Best Shots Reviews: THE GREEN LANTERN #1, MARVEL KNIGHTS 20TH #1

Marvel Knights 20th #1
Credit: Jae Lee (Marvel Comics)
Credit: Liam Sharp (DC Comics)

The Green Lantern #1
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Liam Sharp and Steve Oliff
Lettering by Tom Orzechowski
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

For Hal Jordan, the past isn’t just prologue anymore - it’s also his future. What’s old is bleeding-edge new again in The Green Lantern, an in-your-face and out-of-this-world relaunch of DC’s top-notch space cops by the dream team of Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp. Feeling like an untouched 2000 A.D. time capsule from the heady days of 1986, The Green Lantern doesn’t so much humanize the worlds that Hal Jordan operates within as much as highlights their innate alienness - and shows those bizarre, otherworldly sensibilities might be rubbing off on Hal, as well.

You can see it on Hal’s face, the way his head cocks detachedly as he floats to the crime scene, his power ring spitting emerald sparks against the darkness. “Nobody panic,” he says. “Chill.” It might as well be a mission statement for Morrison and Sharp - while they claim to be taking the Green Lantern Corps back to basics, what they’re really doing is showing just how wild and crazy the extended DC Universe can be, as we meet deeply accented spider-pirates and super-intelligent viruses that entrap you in your own vomit and excrement. Even the way that Morrison delivers these characters’ language - eschewing the usual transliteration of his own heavy Scottish accent - heightens the alien weirdness of these characters, taking us out of the comfortable, English-centric Green Lantern adventures we’ve been accustomed to, and reminding us that in the cold vastness of space, our “normal” is the exception, not the rule.

But what’s that saying that when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes back also? Because Morrison smartly realizes that the weirdness of space happens to be Hal Jordan in his element… and by extension, there’s already that sense of warping across the character’s personality. This is a man who lies down in the desert for hours, seemingly just marking time until he’s called back into duty. A man who moves like a tumbleweed, hooking up with a girl and then hitchhiking his way back on the unforgiving road. But when trouble inevitable finds him, Morrison has Hal snap out of what almost reads like a fugue state - this is a guy who can sniff out an alien infiltrator just with the ingredients of his burrito, a guy seemingly more at ease with an alien made of crystals than a human he’s just slept with. When Hal finally suits up again and tells civilians “I’ve got this,” it makes you think of that old Margot Kidder line from Superman: “You’ve got me? Who’s got you?”

This is a daring, experimental take on a classic character, and it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without some sterling production values. You’ll likely hear it again and again about The Green Lantern, but this book feels like an Alan Moore story dug up out of some kind of vault — artist Liam Sharp leans into the old-school 2000 A.D. aesthetic with aplomb, with almost overwhelming amounts of detail lovingly rendered with lavish amounts of shadow. There’s also a counterintuitive nature to the way that Sharp composes his artwork, but that same unexpectedness winds up being unforgettable once you see just how well Sharp sells his pages — a double-page spread literally of Hal Jordan’s face winds up summing up the book, showing something as familiar as a human face and blowing it up with such a perspective as to look foreign and otherworldly. And once Hal actually powers up his ring — wow — we get pages that sometimes cut across like an ‘80s cartoon theme, or larger-than-life aliens that can’t help but evoke Frank Quitely’s designwork back in the heady days of Batman and Robin.

And Sharp isn’t tackling this alone — colorist Steve Oliff is a big reason why Sharp’s retro-inspired artwork still feels so modern, particularly with the way he’s able to add such great lighting to the Lantern’s energy constructs. But veteran letterer Tom Orzechowski also deserves a lot of credit, because his style feels unmistakably like it was from another era — the way he shapes his balloons looks hand-crafted, and his font choices feel inspired, whether it’s an alien android giving a quiet binary “hellyeah” or the almost Flash Gordon rock ballad choices he makes when Hal recites the legendary Green Lantern oath. These two creators together help The Green Lantern thread that tricky needle of being old-school without feeling antiquated — on the contrary, their push-and-pull collaboration winds up making this retro-infused story somehow feel futuristic.

Grant Morrison has made his triumphant return to the Big Two, and he and Liam Sharp bringing new emerald energy to DC’s premier intergalactic lawman. The Green Lantern is one of those rare superhero comics that arrives seemingly fully formed, already imbued with its own striking personality and point of view. Gorgeously rendered and hauntingly portrayed, this isn’t like any Hal Jordan story you’ve read before — The Green Lantern aims to shed new light on the strange new corners of the DC Universe, and I for one can’t wait to dive back into the breach to see what this creative team can deliver.

Credit: Geoff Shaw (Marvel Comics)

Marvel Knights 20th #1
Written by Donny Cates
Art by Travel Foreman, Derek Fridolfs and Matt Milla
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

The gritty world of Marvel Knights gets a gimmicky but intriguing debut in the Marvel Knights 20th anniversary series. Helmed by writer Donny Cates with appropriately noirish artwork by Travel Foreman, this introductory issue follows an amnesiac Matt Murdock who must now navigate a world that has seemingly forgotten about the heroes of the Marvel Universe. While readers might expect a more run-of-the-mill mystery or generic excuse for a team up with this new series, the Marvel Knights 20th really subverts expectations and delivers a novel new take on the street-level Marvel heroes and villains that revitalized the House of Ideas.

While most of the “Marvel Knights” heroes have existed in solo series and team books since the line’s cancellation, Marvel has decided to do it up big for their twentieth anniversary — and by that, I mean tearing their world apart. Writer Donny Cates really baits the hook well for this opening issue — waking up at the grave of Karen Page with no memory of how he got there, Matt Murdock is completely unmoored from his former life as the costumed hero Daredevil. That is, until he’s visited by a harried police officer named Frank Castle, who has been tasked by a (seemingly) depowered Bruce Banner to “awaken” the rest of his peers. It is a really great central mystery and one that adds a new layer of superheroic intrigue to the noir-inspired line.

And Cates doesn’t just stop at Daredevil, as we soon discover the entire Marvel Universe has been affected by this mysterious amnesia. I am guessing that this is going to be the impetus for the incoming team-up, but it is nice to see that this series is going to put an actual story and point of view behind this mystery. The reveal of exactly who is behind all this, serving as the issue’s cliffhanger, also instantly ups the scope of usual “Knights” fare. Though some might be turned off by the more cape-centric direction this story is taking, I found the new scale refreshing for this particular set of characters. Cates has really made a reputation as of late for being the kind of writer that can get unexpectedly big things from dark horse characters, and Marvel Knights 20th #1 is just another example.

But fans of the visuals of the original line will be pleased to hear that art team of penciller Travel Foreman, inker Derek Fridolfs, and colorist Matt Milla keep the same realist, grimy vibe of the original line intact. Given a solid, lithe foundation by Foreman’s muscular pencils and Fridolfs’ sketchy inks, the issue really commits to the script’s grounded, but theatrical tone, which really invokes titles like the Bendis/Maleev Daredevil run and the Marvel Knights: Spider-Man series. Milla brings it all home with a muted, but not blotchy color scheme making the pages come across a lot warmer than some of the original line and it really works for this issue. I worry about how this series will deal with having multiple art teams on the remaining five issues, but at the very least Travel Foreman, Derek Fridolfs, and Matt Milla start it off on the right gritty foot.

Armed with a killer hook and plenty fan-favorite characters, Marvel Knights 20th #1 is a welcome return of the line to shelves. Backed by a stocked roster of talent, both on the script and art sides, this opening issue takes everything we liked about the Marvel Knights imprint, throws it all in a blender, and mixes it all up in the most entertaining way possible.

Twitter activity