By Hussein Wasiti — DC’s line of Earth One original graphic novels is part of what sets the publisher apart for me. The continual—if a bit sporadic—publication of Earth One is a great way for DC to both appeal to new fans while telling stories long-time readers don’t find in regular monthly comics. Do you want to read a 21st century take on Wonder Woman’s bondage-based origins? DC has a comic for you. Are you a fan of hard sci-fi? Well then, I encourage you to read Green Lantern: Earth One from the incredibly underrated team of writer Corinna Bechko, artist Gabriel Hardman, colorist Jordan Boyd (whose amazing work on Deadly Class put him on my radar), and letterer extraordinaire Simon Bowland.
Many stories about the Green Lantern Corps tend be a bit like a space opera, powered by sci-fi hi-jinx and fun. What Bechko and Hardman have achieved here, however, is something just a bit more serious. In this story, the creative team delivers a feeling of desolation, of helplessness, and of the eventual hope that arises from persevering against those feelings. In this world, the Green Lantern Corps is long passed its prime, which gives the narrative an effective sense of tragedy. The theme of helplessness persists in the functioning (or lack thereof) of the Green Lantern rings. Hal Jordan and his new friend Kilowog rely on their rings to translate their words, but when their rings run out of power, they can’t understand each other and no longer have anyone to confide in. This is just one beautifully-rendered and well-paced moment by the artistic team of Hardman and Boyd, who really do wonders illustrating these characters.
When the story begins, Hal feels as isolated as ever from his home planet, which is of course Earth. He’s been working as a contract miner in space for eight years. He feels disillusioned, and he is, by all appearances, a very different and more humble man than the often-cocky character DC fans know. Instead of yearning to fly in the sky and be with the stars, this version of Hal has been above the sky for years doing mundane work. The same characteristics and bravado that define him are still present.
His state of mind and the reasons they’ve been obscured, however, are not directly explained until near the end of the book, so I won’t delve into them here either. Basically, Hal wants more from life, and he eventually gets it when he discovers a buried spaceship that houses a dead alien with a green ring on his finger. What makes this plot work for me is that the conceit of this story isn’t too far removed from what actually happens in DC continuity. The dynamic of the Guardians of the Universe and the Manhunters is still present, but the Earth One story offers a little twist to the formula that makes it feel fresh and engaging.
This is a much darker sci-fi look at the character, one that this book perfectly achieves thanks to the artwork from Hardman and Boyd, who as far as I know haven’t worked together before this. Hardman’s sense of pacing feels unique in comics, which is likely because he’s worked as a storyboard artist in some major Hollywood films, most notably Interstellar and Logan, the former of which comes to mind while reading this book. Hardman’s action scenes are intense and quick, and I found myself turning through them rapidly. In fact, overall this is a quick read, and Hardman deserves credit for crafting such a well-laid out and urgent story. The grittiness that Hardman’s visuals give the plot feels appropriate, accentuating the aforementioned themes of isolation that are prevalent in essentially every aspect of this comic. Hal looks like a beaten-down and lonely man throughout most of it, and even wider panels depicting new environments and cities tend to feel drab or cold or both. This is a universe where the Green Lantern Corps was destroyed by Manhunters, and that reality fuels Hal’s motivations without him even realizing. Forgive me for being cheesy here, but this story is essentially about Hal bringing light back to a dark universe and, more importantly, to a dark version of himself.
While I admired the pacing and the plotting of this book, if I have one complaint it’s that the ending left me feeling a bit unsatisfied. The third act of this story moves like a dream, with Boyd’s colors helping the book turn into an awesome action set-piece. Instead of concluding the story in a succinct manner, however, I got the impression that Bechko and Hardman were too concerned with setting up a sequel rather than concluding this individual volume. I have to admit, given the universe the team created, the final page of the story has me excited for the potential of more books set in this world...but I still felt disappointed when I put this book down. That said, It’s not a deal breaker and doesn’t take away from the majesty and preciseness of what the creators have accomplished with this amazing story. I still highly recommend it.
Overall, Green Lantern: Earth One is by far the best installment in this line of original graphic novels. Its vision of the DC Universe feels unique and singular, and it shows what’s possible when a publisher gives these stories to creators of such a high caliber. This work delivers the epic scope and sci-fi action that the Green Lantern Corps is known for, while at the same time injecting a different personality and edge that Hardman and Bechko have mastered in their independent work. I highly recommend this to anyone who hasn’t read it yet. Let’s get DC to give us a sequel!
Green Lantern: Earth One Vol. 1 HC
Writers: Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman
Artist: Gabriel Hardman
Colorist: Jordan Boyd
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $24.99 US / $33.99 CAN
Released: March 4, 2018
Hussein Wasiti is a history undergraduate with an intense passion for comics. You can find his weekly writings over at comicsthegathering.com, and periodically on weirdsciencedccomics.com. He is on Twitter as bullthesis, and lives in Toronto with his hordes of comics.