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Best Shots Review: Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular (7/10)

(Image credit: DC)

Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular 
Written by James Tynion IV, Geoff Johns, Cullen Bunn, Dennis O’Neil, Ron Marz, Peter Tomasi, Charlotte (Fullerton) McDuffie, Robert Vendetti, Mariko Tamaki and Sina Grace
Art by Gary Frank, Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke, Mike Grell, Darryl Banks, Fernando Pasarin, Crisscross, Rafa Sandoval, Mirka Andolfo, Ramon Villalobos, Wade Von Grawbadger, Jordi Tarragona, Steve Oliff, Alex Sinclair, David Baron, Lovern Kindzierski, Hi-Fi, Gabe Eltaeb, Luis Guerrero, Ivan Plascencia, Arif Prianto and Rico Renzi
Lettering by Tom Napolitano, Rob Leigh, Carlos M. Mangual, Clem Robins, Josh Reed, Steve Wands, Dave Sharpe, Gabriela Downie and AndWorld Design
Published by DC
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

(Image credit: DC)

DC’s anniversary specials have been a bit hit-or-miss historically, with anthologies that sometimes click and other times feel more haphazard than anything else. But thanks to the intergenerational nature of the Green Lantern Corps, DC’s Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular has nostalgia to offer for fans of any age, even if it doesn’t quite have enough real estate to dig too deeply into any particular characters.

This anniversary special shares the most in common with the recent Robin anthology, in that there have been so many different iterations of Green Lantern that the stories are broken up largely by character and era, with even flagship character Hal Jordan having to share the spotlight in two out of the three stories he appears in. Chances are, if there’s a major Green Lantern creator over the past few decades you’ve admired, they’re in this book, ranging from seminal GL superstar Geoff Johns to Kyle Raynor creators Ron Marz and Darryl Banks to the recently departed Denny O’Neil.

(Image credit: DC)

But I’d argue that this anniversary special is at its best when it’s looking forward rather than looking back — for example, while James Tynion IV and Gary Frank haven’t written for any of the Green Lantern series, they start off the anthology strong with a story about Alan Scott. Not only is Frank’s work the undisputable artistic high point of the book, but Tynion manages to speak volumes with his narrative about Alan’s struggle to come to terms with his sexuality as a gay man in the 1940s. Given the politics of the day, Tynion says a lot with a little here — Alan doesn’t have the vocabulary or the hindsight that readers would in 2020, and instead we see so much of his relationship with the late Jimmy Henton through Frank’s moody, fire-lit scenes. While Alan Scott’s place in the greater DC Universe has been in flux for years, this story is a great way to honor the character.

Yet like I said, this is also the definitive high point for the whole anthology, so your mileage might vary. Writer Robert Vendetti and artist Rafa Sandoval come closests to reaching Tynion and Frank’s heights with a future story of Hal Jordan, John Stewart and Kyle Rayner each reminiscing about the battles they shared alongside Guy Gardner — while the punchline can be seen from a mile away, Vendetti instantly captures the warmth, camaraderie and humor of these ring-slinging brothers-in-arms, peppering in action sequences and characterization with aplomb. Sandoval also delivers some stellar work here, not just with the plausible redesigns of the three core Lanterns as older men, but by juggling so much expressiveness into what were essentially montage action scenes. Meanwhile, Cullen Bunn and Doug Mahnke also snake out a surprisingly sharp story featuring Sinestro — Mahnke’s artwork is unimpeachable in its energy and excitement, and this feels like some of the strongest pacing Bunn has delivered for a superhero story in quite some time. Bunn’s hidden twist — the idea that a Green Lantern ring must constantly evaluate if you’re worth saving — is a sinister hook that’ll long linger with you. 

(Image credit: DC)

Still, some of the more veteran talents wind up delivering stories that feel perhaps a bit past their expiration date. Some stories, like Denny O’Neil and Mike Grell’s Green Lantern/Green Arrow team-up or Ron Marz and Darryl Banks’ look back at Kyle Rayner, feel like stories preserved in amber — it’s a rush of nostalgia that will bring you back to your childhood in all the right ways. But other times, going back memory lane hits diminishing returns. Green Lantern Corps veterans Peter Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin tap into their well of deep consistency with a story featuring Guy Gardner and Kilowog — but while Tomasi’s characterization feels smooth and comfortable alongside Pasarin’s solid and impressive artwork, the end of the storyline feels so saccharine that it retroactively robs the story of much of its punch. 

The same thing happens with seminal GL writer Geoff Johns, as he returns to Hal Jordan alongside longtime artistic co-pilot Ivan Reis — Johns’ reflections on Hal’s relationships with the Corps, Batman and Carol Ferris are appropriately heartfelt, giving Reis an opportunity to show off his now-house standard design-work. But the punchline at the end feels so awkward and out of left field that it backfires on the rest of the story, robbing this anthology of what should have been one of its heaviest hitting stories. 

Yet there are also some stories that show some promise from unexpected corners. Charlotte Fullerton McDuffie, wife to the late Dwayne McDuffie, who made John Stewart the iconic Green Lantern for a whole generation of fans, teams up with artist ChrisCross for a kinetic and breezy team-up between John and Hawkgirl, as the villainous Doctor Polaris grabs a hold of power-enhancing "Meilstonium." You almost wonder how much of this story is autobiographical, particularly given Dwayne’s far-reaching repertoire across comics and animation, as well as his outspokenness in an industry that often couldn’t handle it. 

(Image credit: DC)

Meanwhile, writer Mariko Tamaki digs deep into anxiety, compulsiveness and mental illness with artist Mirka Andolfo in a story about Jessica Cruz, which takes a really interesting and introspective angle as to what it’s like to conquer Jessica’s unique brand of fear. While visually Jessica’s story doesn’t quite stand out, the opposite is true with writer Sina Grace and artist Ramon Villalobos’ story about Simon Baz — while Grace’s story of prejudice and family feels fitfully paced, the way that Villalobos portrays Baz in action is extraordinary.

While there’s some element of hit-or-miss to these stories, by and large Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular has something to offer everyone, whether you’re a fan of Alan Scott all the way to Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz. Due to the sheer spread of characters to cover, this anniversary special feels different than the rest, but I think that’s ultimately to this book’s benefit — there’s such a wide diversity of themes and personal struggles for these Lanterns to embark upon that no two stories feel the same.