Archive | August, 2012

The Many Faces of Green Lantern

23 Aug

Comic book fans often talk of how differently Batman can be interpreted.  Is he the Dark Knight, savagely dispensing justice?  Is he The World’s Greatest Detective, constantly figuring arcane mysteries to solve the world’s dangers?  Is he a shattered child, hiding behind a mask?  Superman, similarly, invites such discussion.  Is Superman or Clark the real person?  Should he be presented as the best of humanity striving to lift us out of a pit of evil, or should he be portrayed as an alien striving to be a human (see: possible Kevin Smith movie with Nick Cage as Superman)?  Rarely does my favorite character, Hal Jordan, get such a review.  But honestly, I believe Hal has many faces also which highlight what different creators view as a “heroic model.” 

I first encountered Jordan in Superfriends and there, like everyone else, he was the “model hero.”  He never had to question himself and always knew the answer.  Whenever he looked beat, he would find the moral strength to rise back up and when.  He was an interesting character, visually, which at three and four was all I needed. 

However, when I transitioned to comic books, at 10 and 11, I wanted more.  I grabbed up the end of Gerard Jones’s run on Green Lantern and found it weak.  I found Ron Marz’s tale of Hal Jordan’s fall to be appropriately “Vaderesque.”  At the time, that too was all I needed.  But as I have grown older, I have reread these issues.  The older I have gotten, the less impressed I have become with Marz’s tell and consider it to be a poor retelling of Vader’s perceived fall (that said, given Lucas’s official story, maybe the whole concept doesn’t work).  And as I have reread Jones’s issues, especially the first half of his run, I marvel at his Hal.  Yes, Hal had once been the classic heroic model, who never questioned himself.  But at some point, things changed and he grew up.  Now regarded as an elder statesman, that all younger heroes looked up to, he began to question what and why he was doing.  No longer was he the perfect hero, but he was a very human hero.  I blogged already of my thoughts on this, I think, classic run here.

The next big iteration of Hal’s character was picked up a few years after Marz’s character assassination.  Mark Waid wrote a seminal story in Justice League: Year One and Brave and the Bold, a sequel focusing on Year One’s standout characters, Hal and Barry.  According to Waid’s version of the story, Hal was the ultimate wanderer.  Based on the many career and girlfriend changes early authors put him through, Hal was a man who didn’t want to ever be tied on.  But when he put the ring on, he became the ultimate cop.  Life would became highly structured and rules were meant to be followed.  In fact, in my favorite issue of either series, the last issue of B&B, Pieface, Hal’s sidekick, writes about how this surprised Barry, a polar opposite.  Because according to Waid, Barry was analytical and serious, until he put his suit and he became alive and moved.  It was a brilliant character analysis of two of comics greatest heroes. 

The final major revision of Hal’s character comes from current scribe, Geoff Johns.  I love a lot of what Geoff has done and struggle with other parts.  Still, at the end of the day, I do believe he is presenting one of the best Green Lantern runs ever.  His Green Lantern is different from Waid’s in one key point.  Instead of Hal being wild and Green Lantern being orderly, Hal is always Hal, whether wearing the ring or not.  In fact, many of the issues that Johns has built up between Hal and Batman revolves around this.  Almost any time the two characters are together now revolves around Batman’s frustration with Hal’s fly by the seat of your pants personality.  It works, for the most part, because it is the style of personality you expect from a pilot.  Hal is basically id unleashed.  Everything is figured out while doing it and planning rarely, if ever, occurs. 

The best part about these characters, Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern, is that all of these versions are ok.  It doesn’t matter if you prefer the stoic, classic hero or the more fallible version from the early 90s, they have all been valid interpretations of what it means to be a hero.  Regardless of which you like, Hal is always a hero and I would argue one of the best.  I would prefer a merging, myself, of the more questioning human version of Jones, with the carefree Hal, while driven Green Lantern of Waid’s day.  And Geoff’s run adds in interesting dynamics with the emotional spectrum and Sinestro.  But that’s just “my” Hal and I would love to hear of your thoughts.

The Dark Knight Rises with minor spoilers

5 Aug

I just got back from The Dark Knight Rises for the second time.  I wanted to wait a bit before I reviewed the film with spoilers.  For those who wish to avoid them, I recommend you read this later.  Over the year I have had this blog, though, I have written about my love for Batman.  I must say he is one of the greatest comic book characters out there.  Unfortunately I rarely feel that the comic book writers themselves understand why.  Fortunately, Nolan gets it.  And I must say, I felt like the movie was even better the second time around. 

Like many, I went to see the movie the first time with unattainable expectations.  The Dark Knight changed how I see movies forever.  Heath Ledger’s Joker obviously was a game changer for bad guys in action movies.  The rise and fall of Harvey Dent was brilliantly presented.  And the cliffhanger ending had me awaiting the sequel when I walked out of the movies four years ago.  Having seen TDKR the first time was a bit of a let down because it couldn’t reach my expectations.  Another problem I suffered the first time I watched it though came from friends’ questions leading to the movie.  Several of my friends engaged in a healthy debate over whether this movie would feature Earth 1 or Earth 2 Batman, whereas throughout the movie it is obvious that it is neither.  It is Earth Nolan Batman.  Shades of previous Batman storylines shine through but this is entirely his game.  And he owns it. 

I have always been a history nerd and a comic book geek.  My earliest readings came from a battered encyclopedia collection for historical information and my brother’s hand me down comic books.  Upon watching this movie, it became incredibly apparent that I was watching a film showcasing the French Revolution in modern day America, starring Batman.  Honestly, there is no part of that concept that isn’t thrilling to me.  I have always thought the French Revolution was much more fascinating than the American Revolution because it is a warning.  The revolution of a poor huddled mass led by the intelligentsia can be a wonderful victory (see the American Revolution) or it can be an unmitigated disaster.  The French Revolution kicked into high gear with the storming of the Bastille, a French political prison.  This is harkened to in TDKR in which Blackgate Prison is stormed early in Bane’s revolution.  In fact, I was genuinely surprised Bane didn’t draw the comparisons himself. This victory for the poor though quickly paved way to the Reign of Terror.  During the Reign of Terror, the rich and powerful (and eventually anyone who threatened the powers that be) were slaughtered by the thousands.  This is also alluded to in TDKR in a wonderful scene in which Scarecrow ran court for the newly “freed” Gothamites.

Meanwhile, if you are looking at the comic book comparisons, Earth Nolan features several of the most famous Batman storylines of the last two decades.  Obvious similarities are apparent with the Knightfall arc. The story pillars are streamlined down to the essentials.  I will say I was genuinely surprised with how much they showed.  The first fight between Bane and Batman was brutal.  The story then entered Act 2 which was influenced heavily by “No Man’s Land.”  A lot of this was my favorite parts of the movie.  I enjoyed the police, led by Gordon, working against Bane’s minions.  Other influences come from a myriad of stories, like “The Dark Knight” and Earth 2 Batman stories.  My favorite part though relates to Batman and Selina’s relationship.  Outside of Lois and Clark, this has always been my favorite comic book romance, since seeing Adam West and the various Catwomen in classic Bat-TV.

I still believe overall that Avengers is the best movie of the year.  The Dark Knight is still my favorite movie of all time.  But with The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan has brought a beautiful finish to Batman’s story.  This was definitely the most “comic book movie” of Nolan’s trilogy and I love it.  And my favorite part is that even though this was Nolan and Bale’s last Bat movie (for now), it leaves off with a chance for a totally new direction of stories.  Good show!