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Pulp Culture
Some superhero comics are for 'fanboys' only

March 3, 2005
By Franklin Harris

If you're not a fan of Green Lantern or you haven't kept up with the "Green Lantern" comic books for the past decade, then "Green Lantern: Rebirth" is not for you. This six-issue miniseries by writer Geoff Johns and artists Ethan van Sciver and Prentis Rollins is drenched in continuity.

Green Lantern's complex backstory isn't Johns' fault, and "Rebirth" is, at its core, simply an exercise in clearing the decks for a new and presumably more reader-friendly "Green Lantern" ongoing series set to debut in May.

There are two ways to rehabilitate a superhero who has been rendered unusable by past stories. The first is to reboot him, tossing out everything that has come before. DC Comics uses this strategy with the "Legion of Super Heroes" every few years.

But throwing out a character's past and starting from scratch tends to alienate the hardcore fan base, which, if sales figures are any indication, is all that superhero publishers like DC and Marvel can count on. So, when it comes to a franchise character such as Green Lantern, DC has opted for the second strategy: Try to make sense of the character's convoluted history, tie up loose ends, undo past mistakes and give the character (and readers) a fresh start.

By this standard, "Rebirth" is as good as a superhero makeover can get, even if it isn't a particularly good story by purely artistic standards.

The miniseries is up to issue No. 4, and, so far, Johns has resurrected Green Lantern's most dangerous foe, Sinestro, and explained former Green Lantern Hal Jordan's descent into murder and madness as being all part of one of Sinestro's plots. For good measure, he also explains why Hal's power ring (the source of his powers) was always helpless against the color yellow, while the ring of Hal's successor, Kyle Rayner, didn't suffer from such an inconvenient and, frankly, ludicrous, limitation.

Johns also seems to be rebuilding the Green Lantern Corps, whose members Hal killed during that fit of insanity he endured during the 1990s. Lots of people may hate Guy Gardner, but I, for one, am happy to see the hotheaded substitute Green Lantern once again wearing his snazzy double-breasted corps uniform. (Guy may be a jerk, but he has the best fashion sense of anyone to ever wield a power ring.)

This is stuff only a fanboy could love, but when it comes to Hal Jordan, I plead guilty to being a fanboy.

I am not a fanboy, however, when it comes to Mark Millar, who, along with Brian Michael Bendis, is the driving creative force at Marvel Comics these days. Millar is the sort of writer who thinks being shocking for the sake of being shocking is a substitute for creativity. That said, however, I have taken unexpected pleasure in his current run on "Wolverine."

Millar's "Enemy of the State" story, running through issue Nos. 20-25, has Wolverine getting captured and brainwashed by a sinister cabal made up of Hydra, The Hand and a mutant doomsday cult called the Dawn of the White Light. As a result, Wolverine has become the villain in his own book, attacking heroes like Daredevil, the Fantastic Four and even his fellow X-Men.

If you haven't read the story yet, be warned that there are spoliers ahead.

Millar's writing has a manic energy to it, which is enhanced by John Romita Jr.'s artwork. Still, however, there is something unsettling about the story, and I feel guilty for enjoying it. While brainwashed, Wolverine has racked up quite a body count, including one X-Man. Yet Millar portrays Captain America and Nick Fury as treating Wolverine's predicament as a joke: Poor Wolverine. You mean he got himself brainwashed into a killing machine again? That guy has the worst luck.

To say that Millar writes Captain America and Fury out of character is an understatement. And Millar's decision to kill off Northstar, the one openly gay character of any consequence in the Marvel Universe, seems pointless. The story was going along just fine, but Millar still felt compelled to revert to form and throw in a needless shock.

That said, I'm still getting some guilty pleasure from "Wolverine," and I'm interested in seeing where Millar takes the story once Wolverine is back in his right mind.

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