I was never much into The Green Lantern, but I started working in comic book stores right before Geoff Johns brought Hal Jordan back to prominence as a major character in the DC Universe. There are about five seasons worth of stories that I’ve read that fit pretty neatly into the continuity that Johns mined from, and then created himself.
Season 2 brings us the downfall of Hal Jordan, and introduces us to yet another Green Lantern of Earth, Kyle Rainer.
Almost an entire season of Kyle as The Green Lantern? Haters gonna haaaaate.
Art by Dale Eaglesham
Season 2: Ion
(showrunners Ron Marz and Judd Winnick)
Serial 1: Emerald Twilight New Dawn, Zero Hour Crisis In Time
(written by Ron Marz, art by Darryl Banks)
Hal Jordan’s hometown, Coast City, is destroyed in the wake of The Death Of Superman. Because the guardians won’t allow him to save the city where he was raised, Hal goes absolutely bonkers, destroys Oa, and kills as many Green Lanterns as he can. Once he becomes Parallax, he tries to repair Coast City as well as the timeline. Several DC superheroes step in to try and stop him.
Emerald Twilight. 2 episodes
Serial 2: Green Lantern Baptism Of Fire
(written by Ron Marz, art by Darryl Banks, Paul Pelletier, Romeo Tanghal, and Albert de Guzman)
Kyle Rainer is the new Green Lantern of Earth and has no corps or guardians to train him. So he seeks out some of The Justice League to try and teach him how to wield the green power ring. Batman, The Flash, and Wonder Woman guest star.
Baptism Of Fire. 2 episodes
Episode 5: Green Lantern Emerald Allies
(written by Ron Marz and Chuck Dixon, art by Darryl Banks and others)
It’s the next generation of Green Lantern/Green Arrow as Kyle Rainer teams up with Connor Hawke to solve some serious daddy issues.
Emerald Allies. 1 episode
Episode 6: Green Lantern Emerald Knights
(written by Ron Marz and Chuck Dixon, art by Darryl Banks)
Kyle goes into the past and brings Green Lantern Hal Jordan back to the present to battle Parallax Hal Jordan.
Emerald Knights. 1 episode
Episode 7: Justice League New World Order
(written by Grant Morrison, art by Howard Porter and John Dell)
Now that Justice League International has been stripped down to a core group of superheroes, Kyle Rainer is given a spot in the Big Seven.
New World Order. 1 episode
Episode 8: Green Lantern Traitor
(written by Steven Grant)
Another three stories across time collection. This time it’s Abin Sur, Hal Jordan, and then Kyle battling a villain called The Traitor. The Hal Jordan portion is the least compelling, but it’s nice to spend some time with Abin Sur, particularly in The American West.
Traitor. 1 episode
Episode 9: Green Lantern Circle Of Fire
(written by Brian K Vaughan and Scott Beatty)
Kyle Rainer gathers a group of fringe DC heroes to battle a villain called Oblivion. This is the only DC proper story I’ve read by Brian K Vaughan, and it’s of a higher quality than much of the Kyle Rainer stuff.
Circle Of Fire. 1 episode
Episode 10: Green Lantern New Journey Old Path
(written by Judd Winnick)
Yellow power rings? Oh, dear. A prisoner at a mental hospital is given access to a yellow power ring before escaping and wreaking havoc that captures the attention of The Justice League and Kyle Rainer.
Yellow. 1 episode
Episode 11: Green Lantern The Power Of Ion
(written by Judd Winnick, art by Dale Eaglesham, Eric Battle, Brandon Badeaux, Jamal Igle, and Pat Quinn)
Kyle loses his Green Lantern identity in a battle with Oblivion. But fear not, he’s now the Green Lantern-like hero called Ion.
Ion. 1 episode
Episode 12: Green Lantern Brother’s Keeper
(written by Judd Winnick)
This is a fairly preachy story, pretty consistent with Judd Winnick’s early work. Homophobia and bigotry are bad, yo. And Judd’s not afraid to let you know it. Repeatedly. There’s also an interesting Alan Scott story here.
Brother’s Keeper. 1 episode
Episode 13: Green Lantern Passing The Torch
(written by Judd Winnick)
The end of Winnick’s run. Ion and Jade go to the reformed Oa and meets with the reformed guardians. Jon Stewart stays behind to protect Earth.
Passing The Torch. 1 episode
Serial 3: Green Lantern Rebirth
(written by Geoff Johns, art by Ethan Van Sciver and Prentis Rollins)
That was an intensely long season of Kyle Rainer to read through but there needed to be some dramatic tension before Hal Jordan, former Green Lantern, former Paralaxx, and former Spectre, comes back to the Green Lantern Corps. Yes, Corps. The Corps is back! Jon Stewart, Kyle Rainer and the Justice League are onhand for Hal’s redemption.
Rebirth. 2 episodes
Season 2 is 15 episodes
You'll have to excuse me, I'm terrible with remembering names. I once spent four hours calling my ex only "Hey...you." until I remembered it. Of course, we'd only dated for about a year, so he's really lucky that I recognized him at all.
If you want me to remember you, you really have to make an impact. Strangle a hamster with its own intestines, show me The Green Lantern tattoo on your ass.
So far in this continuity we've been introduced to a variety of Batman's rogues: The Joker, Catwoman, The Monk, and, Hugo Strange. We've also seen a few cameos of future villains: Harvey Dent, Harley Quinn, and The Scarecrow. But, apart from The Joker, we haven't had a major supervillain crime spree yet. The Long Halloween is on the horizon, though, and that involves a bunch of supervillains, so it's time to get to know as many of them as possible.
In Batman: Four Of A Kind we witness Batman's first encounters with Poison Ivy, The Riddler, Scarecrow, and Man-Bat.
It's not an ideal way to introduce them. I'd love to list trades that fully flesh out their origins or first appearances, but this is a decent primer to characters who will shortly become very important to the Batman Universe. Also, although we don't see why or how, halfway through this trade Jim Gordon gets promoted from Lieutenant to Captain.
Alan Grant opens up the collection with the introduction of Poison Ivy who first poisons Bruce Wayne, and then poisons Batman, informing him that both he and Wayne will die that night because the only antidote to Poison Ivy's kiss is a second kiss. The art is very Vertigo 90s style, except for Batman's cowl which looks a bit like Matt Wagner's and a lot out of place with the rest of the art. But Brian Apthorp's one and two page spreads are gorgeous. And there are several very well drawn humorous facial expressions.
Story 4/5, Art 4/5
Chuck Dixon handles The Riddler story. He's one of my all-time favorite Bat scribes, but his Riddler story is your basic "my parents didn't love me, I felt invisible, so I turned to a life of crime" origin, which seems inadequate for someone as clever as The Riddler. There's a lot of silver-age craziness to this version of Edward Nigma that we don't really get in the modern age. The art by Kieron Dwyer is very noirish. His Riddler outfit seems lazy (just penciled question marks with no dimension, design, or color to them), but everything else works.
Story 3/5, Art 4/5
Doug Moench's Scarecrow tale is very telly. "Yeah -- You sure look like a scarecrow!" "He also looks like a different crane -- Ichabod Crane!" Eeeks, zero subtlety or trust in the reader's ability to notice Crane's physique or notice the Crane/throwing pumpkins connection. The writing made slogging through this chapter very difficult. The flashbacks, in particular, are absolutely terrible. But you do end getting the full origin story.
Story 1/5, Art 3/5
Chuck Dixon returns to wrap things up with the origin of Man-Bat. The meek Kirk Langstrom is getting ready to marry his beautiful fiance, but he's incredibly wrapped up with his genetic research. And when his research project is rejected, he takes drastic measures and turns himself into the Man-Bat. It's not a life changingly fantastic story, but after the mediocre Riddler tale and the awful Scarecrow, it seems fantastic. Quique Alcatena's artwork is very consistent with the style of the mid to late 90s Batman.
Story 4/5, Art 4/5
Overall Rating for Four Of A Kind: Story 2/5, Art 4/5
Collected Legends Of The Dark Knight has three stories of very different styles from the Legends Of The Dark Knight series from the early 90s. James Robinson and Tim Sale open the book with Blades, the story of Gotham's second vigilante, a swordsman, The Cavalier. The swashbuckling hero becomes a more public face than Batman, and the public adores him...until they discover that he's been leading a double life as a jewel thief. What Batman doesn't know (he's busy solving the murders of elderly Gothamites by a killer named Mr Lime.) is that The Cavelier is stealing jewels for Mr. Salt (apparently James Robinson likes tequila) to protect the love of his life from being outed as a murderess. Alas, his plans go awry when he decides he can't trust Mr. Salt anymore, and he kills him with his sword. Batman tracks him down almost immediately, and the two engage in a swordfight to the death, and The Cavelier wins!
But he's a good guy at heart, so instead of killing Batman, he draws a gun and walks outside where he is gunned down by the police.
This is one of my favorite lesser-known Bat stories. And, it alone is worth the price of this book.
Story 5/5, Art 5/5
Alan Grant and Kevin O'Neill show up to do the second story, The Legend Of The Dark Mite. And while I can't say for certain that either of these men have done hallucinogens, all signs point to a very colorful yes. This is the origin of Bat-Mite, and as it proclaims on the very fist page "This is NOT an imaginary story." It's the story of a drug addict who sees the error of his ways when confronted with a tiny Batman-like creature who shows him what his life would be like if he contnued his life of crime. We see this story as he tells it to Batman from his cell at Arkham. It also involes a neat two spage pread of assorted DC characters as mites.
Story 4/5, Art 4/5
John Francis Moore and P Craig Russell close out the book with Hothouse, the story of Batman's second run in with Poison Ivy. The story uses the familiar Batman trope of rehabilitated Bat-rogue turns out to be not so rehabilitated, as Poison Ivy gets involved with a drug ring that makes hallucinogenics from plant pheromones.
Story 4/5, Art 5/5
Overall Review For Collected legends Of The Dark Knight: Story 4/5, Art 5/5
Did you ever see that episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer where Buffy believes she's actually in a mental hospital, and that her entire slayer life has been a series of psychotic episodes? Well, it's possible that Joss Whedon read Bryan Talbot (who does double duty as writer and artist here)'s Mask, the first story in Dark Legends. After stopping a crime Batman wakes up in a hospital where he's addressed as Bruce Wayne. Terrified that he's been found out, he soon realizes that he's not a billionaire playboy, but a drunken homeless person with delusions of a superhero life.
Story 4/5, Art 4/5
Dennis O'Neil and Bret Blevins come up next with Images, yet another "first encounter with The Joker" story. It is very similar to The Man Who Laughs, in that it retells the Joker's origin. Joker chemicals, Batman blames himself for turning The Red Hood into The Joker, rich people die, Alfred tells Bruce to stop blaming himself. If you've not read any of the other Joker origin stories, it's okay, but it does not hold up against many of the other versions of the tale. The art is ok, but Batman's physique shifts a little from page to page.
Story 3/5, Art 3/5
Batman goes to Chinatown for Tao by Alan Grant and Arthur Ranson. It's an interesting change of pace from the usual Gotham supervillains and mobsters, but it really reads like a white Western guy writing about Eastern culture. And the art is very much a product of its era, having a very early nineties almost Vertigo style.
Story 2/5, Art 3/5
The gem of this collection is the Dan Raspler and Mike Mignola scribed story: Sactuary. If you've ever wondered what Hellboy would look like if it starred Batman, you'll find the answer here. The story's locale alternates between a graveyard and a gothic afterlife, so it's perfect for Mignola's art.
Story 4/5. Art 5/5
Overall Review for Dark Legends: Story 3/5, Art 4/5
It's been teased at the end of several collections. Ads for The Flying Graysons in newspapers, Circus billboards, Bruce discussing taking dates to the circus. Finally, in Dark Victory, Dick Grayson debuts. But, uh, not just yet.
The volume opens with the new DA (who replaces Harvey "Don't Call Me Harvey Anymore I'm Two Face Now" Dent) catching us up with one of the villains from The Long Halloween (which was also created by Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale, and Gregory Wright): Holiday. The crux of this story is the rise and fall of the next generation of Maronis and Falcones, Carmine Falcone and Sal Maroni having been killed during The Long Halloween. Carmine's daughter, Sofia, who was paralyzed after plunging out of a building makes a deal with Sal's sons to go after Harvey Dent.
The plan is to cause chaos at Arkham Asylum by freeing assorted villains, including Solomon Grundy (born on a Monday), Calendar Man, and Poison Ivy. Holiday, Alberto Falcone, chooses to stay behind, earning him an early release with the help of the new DA. But during the madness, instead of killing Two Face, they allow him to escape.
The main theme of this book is improving reputations. Mario Falcone returns from Italy to try and clean up his family business, going as far as locking out Sofia when he learns of her criminal plans. Jim Gordon tries to get back together with his wife Barbara who left him and took custody of his children. Bruce Wayne tries to establish a solid romantic relationship with Selina Kyle. Catwoman tries to earn Batman's trust. And Two Face tries to clear his name when a new serial killer, The Hangman tries to improve The Gotham City Police Department's reputation by killing a corrupt cop on every major holiday.
Once again, Loeb and Sale throw in pretty much every major villain that's been introduced: the Joker, The Penguin, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, The Mad Hatter, and The Scarecrow all end up in the mix. But, as in The Long Halloween, their individual motives flow logically into the story.
In the midst of the story, Bruce finally ends up at the much teased circus, and watches as The Flying Graysons plummet to their deaths when a Maroni underling named Anthony Zucco frays the wires for their trapeze act.
Bruce Wayne adopts Dick Grayson, but it's Batman who sees Grayson outside one night, prowling for clues. Batman and Grayson run into each other again when Grayson goes to the circus to research his parents' killer. The boy is badly beaten, and Batman takes him to the Batcave to care for him, and reveals that Batman and Bruce Wayne are the same person.
I don't want to ruin the end of this for you. Yes, you do get to see Grayson don the original, short pants Robin outfit. You also get a great wrap up of a storyline that began with Year One. but there are still some loose ends, including the fact that Two Face is still missing.
I can't stress enough that Sale's pencils and inks, and Wright's colors are an integral part of Loeb's script. The combination of visual narrative and dialog is what takes the Loeb/Sale/Wright trilogy from great Batman story to Classic Work Of Art.
Story 5/5, Art 5/5
Chuck Dixon picks up the dangling threads from Dark Victory for Robin: Year One. We get to see how Robin is perceived by a befuddled Jim Gordon, an ambivalent Batman, a loyal Alfred, and the angry criminals of Gotham. There's honor in being taken down by the Dark Knight, but a little kid in pixie boots, short pants, and a yellow cape? That's gotta hurt.
After busting some small time criminals, Robin finds himself entwined with The Mad Hatter's scheme to kidnap and brainwash some young girls (his usual M.O.) and sell them to a diplomat named The Generalissimo. In a startling development for a Batman story, it turns out Robin knows one of the victims from school (Jenny Noblesse), and she has a crush on him.
Robin ends up saving the day with some help from bumbling millionaire Bruce Wayne, who happens to be on The Generalissimo's yacht for a cruise.
The next villain up to be taken down by The Boy Wonder is The Killer Moth, whose story takes up a whopping seven pages before Robin takes him down. There's also a three page battle with Blockbuster (who will end up being one of Dick Grayson's major villains years later) before we get to the main villain in the story: Two Face, who's been on the run since the end of Dark Victory.
Two Face has decided that the easiest way to bring down Batman is to take out his new sidekick. He also decides to enact revenge on the judge who presided over his trial during The Long Halloween. While Batman and Robin are on the case, Jim Gordon expresses his concern that Batman has taken on such a young sidekick. And when Two-Face later tells Gordon that he's killed Robin (Spoiler alert: he hasn't. After taking a beating, Batman takes him to Leslie Thompkins's clinic to heal.), Gordon convinces Batman to retire him. Grayson isn't too keen on retiring from being Robin (poor kid got forty years in pre-Crisis continuity, and he's barely five comic issues into being Robin in modern continuity, and he's already being let go), and when Mr. Freeze steals the blood supply from the hospital where Grayson is being rehabilitated, he throws on his mask (but not the rest of the outfit) and goes out to take Mr. Freeze down.
Once Grayson foils the Freeze plot, he sees a TV report that Two Face has escaped from police custody, and debates how to handle it when he's jumped by a group of junior assassins run by one of Ra's Al Ghul's assassins, Shrike. Grayson decides to infiltrate the gang to get back on Batman's good sign, as well as learn new fighting techniques. After a successful mission to determine Robin's loyalty, the junior assassins are sent to kill Two Face. Given the opportunity, Robin opts to let Two Face live, and ends up battling Shrike, who falls on his sword and dies. During the battle, Two Face escapes.
One of the details Dixon works into this collection is the relationship between Alfred and Grayson. Alfred taking care of Bruce after his parents died was noble, but could be attributed to his loyalty to the Wayne family. There are a couple of occasions in Robin Year One, and will be many more in the future where Alfred puts Grayson's health and feelings over his loyalty to Bruce. Dixon will revisit the importance of this relationship several times in the Robin ongoing series, and even Nightwing.
Story 5/5, Art 4/5