Green Lantern: Earth One is one of the most outstanding outings from DC’s Earth One graphic novels. The Earth One line started in 2010 with Superman: Earth One, a grounded take on Superman that was loosely inspired by The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012) and in turn, loosely inspired Man of Steel (2013).
Taking bright superheroes and putting them in a gritty real-world setting wasn’t a unique idea in 2010, but the brilliance of Earth One was creating an entire alternate universe (“Earth-1”) where applying this approach to every hero was the narrative hook. By being set in an alternate universe, Earth One created a special opportunity to break down DC’s heroes in a new way, twisting them in risky directions without upsetting the main DC canon.
Released in 2018, Green Lantern: Earth One was the ninth Earth One publication. Yet in a line of visually iconic re-interpretations, it stands out the most for its artwork. The first volume was such a remarkable achievement that in 2019, Green Lantern: Earth One Volume One became the first and only Earth One book to be nominated for an Eisner award for Best New Graphic Novel.
Written by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko, with art by Hardman and Jordan Boyd, Green Lantern: Earth One is such an original reinvention of the Green Lantern world that James Gunn used Hardman’s art to announce the upcoming Lanterns series in the new DCU slate.
Although Gunn described Lanterns as a terrifying, terrestrial mystery inspired by True Detective, the choice of Earth One as the visual aid could be a sign of DC Studios’ vision for the tone and aesthetic of the TV show. So in this installment of DC Showcase, let’s dive into Green Lantern: Earth One and see how it could inspire the upcoming DCU series!
The story of Green Lantern: Earth One
Green Lantern: Earth One reimagines pilot Hal Jordan as a space miner in the 21st century. When he discovers a strange ring on an alien ship, he is thrust into an intergalactic mystery filled with action, horror, and countless betrayals. Hal quickly learns about the Green Lantern Corps, who are all but extinct after the rise of the Manhunters. Uncovering the truth behind the fall of the Green Lanterns is one of many interesting twists that keep Earth One fresh for even the most veteran Green Lantern readers.
As Hal seeks to understand his place in the universe and reinvigorate the Green Lantern Corps, the story takes on a Seven Samurai approach as he travels from planet to planet searching for the few remaining Green Lanterns to join his mission. For Green Lantern fans, this is a thrilling ride as we meet a number of familiar characters, all reinterpreted through the Earth One lens. The finale of the book is the ultimate payoff, cementing this alt-universe tale as an all-time classic Green Lantern epic.
Green Lantern: Earth One Volume One is a perfectly standalone story about the return of the Green Lanterns. Volume Two (2020) picks up a few years later with the rise of the Yellow Lanterns as Earth is caught in a series of interplanetary political manipulations. This installment also introduced John Stewart and continued the theme of free will vs. calculated control.
Although Volume Two is clearly the middle act of a trilogy, Hardman has announced that there are no plans for Green Lantern: Earth One Volume Three. This is a shame because this fantastic re-interpretation deserves to be completed.
Earth One revitalizes the Green Lantern Corps
Of all the Earth One books, Green Lantern: Earth One showcases some of the best uses of the alt-universe premise. The unorthodox updates are deeply rooted in story and character development, and heighten the satisfying payoffs later in the book. A few of the most traditional Green Lantern elements are still missing, but overall, the changes exist for a true reason and cleverly explain why the Green Lantern mythos of Earth-1 is fundamentally different from Green Lantern mythos in the main continuity of Earth-0.
I read the full Green Lantern/Green Lantern Corps saga by Geoff Johns & Peter Tomasi almost ten years ago, when I was first getting into comics seriously. In fact, the first comic I ever bought was Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern: Secret Origin! So the intricate mythos of the Green Lantern Corps has always been somewhere in the back of my mind. But over the years I’ve drifted away from the characters, and to be quite honest, I thought I had forgotten everything about them.
Reading Earth One brought back all those warm memories. It was a blast to see my favorite characters like Kilowog, Arisia, Sinestro, and even Salaak make their way into the story, and I loved recognizing all the little homages and twists on familiar canon. For me, the best part of Green Lantern: Earth One’s plot was watching the Green Lantern Corps be built up once again, like a total reinvention of Green Lantern: Rebirth from the 2000s. This is an exhilarating revitalization of the Green Lantern mythology for a new generation.
The cinematic potential of Green Lantern: Earth One
The plot of Green Lantern: Earth One is filled with great moments rife with cinematic potential. Some of the best set pieces include Hal Jordan discovering the ring and battling a Manhunter, and an exhilarating first flight sequence that feels like Man of Steel in space. In particular, Hal’s investigation into the Green Lantern Corps and his search for the hidden heroes is the perfect plot for a television format. Seeing the whole Green Lantern mythos be reborn piece by piece is electrifying in the comic, and would be a fantastic finale for the DCU adaptation.
But the biggest inspiration the DCU could take from Green Lantern: Earth One is the art, which is the real draw of the series. Gabriel Hardman and Jordan Boyd do a phenomenal job with the pencils, inks, colors, and dynamic panel layouts. Everything looks spectacular, and the slight changes in art style throughout the series reflect the changes in tone and story. The panels slope to heighten the action, and the colors shift to intensify the drama. The bright green heroes create a brilliant contrast against the dangerously dark emptiness of space.
Hardman’s harsh, moody atmosphere is contained by the thick white negative space of the gutters, immersing the reader with a sense of rough realism. Through the art, you can hear, feel, and smell the cold, desolate worlds our heroes live in, punctuated by the fiery bursts of battle. Green Lantern: Earth One is one of the most visually stunning interpretations of Green Lantern ever crafted. If the Lanterns series can bring the tone and aesthetic of Earth One to live action, then we will truly be in for a treat.
Lastly, because the show is called Lanterns rather than Green Lanterns, there’s the possibility that the show could explore the fuller spectrum of Lantern Corps beyond just Green. There could even be the chance for co-lead John Stewart to be a Yellow Lantern, as he was in Earth One. While it might be upsetting to make the main universe John Stewart a Yellow Lantern in his first live action adaptation, this would certainly be an interesting wrinkle. We’ll just have to see how DC re-interprets the Lantern lore for their new universe.
Is Green Lantern: Earth One for new readers?
Green Lantern: Earth One is 100% new reader friendly. Each book in DC’s Earth One line was designed to have standalone adventures, and this is the easily one of the best. If you’re familiar with Green Lantern lore, history, and side characters, then you’ll have a greater appreciation for all the little details, but it’s absolutely not required.
Green Lantern: Earth One is a complete introduction to the Hal Jordan and Green Lantern Corps of this alternate universe, so you don’t need to worry if this is your first Green Lantern comic. After reading Earth One, I would also recommend Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern and Dave Gibbons & Peter Tomasi’s Green Lantern Corps for a more traditional Green Lantern story set in the main DC Universe.
My verdict on Green Lantern: Earth One
This is one of the best Green Lantern comics recommendations for both new readers and long-time fans. The art and visual style is the greatest takeaway, and the series does a phenomenal job capturing the coldness of space with the action, mystery, and conspiracy behind the deepest Green Lantern lore. Even with the alt-universe designation, this comic deconstructs and reconstructs the Green Lantern Corps so earnestly that it earns its place as a genuine Green Lantern classic.
Like the other Earth One graphic novels, the pacing of both Green Lantern: Earth One books alternates between rushing and dragging as the creators struggle to compress a full story into one singular volume. Green Lantern: Earth One Volume One handles this better than most of the other Earth One books, but even Green Lantern: Earth One Volume Two lost much of its momentum in political machinations and expositional monologues. In general, I think the Earth One line would have benefitted if each volume had been subdivided into chapters to allow the story arcs to rise and fall naturally.
Overall, Green Lantern: Earth One is one of the strongest showcases from not only DC’s Earth One line, but the modern Green Lantern catalog as well. I highly recommend this for anyone interested in the Green Lanterns, especially new readers who might be intimidated by the giant scope of their legacy in the main DC universe. Green Lantern: Earth One is a terrific place to start.
Have you read any of the Earth One comics before? Are you excited about the Lanterns series? Let me know on Twitter @vinwriteswords and remember to follow the site @MyCosmicCircus for more comics coverage coming soon!