Saturday, 24 November 2012

Why Should I read... Green Lantern Rebirth

Every kid has heard a grandparent, or parent, or just an old person tell them how much better things were way back when. Maybe that's true sometimes. I personally have no frame of reference. I never just got an orange for Christmas. I've never walked to school over 20 miles barefoot in the snow. I never mixed fruit with sawdust and claimed it was a meal. Hard to imagine how that might have been better than how things are now. Green Lantern Rebirth gives me the same feeling.

Again, I have no basis of comparison. My reading habits have often steered me away from the more mainstream titles, so my first Green Lantern experience was this book. I had three attempts at reading it and therefore three experiences reading it.

The first time around, I sat down to read what I thought would be a classic superhero comic book. You know the kind of thing; heroic stances in Lycra, vanquished villains and witty one liners. I was expecting a reboot and a return to those days of yore. What I found was a number of multidimensional characters struggling to come to terms with what had gone before. A vast and emotional landscape was laid out very quickly, not only for the central Hal Jordan, but for those connected to him, from close friends and family, to those only connected by the common ground of the Green Lantern Corps. It was so complex and subtle, so different from what I had expected, I was forced to set it down and revisit it at a later date.

I did a little research to prepare myself. I tapped up Wikipedia to understand (albeit in abridged form) what had lead to this point. Rebirth is very much not a reboot of Green Lantern. It is a point in the timeline of the Green Lantern universe where the characters react and reflect on the events of such massive magnitude that time is required to process. It is a time when a line is drawn under what has gone before, and as the reader you observe the line being drawn and most importantly what it takes to draw it.

The second time I tried to read Rebirth, I discovered that the story was about that line, not what the line was being drawn under. It's always nice to know, as insatiable as curiosity is, but it's not necessary. My second attempt at reading the stopping point was the characters. Not only had I not read Green Lantern before, but despite years as a comic nerd, I was a relative novice to the wider DC universe. I was drawn away to check out the lesser characters; the various Lanterns of note, the villains, the 'normal' people of prominence and so on. While Rebirth is a great entry point in to the Lantern universe, there is a lot of history prior to it and it deserves to be respected. So I read up, and returned fully prepared to sit and read the book in its entirety, and I did.

The book reads like a hole in a fence. You look one way and you get a good look at the past. You look straight ahead, you can see what's happening, flashes of change, of motion. You look another way and you get a good idea of what's coming. But you can't see it all at once, no matter how hard you press your face against the fence panel. Given this book contains so much, is a lynchpin between stories, characters and their emotions, it's just about the perfect way to write it.

That's not to say it is a very accessible book. You need to be prepared for the intricacies of the interactions between the characters (knowing who they are certainly helps). There's a certain level of effort required to deal with some of the more fantastical or ethereal elements of the book. They are rewarding when you become familiar with them, but to the uninitiated they could be daunting.

Rebirth is very compelling once you are underway. It draws you in to its various elements as an angler might a fish, gently teasing and tugging as it switches pace and direction. Whilst I loved that aspect, I wouldn't place it in the hands of a novice comic book reader, but to someone familiar with the medium, it is as satisfying as any book I've read.

Green Lantern Rebirth is ultimately a gateway in to the Green Lantern, one that I strongly suggest you step through. Just don't trip over the Ryan Reynolds on the way in.

Chris Boyle is prepping the one man cave to rule them all.

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