Shiny Shelf

Green Lantern #156

By Mark Clapham on 19 November 2002

‘Green Lantern’ has a long history of being a socially conscious comic, dating back to the classic O’Neill/Adams run. Lately writer Judd Winick has been moving the comic back in that direction.

The recent story involving Kyle’s gay friend Terry as the victim of a brutal hate crime was well executed, but from this side of the Atlantic it didn’t seem either particularly brave or shocking, but simply your everyday soap opera plot. Over here, we see a despicable crime like this as something totally unjustifiable, and so the beard stroking debates surrounding a plotline like this seem unusual. Apparently in America there is still some debate as to whether beating people half to death is a good or bad thing, so the storyline was seen as a bit more radical over there. Whatever.

So, GL Kyle Rayner was so shocked to discover there were bad people in the world that he’s run off to space, leaving former Green Lantern John Stewart in charge back on Earth. This is a good thing; not only is John familiar to the kids through the ‘Justice League’ cartoon, he’s also a desperately underutilised character and one of the few long-standing black superheroes. Winick has taken a pinch of the cartoon incarnation, the more interesting characteristics from John’s long history in comics, and a couple of innovations of his own, remoulding the character into a badass with a conscience. John is steadfast, practical, moral but occasionally troubled. It’s not the most innovative approach to superheroes, but it’s a good one.

#156 starts with an interesting contemporary issue, taking on the smuggling of illegal immigrants in cargo containers. This trade in human misery raises a lot of issues, and one can only hope that this title is going to deal with them in more detail; these are, after all, the kind of morally problematic areas that a socially conscious superhero should be dealing with.

The rest of the issue includes an appearance by fellow Green Lantern Alan Scott, a man with the most remarkable collar in comics, as well as the supervillian Fatality. A constant reminder of the planet John destroyed in his last stint as Green Lantern, Fatality is a permanent reminder that this book’s current hero has more reason than most to worry about his own suitability for the job. There’s also a panel where someone asks who the current GL in the JLA is these days. Good question – could someone who didn’t give up on that book during the endless ‘Obsidian Age’ story arc please tell us?

This is a good book, one which has had a kick in the right place from the change in lead character. Tragically, this is all to be cut short soon with the arrival of rent-a-hack Ben Raab to take over the writing duties. Last time this book was placed in the hands of a no-mark writer – the infamous Gerard Jones – the title went to the brink of cancellation before being pulled back by a radical revamp. Unlike the star of the book, the editors don’t seem to be learning the lessons of their own history…

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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