Review by Ian Keogh
When first published as comics in 1989-1990 Emerald Dawn kickstarted the career of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern by giving a greater psychological depth to his background and origins. It’s begun well by Jim Owsley, who establishes Jordan as a serial screw-up, yet provides a cause for that, showing the young Jordan witnessing the plane crash death of his test pilot father. Hal’s already been demoted and prevented from flying planes when his drunken driving results in a pilot being paralysed and others being injured. It’s at this point a dying alien arrives on Earth to bequeath Jordan the power ring that enables him as Green Lantern. It’s a tidy enough piece of re-envisaging for its era, which makes it surprising that Owsley (later Christopher Priest) is bumped for the second chapter, replaced by the combination of Keith Giffen (plot) and Gerard Jones (script)
M. D. Bright’s art has a flash to it as inked by Romeo Tanghal. Bright’s a natural storyteller, seen on the sample page detailing the immediate aftermath of Jordan’s first battle as Green Lantern. Ignore the primitive colouring. It shows his facility for visual characterisation, which even works with alien beings, and he’s good with the action scenes as well.
The story runs through roughly the first week of Jordan being Green Lantern, and is successful in conveying the initial faltering steps in his learning about the power ring that responds to his will, and what he’s now capable of, then the steep learning curve as he travels into space. It’s a story faithful to the 1959 origins of Hal Jordan, just fleshing them out with some neat complementary touches such as the ring being able to simulate his being on the last desperate flight of his predecessor. The primary menace and the methods Jordan uses attempting to defeat it also echo the early 1960s series, but Giffen adds an ethical complexity. The concept is also updated via the addition of a personality for Jordan. There are still panels of expository thought or dialogue, but Jordan’s impulsive nature and individuality play well, turning him from a danger as a civilian into a quick thinking and adaptable superhero.
Emerald Dawn is still a readable okay superhero graphic novel, but has long since been surpassed by the bright new 21st century version of the character spearheaded by Geoff Johns. Readers who love that may find this a period piece.
In 1990 Emerald Dawn was not only successful enough to launch a new Green Lantern series under Jones and Bright, but a sequel, Emerald Dawn II, with both being collected as graphic novels in an era when that was relatively rare. They’re now best located repackaged as Green Lantern: Hal Jordan volume 1