A Look Back at Green Lantern: Rebirth

Green Lantern: Rebirth #1This week saw the release of Absolute Green Lantern: Rebirth, which I have used as an opportunity to talk about the book that launched a one-time B-level character to the top of the sales charts, and its writer to the top of the industry. When Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver brought Hal Jordan back to the land of the living in 2004, they did so without fear. Not only were they unafraid to tackle a character whose turn to the dark side and eventual demise were controversial, they were brave enough to entangle those circumstances with ideas that would not fully come to light for another 5 years.

One of the aspects that makes Rebirth such a success are the details which Geoff Johns fills the book in a way that appear deceptively easy. He has become a whiz at using continuity to enhance his stories and give them real weight, but at the same time not letting characters get bogged down in boring exposition. Aside from the obvious importance Hal Jordan's resurrection would have on the future of the Green Lantern lore, Johns packed plenty of other important pieces to his master plan in these six issues; Sinestro's taunting return as a sign of things to come, a power hungry Black Hand, the Hal Jordan-obsessed Hector Hammond, the Parallax entity as the emotional embodiment of fear. At the time, bringing back some of Hal's familiar foes may have seemed liked an easy out to get things back to the way they used to be, but as Johns marched forward with his tenure on Green Lantern, it became clear that he wasn't playing safe with the old characters and concepts, they were instead tools for the epic stories he was already in the midst of telling.

Reading Rebirth with the full knowledge of everything it led into makes me appreciate the work in a way I don't think anyone could have until now.  Looking at a review by Stephen Rauch from 5 years ago, it is interesting to see a critique of the work that "the only part of this story that matters is the last five pages or so," referring to the idea that the story only existed to wipe Hal's slate clean and get him slinging the ring again. It's hard to argue that that wasn't the primary goal of the book, but at the same time, Rebirth did so much more than simply get Hal back in his green and black duds, it also laid the foundation for the next 5 years of stories on the title, stories that would also begin to inform the direction of the entire DC Universe. The benefit of hindsight now allows us to see that Geoff Johns was working at the top of his game ever since he started on Green Lantern, it just took a while for everyone else to realize what he had been up to. This is just the beginning of his time on Green Lantern, and the initial work he does here to set up his characters pays off with each subsequent issue, much in the same way I find each new issue of Fables rewarding in the way it continually builds off what has come before.

What I really appreciate about Geoff Johns' work is his planning for the long haul, and with that comes a rewarding richness to his work. As we are seeing again with Barry Allen's 21st Century rebirth in The Flash: Rebirth, Johns is commited on taking the characters he loves on hard-fought journeys, to see how the hero comes out the other end. In Hal Jordan's case, it would be hard to argue that the (literal) emotional gauntlet that he has been put through over last five years hasn't made him a more compelling character, and I think his rise to prominence in the DCU and dominance of the sales charts proves that. Through his work on their books, Johns has pushed DC's traditional "Big Three" of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman to a "Big Five" that now includes Green Lantern and the Flash. With a little thanks to some time spent in the afterlife, the Brave and the Bold are truly back in a big way.

Absolute Green Lantern: RebirthI mentioned the recent release of Absolute Green Lantern: Rebirth, and want to focus on that, as well. Weighing in at 224 pages and a $75 cover price, this volume is very much not for the casual reader. But for the fans like myself, for whom Rebirth ignited a great affection for the Green Lantern mythos, the book is a must have. Ethan Van Scivers art in this large format is absolutely gorgeous. When compared to the original hardcover from 2005, the production that went into this book is miles ahead. The linework is clearer and crisper, the colors are truly vibrant, and the edges of the artwork that had been cut off the earlier collections are here in all their glory.

One of the first surprises when opening this book was that it opens on Hal's origin, retold in just 4 pages by Johns and Van Sciver from the opening of the first issue of the Green Lantern monthly that launched out of Rebirth. It is a nice touch to make this book feel a little more complete; giving context to the man we are about to see return from the dead. Going forward, we get the prelude to the mini-series that ran in Wizard Magazine, and then the fantastic six issue series itself. From there, we get a bonus story from Johns and Darwyn Cooke, himself no stranger to the world of Oa thanks to his fantastic work on DC: The New Frontier. After the crazy pace set forth in Rebirth, it's nice to have an issue of reelection on Hal's past as he forges a friendship with Kyle Rayner, the man who kept the lantern lit in his absence.

Jumping into the Appendix, we get quite a nice bit of behind-the-scenes material. Geoff Johns' original proposal for the mini-series, unused and promo artwork from Ethan Van Sciver, action figure and statue designs, the full script to Rebirth #1, and even a deleted scene. While one could argue that the book feels a little thin compared to some of DC's previous Absolute editions, I must say it is a beautiful book as is, and contains everything one would need to get acquainted with the modern Green Lantern. I hope that this time next year, we see the second part of Geoff Johns' epic Green Lantern trilogy, The Sinestro Corps War, get a similarly classy treatment. Considering the acclaim that story received, the current success the Green Lantern line is enjoying, and the big tentpole Green Lantern film coming next summer, I do not think that is too much to hope for.


Benjamin Simpson lives and works in Los Angeles, tends to be dense and is frequently the butt of the jokes of others without realizing it. Feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.


  1. Great review – but I don’t know that I’d classify Green Lantern as "B-List."  The character helped kick off the silver age just as much as The Flash did.  While I would love to page through this tome, I’m not so sure I want to shell out $75 bucks for it.  I’d rather wait for the Blackest Night absolute if it ever comes out.

  2. It’s true. A lot of things for future stories started in this story, but I can’t afford the Absolute

  3. While Green Lantern is a cornerstone DC character, he had become B-List for a while. In fact it could be argued that most of the great golden age characters that made DC have become B-List. (Wonder Woman, Sandman, Hourman, Dr. Fate, Atom, Dr. Mid-Nite, etc etc) Thats one of the reaason’s why i love John’s revisting GL and the Flash, and incorporating characters like Hakwman, Atom, Deadman, Spectre, Phantom Stranger into the black/bright books. 


    Rebirth was the first GL trade that I bought when I was trying to get back into comics. It was a great read and really entertaining. It was epic, funny and action packed all at the same time. Everything that an adult comic reader could want. I dunno if I agree with DC making every storyline into an Absolute but this is a great read.

  4. Johns looks so scary in that picture man. (oh crap that 60’s panel in the other article’s got me talking like a hippy)

  5. I think my favorite arc from this new Volume of Green Lantern is Secret Origin.  I’m not incredibly fond of this first arc.  I’m sure I would get more out of it now (because I would be able to spot some foundation for Blackest Night), but when I originally read it, I wasn’t impressed.

  6. Nice review – if I had the cash, this would be straigfht to the top of my wish list, but I’ve got my eye on the Absolute New Frontier first (I’ve only read the first softcover thus far).

    This is the book that I thank (or blame) for my current interest in the DC Universe.  Outside of Batman, I didn’t care squat about what was going on outside of Gotham.  Then coming to this site, reading about Green Lantern piqued my interest, so I picked up Rebirth.  It took two readthroughs (and a couple of trips to Wikipedia) to absorb the sheer volume of backstory that’s going on here, but not I’m obsessively into Green Lantern.

    It is amazing looking back on it now and seeing just how much Johns had planned – I remember thinking ‘Who’s this Black Hand guy, he doesn’t seem particularly important to the story…’  How wrong I was.

  7. It’s a beautiful book, but a little too thin for $75.

  8. Yeah, I’m sure the book looks pretty, but I wouldn’t consider it a must have. I loved GL: Rebirth too, but $75 for it? No way. By comparison, the upcoming Absolute Planetary has almost 100 pages more than this and will have the same MSRP.

  9. An Absolute Sinestro Corps War is something I would gladly throw money at. Rebirth is a fantastic story, but to offer it as a 224-page Absolute is like going to Ruth’s Chris Steak House for chicken. It needs more meat in it.



  10. I’m sure that everyone complaining about paying $75.00 for this are aware that you can get it for $47.25 on Amazon, right? That’s how much I paid.

  11. Hey, look! The trade sells for around ten bucks.

  12. I picked up the trade of GL:Rebirth last night, which I think makes it the first Geoff John’s book I have owned.

    After getting halfway though it last night, I have to say that I regret being so late to the GJ party.

  13. @Conor-Yes, and you can also get the larger Absolutes for that same price. So it’s still less of a value then the rest of them.

  14. I realize this book isn’t necessarily for everyone, especially at such a price (but as Conor pointed out, Amazon and DCBS both have it for $47.25), but as the book that hooked me (and many others) on Green Lantern, it was worth it.  Arbitrarily sticking the first six issues of the ongoing series wouldn’t quite fit tonally, and while it would be nice to have Johns’ entire run in this format would be great considering the wonderful production this book boasts, it’s not realistic.  Instead I’d rather get really nice editions of the Rebirth/Sinestro Corps War/Blackest Night Trilogy.

  15. @drakedangerz: Things cost what they cost. Absolutes aren’t about getting value for your money, they are boutique products.

  16. I’m not complaining about the price – the value of the Absolute totally depends on who is buying it.    I have shelled out gladly for my Absolute New Frontier, Sandman and JLA/Avengers.   This particular one isn’t worth it for me – but I’m sure it is to many.  I hope it sells well so they continue to produce more.

  17. @Conor-Yes, and the bottom line is that this boutique product has less pages than others that cost the same. Just explaining it away by saying "things cost what they cost" doesn’t change or justify that.

  18. @drakedangerz: I disagree. Things cost what they cost. You don’t, or shouldn’t, take page count into consideration with a boutique product. You are paying for the presentation, no matter how long it is.

  19. I echo the idea of @Simps and @NJBartione put forth when it comes to this issue.  47.25 as far as cost goes may appear to be too much for some and just right for others.  It is the VALUE you put on the product that equates a buy or not.  So for Conor 47.25 = buy for the presentation/story/art etc for Drake it is not a buy for the amount of presentaiton/story/art etc.   I will wait this out and see where it goes as far as price goes, the market will eventually pan the out.  The example I use is Superman Man of Tomorrow, a book that surprised many getting the absolute treatment.  When it came out the cost of it was 75.00 just like Rebirth is now, but I waited and was able to pick it up at C2E2 for 37.50 and that equalled a buy.  Now as far as the story goes it is one of the works that brought be back to funny pages and enjoy immensely.  Thanks for a great spotlight piece on a great work Benjamin!

  20. @Conor-Then we’ll have to agree to disagree. I certainly take presentation into account, but if the material gets the exact same treatment that other Absolutes get (larger pages, recoloring, etc.) except that it’s considerably less content, then I would never pay the same price for both.

  21. "the only part of this story that matters is the last five pages or so,"

    Heheheh, that shortsighted critique on Green Lantern Rebirth sounds alot like the critiques on Bendis’s books here and elsewhere, Secret Invasion among others comes to mind.  Funny how critics will gripe on almost every storyline no matter how well told.  Comes with the job.

    I read Rebirth in paperback, it was good. Great art too.

  22. Is Flash Rebirth worth an Absolute? No because there’s very little to collect in that form.

    Same with this trade. This is a great story and a great set up to the beginning of Geoff Johns taking over everything in the DCU. However, there is very little here to justify an absolute. Sciver’s pencils are great and I’m sure this looks better in an oversized form. Again, not enough ‘meat’ or entertainment to justify such a huge price tag; whether on sale or not.

    I’m sorry but if we follow the Amazon price of $47 that still doesn’t warrant an, essentially, six issue hardcover with some extras. 

  23. @ conor

     Page count is part of the presentation. It should absolutely be part of the conversation. DC should have two price points for Absolutes….the $75 should be reserved for the big books like HUSH, Dark Knight etc and then maybe a $40-50 point for the skinnier new Absolutes that will be flooding the market in the next few months . Absolutes used to be a special thing, now every trade that sells well enough will be getting the treatment. Its watering down the brand. 


  24. I would say… then don’t buy it.

  25. @TheNextChampion Obviously I would disagree with that. It’s worth mentioning that it’s more like 7 1/2 issues + roughly 30 pages of extras. And I think the book itself is an important enough a story that it warrants the presentation.  If, over the next 5-6 years, The Flash became the cornerstone franchise of the DC Universe, I would argue at that point that Flash: Rebirth would deserve the same treatment.

  26. if I couldn’t get this cheaper, I’d gladly pay the cover price for it.  Here’s the key phrase.. to me it’s worth it.  I’m also willing to pay for one brand of mac and cheese over another. Even it if is a smaller amount of mac/cheese.. or is essentially the same inside the box. 

  27. @simps I guess what I’m saying is that when I see an absolute/omnibus I expect quanity AND quality.

    This an important story no doubt and the talent involved is fantastic. But 7 1/2 issues and some extras just doesn’t feel like absolute worthy. Some people said they would want Sinestro Corp Wars included here…I would like that too.

  28. I would jump on Absolute SCW like its Megan Fox. This not so much. I liked Rebirth, but in the end, its just a retcon story and like all retcons before, the continuity is more important than the story.

  29. The iFanbase, for the comic world’s most in-depth reviews of book prices.

  30. "Things cost what they cost".

    This is the kind of phrase that will soon make possible an Absolute Killing Joke with 120 pages at $75 ($47.25 Amazon price).  

     I’m completely agree with "drakedangerz" about it.  When I purchase a "boutique product" the quantity matters as much as presentation and content.

    When Amazon sent me this book I return it right away.   Doesn’t worth my money.  I went for the paperback edition.

  31. @Lexavi80: And if they put it out, I’ll buy it (which they won’t because they already gave it the oversized deluxe hardcover treatment).

  32. @conor: I, on the other hand, like my house, my car, light, cable, internet, food, etc instead of spending my hard earn money on a mediocre product that eventually will be reprinted cheaper on a better and more complete format in the future given the low sales nowadays.

    I do pick my expenses, so DC can shove it’s Absolute Green Lantern Rebirth (with it’s 224 pages at $75) and it’s Absolute All Star Superman (with it’s 320 pages with NO EXTRAS at $99.99).

    I love comics just as the next guy but I’m not IN LOVE with them.  So far I’ve been happy collecting some Trades, Hardcovers, Absolutes and Deluxe Edition, but DC Commercial Department is going way out of line thinking some of us will pay top dollar for scraps.  

    Conor, it is a happy day for DC to know they have people that’ll pay whatever price they put on their lame overprice products (some products not all of them).  I congratulate you for having the money and the will to spend $75 for a 120 pages book (Absolute Killing Joke… example up).  

  33. If it’s not worth your money, don’t buy it. What right do you have to police what other people spend their money on when you have no frame of reference for their lives.  It’s not like Conor’s got a kid who isn’t eating.  You don’t like something, vote with your dollars and don’t buy it.  Trying to convert people to your ideas on what a comic book is worth is an inexplicable waste of time.

  34. @josh:  Indeen I won’t be buying it. 

    Regarding the ""Police what other people spend their money on…", I’m not doing such a thing.  I’m not putting a gun in anybody’s head and saying "Don’t buy this crap, Raymon K. Hassel.  Now run!".  I’m just leaving my honest opinion regarding which book worth my money and which doesn’t.  If my opinion is valid and relevant for other persons like me then good, if it doesn’t, big deal!.

    Trying to convert people to my ideas?.  No way, Jose…

    Anyway, spending time answering a comment of a person who doesn’t think like you is an inexplicable waste of time.

  35. This is fun.

  36. I should know better.

  37. "Anyway, spending time answering a comment of a person who doesn’t think like you is an inexplicable waste of time."

    You just blew my mind with that.

    Specifically, it was the bullet I fired out my gun that blew my mind, but you played your part, I assure you.

  38. I think it’s only a waste of time when it’s a current thread, but actually digging up an old thread to do the same is obvously an extremely valuable way to spend your time.