Posts Tagged Green Lantern

One year later “New 52” comics don’t stand the test of time

Justice League New 52How do you update a legend? Comic book writers face this problem every day. Just as a user restarted a computer in the cartoon ReBoot to erase the destruction of a system/city, so comics creators must reboot their characters every few years to erase the effects of stagnation.

One year ago, DC Comics undertook one of the most ambitious reboots in comics history, changing everything from costumes to characterizations in a storm front of hype know as the “New 52.”

Since it’s been a year, and DC is about to undertake a second stage of revisions with its “Issue 0” releases, it’s interesting to look at what has worked, and what hasn’t.

One of the biggest changes was to characters’ costumes. DC replaced the tights with tougher-looking segmented armor and some more subtle tweaks, with mixed results.

Superman’s new costume looks pretty cool, but its backstory (it’s Kryptonian armor Superman finds on Brainiac’s ship that happens to be keyed to his genetic signature) is not.

Disconcertingly, Green Lantern only wears his new costume in Justice League; in Green Lantern, which is a continuation of the pre-New 52 series, he sticks with the old look. There is no way to keep track of all the different costumes Batman wears in his many titles.

DC may have advertised big changes in New 52, but many of them involved esoteric characters, as if DC was throwing everything it had against the wall to see what stuck. Deadman and Captain Atom will not return for a second year.

Some of the changes to the big names were less than epic, too. The Flash got a new art style, a new costume, and a new series that throws out most of Barry Allen’s resurrection-related angst for a lighter tone. Other than that, no major changes were made, although that doesn’t make the New 52 Flash series any less enjoyable.

DC did not completely forget its promise for newness, though. In fact, two of the best New 52 titles were completely unexpected. No one expected Aquaman to be good, but the character’s new attitude and streamlined origin make it one of the best comics titles out there. It got this writer to take Aquaman seriously.

Earth 2, launched in the second wave of New 52 titles last May, is a true reimagination of the DC Universe. On this alternate Earth, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman die fighting Darkseid, leaving completely new versions of Green Lantern, the Flash, and Hawkgirl to protect the planet.

So far, DC’s brave new world has been a mixed bag, and not quite as new as the company wanted us to believe. Still, a couple of solid hits like Aquaman and Earth 2 are worthwhile, even if the rest of the revisions don’t stick.

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How to kill a superhero

They say you should never meet your heroes, but maybe you shouldn’t see them on the big screen either. The modern crop of superhero movies has included a few masterpieces, such as Batman Begins and Spider-Man, that manage to appease comic fans and be legitimately good films. On the other hand, Green Lantern shows just how wrong things can go.

The small budget (only $150 million) Green Lantern film, starring Ryan Reynolds, has nothing in common with the comic book that inspired it. Reynolds’ goofy, incompetent Hal Jordan is nothing like the self-confident hero fans admire. Instead of seeking to overcome his limitations, as the comic version did, this Hal Jordan brings everyone down to his level of childishness.

Green Lantern as drawn by Ethan van Sciver. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The aesthetics of Green Lantern are also completely skewed. Every character sports overly-textured skin, with either scales or exposed muscle fiber, that makes them look completely different (and much uglier) than their pencil and ink counterparts. The Lanterns’ headquarters on Oa, a modern city bathed in the light of a giant lantern-shaped “Central Power Battery” in the comics, looks like a cave. They even got Hal Jordan’s mask wrong.

Some might argue that none of the above matters: pleasing comic fans and pleasing the general public are not the same thing (for example, Watchmen was a faithful tribute to the graphic novel it’s based on, but was a little too strange for non-nerds). But that would mean the resulting movie should still be good, and it was not. Green Lantern was full of lame jokes, awkward dialogue, and Reynolds was so two-dimensional that I had more sympathy for the villains.

In the pantheon of superheroes, Green Lantern has never had the fame of Superman or Batman. Superheroes in general have little inherent appeal outside specific audiences; most people expect a man in tights and some explosions, which seems a bit silly. The superhero films that succeed do so because they show audiences why they should care about these characters; the filmmakers take them seriously.

Comic fans already take superheroes seriously, and rightfully so. Superheroes were created in and for that medium, and trying to turn them into anything besides comic book characters will always end badly. Just ask Hal Jordan.

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