Orbital Reading Lists: Green Lantern

A little different than our Batman Reading Lists, this Green Lantern edition isn’t so much a chronology as it is highlight reel. With an incredibly patchy, predominantly out-of-print back catalogue, what’s detailed below are four very different, but instantly accessible and stand-alone works. Each represents a unique application of the intergalactic police force that is the Green Lantern Corps.

Secret Origin
Geoff Johns (w), Ivan Reis (a)

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Succinct and straightforward, Secret Origin, is the ideal starting point. Reis and Johns establish the central concept of the Green Lantern Corps (space cops!), as well as carefully introducing recurring central characters, hinting at a deeper sense of mythos, all while telling a complete story in the process. In its narrative, Secret Origin plays out like Training Day, following erratic hot-shot pilot Hal Jordan as he’s drafted into the corps following the crash-landing of an alien Green Lantern officer in the desert outside Coast City.

Theme song: Absolute Beginners, David Bowie

Green Lantern/Green Arrow
Dennis O’Neil (w), Neal Adams (a)

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A landmark run from the ‘70s, Green Lantern/Green Arrow presents a series of classic, self-contained stories most notable for grounding the usually-cosmic Hal Jordan alongside his no-powers-just-rich pal, Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) and contextualising the pair with some of the pressing socio-economic issues of the period. While this book is undoubtedly dated in certain passages, the work of O’Neil and Adams here was ambitious, pushing the envelope for how comics could more deliberately channel and address contextual concerns, not to mention providing a major influence for the thematic and topical vogue-ishness that was to come in the comics of the 1980s.

Theme song: What’s Going On?, Marvin Gaye

Blackest Night
Geoff Johns (w), Ivan Reis (a)

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Blackest Night is without a doubt the centrepiece and emotional crux of Geoff Johns’s run on Green Lantern. An absolutely enormous event book, Blackest Night is the kind of positively zany, recklessly expansive storytelling of which truly only DC Comics is capable. Marking the convergence of all the different lantern corps, this might have been alternately titled Crisis of Infinite Colours.

In short, one black lantern leads to another really big black lantern, NEKRON, who begins raising the dead (incl. heroes, villians and the stragetically-dead-for-motivation relatives of some main characters). Emotional spectrum team-ups ensue.

Theme song: Black Dog, Led Zeppelin

The Omega Men: The End Is Here
Tom King (w), Barnaby Bagenda (a)

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An altogether different kind of Green Lantern book, this completely self-sufficient 12-issue opus focuses on Kyle Rayner in his capacity as the life-giving White Lantern. The hook here is that in order to mediate a conflict outside of the jurisdiction of all the lantern corps, Kyle gives up his ring. Attempting to find a third way in the polarised religious war between the imperial Citadel and terrorists in their midst, The Omega Men, he is swiftly taken hostage and the subject of a faked beheading video.

King and Bagenda navigate topical political and cultural themes with an astounding resonance, partnered with unparalleled character work along the way. Omega Men is a remarkable work of modern comics.

Theme song: It’s All Gonna Break, Broken Social Scene

Adam Karenina Sherif

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