Green Lantern: Fear Itself
Ron Marz, Brad Parker
(DC Comics, 1999)

The story is fairly standard superhero fare. An evil-minded villain attempts to raise a great power for his own nefarious purposes, but is overwhelmed by it himself, leaving the creature to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting city. Right on cue, a good guy turns up, defeats the bad guy and all is right with the world. Of course, bad guys have a way of returning....

But the story isn't the primary reason for reading Fear Itself, a graphic novel about the DC hero Green Lantern. The clever bit here is the way writer Ron Marz used the adversary -- an ancient, unnamed creature of unknown origins -- to weave a story about three Green Lanterns in DC's distinguished history.

The first is Alan Scott, a World War II-era hero who fought alongside the Justice Society of America. A photo-op with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt goes awry when the tentacled monstrosity breaks free from the Smithsonian, where it had been raised by a fanatical Nazi. The JSA is easily defeated, leaving Scott, the first Green Lantern (not affiliated with the Green Lantern Corps, which later produced numerous DC heroes bearing that name) to fight it alone. It is then it touches his mind and exposes him to his deepest fears.

Of course, we know the hero will win in the end, and the creature appears to be dead. But no, it again rears its head (or, rather, giant eyeball) during the Cold War, when test pilot Hal Jordan is Earth's Green Lantern. Resurrected by Soviet spies, the creature matches strength against the fledgling Justice League, but once again, it's Green Lantern who must face his fears and fight solo.

Next, flash forward to the present. Hal Jordan is dead, the Green Lantern Corps is gone, Alan Scott is using a new monicker, and Kyle Rayner is the last of the Green Lanterns. And guess who's back? This time GL is backed by a more seasoned Justice League, but his own inexperience in the hero biz might just win the day.

The common foe, who has no ties to any other storyline in the DC continuity, is a nifty way to tell a story linking the three best-known Green Lanterns. (Two others in the GL lineage, Guy Gardner and John Stewart, also make brief, non-powered cameos, as do numerous other DC characters.)

If that's not reason enough to pick up the book, here's another: Brad Parker's art is astonishingly realistic. His painted illustrations are practically ready to leap from the page, and his characters' facial expression and postures are extremely lifelike.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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