The Green Lantern #4
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Liam Sharp and Steve Oliff
Lettering by Tom Orzechowski
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
A masked woman and a four-armed cowboy walk into a bar. No, you haven’t heard this one before. Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp’s otherworldly take on Hal Jordan continues with twin tales of lives lost and won in The Green Lantern #4, an arresting and imaginative comic book that reveals previously hinted-at threats and allies while offering up a self-contained story that satisfies in its own vacuum.
On the planet Rann, a mysterious four-armed stranger speaks with a fearsomely armored member of the Blackstars. Before their true identities are revealed, they trade stories of good and evil. The stranger tells the tale of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps taking on a pair of Sun-Eaters, while the Blackstar recounts the destruction of the planet Weirwimm at the hands of their commander. As expected from Morrison, there’s lot for continuity buffs to chew on here. Morrison blows through an issue’s worth of concepts in a few pages, and it’s this breakneck pace and sheer density that makes The Green Lantern #4 a meaty and demanding read. From Anti-Matter Lanterns to the Luciphage and Sun-Eaters, Morrison brings together threads old and new to establish his own fearsome threat: the Countess Belzebeth.
As we head into the fourth decade of comic books with Grant Morrison contributions, one thing that stands out is his love for the single issue. It’s a similar approach to his Multiversity and Batman Incorporated runs: focused and complete stories that act as the building blocks of a universe-spanning tale. Pacing-wise, Morrison and Sharp deftly swap between the framing story and the twin narratives therein with little narrative drag, even as they unpredictably switch sometimes within the same page. The issue’s plot is gleeful in its excess. It features the introduction of "smart star" Hyperia-3; a truly huge Lantern who seems to give Mogo The Living Planet a run for his money as the universe’s biggest Green Lantern.
On the art front, Sharp’s wide, European sensibility lends a real sense of scale to these planet-altering events, as well as giving the reader the rare moment to breath. Triangular panels for a Lantern-created artificial sun are a particularly unorthodox stand-out. From the poetic Silver Age proclamation of the front cover (“Who Prevails When The Light of Light Meets The Queen of Night?“) to Sharp’s Bronze Age-styled sharp-jawed and musclebound Lanterns, The Green Lantern #4 is unashamedly rooted in the history and possibilities of the medium.
Sharp’s eye for the odd matches Morrison’s imaginative script. From insectile and animalistic alien designs to wild and lush environments, Sharp artwork is dynamic and unpredictable. Make no mistake, this is as much Liam Sharp’s Green Lantern as it is Grant Morrison’s. Sharp’s human figures are a little too old-fashioned for this reviewer’s particular taste, but Sharp’s science fiction design work more than makes up for it.
Meanwhile, Sharp's wild, bold and unique art is given texture and life by Steve Oliff’s colors. Oliff’s vivid and varied palette runs through a rainbow of reds, blues and of course, greens. He separates the dual stories of light and dark with appropriately themed tones that adds atmosphere and narrative clarity. Despite excellence elsewhere, Oliff’s color occasionally fails the volcanic Lantern Volk, who’s pluming face of cloud often ends up looking more like a mushroom thanks to overtly earthy hues. Meanwhile, Tom Orzechowski’s letters bring life to alien dialogue, alternating between wavy proclamations of alien mysticism to frail pleas for mercy that reflect the emotional content of the dialogue. Just like the rest of the creative team, Orzechowski uses his love for the medium to maximum effect.
The Green Lantern #4 is a serious flex from a powerhouse creative team. Sharp’s unrestrained artwork and Morrison’s unfiltered script make for a real overdose of cosmic fun. It’s the kind of issue that promises to spark a lifetime love for any kid lucky enough to pick it up. For the seasoned reader, it’s an indulgent issue that demands the reread, the rereread and the rerereread.