Arguably the biggest story of the week, there seems to be some kind of, um, kerfuffle happening over at Warner Bros./DC Comics. How else would you describe the perma-shelving of Batgirl, not to mention the mostly uncertain status of some other anticipated projects. And, sure, the mucky-mucks say they’ve got a plan, but it sort of feels dire for the DCEU — which would be more surprising if that wasn’t generally the case for the company. Oh, and it’s made all the more difficult as Marvel keeps pace toward, like, phase 30 or whatever.
So, is their grand plan — again, to basically pull a Marvel with a big shared universe — going to work? No clue. But if that’s the goal, then I hope it’s a universe in which films can more effectively stand alone and still feel connected to the DCEU at-large.
‘Cause its mostly worked for the comics.
That’s my mostly roundabout way of talking about the genuinely great Dark Crisis: Worlds Without a Justice League – Green Lantern #1, from writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson and artist Fernando Blanco. Much like the Superman title from last month, it’s a tie-into Dark Crisis, where we follow each member of the supposedly deceased Justice League into the afterlife/an emotional prison dimension/etc. And, much like Supes, Green Lantern John Stewart is spending his Elseworlds-ian time as the Emerald Knight, saving the Earth from celestial evils.
Here’s where you might ask why I spent all that time talking about the movies? Well, because I can. But more so, Kennedy Johnson clearly gets that very important idea of connecting to the event — this story of Stewart and his band of merry Lanterns plays with the same ideas of the future and legacies and family — while making this its own thing. Divorced from all that context, it’s just a great story about the bravery and connection between the Lanterns (including a badass Red Hood Lantern); how determination and belief are powerful tools for justice; and generally why Stewart is such a dynamic hero (he’s both a builder and defender, and he balances these ideas in every aspect of his heroic efforts). In our interview, Kennedy Johnson clearly demonstrated a certain appreciation for Stewart, and that rings true in a way that promotes a heartfelt comics story that also emphasizes Stewart’s multifaceted humanity.
It’s also worth nothing that, in another genius move, Kennedy harks back to his own work with the Warworld Saga — it’s about challenging and breaking down a character in novel ways, but also doing so in a way that feels important and connected to grander themes and movements in this universe.
But the writer’s efforts are only part of the process. In the same Q&A, I also noted how I felt the issue had some strong ties with Kingdom Come. On deeper reads, however, I think so much of that connection (there we go again with that word) is the art of Blanco (who is joined by colorist Jordie Bellaire and letterer Troy Peter). It’s in the way the focus is on the nougat of humanity, even in the depths of space fighting giant monsters. Even in the sections where John is at home, simply talking to his family, it has that true Kingdom-esque feel — which is to say, a kind of otherworldly fantasy quality without foregoing some larger sense of grounded grit. I think that sense has even permeated the larger “vibes” or aesthetic of the story; it feels very warm and approachable in the way only DC can foster, but also done to play with our perceptions and understandings of these characters.
I think all of that is just another roundabout sort of way to say that the art is both its own thing and achieves the even greater feat of connecting back to proper DC history. Every choice — from John’s sweet all green costume to Jason Todd’s Lantern-forged mask — makes this story feel unique and yet utterly nostalgic. It’s once again a pocket that I think DC books do well, and it’s clearly something I want more of in any story the company tells, regardless of the medium.
If there’s a singular gripe with this one-shot, it’s that I couldn’t get into the Hawkgirl story (from writer Jeremy Adams and artist Jack Herbert). Probably because, even as we use Kendra Saunders to connect back to the themes of Dark Crisis as well as more rich history of the DCU, it all feels a little rushed and slightly hokey. (I love bashing mummies just as much as the next fella, but it just didn’t land). I think rather than being a downside, per se, this Hawkgirl story just further demonstrates that the GL story works because of what it does right – that same balance of new and nostalgia; a deeper, less deliberate exploration of our hero’s inner workings (there’s way too much inner dialoging in Hawkgirl); and real odds at stake (even if we know the hero usually gets the W).
You should certainly read the Hawkgirl story, if only because it proves that this “balancing act” is precarious, and it takes a certain extra depth and subtlety.
I don’t think anyone’s got the resolution for DC’s movie crisis (of course, if they needed a fix in the first place). Luckily, the comics are either a path forward for writers/directors or just a clear sign that when you’re talking superheroes, there’s a damn good reason why the best such titles often can’t make the leap onto the big screen. But try not to think about all that too much, and instead focus on the fact that this is a great comic, with heroic actions, a cinematic bent, and lots of dynamic humanity. In short, it’s a thing DC does well enough — even if it’s not every single time.
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