“You are a man who can overcome great fear.”
The Green Lantern franchise is my absolute favorite property when it comes to superhero comics for various reasons: the visual appeal of a ring that can create anything its user can think of, the incredible sci-fi stories, the themes of justice and morals that come with being an intergalactic police force and the message that the Green Lantern Corps send of overcoming great fear. It’s something that, at its core, can reach any reader, at least in my view.
And while my favorite Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) is not part of this comic, I've always had a soft spot for Hal Jordan. He was not only the character that started the Silver Age of the Green Lantern mythos, but also the most iconic of the entire franchise, the one who has lead the Corps during its best stories and the man that, in my opinion, represents the ethos of the franchise.
All of this is highlighted during Geoff Johns’s commercially and artistically successful run of the previous decade, where the writer managed to take the title to new heights with Green Lantern: Rebirth, Sinestro Corps War, Blackest Night, among others. But Johns also took the time to rework Jordan’s origin with the aptly titled Secret Origin story-line, adding stuff from his own run while also enhancing what was already there from the very beginning.
What is Secret Origin?
Image by DC Comics
With Hal Jordan as the narrator, we get the opportunity to look back at his beginnings, going as far as the death of his father and the impact this had on him as well as his family. We get to see Hal’s childhood, his often conflicting relationship with his father and his brothers, plus his desire to join the air force to fly airplanes, just like his father did.
While all of this is happening, we also get to see the Green Lantern, Abin Sur, navigate his space ship while holding his prisoner, the criminal Atrocitus. The space ship crashes on Earth and Abin Sur dies there, not before his ring chooses Hal as his successor. Afterwards, we get to see Hal’s earliest exploits as Green Lantern, his first interactions with the other members of the Corps on their base planet, Oh, and the beginning of his then-friendship with Sinestro.
How was it?
Image by DC Comics
If you are someone that is very familiar with a certain character, retelling's of the origin story can often lack something that truly grabs you and keeps you interested, which was my original thought years ago when I read this story for the first time. But back then and now, Johns’s Secret Origin manages to be a very entertaining read and one that shows you why Hal Jordan works so well as the focal point of the franchise.
Superheroes are the modern day mythology and their stories preserve the concept of the hero, which is the paragon of virtue that inspires society’s best and brightest attributes. From the very moment, Johns shows us what inspires Hal and what makes him someone capable of overcoming great fear: a scarred kid who lost his father and now feels that he has nothing to lose. A young man thirsty for life, adventure, women, adrenaline and passion–the perfect embodiment of what represents being someone that lives and breathes for danger, hence why his job as an Air Force pilot is so important to make him work as a character.
We also get to know the main cast of characters in a fairly organic manner, with the likes of Hal’s family, Carol Ferris (and his father, who has a big role here), Killowog, Tomar-Re and Sinestro being focal points of Secret Origin in various moments.
Of course, one of the main points of this story was not only to reinvigorate the mythos of Hal and the Green Lantern Corps’s origins, but also to provide a direct connection to what was going on at the time with Johns’s run at present time in the DC Universe. For example, here we are introduced to the fact that Atrocitus, future leader of the Red Lantern Corps, was a criminal captured by Abin Sur; the element of Hector Hammond being connected to Jordan from the very beginning with the space ship’s crashing, and Black Hand, a man who would go on to have a major role in the Blackest Night event, being one of the first casualties and consequences of Hal’s exploits as Green Lantern.
All of this is done swiftly, with the confidence and skill of a writer who is already very comfortable with these characters and knows where he is heading. Hal feels very much in character: the right balance of arrogance and heroic attributes that makes us like him, plus his disagreements with the Guardians of the Universe and a very real and well-written dynamic with Sinestro, which only highlights why their future rivalry would go on to become so important in the DC Universe–I would even argue that said rivalry is the heart of Johns’s run and what makes it work so well because they are eternally entwined with one another.
Combining the more grounded and common plots with high concept and sci-fi ones can often be a demanding task, but Johns manages to keep very streamlined and you can read this with ease. It’s not only a great read for long-time fans, but also a very entertaining entry point for new readers that want to learn about Green Lantern.
What about the art?
Image by DC Comics
I’m not making any huge revelation or statement here when I say that Ivan Reis is one of the best comic book artists of the last 25 years, along with the likes of Ethan Van Sciver, Clay Mann, Brett Booth and a few others. The man was born to draw superhero comics, especially DC ones: he truly captures the majestic and inspirational elements that make these heroes tick so well, with most pages being energetic, full of life and obviously great to look at.
I would also like to point out Randy Mayor’s contributions as a colorist: he provides a lively and brilliant feel to the page, which only makes Reis’s contributions even better to Secret Origin. Colorists often have a very challenging test to live up to great artists’ standards (let’s face it, you will buy this book if it was drawn in black and white), but Mayor does a very good job here.
What it represents?
Image by DC Comics
Secret Origin is a delightful reintroduction to the Green Lantern mythos and to the character of Hal Jordan for those that perhaps forgot the tale about his origin and a great starting point for new readers that want to familiarize themselves with the best run this titles ever had. It maintains the classic elements from the Silver Age plus it includes a lot of different tidbits and subplots that only enhance what was already there.
Geoff Johns did a great job injecting new life to the Green Lantern franchise with his run and Secret Origin is yet another achievement in terms of storytelling and enjoyment.