REFLECTION: On Geoff Johns and Green Lantern
Some thoughts on the future of GL, and on Geoff Johns in general.
By now we’ll have all heard the news: Geoff Johns is leaving Green Lantern.
Now first off, maybe this doesn’t warrant an editorial -- but it was kind of too much for a comment, so [frick] it.
I never paid much attention to Green Lantern until Geoff Johns started his run on the character. So I guess I can credit Geoff with making me a Green Lantern fan in the first place. Since I started reading his stuff, I’ve gone on to read other great stories featuring Hal Jordan. Stories like Giffen and Jones’ Emerald Dawn, Mark Waid’s JLA: Year One, and The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke (my personal favorite out of those mentioned). I loved all of it. I’d been seriously missing out with my avoidance of GL.
And I’ve been following Johns’ run practically since he started it. On the whole, I’ve enjoyed it very much. I’d even go far enough to say Geoff Johns did for Green Lantern what Frank Miller did for Daredevil.
But enough licking Johns’ boots. I’m writing this because I want to analyze for myself Geoff’s entire run. What was bad? What was good? Where can we go from here?
And not everything I have to say is nice.
What DID NOT Work
Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like Geoff has fallen into this funk of actually regressing Hal’s character development. From Secret Origin on, he started writing him as just... well, more of a douchebag (and it got worse around the time of the movie’s release).
Now that attitude is fine for a young Hal Jordan, but back in Rebirth and Johns’ early years, he was written as a seasoned veteran. Sort of shaking off the dust and getting back into the swing of things. He was a LOT more interesting then.
I’ll put it this way. You have two characters to choose from: Chuck Yeager from The Right Stuff or Tom “Maverick” Cruise from Top Gun. Which one do you like better?
Yep, that’s what I thought.
Maverick and Young Hal have several things in common -- in that they are both whiny, bitchy, and annoyingly cocky. Both characters are entertaining only in small doses. Try to tell an entire story with them, and they quickly become “that-annoying-character-the-author-is-trying-to-shill.” Young Hal has appeared in a disappointingly high number of stories -- Emerald Dawn, Secret Origin, and pretty much the second half of Johns’ entire run.
On the other hand, you’ve got Experienced Hal from Rebirth all the way up to Sinestro Corps War. This character is quite different from Young Hal. He’s brave, intensely loyal, brutally honest... and when the going gets tough, he doesn’t screw around. In a lot of ways he’s a weathered and mature version of Maverick, although he still retains some of the bravado of his youth.
THIS is the great character that got me reading Green Lantern, and who I’ve wanted to see back in action for a while now. The only reprieve to my Anakin Skywalker/Young Hal problem comes from Green Lantern: The Animated Series, which deals with a Jordan who already has a few years of experience under his belt. A message to whoever picks up where Johns left off: please bring back Experienced Hal. He’s awesome, and I’d be ever grateful.
Another complaint I have to make about recent Lantern stories stems from Johns’ actual story structure.
I couldn’t explain it very well in words, so I made this picture to help me:
Yes, I just made a sideways Christmas tree in Photoshop.
Johns’ stories are made up of arcs. They start out small, then keep on building and building and building, expanding and expanding and expanding, until they reach a critical mass of epic-ness.
...But after that, it seems like Johns didn’t know what to do. So he built the story up even more, and even more, until in the end it’s a convoluted mess ready to cave in on itself. Okay, I’m being dramatic, but you’ve gotta admit that the story can feel very unfocused nowadays. Instead of telling a great and entertaining story, Johns is sort of just setting us up for the next issue. And don’t tell me that every story arc has to flow into the next, because Scott Snyder’s Court of Owls and Death of the Family are just barely related to one another, thematically speaking of course.
If you ask me, Johns’ run peaked with Sinestro Corps War. Things went downhill during the buildup to Blackest Night. During this transitional period, Johns stopped telling good stories with endearing characters, and started telling great stories with characters who were... well, kinda crappy.
But enough criticizing for one editorial. What is Mr. Johns good at?
What DID Work
I gotta say, Johns writes some pretty action-packed comics. He’s obviously a fanboy himself (he’s even been accused of writing “fan-fiction” by some), so he knows exactly what fanboys want to see. His first story arc on the New 52 Justice League title is proof of that, with such fan-gasmic moments as Superman fighting Batman, or the Flash outracing Darkseid’s Omega Beams.
And for all my complaints above, he DID revive the character of Green Lantern. He did an excellent job introducing modern audiences to Hal Jordan, and really played up the coolness of GL being a space-ranger.
To top it off, Lantern has been a consistently acclaimed title, in both art and writing, for nearly the past ten years. In addition to making me a fan, it’s also been a great time to be one. So, to the talented people who worked on this book -- Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Ethan Van Sciver, Carlos Pacheco, and Doug Mahnke, among many others -- I say thank you.
Where Do We Go From Here?
There are some people who might think there’s not much room left to go after Johns’ plundering of Green Lantern’s history. While I agree that they could have their work cut out for them, there is an endless amount of stories left to tell with these characters. And I don’t just mean the ones Geoff Johns created, such as Larfleeze and the Indigo Tribe. There really are no limits to what you can do with a story set in deep space.
My personal wishes?
Whoever writes next, I hope they tell more about Abin Sur. Yeah, Geoff Johns expanded on his history with the Blackest Night storyline, but that only had ties to his death. How about all the adventures he had as a Green Lantern?
I always felt like Abin Sur was Green Lantern’s Obi-Wan -- he’s the guy who gives the hero the power, but dies before he can teach him how to actually use this power. How about we see Hal repeating the mistakes of a youthful Abin Sur, showing how he is following the same path to greatness as his predecessor? That would make for a good read. It might also bring up some contrasts to Sinestro’s tutelage.
And please, give the story a little more focus! I can’t even remember what Hal and Sinestro’s goal was before they got sucked into the Black Zone in the Green Lantern Annual.
Anyhow, that’s all I have to say on the matter. I feel like I should have a better conclusion to the article than this, but I don’t want to sound hammy.
Post your thoughts below, and thanks for reading.
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