Review by Jamie McNeil
Grant Morrison’s run on The Green Lantern Season Two continues with Ultrawar, a nostalgic and sometimes satirical nod to the 1960s Green Lantern stories featuring Hal Jordan. It revolves around Hal’s “adventures” across space and time, many encounters featuring concepts like anti-matter, the Reverso-Verse, and a growing shadow of war across the multi-verse.
It bears repeating that as impressive as Grant Morrison’s resume is, this series would simply not work without Liam Sharp’s art. Ideas like anti-matter and the Reverso-verse need an artist who can render them well enough to make them plausible. Sharp’s approach to the constant switching of realities is to change his art style with every chapter, simultaneously defying parameters and setting them. It’s pretty damn impressive, literally changing from page to page never mind story to story. ‘War with the Anti-World!’ even runs backward, Sharp one of the few artists capable of making it look this slick.
He also does a fantastic job with some multi-versal gender swapping of popular superheroes while a grimier art style employed in the right way reflects the persistent calamities of war. The most surprising artistic homage though is to Simon Bisley’s work on Sláine: The Horned God in fantasy-themed story ‘Contest of Crowns’, unique in both style and content.
While the art makes Morrison’s script work, it’s theories on what makes Hal Jordan the man that drives the plot. Probing at Hal’s character and personality, while questioning his motives, provides some fascinating ideas. One being that acting as a lawman in the wild and unpredictable frontiers of space requires a broader scope with which to defend the peace and apprehend criminals. Hal’s actions confuse his opponents, distracting them from what his true purpose may be, like an undercover operative. Under Morrison, Hal is no tortured superhero. He is affected by his past actions as Parallax and the Spectre yet at peace with himself because they were part of who he was, not who he is.
For all the grand art and interesting ideas, Ultrawar is bogged down by convoluted plots and weighty existential concepts even though often intended as satire of comics old and new. The consistently changing styles are very impressive but don’t make the story easier to follow either, but then that is an intentional characteristic of the entire series. Being fairly knowledgeable about Hal Jordan’s history helps you connect the stories and if you lack that, it might lose you.
Ultrawar is the weaker offering of the project, but it can’t be taken apart from the whole series. Despite predating it slightly The Green Lantern sits fairly comfortably within DC Comics new Infinite Frontier reboot where everything is canon while linking up the Silver Age with more recent “refresh” projects like The New 52 and Rebirth. For every one thing you don’t like there are six more entertaining concepts you’ll love.
Despite the reservations and criticisms it is a refreshing series full of fascinating ideas, as defining to the character of Hal Jordan as Neal Adams and Dennis O’Neil’s American roadtrip adventures or Geoff John’s and Ethan Van Sciver’s run on Green Lantern: Rebirth.