‘Beware the wizard Myrwhydden!’
Hal Jordan has caught the space-pirates, he’s interrogated the Spider-Pirate, he’s arrested a Terravore masquerading as God, he’s killed a trafficker, saved his fellow Lanterns, slain Sun-Eaters, gone undercover, passed the trials of Blackstars, dueled Adam Strange, beaten The Blackstars and saved the entire cosmos by taking out The U-Bomb. Within the first 6 issue installments of Grant Morrison, Liam Sharp, Steve Oliff and Tom Orzechowski’s space procedural epic, he’s clearly accomplished a lot. And now, having done all of that, he pays his price. The man who accomplishes the impossible faces consequences.
Trapped inside of his ring after his cosmic sacrifice, as it floats about in distant space, Hal has no recollection of who he is. Amnesia aside, the ring is quickly running out of charge and when it does, all within it will perish, inevitably. And within the ring is one of his oldest and most deadly foes, Myrwhydden. An ancient old wizard placed into a slumber and held within his ring, so that he may not trouble the sectors of the known universe. That’s the basic setup of this issue. And while it may seem fairly simple, as with all things, the execution is what matters and it’s what makes the story so special. What may, in other hands, be a typical story told conventionally in the hands of The Green Lantern‘s team becomes something more. This is very much the ‘experimental’ issue of the run, in the vein of ‘The Clown At Midnight‘ from Morrison’s Batman Epic and some of his other intriguing issues. It’s a bold, daring break that, once again, changes up the style and fundamental storytelling of the book to reflect and show something special.
Veering away from the typical grids and rectangles, the book deeply immerses itself in the insignia of The Green Lantern. Taking the very idea of being trapped within a Green Lantern ring absolutely literally, Sharp composes the pages entirely as splashes, for the most part, with the varying parts or elements of the Lantern logo serving as a way to break up the page and make up the panels. That iconic symbol is overlayed on top of every image, acting as the backbone of the story visually and consistently ever present, giving you a sense of what the characters are experiencing on a very visual level. Meanwhile, substituting traditional captions or comic writing, third person prose narration enters the picture. Packed with rhymes, epic scope and a mighty heart, the captions guide the reader through the story. Distinguishing the inner ringworld in such clear way, altering the very reading experience, the team accomplishes something truly special. It’s pure comics magic, doing that which only comics and no other medium could ever do.
Sharp takes point here, as one might imagine, pulling out his layout mastery, which is some of the industry’s best, to really tell the story while also making it visually exciting, dynamic and readable. The concept of the lantern insignia being so essential is bold, but it could fail just as well, perhaps even being hard to read or losing flow at points. There’s a million walls to run into here, especially given the fact that the issue is already playing around by being a prose issue for the most part. But none of that stopped Sharp and he took the risk and the reward is certainly worth it. He makes it work, making the storytelling absolutely clear and by taking on the monumental task of even coloring the issue on top of doing the pencils and the inks, he goes above and beyond here. The choice is, again, very conscious and to serve the story. The specific choices in green, matched with purple and the general palette, are strikingly different and distinctive from what Steve Oliff’s established for the title thus far. So just from a single glance, you know this is not the world we’ve been in, every sense possible. From the colors, the layouts, the prose, the very shapes of panels utilized, you know you’re in for something unlike anything else.
Sharp, however, doesn’t just stop there. There’s deeper storytelling going on here even with the layouts. For instance, as one might notice, the first two pages, are mirrored with the mighty insignia of the Lantern. Then the book shifts for the next few pages, never quite returning to that full show of a Lantern sign, until the page where in Pengowirr, the lady, and Hal are truly united. That’s when the Lantern symbol is out in full display. Then throughout the book, as the world of the Ring systematically degenerates, Sharp reflects that too, going all in on splash imagery and then later on showcasing this giant repeating symbol we’ve seen breaking down. And amidst its breakdown, we see it in smaller pieces, that which was once massive reduced to be so little and even the bigger pieces are just that, parts of a shattered symbol, decomposing further and further, covered in darkness beckoning oblivion. Even regular grids are used, when the real universe and world are shown, helping accentuate all the differences the book wants you to focus on.
The other big hero of this issue is, obviously, Tom Orzechowski. The absolute legend of the industry has been doing stellar work on the book thus far and while he was absent for the previous issue (Steve Wands did an excellent job), he’s back and with great force. While Sharp’s dynamic artwork and storytelling are genius, all would fail if the prose could not fit or work with the pages. Facing the challenge head on, Orzechowski manages to letter the book in such a way that it never detracts from the storytelling and enhances what’s there with his letters. His choice of font for the prose is fittingly epic and matter-of-fact, suiting the sensibility of the story and his placements are well thought-through, pushing the intrigue and emotion higher, landing perfectly after key beats to maximize impact. It’s a joy to watch, really, as it’s a team of creatives in perfect sync. Sharp and Orzechowski make one another better and it’s astonishing.
Getting into the story itself, if every The Green Lantern issue has focused on or centered on one key police element or idea, expanding it dramatically or showcasing it in massively important ways, this issue follows the same pattern. While some might initially assume the issue is merely just a simple breather, it couldn’t be anything but. It’s as essential as any issue before. The conceit of this issue? The importance of the oath that a Green Lantern takes and the bond between a Lantern and their ring. The story begins with a ring running out of charge and ends with the ring being recharged. It’s a simple act. It’s one we’ve seen a billion times. We’re so used to it. It’s almost mundane at this point. But this issue denies that premise. It believes it can be special again. Or more excitingly, it wants to prove it’s always been incredibly special, no matter the repetition. And for any that might wonder why the act matters, why it may be so special, it proves it. It does not need to tell. It shows.
Every time the ring runs out of power there are literal lives at stake until the oath is said. The oath matters that much. It’s not just simple words uttered by a man for the sake of it. Those words, truly, mean something. Beyond prophecy, beyond the chills they give when they’re said, because every time they are, literal lives are saved. It is an officer doing his job and it’s part of that job. It’s goofy, sure, but it’s also cool and most importantly, it’s life-changing. Taking something so simple and obvious, something so taken-for-granted as a ring recharge and making it huge, personal and monumental, if that isn’t Grant Morrison, what is? Morrison gets you to invest and care by steeping you in his Ringworld, the realm of Emerald Sands, where imagination prospers, wizards slumber and artificial life thrives.
And it’s here that Morrison, Sharp and Orzechowski truly mine something truly special and idiosyncratic. Hal Jordan loves his job, more than anything else. He yearns for the stars and the spaceways, finding little meaning in the backward existence of Earth. His ring and lantern mean a whole lot to him and they’ve seen him through a whole lot. So Hal truly loves what he has and he loves his ring. But is the ring just a ring, just this cold, metallic piece of jewelry that you wear? No, of course not. It’s conscious, alive, sentient and bursting full of life, as is to be expected. And the ring A.I even manifests and lives as a person within the ring, with a special name of her own, Pengowirr. Suddenly, the team’s radically changed the lens on the entire core concept. The issue is an inward journey and exploration, with Hal delving into the world within his ring to interact with, speak to and work with his ring as an actual person. It seems so simple and obvious, in concept, but it has never been done. And that sense of ‘Well, why hasn’t it?!’ is part of the genius behind this book. Reminiscent of Bleach‘s signature ‘My Blade and Me’ chapters and Doctor Who’s ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ episode penned by Neil Gaiman, the book is a glorious re-contextualization of the bond and relationship between Hal Jordan and his ring.
Pengowirr and Hal have been through a lot, they’ve seen it all, done it all and faced it all. They know each other better than anyone else ever will and they care deeply for one another. And Pengowirr dies if the ring isn’t recharged. Thus every time the oath is said, it’s personal. And not just to Jordan now, but to us, the readers, who’ve read and now care. Establishing a beautiful symbiotic bond between the ring and user, elevating what was once merely dubbed a ‘weapon’ or a ‘tool’ to a living being with will, the team behind The Green Lantern has, quite literally, poured some new life into the franchise, as they have with every single issue thus far.
The Green Lantern #7 is a masterclass in how to use the comics form to do anything, say anything and to accomplish it in a way no other medium in existence can. With a team of industry veterans at the height of their creative prowess, it’s no surprise that it’s one of the best books on the market, but nevertheless, when one reads it, it’s impossible to not be astonished by the skill, thought and love put into each installment. No other book out there can shift genres, story types and alter every aspect of the storytelling so drastically every single issue on a monthly basis and still deliver a consistently good story that builds and has a great momentum like this one.