REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS "WAR OF THE LANTERNS" TWO-PACK
It's no great secret that I'm a fan of the Green Lantern corner of the DC Universe. And in recent years, that corner of the DC Universe has been greatly expanded upon by the masterful storytelling capabilities of Geoff Johns, and others.
Where once there was only the Green Lantern Corps, assembled by the Guardians of the Universe to safeguard the 3600 designated sectors of the universe, Geoff Johns revealed an entire emotional spectrum of seven colors, each with its own unique characteristic, and each with its own ring-bearers.
At the center of this spectrum was green, the color of willpower, chosen by the Guardians because it was at the center and was the least emotionally intense color of the spectrum. The greater the emotional intensity, the greater the difficulty in harnessing it.
Of the remaining spectrum, only two had been seen to any degree before. Sinestro had harnessed the color yellow, to which the Green Lanterns had a long-standing vulnerability. It was revealed that each color of the emotional spectrum also had its own powerful avatar, and that the avatar of yellow, which represented the power of fear, and was named Parallax, had been imprisoned in the Central Battery of the Green Lantern Corps, which was why the Lanterns were vulnerable to that color.
The other color, purple, represented a sort of obsessive manifestation of love, and was personified by Star Sapphire. A branch of the original Oan race, which also gave rise to the Guardians, known as the Zamarons, controlled this color.
We would gradually come to know the others. It started in the Sinestro Corps War. Sinestro built up his own army around a yellow Power Battery. He unleashed this army against the Green Lantern Corps, against Oa, and against Earth, Ultimately, he lost.
It was not long after this, however, that the Red Lanterns emerged. Organized by Atrocitus, the lone survivor of a sector that had been wiped out by the robotic Manhunters, the predecessors of the Green Lantern Corps, eons before, Atrocitus harnessed the emotional spectrum color of red, which represented hatred and rage. Gathering his army together, he set out to destroy both the Green Lantern Corps and the Sinestro Corps, since it had been Sinestro who had been responsible for his imprisonment.
At this same time, two Guardians named Ganthet and Says, who had left the Guardian council, believing that the Guardians' dictate that all emotion needed to be suppressed was wrong, founded a new group on the planet Odym. Designated the Blue Lanterns, they harnessed the blue portion of the emotional spectrum, which focused on hope. Their first recruit was known as Saint Walker, who intervened in the three-way conflict between the Red Lanterns, the Green Lanterns, and the Sinestro Corps.
Not long after this conflict subsided, the Controllers, an offshoot of the Guardians but no longer associated with them, attempted to harness the orange color of the emotional spectrum. They got more than they bargained for when they went up against the lone Orange Lantern, named Larfleeze, who had long possessed this particular power, which represented greed and avarice. His "Corps" was made up of constructs of those he had killed and absorbed over the centuries, and once again, a conflict of colors arose.
Last and most mysterious was the Indigo Tribe. Having some unexplained connection to Hal Jordan's predecessor, Abin Sur, the Indigo Tribe claimed the power of compassion, and were also able to briefly harness the power of any other color of the spectrum. Their origins would remain a lingering mystery for some time.
With all of these various characters and Corps introduced, the stage was set for the DC Universe-spanning epic, "Blackest Night", in which Nekron, the personification of death itself, along with Black Hand, a longtime deadly adversary of Green Lantern, unleashed black rings throughout the universe, giving rise to constructs that resembled and had the memories of friends, family, and enemies of the heroes and villains of the DC Universe. It was Nekron's intent to destroy all life in the universe, but the discovery of the White Lantern, and its avatar of life, the Entity, ultimately won the day, following a series of battles that temporarily unified all seven of the various-colored Corps.
Obviously, however, the adventure didn't end there -- which leads into the two-pack of DC Universe action figures I want to review here. Some time after the events of Blackest Night, the evil Oan Guardian known as Krona, another longtime adversary of Green Lantern and someone who had been responsible for a lot of previous cosmic-level trouble -- even being the main villain in the astounding DC/Marvel crossover, "JLA/Avengers" -- returned. He captured the various avatars of all of the colored Corps, intending to use them to -- well, you know how these cosmic-level villains think. Revenge on enemies, destroy this, conquer that, whatever.
One of Krona's stunts was to put the yellow avatar of fear, Parallax, back into the Green Lantern Power Battery. This had the effect of corrupting virtually the entire Green Lantern Corps into doing Krona's bidding. Thus began the storyline, "War of the Green Lanterns".
The only Lanterns seemingly immune to Krona's stunt were those that had prior direct experience with Parallax itself. This included all four of the Earth-based Green Lanterns -- Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and Kyle Rayner. However, even they could not resist the corruption of their rings indefinitely. Part of Krona's scheme had been to not only entrap the avatars of each portion of the emotional spectrum, but also their primary ring-bearers. Thus, Sinestro, Larfleeze, Saint Walker, Atrocitus, and others were similarly trapped.
But not their rings. Hal Jordan had escaped with these, and with the Green Lantern rings now corrupted by Krona and Parallax, the one-time Green Lanterns had no recourse but to wear the rings of the other Corps for a time. Guy Gardner, to no one's great surprise, chose the red ring of rage. John Stewart accepted the indigo ring of compassion. The orange and violet rings were not chosen, which left yellow and blue. Hal Jordan had the most experience with a yellow ring, and with dealing with Parallax's influence, and Kyle Rayner stated that he always had hope, so he selected the blue ring.
This particular two-pack of figures features Hal Jordan as a member of the Sinestro Corps, and Kyle Rayner as a member of the Blue Lantern Corps.
This set was not easily found. It was originally reported by Mattel to have not even been produced, since no major retailer ordered it. However, reports started to surface that it was turning up, if not in any great quantity, but nevertheless appearing at Toys "R" Us stores here and there.
As big a fan as I am of the Green Lantern universe, and as impressive as this story was, I was not about to pass up this set if there was any chance to acquire it, and I'm glad that I have.
Let's have a look at the characters of Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner, and then a closer look at their action figures from this particular set.
Harold "Hal" Jordan is the first human shown to join the Green Lantern Corps and a founding member of the Justice League of America. Jordan is the second DC Comics character to adopt the Green Lantern moniker. Jordan was created in the Silver Age of Comic Books by John Broome and Gil Kane, and made his first appearance in Showcase #22 (October 1959) to replace the original Green Lantern Alan Scott from the Golden Age of Comic Books.
After achieving great success in 1956 in reviving the Golden Age character The Flash, DC editor Julius Schwartz looked toward recreating the Green Lantern from the Golden Age of Comic Books. Like The Flash, Schwartz wanted this new character to have a different secret identity, origin, and personality than his 1940s counterpart. A long time science-fiction fan and literary agent, Schwartz wanted a more sci-fi based Green Lantern, as opposed to the mystical powers of Alan Scott, the 1940's Green Lantern. He enlisted writer John Broome and artist Gil Kane, who in 1959 would reintroduce Green Lantern to the world in Showcase #22 (September–October 1959).
The character was a success, and it was quickly decided to follow-up his three issue run on Showcase with a self-titled series. Green Lantern #1 began in July–August 1960 and would continue until #84 in April–May 1972.
From Green Lantern #151 (April 1982) until #172 (January 1984), Jordan was exiled into space for a year by the Guardians in order to prove his loyalty to the Green Lantern Corps, having been accused of paying too much attention to Earth when he had an entire sector of the cosmos to patrol. When he returned to Earth, he found himself embroiled in a dispute with Carol Ferris. Faced with a choice between love and the power ring, Jordan chose to resign from the Corps. The Guardians called upon Jordan's backup, John Stewart, to regular duty as his replacement.
In 1985, the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" storyline that rebooted much of DC Comics' character continuity saw Jordan again take up the mantle of Green Lantern. The new Corps, with seven members residing on Earth, included several aliens, John Stewart, and Guy Gardner.
During this time, the character's origin story was re-told and expanded in two limited series by Gerard Jones, Emerald Dawn and Emerald Dawn II. The first series expanded the role of the Corps in his origin and also provided more details about his childhood and his relationship with his father and brothers, while the sequel detailed the role of Jordan in the downfall of Sinestro.
In the 1993 Reign of the Supermen storyline, the villainous Hank Henshaw disguised as a reborn Cyborg Superman enlists the alien tyrant Mongul and his forces and comes to Earth in a plot to take advantage of the death of Superman. In the process, Coast City (Jordan's former home) is destroyed and all of its seven million inhabitants murdered, bringing Jordan to take revenge on Mongul, who had replaced it with Engine City, with which he planned to turn Earth into a new Warworld. Jordan was off world at the time of the attack on his hometown, having returned well after its destruction. It was later revealed that the Cyborg Superman's wife came from Coast City, and he destroyed it as he wanted to remove all traces of his past life.
This leads into the Emerald Twilight arc: Jordan uses his power ring to recreate Coast City as an instrument in the process of overcoming his grief, talking to ring created versions of his old girlfriend and parents. After his ring's power expires a projection of a Guardian appears and admonishes him for using the ring for personal gain and summons him to Oa for trial.
Angered at what he sees as the Guardians' ungrateful and callous behavior, Jordan absorbs the energy from the Guardian's projection, goes insane and attacks Oa to seize the full power of the Central Battery, destroying the Corps in the process, taking their power rings as his own and leaving them to die in space, and ending the arc when he kills Kilowog, Sinestro who has been resurrected to fight him but has his neck snapped, and all the Guardians except for Ganthet who was protected by the other Guardians and survived without Jordan's knowledge. He then renounces his life as Green Lantern, adopting the name Parallax after absorbing the Power Battery's vast powers. After he emerges from the Central Power Battery, he walks past and looks at the dead Guardians and steps on his former ring, crushing it in the process.
Jordan is replaced by Kyle Rayner by Ganthet as the Green Lantern of Earth when Rayner comes into possession of the last power ring, created from the shattered remains of Jordan's.
DC Comics subsequently began a new Green Lantern (vol. 4) series starting with issue #1 (July 2005), making Hal Jordan once again a Green Lantern and his past homicidal actions retconned to be the result of Parallax, now revealed to be caused by Hal having been 'infected' by the Parallax fear entity that had possessed him.
Trying to rebuild his life, Hal Jordan has moved to the nearly deserted Coast City, which is slowly being rebuilt. He has been reinstated as a Captain in the United States Air Force, and works in the Test Pilot Program at Edwards Air Force Base. The series introduces new supporting characters for Hal, most notably a man from Hal's past, Air Force's General Jonathan "Herc" Stone, who learned Hal's secret as Green Lantern during a battle with the Manhunters and acts as his ally. He also begins to develop a romantic attraction with his fellow pilot, the beautiful Captain Jillian "Cowgirl" Pearlman. The returning characters also include Carol Ferris, Tom Kalmaku, and Hal's younger brother James Jordan with his sister-in-law Susan and their children, Howard and Jane.
The Green Lantern Corps also has been successfully rebuilt. Despite the revelation that Hal's past villainous activity was because of the influence of Parallax, many of Hal's fellow Corps officers (except Kilowog, Salaak, Stewart, Gardner, and Rayner) are unwilling to trust him. Despite being freed from Parallax, his experience also has led Hal occasionally to lack of confidence and self-doubts. Hal also become friends with Kyle Rayner after their first battle with Parallax.
A new account of Green Lantern's origins was released in the (2008) Green Lantern series. In this new origin, Hal Jordan, is working as an assistant mechanic under Tom Kalmaku himself, barred from flying due to his insubordination while in the U.S.A.F. and his employers lingering guilt about his father's death in the line of duty, when Abin Sur, fighting Atrocitus of the Five Inversions, crashes near Coast City.
As for Kyle Rayner, created by writer Ron Marz and artist Darryl Banks, Rayner first appeared in Green Lantern vol. 3, #48 (1994), as part of the "Emerald Twilight" storyline, in which DC Comics replaced Green Lantern Hal Jordan with Rayner, who was the sole Green Lantern for years until the late 1990s. During this period he was also briefly known as Ion.
Following Jordan's return to Green Lantern status in the 2004–2005 limited series Green Lantern: Rebirth, and the 2005 crossover event "Infinite Crisis", Rayner returned to his alias of Ion. After the events of the "Sinestro Corps War", Rayner returned to his original role as a Green Lantern officer, along with a promotion to Honor Guard Illustres of the Corps.
Before he acquired a Green Lantern power ring, Kyle Rayner was a struggling-but-gifted freelance graphic artist who was raised in North Hollywood and currently lived and worked in Los Angeles. After Hal Jordan, grief-stricken over the destruction of his home town of Coast City, went on a mad rampage killing various members of the Green Lantern Corps and the Guardians of the Universe, Rayner was found by the last surviving Guardian of the Universe, Ganthet. Ganthet gave Kyle the last working Green Lantern power ring that would allow him to conjure any form of matter or energy through sheer force of will. Ganthet's reasons for choosing Kyle to bear the ring have never been made completely apparent, aside from Rayner having been in the right place at the right time: prior to bequeathing the ring upon Rayner, Ganthet simply utters, "You will have to do."
Several sources however imply that Ganthet was following a deeper reason: Kyle Rayner was not chosen because he was fearless, but because he was able to feel and overcome fear, thus making him, and all the future Lanterns, less susceptible to Parallax's influence. The New Guardians retelling goes so far as to replace the scowling, "You will have to do" with a smiling, "It would seem I chose well".
Rayner grew up enamored with Superman and Batman, though he had only a passing knowledge of Earth's various Green Lanterns. This soon changed, and he found that the Green Lantern ring was the ultimate expression of his fertile imagination. While in battle, he often used the ring's power to create constructs of just about anything his artistic mind could imagine: other superheroes, anime characters, mystical characters, mechas, futuristic weapons, and original characters from his comic books. While other members of The Green Lantern Corps questioned the practicality of those constructs, they often made Rayner an unpredictable and formidable opponent.
After relocating to New York City, Rayner joined the superhero group the Titans for a brief time, during which he dated Donna Troy, but eventually became a member of the Justice League.
For a brief period, Rayner achieved godhood as Ion after absorbing the energy Hal Jordan had left in Earth's Sun during "The Final Night" storyline, which had merged and grown with energies released after Oblivion's defeat. With his new powers, Rayner could bend time, space and reality, allowing himself, for example, to be in many places at once. The drawback of being one with everything was that Rayner could no longer sleep or separate himself from the overwhelming responsibilities these abilities imposed upon him. Rather than sacrifice his humanity, Rayner abandoned omnipotence, bleeding off the vast power, recharging the Central Power Battery on the Guardians' home planet and headquarters, Oa, and helping to create a new group of Guardians in the process.
During the events of the miniseries Green Lantern: Rebirth, Rayner returns from space with Jordan's corpse and the discovery of the true nature of Parallax, which is revealed to actually be an alien parasitic entity, the non-corporeal embodiment of fear, that possessed Jordan and committed crimes in his name. Subsequent to this, Rayner is given special status amongst the Guardians, who consider him the "Torch-Bearer", the Green Lantern who carried the legacy through the Corps' darkest period.
Most recently, he has been a member of a group known as the "New Guardians", which represent all the various colored Corps.
So, how are the figures? Really outstanding. I have to say I do not object to the level of prominence the Green Lantern portion of the DC Universe has been given in the DC Universe Classics line. There was a special five-pack a while back, two entire assortments, more or less regarded as "Green Lantern Classics", of figures, and one assortment of DC Universe Classics figures, representing the point in Blackest Night when many of the prominent characters were briefly deputized into the various colored corps, such as Star Sapphire Wonder Women, Indigo Tribe Atom, and so forth. And now we have this impressive two-pack.
Let's start with Hal Jordan. Within the DC Universe line, there have probably been almost as many versions of him as there have been of Superman and Batman. There was a classic version in Wave 4; an even more classic version in a two-pack with Abin Sur, a version with a bit of gray hair fringe at the temples in the Green Lantern 5-pack, a modern version that turned up both on its own and in a two-pack with Masters of the Universe character Zodac, a Black Lantern version, a White Lantern version, and now this Sinestro Corps version. The guy gets around.
The headsculpt used for this version is the same one used for White Lantern Hal Jordan. One can hardly blame Mattel for wanting to get more than one use out of an expensive mold. And a certain amount of diversity is appreciated. Interestingly, Mattel created distinctive headsculpts for both the Black Lantern and White Lantern Hal Jordans. Instead of the relatively neutral facial expression of most of his figures, the Black Lantern Hal Jordan had an open mouth, as if he were screaming. The White Lantern had an open mouth, but gritted teeth. Possibly a little harsh for a White Lantern, but it was certainly an excellent sculpt.
Truth be told, it works even better for Hal Jordan as a member of the Sinestro Corps. The members of the Sinestro Corps are not nice people. They live to spread fear and terror throughout the universe. They're bullies, killers, and psychopaths. Oddly enough, they all have to undergo a certain amount of psychological conditioning, assisted, one would expect, by their rings, to calm them down enough to be able to work together as a Corps. Otherwise they'd be at each other's throats. But they're still not someone you'd want to meet in a dark alley -- or even broad daylight -- on any planet.
So for Hal Jordan to don a yellow Sinestro Corps ring, and struggle to keep it under control, as well as keep himself under control, no doubt required more effort than usual. Hence the clenched teeth and the touchy attitude.
Obviously, Hal Jordan's costume, generated by the ring, is going to be that of the Sinestro Corps, not the Green Lantern Corps. When Sinestro founded his Corps, he modified his own costume as a result. For decades, Sinestro had worn a mostly black costume, with a sort of zig-zag blue collar around it, as well as a blue belt and boots, and ridged blue cuffs. It was a fairly basic costume, suitable enough to the character, but nothing all that dynamic.
That all changed when Sinestro got his Corps running. The new costume was mostly black with yellow trim. The zig-zag blue collar became a virtual explosion of yellow that started at the collar, and tapered down the shoulders, and angled down the front and back. A ridged silver belt was present around the waist, and the uniform was completed by ridged yellow cuffs, and yellow boots.
A few additional details included a distinctive emblem on the chest -- all of the Corps have these -- and a yellow armband around the upper left arm, also with the emblem.
Hal Jordan has all of these, and what's especially impressive is that many of the body parts used are distinctive to Sinestro Corps members. This isn't the first time a Sinestro Corps character has been made into a DC Universe action figure. There was a Sinestro Corps two-pack some time back, that featured Romat-Ru, a male alien, and Karu-Sil, a female. Romat-Ru had distinctive uniform parts. These were later carried over into a figure in the Green Lantern Classics line that, depending on which head and set of hands you used, could either be a Sinestro Corps member named Low, or another one named Maash.
Although the figure uses most of the common male body parts that are used extensively throughout the line, the lower arms and the lower legs are distinctive. The lower arms feature the ridged cuffs, with sculpted clasps, and the lower legs feature sculpted boot tops, in the downward angle common to the Sinestro Corps. I am pleased and impressed that they have been used here.
Paintwork on the figure is excellent. And it can't have been easy. Most of the figure, understandably, has been molded in black. And in my experience with a wide variety of toy lines from quite a number of companies over the years, the toughest thing to do is to paint yellow over black. I'm not sure why this is, but it is. I see some small indication on Hal Jordan's torso that Mattel painted white on the body first, and then yellow over it. As long as this is done with precision, which it certainly was, this was a smart decision.
Of course, Hal Jordan has a power ring on his right hand, and it does indeed appear to be that of the Sinestro Corps. This is interesting, since most Sinestro Corps members tended to wear their rings on their left hands. However, there's no reason Jordan would have to go along with that, but I do find myself wondering if an entirely new hand was crafted for this figure. Or perhaps one of Jordan's previous hands was slightly modified for use here.
Kyle Rayner, perhaps somewhat ironically, was the last of the four Earth-based Green Lanterns to make his way into the DC Universe Classics series. Hal Jordan made it in as of Wave 4. John Stewart came along some waves later in a rather Green Lantern-centric wave that also included Katma Tui and a Collect-and-Connect of Kilowog. Guy Gardner was part of the five-pack. But Rayner had to wait until one of the assortments of the so-called Green Lantern Classics series to have his turn, and no great surprise, he was one of the most popular figures among those assortments, since he allowed collectors to complete their group of the four best-known Lanterns.
Rayner has had a number of costume designs over the years, most of which could probably be accomplished using the basic body molds, since few of them had any extraneous details beyond those which were part of the basic form-fitting costume. I have to say I do believe that his most recent costume, which was represented with the action figure, is one of his best. It is unique, but also respectful to the classic design.
The Blue Lantern version of Kyle Rayner is pretty much just a recoloration of that particular costume.
The headsculpt is excellent. Rayner, being a somewhat trendy sort, has somewhat ruffled, slightly unkempt hair that's probably seen a little too much styling gel and not enough of a comb and brush. This hairstyle has been very effectively duplicated on the headsculpt.
This particular costume design also saw the return of Kyle Rayner's best-known mask design, a fairly elaborate, futuristic-looking, angular and segmented affair that was no doubt a reflection of Rayner's artistic sensibilities and a certain leaning towards anime design. On the first Rayner figure, it was appropriately painted metallic green. Here, it is metallic blue.
Rayner's costume is mostly black, with a significant amount of blue on the torso. It starts at the collar, goes over the shoulders, and down the front and back in a tapered angle, not to a point, but coming to a stop at about belt level, even though Rayner's costume does not include a belt. Rayner's gloves and boots are of standard type and length, and are also blue.
Rayner is wearing the emblem of the Blue Lantern Corps, slightly offset to one side on the cheat, about where Robin keeps his "R", as it were. The overall design of the costume is excellent, blending a superhero motif with something that looks definitely sci-fi, as if Rayner -- whether wearing blue or green -- looks like the Green Lantern assigned to Starfleet Command or some such.
The only slight glitch on the figure is that his power ring is clearly that of his Green Lantern persona, since Rayner's ring is a bit more distinctive than most. It's been painted metallic blue, but it's still a Green Lantern ring. I suspect what happened here was that all of Rayner's distinctive parts, which would include his head and right hand, were used for this figure, even though there is a right hand with a Blue Lantern ring on it available, as there was a Blue Lantern Flash figure a while back.
Still, this isn't too big of a deal, and I can understand how it happened, and the overall figure otherwise looks excellent, with very neat paint detailing and emblem imprinting.
Both figures come with colored Lanterns to recharge their rings -- one yellow, one blue. And, of course, both figures have superb articulation, and are fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
So, what's my final word? This set has been a bit of a roller-coaster. When I first heard it announced, I was certainly interested. Then I heard that the set hadn't been produced, and I was not happy about that. Then I heard the reports that it was starting to turn up, and it took a bit to track one down, but ultimately, I did.
I won't say that this set is easy to find. It is not. However, for any fan of the Green Lantern corner of the DC Universe, this set is definitely worth pursuing, and worth purchasing. The "War of the Green Lanterns" storyline was proof that just because a multi-year, multi-part epic that really started with "Sinestro Corps War" and didn't really wrap up until "Blackest Night" and "Brightest Day" has ended, doesn't mean that the creator doesn't have some more spectacular stories to come forth from his imagination. It was also pretty much the last hurrah before the calamitous "New 52" took hold.
If you're a Green Lantern fan, and you enjoy these superb action figures from Mattel, you definitely want to put the time and effort needed into tracking down this set. It's well worth it.
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS "WAR OF THE LANTERNS" two-pack, featuring YELLOW LANTERN HAL JORDAN and BLUE LANTERN KYLE RAYNER definitely has my highest recommendation!