Comics are a playground for the creative mind. Technically, there are no limits but your own imagination and the blue lines on the pages, but superhero stories often come with editorial edicts to fulfil, villains that they must beat, or events that they have to crossover with. Stories that fit those boundaries are often the best remembered—Crisis on Infinite Earths, Flashpoint, and Reign of the Supermen all immediately come to mind. Occasionally, though, a creative team is given complete freedom to create something utterly mind blowing, unique and strange.
It’s hard to think of a better example of that right now than The Green Lantern. Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp's take on the classic squadron of heroes feels like an event in its own right. Over the 20-plus issues we’ve gotten so far—divided between two different “seasons”—the team dissects and subverts the idea of what a classic comic is with an attention to detail that's only born out of a deep love for the medium. Nearly every issue works as a single adventure in the surreal world of Hal Jordan, while also crafting a world-shattering arc that never feels forced.
The Green Lantern feels both radical and familiar, like it's breaking all the rules while also following them to a tee. It's a comic book series built on these kinds of contradictions and I mean that as the biggest possible compliment.
The Green Lantern works as both a soft reboot for the heroic Hal Jordan as well as a greatest hits of his wild past. Morrison digs into the esoteric history of the character, leaning into the obvious psychedelic potential of having an alien-gifted, mind-controlled superpower. Although the series’ first issue might lean into the classic superhero origin story with Sharp playing with our expectations and Morrison stripping Hal's motivations down to a core, it ends on a brutal note that hints at what's to come. Take note of those hints, too. If you want it to be, this series is a puzzle box waiting to be solved, and there are plenty of clues on the way. But the joy of what Morrison and Sharp create is that you can either play detective or be surprised at the close.
Sharp gets to flex his creative muscles in a way that we rarely get to see in modern superhero comics. Each issue gives the chance for the artist to explore something incredible. Though the setup may essentially be a police procedural in space, Sharp crafts everything from a showdown with God to a world that exists entirely within the confines of the Power Ring. His style spans the spectrum of techniques and wilds of space in a way that makes The Green Lantern feel utterly immersive and totally unique. Of course, Oliff plays a large part in that, creating an intergalactic palette that defies belief yet feels utterly grounded in reality.
Even though the procedural nature and engrossing art makes this a great read for new Lantern fans, Morrison also goes out of their way to delve into the deepest realms of Lantern lore. This series offers up new and unique takes on the Darkstars, Controllers and even the Guardians of the Universe that will delight deep-cut DC fans. That each issue basically delivers a different experience and genre exploration makes The Green Lantern wholly unique within DC’s shared continuity. That holds especially true when you consider that despite the fun the creative team has with the medium, they also manage to craft an engaging overarching conspiracy that surprises and builds.
Something else that is particularly enjoyable and unexpected about this iteration of the Lantern Corps is how many lanterns we actually get to meet. Morrison digs into their comics career, bringing back numerous lanterns that they introduced in previous series. Without spoiling too much, you can expect to see heroes like Magic Lantern, who first appeared in the writer's run on Animal Man, and Hank Hallmark from the lauded Multiversity series. There are also plenty of radical iterations included like Kai-Ro and Bat-Lantern. Like most of Morrison's best work, this is a book that makes it clear just how much the writer loves the world that they're playing in.
In these stressful times, we all need an escape and The Green Lantern offers us one, not only as an intergalactic adventure but also as a creative one. Getting to lose ourselves in the art of others is a joy, especially when it's this unchained and experimental. It helps that Sharp and Morrison are a match made in heaven. The worlds they create are immersive and the stories they tell are engaging. It's refreshing to see a superhero comic that takes such big swings and always hits. And after all, who hasn't wanted to see a superhero arrest God?
The Green Lantern: Season Two #9 by Grant Morrison. LIam Sharp and Steve Oliff is available in stores and as a digital comic book tomorrow. New to the world of The Green Lantern? Start with The Green Lantern Vol. 1: Intergalactic Lawman, available in print and as a digital graphic novel.
Rosie Knight writes about comics, movies and TV for DCComics.com, Nerdist, IGN and The Hollywood Reporter. For her take on another groundbreaking Grant Morrison series, check out her recent article on how their JLA saved DC's biggest heroes. Follow Rosie on Twitter at @RosieMarx.