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Green Lantern Top Ten Graphic Novels

Updated on October 9, 2014

'Even rookies know that a Green Lantern isn't without fear. A Green Lantern overcomes fear. Every time they face it'

Green Lantern is one of those characters that is well known in comic reading circles, but completely unknown outside of them, (until the recent ill-fated Green Lantern movie!). Why? he has always had all the ingredients - cool uniform, space adventures, power ring, ladies man, cool supporting cast. When the Silver Age Green Lantern appeared in Showcase Comics in 1959, he was a hit, and one of the mainstays of the Justice League of America, but his solo title never really sold well. In some ways that was good as it allowed experimentation, and that's why we have those great O'Neil/ Adams 70's stories, and the radical Emerald Twilight storyline; they were dreamt up as ways to increase sales.

I have had a long standing affection for Green Lantern; the early 80's run by Len Wein/ Dave Gibbons was where I began, and I have read Green Lantern ever since, going back to rediscover the old stuff, and staying with him down the road. There's been highs and lows, but I have always had a deep affection for Hal Jordan as a character. Incidentally, I've chosen to mainly focus on Hal, but that's no slight on Alan Scott, the original, or Kyle Rayner, John Stewart, even Guy Gardener! they are all great Green Lanterns, but Hal is THE Green Lantern. The late 90's/ early 00's were a low point for Hal, until Geoff Johns essentially did a soft reboot, and put Hal firmly at the center of the DC Universe. He made him a major player, the Black Lanterns storyline, and Sinestro Corps War dominated the DC universe, and Hal was back.

I think various writers have struggled to 'find' Hal Jordan, hence the many attempts to humanise him, give him issues, make him less perfect than he once was; this would have destroyed lesser characters, but he is back center stage now, cocky, a little arrogant, a little reckless.

Just how I like him.

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10. Green Lantern: Secret Origin

Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Ivan Reis

Over the last 7-8 years or so, it is impossible to separate Green Lantern from Geoff Johns writing; its pretty true to say he elevated Green Lantern back to A-list status. This book collects together issues 29-35 of the Green Lantern series, and adds some tweaks and retroactive continuity to the already established origin. What I like the most about this story is the way Johns plays up the human aspects of the character, not the hero. Hal Jordan is a very flawed individual, with one of the most powerful weapons in the universe.

When we meet Hal, he is at a very low time - his mother has died, he is estranged from his brother, and he has been kicked out of the Air Force; then a dying alien bequeaths him the power ring! We see how Hal copes with the ring, his first Green Lantern mission, meeting Sinestro and other Corps members, all those key moments in his early career.

It is essential reading for an understanding of the character, and helped firmly cement a modern Hal Jordan, with modern problems, in the modern world.

Geoff Johns writing is accessible to all, but long time fans will pick up some nice little touches here and there; for example, the Armed Forces Recruiting Center is at an address beginning with 2814 (the sector of the universe Hal is later assigned to is Sector 2814), and he has a bar brawl with some unknown guy called John Stewart (whatever happened to him!)

The art by Ivan Reis is fantastic,clear, crisp, and very easy on the eye. When he cuts loose with large panels and layouts, it really is top notch.

A great introduction to the modern Green Lantern.

One of the big doomed to fail romances in comics...

9. Green Lantern Chronicles Vol 1

Writer: John Broome Artist: Gil Kane

If you want to enjoy a character now, its important to see how he or she got there, and for that you need to go back to the beginning. I also recommend origin books, and DC are especially good at putting these out at varying prices. You have the high end Archive Editions, the middle priced Chronicles editions, and the cheap and cheerful black and white Showcase editions; pick up the origin in whichever format you prefer, but do pick it up.

I like the Chronicles editions, which I find affordable and they have very good production values. This edition collects together Showcase issues 22-24, and Green Lantern 1-3, and they are a fun read. Classic 50's sci-fi, with a nice dollop of romance and far fetched outlandish adventures. Its always nice to revisit simpler days, where today's 6 issue story arc was compressed into a single story!

Yes, the story and art are a little simplistic, but look beyond that and several ideas and themes strike you as very clever (indeed, Grant Morrison has made a career from mining ideas from old 50's/ 60's comics and reworking them into modern stories!)

It all began here.

The great silver age Green Lantern artist, Gil Kane

Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)
Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)

8. Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight/New Dawn

Writer: Ron Marz Artist: Various

This rocked the DC universe to its core when it came out, completely changed the status quo forever.(well, nearly forever...!). You can buy this storyline in 2 separate volumes, but to appreciate the entire story arc try to but this volume, or buy both together. You won't regret it.

This 'double' volume contains Green Lantern issues 48-55, and includes an Afterword by author Ron Marz.

'Emerald Twilight' is a large story but at its heart is the fact that Hal's beloved Coast City is annihilated by a powerful enemy, the guilt driving him borderline insane. He uses his ring to re-create Coast City, but it is nothing more than an illusion and the Guardians of the Universe severely reprimand him for misusing his ring. This does send him over the edge, and he heads to Oa to take down the Guardians, steal their power, and try and change history back. On the way he fights and defeats many other Green Lanterns, many friends, and succeeds in destroying the Guardians themselves. Hal has, essentially become an insane god, filled with the power of the Guardians and the Corps combined. Phew!

'New Dawn' switches to the story of Kyle Rayner, a young slacker chosen to wield the ring in desperation; We see his first tentative steps learning to use the ring, after initially rejecting it. Marz struggles early on to make this (then) young, hip guy likeable, but the writing improves as the story progresses. Kyle, although initially hated, has gone on to have a long career and is now a senior member of the Green Lantern Corps in good standing. I never hated him, but was always pro-Hal, and was happy when Hal was restored as the senior Green Lantern.

It is a story that split fandom at the time, and still does, to a degree; the early internet was aflame with pro-Hal and pro-Kyle groups taking shots at each other, and poor Ron Marz even receiving death threats! It was a radical storyline, but sales on Green Lantern were pretty low, and they obviously figured 'what the heck have we got to lose?' I do think Marz took some liberties with Hal as a character at the time (he seemed out of character to me) but retroactive continuity has established Hal was possessed by Parallax, so this now makes sense.

Not as polished as some later storylines, and feels a little rushed by today's standards, but still essential reading as a major chapter in the Green Lantern mythos.

Oa, Be Afraid...

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Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)

A fan history of Green Lanterns, from Alan Scott to the present.

7. Absolute Green Lantern:The Sinestro Corps War

Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Ivan Reis

Again, I have chosen the Absolute Edition version as the oversized art and production values are just superb, but it is expensive, so pick up the softcovers if need be.This slip-cased edition collects together Green Lantern issues 21-25, Green Lantern Corps issues 14-19 and the Green Lantern Sinestro Corps War Special 1,plus the Secret Files and Origins issue. Its all there folks!

The epic story, for that it is, sees Sinestro creating his own army of ring-wielders to take on the Guardians and the Green Lantern Corps; he still loves the Corps, but feels that its rightful mission has been corrupted by the Guardians. The 'war' itself is actually just a means to an end, and in the end by losing, Sinestro wins. Huh, you cry...let me explain.

Sinestro feels the GL Corps are too weak,and wants them to be tougher; so by creating his own army every bit as powerful, and one that is also quite happy to use lethal force he forces the Guardians to remove the block on the rings that prevent a Green Lantern using lethal force, an idea they held sacred.

It is an incredible epic, as familiar Lanterns fall, some turn bad, some are changed forever,and the moral high ground of the Guardians is lost forever. The writing by Geoff Johns, controlling such a vast array of locales and characters, is top-notch, and Ivan Reis draws some of the best widescreen comics mayhem you'll ever see.

The Absolute Edition extras are nice too, the usual bundle of sketches, preliminary artwork, variant covers and promo art. The most interesting extras are Geoff Johns reproduced' original proposal for the event, and a creative team round table where we learn a lot about how the story developed, how they chose who died etc. Genuinely interesting stuff.

Sinestro, the man's got game.

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Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)

6. Green Lantern Greatest Stories Ever Told

Writer: Various Artist: Various

As I have written elsewhere, these 'best of' volumes are the single best way to get a feel for any character, as you get a good range of interpretations of them over several decades. This is true of Green Lantern, with stories here ranging from the 1950s to 2005. It is primarily a look at Hal Jordan, though, rather than a complete overview of all the Green Lanterns.

As you would expect, the story quality varies quite a bit. We start with 'S.O.S. Green Lantern', from Showcase issue 22, September/October 1959, the classic origin tale, a couple of decent 60's tales, a fun 1970 team up of Sinestro and Star Sapphire (,'Lost in Space' Green Lantern issue 74), and then a classic.

'Beware My Power',from Green Lantern issue 87 (1972), sees the first appearance of John Stewart, by the GL dream team of Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams. Its dated a little (John Stewart wanted to be called Black Lantern!), but its heart is in the right place and the art is still gorgeous.

The next two tales from the 80's and 90's are also reasonable fare, though hardly classic,but 'lightspeed' , a 1999 Mark Waid tale of Green Lantern and Flash is a great read.

'Tomorrows Hero' brings us nearly up to date, and shoe horns in some other Green Lanterns, and the book finishes with 'Flight', by Geoff Johns and Darwyn Cooke, a beautiful piece of work that concentrates on Hal Jordan, the man. Perfect choice to end on.

I could probably quibble some of the inclusions over others, but it's a fair representation of GL down the years, and a good starting place for new fans.

Filmation 1960's classic Green Lantern clip...

5. Emerald Dawn, Vol 1 and 2

Writer: Gerard Jones Artist: Keith Giffen

I've lumped these two together as I've heard there will be (is?) a single volume collecting both together; if not, obviously buy them separately, as they do directly connect to each other, through creative team and theme. This storyline has largely been reworked now by Geoff Johns and his take on Hal, but at the time was quite a radical shift for the character; he was made human! It was published as a 6 issue mini-series in 1989-1990, before a new Green Lantern series was launched.

No more Mr Perfect, Silver Age stud muffin, this Hal Jordan was unreliable, drinks too much (only on occasion, this is DC!), irresponsible to the extreme...and seemingly perfect for the Guardians ring! Emerald Dawn was the first reworking of Hal's origin since the 50's, and its done well. By making Hal human, we can relate more to him, and his later actions seem all the more heroic; its saying what if you, average joe, got the ring? We tread the now familiar path of meeting the Corps and Guardians, and by mini series end Hal has save the day(well, Oa). Artwork is a little pedestrian, and the reproduction doesn't help, but its decent enough.

Emerald Dawn 2 carries on from the first book seamlessly; if the first book was about Hal's failings, this second volume is about responsibility. Hal is now accepted into the Corps, and is assigned a mentor...Sinestro. Sinestro is the GL Corps greatest member, but already we can see his failings start to show, and a great job is done of turning an average GL villain into one with purpose and personality.

Emerald Dawn 1 and 2 redefined Green Lantern for the (then) modern world of the 1990s, and stands up well today.

4. Absolute Green Lantern Rebirth

Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Ethan Van Sciver

Again, as with other times I recommend the Absolute Editions, you can find cheaper softcover versions of the stories, but the Absolute Editions, though pricey, are always the BEST way for the extras.

Green Lantern:Rebirth was a great story. In a nutshell, Geoff Johns re-establishes Hal Jordan as 'the' Green Lantern, after his stints as villain and human host for the Spectre; he cleverly explains away the seemingly catastrophic actions of Hal during Emerald Twilight; it wasn't Hal at all, but he was possessed by the fear entity Parallax. Johns also reintroduces subtly different recurring villains (Hector Hammond, Black Hand, Sinestro) who will have a major impact on future storylines. Its great stuff.

Ethan Van Sciver's art is simply stunning, and does full justice to the script. The colors are sharp and vivid too.

The Absolute Edition has those nice little extras I was talking about - Geoff Johns' original proposal , Ethan Van Sciver's unused artwork/ promo art, action figure/statue designs, and the full script to Rebirth issue 1. The oversized Van Sciver art is worth the price of admission alone though.

For any fan of the last 10 years of Green Lantern, this is essential reading; it brings Hal back to the centre of the DC universe, and in a way that makes perfect sense. You've got to love that.

A Green Lantern Rebirth page of script... - Geoff Johns, DC Comics

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Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)

Green, green, everywhere...

The Oath...

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Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)

Which Lantern shines brightest...

Who is your favorite Green Lantern?

See results

3. Green Lantern: Sector 2814 Volume 1

Writer: Len Wein Artist: Dave Gibbons

I was thrilled when this came out, as this was the era I loved, and I can never get enough Dave Gibbons Green Lantern art! This collects together Green Lantern issues 172-186 (1984/1985), minus 177 which was a reprint, though leaves out the GL Corps backups; very much a Dave Gibbons book.

It is a book very much of its time. Len Wein writes for me a decent run of stories, but there is no big tentpole storyline; the main theme is the attempted destruction of Ferris Aircraft, and Hal's increasing disenchantment with the Corps, after returning to Earth for some 'him' time.. We also start to see cameos from characters that will soon loom large in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was just around the corner...

Its a nice little snapshot of a time in GL's life, and in DC's publishing, that is pretty much ignored up to now in collected editions.

Has it dated? a little, but not much. Some dialogue is cheesy 80's fare, but nothing as bad as when I read back some of those 90's Marvels..Gibbons art is fantastic, still looks good as good as the day he drew it.

No extras though, which is a shame.

Pure 80's fun, one of my personal favorites.

One of my favorite Dave Gibbons Covers...

2. Absolute Dc The New Frontier HC

Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke

I love The New Frontier, but why is it in a 'best of' for Green Lantern? well, at its heart, its a Green Lantern story. Its a love letter to the Silver Age from Darwyn Cooke, and its main focus is, you guessed it, Hal Jordan. As always Absolute Edition always is best, but other flavors are available!

The Absolute Edition is 464 pages (!) , and none of it is filler. Apart from the absolutely gorgeous main story,there are plenty of extras, promo art, annotated pages etc. One of my best ever buys.

What I love about this story, which in broad terms is the story of the old generation (the JSA) passing over to the new (the soon to be JLA) is the optimism and brightness of it. It truly does reflect the 1950s - these are bright, brash, idealistic heroes perfect for that era, and none more so than dashing 'top gun' Hal Jordan. We see the formation of the Justice League, and their first adventure together; the 'New Frontier' doesn't obviously fit DC continuity, so it has since been announced that this is now canon for Earth-21, in the New 52. If ever a story, subject and art could be matched more perfectly than this, I'd like to see it!

As I said earlier, the main story arc follows Hal and his journey, from Korean War veteran to protector of Earth and all-american hero, and so for me, this is a Silver Age Green Lantern story, with guest stars!.

You get the Silver Age style and heroic ideals, but with a dash of modern social issues and ideas. Its cool.

its a green New Frontier....

New Frontier Sketch: Hal Jordan, Carol Ferris - Darwyn Cooke, DC Comics

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Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)

1. Green Lantern/Green Arrow Collection

Writer: Denny O'Neil Artist: Neal Adams

Probably the most famous run in Green Lantern history, and one of the most influential in DC history as a whole, was that of Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams; they decided comics could be more than just entertainment, they could be relevant, they could actually have something to say.

This volume weighs in at an impressive 368 pages, and collects together Green Lantern issues 76-87 and 89, and stories from The Flash issues 217-219 and 226. It is great stuff.

The early/mid 1970s was a time of ongoing social upheaval and unrest in the U.S, and O'Neil and Adams hit on the idea of tackling some of these issues in the Green Lantern book - Green Lantern represented authority, the status quo, and Green Arrow became the radical liberal, the voice of change. The two friends clashed...often. We got storylines tackling environmental damage (featuring an obvious Christ figure as an eco-terrorist), racism, slums and poverty, the plight of of Native Americans,over-population, and drug use. The drug storyline was the most radical (and amazing that the DC of the day allowed it!) as Green Arrow discovered his sidekick (and Teen Titan) Roy Harper (then Speedy, now Red Arrow) was addicted to drugs, and actually caught him shooting up heroin!

Neal Adams artwork throughout is outstanding, very expressive and dynamic, and a perfect complement to the writing; sometimes the rage on Green Arrow's face is too real...!

Sure, the material and the dialogue can seem a little heavy handed and dated now, but that's exactly the point; they were comics written to be relevant for that time in history, not posterity. Future creators such as Alan Moore and Frank Miller have cited this run of 'serious' comics as a big influence, and it can be argued we might never have had a Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns without them, even the Vertigo 'mature readers' imprint.

At the least, Green Lantern was given a very clearly defined personality (as was Green Arrow), a richer personal life,a prominent black character for years to come (John Stewart), and (finally) Hal revealing who he was to Carol Ferris. Milestones all.

Read them as an important part of comics history, and you will not be disappointed.

Bye to the green....

Pre-internet, this cover was a shocker when it first appeared!

In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight....'

Welcome Guest, sign the Book of Oa...

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