Friday, August 31, 2018

Retro Review: Just Imagine Stan Lee's Green Lantern (2001) Review and **SPOILERS**

This is the Most Fun I’ve Had Since I Rotated My Shoe Trees

Written By: Stan Lee 
Pencil Art: Dave Gibbons 
Ink Art: Dick Giordano 
Letterer: Bill Oakley 
Colorist & Separator: Alex Sinclair 
Front Cover Artists: Dave Gibbons, Jeromy Cox 
Back Cover Artist: Adam Hughes 
“Just Imagine…” Initiated By: Michael Uslan 
Editors: Mike Carlin, Ivan Cohen 
Executive Editor: Dan Didio 
Cover Price: $5.95 
Cover Date: December 2001


Holy crap. Not only does this reimagining of Green Lantern have pencils by the incredible Dave Gibbons, but it’s inked by the inimitable Dick Giordano! This is a classic Green Lantern tag team from the 1980s. That alone should have been enough for me to give this a try, but for whatever reason, in 2001, I did not. But today, in 2018, I have! So have a look at my review of Just Imagine Stan Lee’s Green Lantern, and luxuriate in the four-color panels!

Explain It!

The thing that differentiates Green Lanterns from their other super-powered contemporaries is that they have to carry hardware. It was more common in the Golden Age, but even then someone could swallow a serum or recite a formula to kick in their hidden abilities. For most flying folks in tights, their powers are innate, but Green Lanterns have to have this ring and a clunky lantern that needs to be addressed every twenty-four hours. And yes, they’ve done away with much of it by sticking these lanterns in a pocket dimension and practically never mentioning the rings needing a charge anymore—my point is that it makes Green Lanterns quite unique against a pantheon of gods and goddesses that can crush mountains because they were born that way. 
"I teach from this side of the desk because I'm down with the kids."
Leonard Lewis is an average Professor of Archaeology at an average university in the average city of Los Angeles. We know he is average because the captions keep telling us that these things are “like any other,” to an extent that is suspicious. For one thing, we can tell the first time we see him that he is a total hunk that has all the students in class swoonin’. For another thing, not every professor has Erich Von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods on their syllabus. 
I dunno...that would basically be Disney's Aladdin, right?
That Reverend Darrk and his Church of Erectile Dysfunction or whatever plays a much bigger role in this comic than in the previous issues I’d read. He’s funding…or forcing an African expedition headed by a supreme asshole named Cragg Crogor. His name is “Cragg?” Not “Craig?” His parents actually named him “Cragg,” is what you’re saying. Fine. He’s looking for some artifact or…something. It’s not clear, and I’m not sure Cragg knows exactly, either. While he’s looking, he indulges in shooting endangered species and murdering random people, because you have to enjoy your work. 
"Someone collect that hippo carcass for supper."
One of Leonard’s groupies students named Cathy Warren corners him after class and listens to the guy wax on about mystic hoodoo and Yggdrasil, the mythical Tree of Life. He’s headed to Africa just then, in fact, to find the thing, and so Len bids Cathy goodbye and hastily splits. Cathy calls someone unexpected—Reverend Darrk! She’s also doing his bidding, and he bids that she worm her way into his African trip. Meanwhile, on the Dark Continent, Cragg and his crew have found…something. A green mist covering an area of thick quicksand—so thick, it pulls a tree trunk out of Cragg’s hands and dismantles a bulldozer! I don’t really get that second part, but fine. 
"Correction: the GHOSTBUSTERS' bulldozer!"
At the airport, which is like any other airport, Cathy finds Leonard and tells him flat out that she’s nudging her way into his plans. And because she’s good lookin’, he accepts it! Do you think it’s interesting that a student is able to afford a last minute trip to Africa, Professor Lewis? No? Fine. 
"Have you ever heard of the adage, 'ass, grass, or cash; nobody rides for free'?"
Leonard and Cathy make it to their destination: Central Africa. Anyone feel like naming a country here? Africa has several dozen of ‘em. Where they want to go, no guides will take them, for the place is cursed. When Len and Cathy make their own way to the location, they find the same green mist and mud that Cragg was fooling around with. 
The sequel to Monster From Green Hell is slow-going, so far.
And hey, speaking of Cragg, here he comes now! He grabs Cathy and makes some lewd suggestions, then shoots Leonard directly in the chest. The blow sends him reeling backward into the mist and quicksand, into which he quickly disappears…and then floats.
"If so, death is way more boring than anyone made it out to be."
While suspended in the muck, Yggradsil itself manifests and heals Leonard’s wound. Then the magic tree bestows some powers on the guy and tells him to do some good with ‘em.

You got the touch! You got the pow-werr!
And that’s when he becomes…the Swamp Thing Green Lantern! 
Jon? ...Is that you?
Leonard powers down and makes his way back to Cragg, who is pretty surprised to see Len walking among the living. While distracted, Cathy gets the drop on him, and the two of them put some distance between themselves and the mean minions of Reverend Darrk. But Cathy is also a minion of Darrk, and this was all a plan concocted between them! A hail mary play in case the guy that got shot in the chest came back as a super powered god, or something. 
"And besides, you're hurting the rock's feelings."
Cathy and Leonard do escape Cragg and catch a flight back to America. While on board, Cathy presses Len about what he found in the green mist, but he’s tight-lipped—so she ignores him for the rest of the flight! That could have been as much as ten hours. Meanwhile, Darrk is pissed at Cragg for failing all the time, and curses him to age a year every day going forward, until he finds Leonard or the artifact or something, for crying out loud! 
The "cosmic plan" involves all sorts of colored lights and lava lamps.
Things aren’t looking great for Cragg, but they’re great for Leonard Lewis, who enjoys flying around and firing laser blasts and such. He thwarts a mugging and is seen in broad daylight, drawing the attention of the media…and Reverend Darrk. 
"It's sort of like lying down, but in the air."
Cathy also sees him out in the world, but in his regular guise as Professor Lewis. Darrk has tasked her with killing Leonard, but she wants to get closer, find out what he really knows about Yggradsil and his time in the green mist. Before she can shadow him, there are sirens converging on the scene—responding to a call about a flying green man, no doubt—and Cathy flees. Later, at home, Leonard resolves that he has to keep his Green Lantern identity a secret, because of reasons. 
"Or I could just drop the Leonard Lewis personality, he's kind of a drip anyway."
Leonard heads into the desert to fool around with his powers, and has a pretty good time flying around and splitting rocks. He finds, however, that his power lessens over time—and like a battery, he must recharge, by powering down and walking around like a lame human being for a while. So wait a minute, he was bestowed powers by a timeless conceptual god and he still has to recharge them after a while? This is like all the hassle of having a Power Lantern without having to lug something around! So like 2/3rds of the hassle. 
"Flying is easy," you said. "Like I've been doing it all my life," you said.
Now Darrk’s plan is to have something destroy Los Angeles, and that will draw Green Lantern out for his plucking. Because he’s awesome, he magically activates a gigantic Godzilla rip-off sticking out of a movie theater, and it starts wrecking shop! 
The trick is to incite the trademark lawyers for Godzilla and King Kong, then they trip each other up.
Leonard wants to change into the Jolly Green Giant, but Cathy is right behind him, stalking him—and threatening to shoot him dead if he turns around! Leonard says he won’t turn around, and turns into the Green Lantern with his back to her. That changes her tune, I’ll tell you what! 
"...and that booty!"
In fact, Cathy has an epiphany, seeing Green Lantern pummel away at this tremendous movie monster display. She’s thrilled by his power, and the fact that he saves her life like three times during the fight, and has moved entirely from Reverend Darrk to the Church of Leonard Lewis. When Cathy sees he’s about to get snatched up by the giant movie prop, she jumps in front of its mechanical hand—sacrificing herself in the process! 
Just let him climb to the top of a skyscraper, he'll put her down there.
Using his powers, Leonard heads right to the hideout of Cragg Cogor and his gang, which is actually in a pretty normal-looking warehouse. He tussles with the bad dudes, but then his powers wane and they are able to restrain him. Cragg figures he can get back in good with Darrk if he takes Leonard to see him, so they go for a little ride…and on the way, Leonard’s powers come back! 
The Lincoln Mark XV. With optional moon roof.
He dispatches them with ease, but before he can get any pertinent information out of Cragg, Reverend Darrk remotely ages him sixty years until he crumbles away, a desiccated sack of bones. Darrk swears revenge from his purple cauldron, and then…it just ends. That’s it. I guess there doesn’t need to be any more, but I sort of expected a showdown between Darrk and Green Lantern. Next…issue…??? 
Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.
This issue has the longest “On the Street” backup of all the ones I’ve read, and it’s the most interesting one. This is by Michael Uslan, José Luis Garcia-López, Josef Rubinstein, Phil Felix and Alex Sinclair, and it’s about an undercover cop named Kevin King, so deep in cover that he is nabbed by some other police officers. They let him go, but say that he should take it easy and let the superheroes handle the dangerous stuff. Kevin is like “fuck that,” and storms off to do some traditional police work, aka rough up some crooks for information. 
"'Eyy, from one cop to anudda: we suck."
On his way to his mark, Kevin stops a looter, then saves a little girl from a burning building. He spends so much time being a hero, he loses the guy he was trying to pinch, and wonders if maybe it isn’t worth being a cop in a superhero world anymore. But then the neighborhood kids tell him they want to be cops because of him, and that’s swell! 
"Unfortunately, you're all under arrest for loitering."
Of the three Just Imagine… books I’ve read, this was the best. Dave Gibbons and Dick Giordano bless this book with a clean, gorgeous layout and masterful rendering that draw immediate parallels to their work together in the 1980s. While Leonard Lewis is kind of a dud, his power set and the mystery of its origin is intriguing. That being said, this was still pretty stupid. Leonard acquires his Yggradsil abilities so conveniently, aside from the inconvenience of traveling back and forth to Africa. Characters like Cragg are so underdeveloped and sniveling, they seem tacked on, and the story ends like a dry fart. Though I did finally figure out what the “On the Streets” backups are about—they’re what the average person “on the streets” is dealing with in current Just Imagine… continuity! So that’s fun. Overall, this is an interesting experiment, but I’d say it’s still a failure based on this.
"And then, I have this strange desire to crucify him."

Bits and Pieces:

Maybe the most awkward reimaginings of a superhero I've seen in this series thus far, the book's tepid story is inflated by the fantastic artwork to a level that could be considered mediocre. To be frank, I wouldn't have minded seeing more of the back-up story.

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