Comic Book Review – Green Lantern: Recharge & Revenge of the Green Lanterns

Green Lantern Corps: Recharge (2006)
Reprints Green Lantern Corps: Recharge #1-5
Written by Geoff Johns & Dave Gibbons
Art by Patrick Gleason, Prentis Rollins, and Christian Alamy

Green Lantern: Revenge of the Green Lanterns (2006)
Reprints Green Lantern #7-13
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Carlos Pacheco, Jesus Merino, Ethan van Sciver, Prentis Rollins, Ivan Reis, Mark Campos, Oclair Albert

The Green Lantern revival led by Geoff Johns was a smashing success. Interest in the character was at an all-time high, so all the elements before the mid-1990s were brought back. One of those was the Green Lantern Corps. They’d existed since the first appearance of Hal Jordan, but over the decades, their ranks had been built out tremendously. In the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Green Lantern title even added Corps to its name and became an ensemble book rather than just focusing on Jordan. It was a no-brainer that the Corps had to return, so it was given its own sister mini-series to Rebirth with the similar title Recharge, a reference to the power rings needing to be charged every 24 hours. 

In the very first issue of Recharge, it is made clear who the core cast members will be. Earth-based GLs, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner are called to return to Oa and serve roles in training the new recruits. We also get introduced to Soranik Natu, a Korugarian chosen by a power ring to serve in the Corps. She is a surgeon and has distinct memories of Sinestro’s tenure as the dictatorial Green Lantern of her world. Natu has no interest in being a part of the Corps but finds the ring makes her a better surgeon. Finally, we’re introduced to the antagonistic duo of Vath Sarn and Isamot Kol, fighters on opposite ends of the Rann-Thanagar War. They are chosen simultaneously, and it’s through the Corps that they find the neutral ground needed to work past the strife of the war. 

I love the scene where Kol is saved from execution by the smallest Green Lantern, Bzzd, from a race of fly-like beings. One of the new rules of this iteration of the Corps is that every member has a partner to keep each other accountable as law officers. Bzzd is paired with Mogo, the largest Green Lantern, a literal sentient planet. That pairing of extreme opposites is something I’ve always loved. In the case of Sarn & Kol, it means an opportunity to explore themes of war, division, and the connection all sentient beings would have for each other. 

Rounding out these mismatched pairs, you have Kilowog, the Corps’ drill sergeant, and Salaak, the Guardian’s mouthpiece and master of all things logistical. They are probably the most subtle mismatched pair, but I love that the Guardians chose to put such different beings in charge of this operation. They are both very good at what they do, and throughout the series, we see how they’ve learned to find a balance that works for both of them. Finally, Guy and Kyle make for an odd couple, and their back-and-forth provides the spine of this revival mini-series.

One of the things Recharge gets right most of the time is the cosmic scale of space. Patrick Gleason had done some one-off work before this and a decent stint on Aquaman, but Recharge was his breakout work. One of my favorite panels shows the Lanterns entering a planet’s atmosphere on the night side. The angle is from space, so we can see almost the entire world. There are thunderclouds in the distance, and the art gives the planet the sense of living & diverse weather, something we don’t see too often in science fiction art. Gleason isn’t perfect, though; his art is exceptionally kinetic, so when enemies are firing energy blasts back and forth, it is easy to lose track of the space and who is who in the scene. 

Soranik Natu is the best character introduced in this mini-series, and she has a very prominent role in the Green Lantern Corps ongoing series that followed this. Her trauma from the Sinestro era is explored deeply, and she has one of the most complex character arcs of anyone introduced in this revival period. The overall story of Recharge? Well, it’s okay. The antagonists are the Spider Guild, relatively obscure villains from the 1980s who foment further chaos in the Rann-Thanagar War. Johns wasn’t committed to the Corps ongoing, so Dave Gibbons helmed that title until Peter Tomasi took over later. I won’t be going further with the Green Lantern Corps books, as I wanted to focus mainly on Johns’ work on the franchise, but GL Corps is a pretty good companion book to the main title.

It’s not going to be a surprise for longtime DC Comics fans for me to say Geoff Johns does a lot of greatest hits work in Green Lantern. Revenge of the Green Lanterns opens with Mongul arriving on Earth, a Black Mercy in tow. Mongul was one of the villains responsible for destroying Coast City, which led to Jordan’s collapse into becoming Parallax. This Mongul is the son of that villain, but the species has an annoying habit of just naming their firstborn son directly after the father. If you aren’t reading it right now, I would recommend Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s current Action Comics run that sees Superman powerless and living as a gladiatorial slave on Mongul’s Warworld. It’s some of the best Superman stuff in a long while. Back to Green Lantern…

If you’re familiar with Alan Moore’s classic Superman story, “For the Man Who Has Everything,” you know the Black Mercy is an alien plant that traps its victims in a false reality where their greatest dreams come true. Jordan is in the middle of a team-up with Green Arrow when they are attacked by Mongul and trapped in these simulacra. The story’s main point is about these two heroes realizing they have neglected their families and need to scale back. Jordan finds more time for his nephews while Green Arrow reestablishes contact with his estranged son Connor Hawke. This is followed by a one-off where Jordan and Batman have a clash of ideals. I have always had the sense that Johns doesn’t like Batman very much, and this is one of the stories where it feels highly apparent.

The main story here is Jordan uncovering a vast conspiracy that points him towards a sector the Guardians have forbidden the Lanterns to enter. It starts with an alien assassin showing up on Earth; Jordan pursues but crosses over into Russia. This activates the Rocket Red Corps, Russia’s national armored defenders. Ironically, the Rocket Reds were implemented by Kilowog back in the 1980s. Maybe I’ll read that whole arc one of these days. The Global Guardians, an international Justice League, is also brought into action due to Jordan’s border violation. 

There are many moving parts here; for the most part, Johns makes it all work. The reveal of the villain references back to some plot points established in No Fear. It also brings closure to Jordan’s unresolved trauma from the destruction of Coast City, reintroducing some old Lantern villains and making them even deadlier. Johns does his best to summarize past events for new readers, but I’m not going to blame anyone who reads this and is left very confused. So much lore. I hope that you would be like I was when I was a kid who first started reading comics and the idea that there were other stories that tied into the one I was reading and got excited, intrigued to seek them out one day and read them. There’s also a ton of set-up for the big event, but we’ll talk more about that next review.

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