Cover to 'The Green Lantern #5. Art: Liam Sharp & Steve Oliff/DC
Cover to ‘The Green Lantern #5. Art: Liam Sharp & Steve Oliff/DC

by Clyde Hall. “Welcome to my house! Enter freely. Go safely, and leave something of the happiness you bring.” – Dracula, from the Bram Stoker novel of the same name.

Hal Jordan’s welcome to the vampire planet Vorr by Countess Belzebeth echoes the Count’s greeting to young Harker. Hers is just less faux-sincere. “Welcome. Enter freely. Before you leave, you must discard your happiness, your hubris, and the contentment of all that you have achieved before. Only then will you survive. Only then can you become a Blackstar.”

This issue really deserved a Halloween release. The vampishness comes red and wriggling, as Jordan must rely on his wits and resolve to circumnavigate a necropolis gauntlet of ghoulishness. Be sure to check the background imagery provided by a playful Liam Sharp (more on him later): There are several undead cameos crossing comic company lines, other fictional lines, and bloodlines from various sources. There are cameo mentions, too. “Saint Yorga” brought an especially nostalgic smile.

Luckily, Jordan is known for bags of hauteur. Belzebeth’s running commentary as she becomes Jareth to Hal’s Sarah falls on deaf Green Lantern ears. He’s not buying into the unnerving surroundings and creepy trials that would fray the nerves of a hero less seasoned. She is, after all, talking to someone who’s worn the mantle of the Spectre, at least in some backwater of continuity. Hal manages to give his horror hostess a dose of her own exegesis, with a blow-by-blow account of her father’s destruction at the broadhead point of one intrepid Emerald Archer. The exchange proves that Belzebeth, too, is made of stern stuff.

Through struggle and the sacrifice of ego our hero survives, and a Big Reveal is presented. If I’m being honest, the reveal isn’t that surprising. I had the basic parameters sussed before reading the issue. The details are rich and rewarding when layered onto it, though.

For all his flaws, Jordan free of Parallax influence isn’t a dirty space cop who performs casual arrestee execution. Extreme methods have been employed to prevent the compromise of cosmic integrity. Hal’s on his own Impossible Missions team run at this juncture, sans the team. It may be a mercilessly logical Guardians gambit from their universal perspective, but as Morrison and Sharp have affirmed with this series, Controller Mu is a very serious foe.  Hopefully, Hal’s final Blackstar test doesn’t claim an innocent victim as the cost for implementing the Guardians’ plans to deal with Mu.

Handling the potential for a cosmic emergency before it becomes one illustrates how well Morrison grasps how the Guardians should function as interplanetary peace-keepers. It’s a stark contrast to GL storylines centered on one celestial crisis after another. Oans are alien chess masters, fourteen moves ahead of most threats and able to checkmate before they become problematic.

Morrison covers multiple parsecs in a single issue, and he does it with his trademark aplomb. Seriously, it’s aplomb he should file a copyright for. His Hal swaggers, but only in the confident manner of one who’s been through an endless parade of rodeos and escaped more than his share of sketchy situations. His steadfast functionality in a hellish vista capable of frosting the blood of champions while making Lovecraft chortle gleefully is impressive and believable.

Sharp brings all the action one could crave from a Green Lantern story and leaves us wanting more. This is especially true of a few breath-stealing panels where Hal pierces beyond the faux setting, glimpsing the necrotic truth of the planet and its inhabitants. These POV snippets, shared with the reader, look air-brushed and they are amazing. DC needs to shell out the goods and deliver an entire issue of this Sharp wonder. Steve Oliff on colors keeps hues muted and, in some sections, fittingly gangrenous. He doesn’t evict anything from the palette, but he does have a great sense of how tints should appear during deadnoon. Also, if his work added to the air-brush effects of the panels mentioned previously, he also deserves a complete issue to expound on it. Tom Orzechowski as letterer manages to keep bushels of dialogue clipping along without overshadowing the art. He also seasons the text with a dash of cool undead-speak that looks scratched by broken nails clawing free of a premature burial. Orzechowski punches us with effects and exclamations synchronized well with story.

Narrative-wise, it’s a solid GL tale with revealing insights on where Jordan resides at this stage of his career, mind, and soul. But the character study doesn’t hinder the developing plot, serving to accentuate it as events march onward. The change of setting from galactic patrol zones to a subterranean, labyrinthine world of undeath is refreshing. That’s also where the art and color elevate the issue and make it truly satisfying.

DC / $3.99

Written by Grant Morrison.

Art by Liam Sharp.

Colors by Steve Oliff.

Letters by Tom Orzechowski.

8 out of 10

Check out this 5-page preview of ‘The Green Lantern’ #5, courtesy of DC!

Variant cover by Joe St. Pierre & Steve Firchow.