What happens when the entire Jordan family gets together? A hell of a lot of insanity. Hal’s always had a wild and wacky family and this was the subject of a number of stories in the past. It used to be a staple of Green Lantern at one point, the Jordan brothers/family story. But in recent years, that hasn’t been the case, as Hal has been spending more and more time off in space. And even if and when family appears, it’s limited to his little brother and their wife and kids, no one else. But Hal’s family has never been that small, not really. And thus, Grant Morrison brings back that iconic, classic tradition here in this annual. And it’s not just Hal’s brother Jim, his wife Susan and their kids Howard and Jane anymore. Oh no, it’s everyone. It’s every single Jordan that’s ever Jordan-ed in a Green Lantern story (all save for Hal’s older brother Jack, who’s been dead for a while now).
We kick off with Hal knocked out in a bathtub, waking from a deep slumber, only to witness the entire family, save for the kids, is knocked out after the reunion dinner. And thus the mystery begins, as the kid Jordans and Hal work together to find the truth and get the family out of trouble. That’s the base premise and from there a whole bunch of shenanigans ensue.
Series artist Liam Sharp is notably absent from the annual and the absence is definitely felt. The issue is a lot weaker than the average issue of the book, which is a shame. Giuseppe Camuncoli is the guest artist and while he’s an incredible artist in his own right, he doesn’t quite get to do complete artwork here. He merely does the layouts, while Trevor Scott does the finishes. So it isn’t quite the same as a proper Camuncoli drawn comic, even if it does boast his layout of the story beats and the basics are all there. And due to that separation, there’s a bit of an inconsistency to the work here, as some panels feel more complete than others, with some coming across as unfinished or rushed. And colorist Steve Oliff, who blends so well with Sharp’s classical work doesn’t fit as well with the Camuncoli/Scott artwork as one might hope. There’s certainly stellar moments and pages, such as a double-page spread of whirling energy or a splash of two heroes in crazy, kinetic kirby power, while Oliff absolutely delivers on, but for every one of those, there’s scenes where the matchup ends up falling flat and not working. On the whole, it feels a bit like a rush job, which is a bit of a shame considering the contents of the story.
The big appeal, certainly, is the Jordan Family here. We get to see everyone from Hal Jr., the second Airwave to Helen Jordan, last seen over a decade ago when Hal Jordan used to be The Spectre. Getting to see the return of all these minor characters, who are key parts of Hal’s history come together once more certainly has charm and Morrison here continues to tap into part of what makes Hal unique. He’s not like Superman, Batman or The Flash. He’s not like Captain America or Iron Man. He’s not lacking in family. He’s got houses upon houses full of family. There’s so many members of family that it’s practically impossible to handle and the levels of dysfunction when they get together are wild. There’s a wackiness at play here and that’s a strength, given what’s being done. There’s references to everything from the time when Hal’s sister-in-law thought his brother was Green Lantern and thus got together with him to a whole load of other things, which is amusing. The Jordans all love and hate each other, in the best way, as real families do and the team communicates that well here, with it being a key part of the narrative and how the conflict is resolved.
But going beyond the larger familial unit and looking at the specifics, the team’s revamp of Hal Jr. is notable. He’s been missing for ages and it’s neat to see him return, sure. But here he’s revealed to be gay and that’s a very good choice. Airwave is a character that almost occupies the Wally West role to Hal Jordan’s Barry Allen and he’s just an optimistic, enthusiastic guy excited to superhero about, work with his Cousin Hal (instead of Uncle Barry), save the day and impress a cute guy. The DC Universe could always use more representation and this is a nice addition to the queer heroes of the DC world, especially considering Airwave is a title that stretches right back to the 1940’s and is a big legacy, albeit an obscure one.
Now as for Helen Jordan, the book uses her to cleverly nod to and tie back in Hal’s Spectre era into the current DC world, once again affirming this is a take that seeks to include and add rather than subtract anything. But beyond the revamps and returns of cast, there’s some alien mythos that makes a big return here. Kicking off the issue, Morrison decides to loop right back to the 20 year old mythology they built for a one-off Flash storyline they crafted in their now beloved and iconic Flash run. Using that as a launching pad, the book delivers on the promise of the solictation, giving us a whole new antagonist, but more importantly, a whole new, strange Lantern. Zappl is a really fun, alien idea and one that fits with the spirit of the series, so it’s nice to be introduced to him here. (For more on Zappl and Kwyzz, read our piece here.)
All in all, this issue is a bit of a departure from your typical The Green Lantern, being more down to earth and focusing on the familial hi-jinks, as they’re all trapped in their own. There’s still a big cosmic element, as you’d expect, but it’s more like your old school 80’s adventure tale starring kids (and a Green Lantern) than the sort of cosmic opera the book is more used to doing. Although there is a rather fun moment where in the book once more reaffirms its stance of Green Lantern being something more than a ‘superhero’ and being a ‘policeman’, sticking to that clear angle and niche for the property rather than be anything generically broad-strokes.
The Green Lantern Annual #1 is, amusingly, a whole lot like a Doctor Who Christmas Special. Just a neat, standalone short story that has no real bearing on the overall ‘season’ or ‘series’ but is fun to have. It’s not nearly as good as the usual stuff, but it has an odd charm of its own. While the art is a bit of a hit or miss and it does feel a bit disjointed, without Sharp’s storytelling clarity present, at least letterer Tom Orzechowski remains and clicks with Morrison’s script. The crackling letters of radio-beings and general speech that has become so identifiable with the sort of bizarre that Morrison and their alien creations bring are reflected well visually through the letters, which is a lovely touch, as ever.
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