A virtual rainbow of lanterns
DC’s Green Lantern franchise features characters from across the cosmos. The Lantern Corps members themselves are charged with protecting the universe with the help of rings that can create virtually any shape and perform myriad functions, limited only by the wearer’s willpower and imagination.
It’s too bad that all most characters wearing them nowadays can think to do is kill and maim.
I started reading the trades a few years ago when Hal Jordan returned as the main Green Lantern.
I also followed the companion series, “Green Lantern Corps,” sort of a police procedural in space featuring many other members of the Corps. But I gave up on the latter as story after story featured buckets of blood and extensive body counts.
I’m not suggesting all comics should be kid-friendly or that dark, even violent stories have no place. When, during the Sinestro Corps War, the Guardians removed the restriction against lethal force from the Green Lanterns’ rings, it made sense. And for an issue or two, some of the characters struggled with it.
But soon they were blowing away Sinestro’s Yellow Lanterns without batting an eye. Jordan himself disintegrated somebody’s head in a subsequent storyline.
More and more lantern corps representing different aspects of the emotional spectrum were introduced. In addition to Yellow (fear), we got Red (rage), Orange (greed), Blue (hope), Indigo (compassion) and Violet (love) Lanterns, as well as Black (death) and White (life).
The Red Lanterns consist of beings brutally wronged and tormented to the point that their rings replace their hearts with corrosive red energy they vomit forth in battle. Not exactly subtle, but it works as a metaphor for how rage can consume a person. I expect them to be dark.
But what about the other corps?
My favorites were the Blue Lanterns. Initially, writers went as all-in with hope as they had with fear and rage. Saint Walker, their leader, quickly became a favorite character of mine.
Since I’m mainly keeping up with the series through trades from the library, I only recently learned online that the entire corps, except Saint Walker, had been wiped out by a villain.
“That’s bad,” I thought, “but maybe they’re trying to show (again) how he can hope in even the darkest circumstances?” But as near as I can tell from reading the type of spoiler-heavy sites I usually avoid, Walker lost his ring because he lost hope.
There’s only one Orange Lantern, Larfleeze. Since he embodies greed, he doesn’t want to share his power. Makes sense. And he’s often played for laughs. Larfleeze was starting to grow on me.
Then, in “Green Lantern: New Guardians,” we learn he exterminated a peaceful race while trying to claim one of the alien angels protecting them as his own.
Something positive occasionally shines through, such as Kyle Rayner’s mastery of the love aspect of the emotional spectrum by forgiving an enemy. The enemy in question had just blown a hole through Kyle’s chest, in the midst of a fight with aliens who kill and transform everything in their path, but still, it was a nice moment.
Maybe the cartoon tie-ins are a better option if I want my lanterns to shine a little brighter (I hope their not shoveling all this despair on kids).
But two of the greatest Green Lantern stories – “In Darkest Night” and “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize” – of all time were penned by Alan “Watchmen” Moore, a guy who knows from darkness. Both feature characters that illustrate the range of creativity and possibilities the franchise offers, without characters being maimed and killed by rings that can do so much more.
Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic Support Group.