Review by Win Wiacek
An introduction from then Green Lantern editor Kevin Dooley opens this second hardcover selection from Hal Jordan’s earliest superhero days covering mid-1961 to mid-1962, picking up from Volume 1.
First up is the pure science fiction puzzler ‘The World of Living Phantoms!’, introducing avian Green Lantern Tomar Re, and opening up the entire universe to avid readers.
Having shown us other GLs, John Broome immediately trumps himself with the ‘The Day 100,000 People Vanished!’, which brings the Guardians of the Universe into the open to warn of their greatest error. A renegade Green Lantern named Sinestro is allied with the Qwardians to threaten the entire universe. This tense shocker introduced one of the most charismatic DC villains, and the issue still had room for a dryly amusing whimsical drama introducing Tom Kalmaku’s fiancé Terga in ‘Wings of Destiny’.
The mastery and rendering of Gil Kane still greatly impresses, although his fans might prefer the greater clarity of the same stories in black and white as found in the first Showcase Presents Green Lantern collection. One exception is production wizard Jack Adler’s process of adding enhancing tone to cover illustrations. The finished results are eye-catching and mind-blowing, but examples, such as the cover of Green Lantern 8, really don’t work without glossy colours and tints. ‘The Challenge from 5700AD’ in that issue is a fantasy tour de force in which the Emerald Gladiator is shanghaied through time to save the future from an invasion of mutant lizards.
Sinestro then returns with his own super-weapon in ‘The Battle of the Power Rings!’ (with Murphy Anderson once more replacing Joe Giella on inks), but the real gold is ‘Green Lantern’s Brother Act’, which introduces Hal’s two brothers and a snoopy girl reporter convinced that young Jim Jordan is the ring-slinging superhero. This wry poke at DC’s house plot-device shows just how sophisticated Schwartz and Broome believed their audiences to be.
‘Prisoner of the Power Ring’ is your run-of-the-mill subatomic exodus tale with Atomic War anxiety overtones whilst ‘The Origin of Green Lantern’s Oath’ details three of the hero’s earliest exploits leading him to construct the doggerel he uses to time his ring’s recharging period. Although no blockbusters, the increasingly loose and expressive artwork of Kane, especially on the latter (again with Anderson on inks) are an unalloyed delight of easy grace and power.
Readers hungry for more on the Green Lantern Corps are introduced to another half-dozen or so in ‘The Strange Trial of Green Lantern’, seeing Hal court-martialed for dereliction of duty in a saga of cataclysmic proportions. ‘The Trail of the Missing Power Ring!’ is more human scale drama of a young boy finding the power ring Hal has lost. An interplanetary coup causes Hal’s return to 5700AD in ‘Green Lantern’s Statue goes to War’. A balance between cosmic and personal outings develops in issues with two stories, and ‘Zero Hour in the Silent City!’ highlights Tom Kalmaku’s close friendship with Hal against the backdrop of bank robbers with a super-scientific gimmick.
The closer is a landmark in which an interdimensional invasion leads to a team-up and lifelong friendship between our hero and the Flash. ‘The Duel of the Super-Heroes!’, has them share secret identities, a rarity then even among the close comrades of the Justice League of America.
These costumed drama romps are a great read for most ages, but when also considered as building blocks of all DC continuity they’re vital for any fan keen to make sense of the modern superhero experience. They’re also all found in the first volume of Green Lantern: The Silver Age.