Whether you’re enthused about the Green Lantern film that hit theatres this weekend or not, you’ve got to admire this character’s staying power. He’s never had the mystique of Batman, or the glimmering ideals of Superman. He hasn’t even had the luxury of being the same guy (or the same creature) every time we see him (for those of you who don’t know, Hal Jordan is one of many in a long line of Earth’s cosmic guardians). Green Lantern: Secret Origin is an attempt by one of the most influential writers in the modern DC Universe (Geoff Johns, the company’s current Chief Creative Officer) to distill decades of Lantern mythology into one story about one man and the ring that chose him. This is the story of how Hal Jordan came to be the Green Lantern, and for better or worse, much of what transpired here serves as the basis for the Lantern flick. Even if you hated (or think you’ll hate) the movie, don’t write this comic off. Green Lantern may always be second fiddle to the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader, but Secret Origin is still one hell of a fun book.
Hal Jordan is a boy with a dream of flying, a dream so intense that he enlists in the Air Force on the morning of his 18th birthday. Hal grows into a reckless cowboy of a pilot, gifted but cocky and filled with a kind of desperate fearlessness driven in part by troubles in his family. Before it can get him killed, Hal’s fearlessness earns him an unearthly summons from a crashed alien craft. Green Lantern Abin Sur, dying after falling to Earth, has to pass his ring of power on to someone, and the ring chooses Hal.
A different kind of flight now grips Hal Jordan as he jets across the galaxy to Oa, where he begins training for the Green Lantern Corps. We all know what happens next. There’s a mentor (for now) named Sinestro, a villain back on Earth named Hector Hammond and a lot of space explosions.
Secret Origin is intended as a gateway for new Green Lantern readers looking for an easy to consume introduction to the mythology of Hal Jordan, Oa and the Lantern Corps. All too often comics are derided for their mass appeal, their perceived (often wrongly) lack of complexity and their willingness to sometimes be a little corny for the sake of entertainment. This book is a reminder that mass appeal is not necessarily a vice.
Geoff Johns’ writing brims over with fanboy glee, but he never lets that overwhelm his enthusiasm about telling the story. Something about his dialogue (cliched though it can sometimes be), his story structure and even his pacing just screams “I’m having fun.” Reading a Geoff Johns’ story often quite literally feels like being along for a ride, and Secret Origin is one of the highest expressions of that feeling, complemented constantly by Ivan Reis’ energetic, vivid art.
Green Lantern: Secret Origin isn’t yet in the ranks of “classic comics,” but it very likely will end up there, if for no other reason that it’s practically essential to the understanding of not only the modern Lantern, but the modern DC Universe (up until the reboot, anyway). But more than that, it’s impressively unadorned by subversiveness, by attempts at hyper-realism or philosophical impositions on men in tights. It’s a story about how a man becomes a superhero, energetically-told, engaging and too fun to pass up.