With a comic series that has been running consistently since the 1960’s, and an endless array of supporting characters featured in every issue, it can be difficult for new fans to start following the Green Lantern books without feeling a little lost. And with the character’s big screen debut (starring Ryan Reynolds) hitting theaters on June 17, there will be plenty of people looking to know more about Hal Jordan's alter-ego. But don’t worry—we've got you covered. Check out the Five Essential Comics To Read Before Green Lantern Hits Theaters.
1. Green Lantern: Secret Origin (Collects: Green Lantern #29-35)
What makes it great: Even though the character’s origin has been explored in various books (New Frontier and Emerald Dawn being among the best), DC Comics and writer Geoff Johns decided to update the Green Lantern’s early life one last time in order to fit in with current story developments and update Hal Jordan for modern times.
Telling a much more concise and cinematic version of GL's back story, Secret Origin gives Jordan some much needed depth and emotion, all while further developing his initial friendship with Sinestro as well as his acrimonious feelings towards the Guardians. Playing out much like the movie will, this story follows Jordan from his early days as a brash test pilot through his training as a Green Lantern and his first major encounter with the homicidal alien known as Atrocitus.
And while the story does a great job of showcasing some early ass-kicking, the evolution of Jordan’s character is really the book's most important aspect. This allows audiences to connect to him in a way that they never could before. What Batman: Year One did for the Caped Crusader, Secret Origin does for the Green Lantern.
With characters from the movie such as Hector Hammond, Carol Ferris, and Sinestro all playing huge roles in this story, as well, Secret Origin is the perfect place for new fans to start reading.
2. Green Lantern/ Green Arrow Vol: 1 and 2 (Collects: Green Lantern/Green Arrow: #76-87, 89)
What makes it great: During the character's early years, Green Lantern starred in stories that were usually more focused on beating down extra-terrestrial threats while shying away from pertinent social issues. That all changed in the early '70’s, however, when writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams took over the book. Due to poor sales, DC teamed up the more right-winged Green Lantern with the ultra-liberal Green Arrow in order to garner interest and provide some interesting conflicts. This odd decision turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
What followed was a period of socially conscious stories that pulled conflicts straight from modern headlines. Everything from racism to drug abuse and even Native American rights were tackled in the book, and it instantly became one of DC’s most critically acclaimed titles.
The stories allowed the Green Arrow to inject the normally stiff and rigid Hal Jordan with a fresh perspective on humanity, while also making him more relatable. The character grew and adopted some of the Green Arrow’s more liberal philosophies. Even though the book continued to undersell on shelves, it captured the attention of the mainstream press and was even commended by the then-mayor of New York, John V. Lindsay.
These stories ushered in an era of socially relevant titles that paved the way for comics such as Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, and Transmetropolitan over at DC.
3. The Sinestro Corps War Vol: 1 and 2 (Collects: Green Lantern #15-21 and Green Lantern Corps #14-19)
What makes it great: The early stories of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern re-launch in 2005 all built up to this multi-part epic. Sinestro was a former Green Lantern; in fact, he was hailed as the greatest of them all. His obsessive drive for peace and order eventually led him to leave the Corps after feeling that they didn’t understand how to truly achieve order in the universe.
Modeling Sinestro after Adolf Hitler and other fascist dictators, Johns changed the character from a typical moustache-twirling comic supervillain into a fully realized psychotic with tons of depth. The Sinestro Corps War detailed the formation of the Sinestro Corps, a yellow ring wielding group of fearmongers that roamed the galaxy, imposing their brand of law and order upon everything. Feeling as though the universe would only be at peace if it was kept in fear, Sinestro attempted to lead his Corps against the Green Lantern's home world of OA.
The Sinestro Corps War is one of the best examples of a large scale comic event ever rendered. It's concise, focused, and doesn’t try to cramm too many characters into the narrative. It plays out like a well thought out blockbuster movie with tons of character depth and historical allusions. Johns has written plenty of Green Lantern events since, but this one is still his best.
4. Tales Of The Green Lantern Corps Vol. 1-3
What makes it great: Typically used as short backup stories at the end of the regular Green Lantern comics, DC wisely re-released these Tales Of The Green Lantern Corps stories into three books. Focusing on lesser known characters, these books fill out GL's vast world and mythology.
The stories included here have much more of a sci-fi edge and routinely incorporate more complex moral and social dilemmas. It’s a breath of fresh air when compared to other comics that usually feature a relentless amount of guest stars and crossovers. The Green Lantern Corps is extremely closed off to the rest of the DC Universe and tells stories that hardcore GL fans want to read. Tales Of The Green Lantern also feature a wide array of comic talent including Kurt Busiek, Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and more.
Even though these stories don’t feature complicated story arcs or interwoven plots, the short, self-contained tales have become some of the more memorable Green Lantern stories ever released. So memorable, in fact, that Geoff Johns based his 2009 crossover Blackest Night off of a Green Lantern Corps story by Alan Moore.
5. Green Lantern: Rebirth (Collects: Green Lantern: Rebirth #1-6)
What makes it great: Here’s the deal: Hal Jordan went kind of crazy back in the '90’s, killing most of the Green Lantern Corps and destroying his home of Coast City. He was viewed as a traitor not only to the Green Lanterns but to earthlings themselves. But in 2005, Geoff Johns kicked off brought Jordan back to life, revealing that the entity of fear, known as Parallax, was actually responsible for the mayhem. And that’s where Green Lantern: Rebirth begins.
While the book is nothing more than an excuse for DC to bring Jordan back as a hero after his replacement, Kyle Rayner, failed to attact an audience, Johns actually made this story a substantial read. He used his endless knowledge of the DC continuity to bring to life a tale that was not only intimate and emotional, but one that also spanned the universe and provided the epic battles that comic fans love. But the most important part is that Johns never left behind the personal ramifications that Jordan felt after being reborn.
The one problem with Green Lantern: Rebirth, however, is that it’s a little heavy on back story and may be confusing for some fans, but this is still one of the most fleshed-out character studies on Hal Jordan ever to grace the page. And with this maiden GL incarnation, Johns began a run that has solidified him as one of the greatest Green Lantern writers to date.