Green Lantern/New Gods: Godhead #1 Review

on October 5, 2014

I’ve never been much of a New Gods fan. I’ve always realized they’re a really great, imaginative concept, but I’ve never cared about them enough to deeply explore their mythos. I was satisfied with them being characters that occasionally appeared in Superman stories. From what I saw, there was something weirdly incomplete about them, as if they were on the verge of being a brilliant idea, but ended up coming up short somehow. Maybe they were just too odd. Too weird. Too difficult to relate to. I’m not sure, but somehow, the concept seemed to fall short even when it was apparent that it could, and probably should, be wonderful.

And I don’t think it’s just me. Despite being filled to the brim with unique and creative ideas, and offering the DC Universe great characters, the New Gods never really got over. Yet, DC never gave up on them, probably because they saw, like I did, that there’s something special there, it’s just not being fully realized or presented in the right way.

Green Lantern/New Gods: Godhead #1 is a story that features the New Gods better than I’ve ever seen them. Granted, I haven’t gone out of my way to look up loads of New Gods material, but I feel like these characters and concepts are reaching their potential, at last. They’re visually stunning, comprehensible, and not so weird as to seem like something from a very old sci-fi movie that no one could relate to, and few could even understand (see: Zardoz).

The issue starts out with the origin of the New Gods in the New 52 continuity.

And you know what I credit much of this to? Green Lantern Corps writer, Van Jensen!
This book is an example of why we John Stewart fans are so fortunate to have a creator like Van Jensen working on our favorite character. He understands that with a wild concept like the New Gods, you’re going to have to bring humanity and familiarity to it. You’re going to have to give people something to hang on to in order to make them get invested; otherwise, you may end up with something like Zardoz.

Even if Jensen presents these characters in a more contemporary light than before, he doesn’t wash away their unique flavor. When Jensen works with a new concept, he’s sure to research it and isolate what makes it great, and what could make it better. He has done wonders with John Stewart, and I don’t think there has ever been a writer in comics, aside from Dwayne McDuffie, who “gets” that character as well as Jensen does.

Another important aspect of getting a concept like this to work well in this medium is the visuals. Artist Pete Woods has done brilliant designs on these characters, keeping a lot of iconography and styles of the Jack Kirby originals, while updating them into something that can be taken more seriously today.

Green Lantern Corps colorist Marcelo Maiolo lends his considerable talents to this book, which is great, seeing as the Green Lantern franchise has never had another colorist the caliber of Marcelo Maiolo. Maiolo has a firm understanding that the Green Lantern’s powers are light and how to convincingly represent that. His use of bright colors and sparkly effects makes reading Green Lantern Corps a pleasantly dazzling experience, and it’s nice to see that carried over to this one-shot.

Ethan Van Sciver contributes truly awe-inspiring artwork to this story.

Jensen and Maiolo are joined by renowned Green Lantern artist Ethan Van Sciver, who does absolutely stunning work, filled with care and detail. Maiolo and Van Sciver are worthy of these huge concepts and present them as epic and grandiose as they deserve to be. These creators make the most out of their larger than life playground, but unfortunately, some of the other art isn’t quite up to snuff. Van Sciver and Pete Woods aren’t the only ones penciling this book, and some of the work presented by the others artists is mediocre at best, and disappointing at worst. After seeing the wonderful opening pages by Van Sciver, the substantially cruder artwork by some of the others takes the wind out of the book’s sails somewhat. The New Genesis segments are simple, but passable; however, the art for the various Lantern Corps segments is not very pleasant to my eye.

Still, the story is so great that the uneven art doesn’t ruin the experience!

The issue begins with a story book introduction to the New Gods, where Van Jensen’s ability as a writer is immediately manifested. It reads really easy, without sacrificing poetic flair. This gives us an origin of the New Gods, and all of creation, really.

The story tells of the reign of the Old Gods and how they pretty much brought about their own downfall. From their atoms rose New Gods, who lived in peace until Darkseid decided to go rogue. After seven days of warfare they decimated their planet and much of its populace. Afterward, Highfather and his followers built the gleaming city of New Genesis, which now orbits their old planet, and Darkseid and his minions left for Apokolips, where he continually searches for the Anti-Life Equation, which will give him the power to subjugate all beings in the multiverse if he finds it.

On New Genesis, Highfather and the New Gods ready themselves for the final battle they know will come with Darkseid. Highfather is obsessed with the Source Wall, the limit of all creation, because he believes that beyond it is the secret to the Life Equation, the means through which he can defeat Darkseid. However, no being has been able to breach the Source Wall without being absorbed by it. No being but Kyle Rayner, the White Lantern, that is! Highfather has discovered this new development, and he and Metron are at the Wall discussing how it came to pass. Ethan Van Sciver pencils this breathtaking opening. His depiction of the Source Wall is extremely impressive, and his artwork paired with Maiolo’s colors makes for visual splendor.

Despite Van Jensen writing this issue, John Stewart doesn’t do much.

Metron takes Highfather to where Relic is calcified into the Source Wall. The wily god uses an instrument that allows Relic to speak to them. After being questioned, Relic tells them of the Lanterns he battled during the “Lights Out” event, and how they united seven colors of the spectrum, which allowed one of them to pass through the Wall. Metron knows of the Lanterns, and Highfather seeks to gain their powers, as passing through the Wall has allowed them the ultimate weapon against Apokolips, which he must have.

The story cuts to Mogo, the bustling planet of Green Lanterns. The art takes a dive here, as Ethan Van Sciver leaves the story. Marcelo Maiolo’s colors help, but as we’ve seen in the past, there is only so much he can do when given uninspiring art to work with. I do really like how active Mogo looks, though. There are many Green Lanterns about taking care of their business, and this gives us a believable sense of activity that one would think this universal police force headquarters would have. There, Hal Jordan has doubts about his leadership ability. Kilowog tries to reassure him, but he laments the loss of Kyle Rayner. It’s been one year since the White Lantern’s supposed death, so Hal Jordan goes to visit his grave in the crypt to pay his respects. He finds John Stewart, who had the same idea.

The two Green Lanterns think of Kyle Rayner’s memory positively, but Saint Walker, who’s lurking in the shadows, has more dour thoughts. Walker is the last surviving Blue Lantern, but he cannot use his ring, because he has no hope.

The main faces of the New Gods are a colorful bunch with great designs.

In another plane, beyond the multiverse, Orion of the New Gods awaits Highfather’s return. There’s another artist change here, which improves the visuals, but they’re still nowhere near as good as what Van Sciver put out in the beginning. Even so, they have a clean and competent look that’s easy enough to look at. We get a look at some of the culture of New Genesis. They have a city, with schools, soldiers, and generals. It has a somewhat similar feel to Coruscant from the Star Wars films, which is a compliment.

Highfather has summoned his Council of Eight and tells them of his recent discovery. No longer must they defend all planes of existence at once. The New Gods will garrison the Earth Prime universe, as Highfather believes that will be the location for the final battle with Darkseid. He plans on readying the beings of that universe for war.

The Lanterns have tapped into the greatest power of the multiverse. When the power of their rings united, it allowed them to breach the Source Wall and obtain the Life Equation. Highfather seeks to gain this power for himself, and sends his generals out into the universe to gather one of each ring, except for Hyalt, the forger. Highfather has a special task for him.

The New God Bekka pay a visit to the Sinestro Corps on their planet of New Korugar. Lyssa Drak prophesied the coming of Bekka, and tells Sinestro that they will fail to stop her. Sinestro decides that is not how things will happen. When Bekka arrives, Sinestro doesn’t have his entire Corps face her. Only he and Arkillo confront her, while Despotellis is put to some use that is not clear. Sinestro is brushed aside and Arkillo is easily maimed, losing his fingers and ring to Bekka. Once she has what she wants, she swiftly leaves.

One of the New God generals is Bekka, who makes short work of Sinestro and Arkillo.

The other New Gods get the rings rather easily, as well. Even so, there are some interesting interactions. The acquisitions don’t all go down the same way. Becka’s interaction with the Sinestro Corps is actually the most violent. Another particularly interesting one is when the New God Malhedron heads to Earth to meet a woman who is supposedly the last Red Lantern. It seems she was kidnapped by human traffickers, and when granted a red ring, used her power to tortuously kill those who ruined her life. Tired of her life, she is willing to give up her ring to the New God, even though she knows removing it will kill her. He has quite a bit of compassion for her, and says that she deserved better. I assume this Red Lantern woman was one of those left over from the events of the “Atrocities” story in Red Lanterns. However, it leaves me scratching my head when she’s said to be the last Red Lantern left, as I believe Bleez, Rankorr, and Guy Gardner are still out there.

Metron and Orion journey to Mogo to take the blue ring of Saint Walker and the green ring of Mogo, which is simply hanging from a branch. They’re opposed by Mogo and Hal Jordan, but the New Gods cream both of them and easily get away with the rings. It seems that Mogo’s ring was sustaining him. Without it, the living planet begins degrading, which is a huge concern for the Green Lantern Corps.

All the New God generals return to New Genesis via their boom tubes and give their prizes to Highfather, as ordered. He believes the Lanterns wield their rings blindly, and plans to show the universe the true potential of the Emotional Spectrum. His forger, Hyalt, built him a scepter that has a spot in it for each ring. Once equipped with the rings, Highfather decides to test out this new weapon, which supposedly allows him to use the Life Equation, on the planet Aydin, the most populous planet in the universe. Highfather believes Aydin represents the lowest of the low -overpopulation, poverty, and fifth- and aims to use the Life Equation to transform the populous into Gods like them, who will help them fight against the throngs of Darkseid. Fortunately, the art picks up again when they arrive on the planet! The New Gods look splendorous as they hover in the sky over the populous.

Accompanied by his generals, Highfather lets forth a torrent of Emotional energy across the entire planet. The experiment goes horribly wrong, and the population of the planet is morphed into hideous beasts that look like something the Shadow Empire would use. Metron brings out that the information from Relic was interpreted wrong. They do not have the power of the Life Equation, but of something else.

The interactions between the New Gods and the Lanterns are quite interesting and varied.

Seeing as the planet is now messed up and the populous cannot survive as is, Highfather orders his general Uggha to summon his troops to give the people a merciful death. Metron reasons that they do not need the seven rings to unite into a beam of white light, they need the single white ring of the White Lantern.

Having seen what the Emotional Spectrum is capable of, Highfather reasons that it cannot be left in the hands of mere mortals. It is too dangerous. He orders his generals to hunt down the ring wielders and exterminate them. All but the White Lantern, who is the weapon Highfather plans to use to defeat Darkseid.

It’s interesting seeing the New Gods as full blown antagonists, but also quite captivating. They truly come across as gods here. They do not have the perception or outlook of mortals, which is to the benefit of their characters. They’re ultimately working toward a benevolent end, but because they’re so lofty, the way they go about doing it appears wrong and evil. It’s also interesting seeing an experiment go terribly wrong. It’s pretty believable. When dealing with things you don’t fully understand, a lot of the time it takes trial and error before one gets a good grasp on everything. Perhaps Highfather shouldn’t have experimented on an entire planet for his first try, though.

Green Lantern John Stewart will have to face Uggha’s forces at Aydin in the upcoming Green Lantern Corps #35. The Green Lanterns are way outmatched against these gods, so it will be interesting to see how things transpire.

Speaking of John Stewart, if you’re looking for him to do much, he doesn’t. Despite Van Jensen being the main writer of this, John is pretty much wallpaper, and is only in two or so panels. This is really a New Gods story that greatly involves the Green Lantern mythos. I’m sure we’ll see how all of this affects him in Green Lantern Corps #35.

I’ve suspected that the “Godhead” event is the catalyst that will move Green Lantern away from the Emotional Spectrum concept that was created by Geoff Johns, and which more or less dominated Green Lantern plots of the last ten years. If so, it’s ultimately a very good idea, despite it being sure to cause outcry from fans of the lengthy Geoff Johns era.

The art on this title is mixed, but when it hits its high points, it really soars. In this scene, the New Gods are depicted with the grandeur concepts like them deserve.

Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern is kind of an interesting thing. It was a huge success among comic readers, but it is highly associated with all the fairly recent Green Lantern efforts in media that ultimately failed to catch on, such as the 2011 film and related merchandise, the animated series, and the direct to DVD movies. Warner Bros. poured fortunes upon fortunes into all those projects and only have a niche fanbase of hardcore comic readers to show for it. Realistically speaking, it is best for them to cut their losses and take Green Lantern in a new direction. I believe “Godhead” is the milestone that will define that new direction.

It’s looking like DC may go about this the old fashioned way and kill many of the characters associated with the Emotional Spectrum. It is a bit surprising seeing Arkillo –a prominent Sinestro Corps character- maimed the way he was. And big things seem in store for the White Lantern Kyle Rayner. Will he survive this event? Will he come out of “Godhead” the same as he entered? There will definitely be a massive status quo shift after this huge story. A good thing is that I’m confident it will mean new and exciting things for Green Lantern John Stewart, who greatly suffered during the Geoff Johns era!

This three month line wide crossover may seem daunting, but as long as the quality is great, I’m ready for it, and Green Lantern/New Gods: Godhead #1 is an excellent way to kick things off, and it reinforces my faith in Van Jensen and Marcelo Maiolo even more.

4.3 out of 5 stars.

Read Green Lantern Corps: Futures End #1 Review.
Read Green Lantern Corps #34 Review.