March 30th, 2010
Green Lantern #52, Geoffrey Johns, Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy
So a white light entity created the universe starting with Earth and on that Earth the first emotional beings were born and through them emotional energy was unleashed upon the rest of the universe (which evolved after Earth, naturally). And some of that energy became special beings like the Predator (made from love, naturally), and Ion (made from the emotion we call willpower, naturally), and Parallax (made from fear, or should that be other people’s fear? Whatever, dude). And then came the Guardians who harnessed that energy and made the Green Lanterns.
But did you know that Adam and Eve and the story of Cain and Abel and probably all that religious shit to do with Jesus and Buddha was tied into this stuff? It makes sense if you think about it. It all fits. It all comes back to Green Lantern and it’s all getting laid out and resolved in the pages of Blackest Night by these guys.
Fair enough Final Crisis had the Earth as the gods’ battleground, as a kind of notional universal center, but Morrison had so much other stuff going on that it would be silly to accuse him of geocentrism. His Earth was the center of the universe because it’s the center of the fictional construct (the DCU) that was the meta-textual concern of his very meta-textual story, and he went to great pains to get us to understand that that was where he was coming from. If Final Crisis is a story about DCU stories, which it undeniably is, then of course Earth is the most important place in the universe. Also, whether or not you like Final Crisis, whether or not the series succeeds, Morrison was undoubtedly trying to say interesting stuff with his mythological noodlings: about genre conventions, about art and about life. It’s striving to be bigger than the sum of its parts, and at the very least provides us with some fun, internally consistent, higher order game playing.
Johns on the other hand, he’s not saying anything that isn’t written on the tin and what’s written on the tin is genuinely weird*. The Green Lantern concept allows Johns to quite literally reify just about anything he likes and so he has: Life? Check. Death? Check. Avarice? Check. Rage? Yup. Everything is reduced to spandex and glowing energy. In that way he’s not entirely unlike Kirby or indeed any number of other writers, but unlike some of those writers Johns has none of Kirby’s wild creative energy, add that to the very particular world view that comes through in his comics (love=the Predator remember) and the overall deficit of broader, non-DCU, non Green Lantern orientated concerns gives Johns’ mythology a parochial and bizarrely concrete feel. It seems to me that unlike Morrison Johns can’t easily sidestep questions about how his new mythology relates to the physical history of the universe. Morrison doesn’t need to worry over much about things like physics because he understands and he wants you to understand – as he explicitly demonstrates in Final Crisis – that the history of the DCU is the history of a fiction, and within fiction things are more flexible, ambiguous and open to interpretation. Johns mythology is modelled rather more on the history of real places, it’s an unambiguously physical history of life the universe and everything. The consequence being that the reader – even the reader disinterested in big C Continuity – is tempted if not quite compelled to start asking really awkward questions like: is DCU Earth older than the Sun? What about all those other ancient DCU civilisations? What about evolution? How does this fit in with all that other DCU mythology?
That all this is rolled up in the continuity of the writer’s favourite character and you have a comic that makes me struggle for words. Johns’ vision is so personal and odd, what he seems to be saying about the world so strange (if he actually thinks love=the Predator is a good fit he’s not talking a language I understand, if he doesn’t but just thinks the idea is cool then I’m happy to be a dweeb), his focus so narrow, that I’m just left scratching my head.
Jarvis Cocker once made a TV series about American folk-artists and their eccentric, obsessive work, and there’s a sense in which Johns reminds me of one of those guys and I want to like his work more than I do because of it. Johns is an original: there’s no-one out there doing what he does, no-one else who would feel it important to explain the historical significance of Ion, and that’s probably a big part of why he’s so successful. But where others see awesomeness, I see comics that are fixated on comics and nothing but comics – Green Lantern comics in particular. I suppose there’s a kind of awesomeness to that, but it’s not a variety that I enjoy.
I award this comic 5 anti-brains
*I know I’ve condemned the word “weird” as a short cut to thinking before now, but if anything ever qualified it’s this.