some mysterious connection to Superboy that I am eager to learn more about. Also, we are told that Superboy is a clone of Superman, but only a half-clone. The rest of his DNA is human, leading us to wonder whose DNA it is. It is strongly hinted that it might be Lex Luthor’s but I think that may be a red herring. The end, in which Superboy is coerced into joining with the Teen Titans soon, should be very interesting.

Verdict: I’m on board to see where this goes. 

DEMON KNIGHTS #1

This book was the big winner for me this month. It is NOT a superhero book. I am not even sure if it is a hero book at all, since most of the characters forming the “knights” are antiheroes and villains in previous worlds. But the idea that in this post-Camelot, dark-ages that heroes of any sort are hard to come by is well conveyed. Even those who do stand out as heroes have their flaws clearly on display, which makes for an interesting read.

Swords and sorcery, a bit more Game of Thrones than Justice League. The Demon Etrigan, The Shining Knight, Vandal Savage (I know, right!?), an Amazon, Horse girl!, Madam Xanadu, and more will make this an absolutely essential part of my monthlies.

Verdict: Yep. Yessir. Absolutely. 

GREEN LANTERN #1

I don’t know why I continue to doubt Geoff Johns. I thought that the different Lantern Corps were going to be lame. I was wrong. I thought having Kyle Rayner stick around after Hal Jordan came back was a bad move. He proved me wrong. Then I thought, you know, if you are starting over with #1, you really should have the main character on the cover and not the main villain. I was pleasantly wrong one more time.
When pick up the story, Hal has been kicked out of the GL corps. It is well explained and not overdone. Sinestro is a Green Lantern again. Explained well. Hal can’t get his life back together after losing the corps and the things he goes through are painful to watch. Sinestro is now reaping the storm for all of the sowing of the wind he did as the leader of the Sinestro Corps. By the end, they have both had enough, and it looks like Hal is about to make a deal with the devil to get his ring back… I can’t… wait…

Verdict: Always.

 

MISTER TERRIFIC #1

I thought this was a good first issue. If it would have come out 10 years ago, we would be hailing it as a great new work. But set in this hyper-competitive landscape, it doesn’t do enough to set itself apart. That isn’t to say it isn’t good though. Micheal Holt, Mr. Terrific, is the “third smartest man in the world.” Naturally that begs the question about who the top two are. Batman? Lex Luthor? Someone else? Also, how can you know that? I digress. Still, Karen Star shows up in this issue as Micheal’s friend (with benefits??), and that is enough for me to want to stick around and see where this goes, as Power-Girl is one of my favorites of all time. I liked Mr. Terrific, and I like that DC is taking seriously its commitment to diversity in comics.

Where are all the black superheroes? At DC apparently. Mr. Terrific, Static, Steel (who is apparently showing up in Action #4), Batwing, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Vixen, Firestorm, and Voodoo? And that is just getting started, and with characters that headline or co-headline their own books. How many does marvel have?

Verdict: Yes. At lest another few months. 

 

 

 

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