‘Green Lantern – The Animated Series’ was timed to cash in on the assumed-success of the live action GL movie starring Ryan Reynolds… except that movie fell short, both critically and financially. Things could have turned out quite poorly for this series, except wisely, Warner Brothers did not craft this series to tie directly into the film. It isn’t set within the same continuity, nor does it base its overall look on it. Developed by legend Bruce Timm, this was an all new take on the classic character, cherry-picking elements from the hero’s lengthy history and weaving them together with brand new concepts to create a series that may have had its flaws, but ultimately resulted in a satisfying, entertaining series.
Now, I admit, I found the first episode a bit… challenging? It was good, but felt slow at times and the fact that I think I went in with predetermined ideas of what to expect (something closer to either the comics or the movie).
The premise is that still-novice Green Lantern, Hal Jordan returns to Oa after the deaths of several “Frontier Lanterns” heroes asigned to the outskirts of Guardian Space, who have been killed off by the Red Lanterns. Whereas the Green Lanterns are powered by will, the Reds are fueled by rage. Ganthet reveals to Hal and Kilowog the Interceptor, a powerful space ship that could be used to travel to the outer fringes. The ship is controlled by an artificial intelligence that Hal dubs “Aya” who eventually becomes able to manifest itself in the form of a robotic female figure.
One twist is that the Red Lanterns, led by Atrocitus, believe the Guardians are responsible for the deaths of thousands. This will come into play later. In the first episode, Hal and Kilowog battle Atrocitus, Zilius Zox and Razer and by the end of the first two-part episode, they have taken Razer into custody. They are, however, stranded in this frontier space, known as the Forgotten Zone and must slowly make their way back to Guardian Space.
In the second episode “Razer’s Edge,” they imprison Razer on a prison asteroid, but after learning that the prison is corrupt and its prisoners are being tortured, they return to help, only to be captured. Aya turns to Razer for help. This episode also marked the first appearance of yellow crystals that play havoc with the Green Lanterns’ rings. Their alliance is further cemented in the third episode “Into The Abyss,” when Razer helps the Green Lanterns free a ship being sucked into a vortex.
One recurring theme that is quickly established is Hal and company’s quest to accumulate allies to help them stand against the Red Lanterns. In episode four “Heir Apparent,” they encounter Queen Iloande of the planet Betrassus and her defender, Green Lantern Dulock. But while on the planet, Dulock is killed and his ring selects another champion… Iolande herself. The murderer is revealed to be Iolande’s brother Ragnar. He is imprisoned, but Iolande’s position as the queen of her planet prevents her from joining Hal and Kilowog in their quest.
In the next episode “Lost Planet,” the heroes find themselves on… a lost planet and encounter three strangers. After splitting up to find their objective, a new Green Lantern, one by one the strangers betray the heroes. Ultimately, they find their new Green Lantern… the planet itself, Mogo. In addition to Mogo, another fan favorite is introduced in this issue– Saint Walker.
Razer takes center stage in the following episode, “Reckoning.” He travels to Shard, the Red Lantern homeworld, and feigns allegience to Atrocitus, in an effort to assassinate him, but Atrocitus isn’t fooled and tortures Razer for information on the Green Lanterns. The big reveal, however, is when Hal interacts with Red Lantern Cleric Loran, who reveals that the Guardians– prior to creating the Green Lantern Corps– had employed robot enforcers called Manhunters to police the universe. The Manhunters went rogue and ended up devastating worlds and and killing millions. Hal doesn’t quite buy the story yet, though. Razer fails to kill Atrocitus, but manages to steal his Power Battery.
The mystery of the yellow crystals deepens in episode 8 “Fear Itself.” The Lanterns find themselves on a planet of two warring factions. Kilowog encounters a tribe of warriors, called the Zor, including a female named Galia, who he finds particularly… interesting. Hal encounters a race of huge jellyfish-like creatures called the Nadara. The Nadara routinely raid the village of the Zor and steal their yellow crystals, Orem. Kilowog rallies Galia’s people and leads them to raid the Nadara settlement to extract revenge, but Hal opposes them. It turns out the yellow crystals are fueled by fear and are manipulating the Zor to make them war-like. Hal frees them from the crystals’ control and the Lanterns depart, but Kilowog promises to visit Galia.
Galia returns quite quickly, when she along with Hal’s love Carol Ferris are inducted into the Star Sapphires, Violet Lanterns whose powers come from love… a twisted form of love that drove them to encase their males in crystals. Carol tells Ghia’ta, the second-in-command Star Sapphire the real meaning of love and guides the Star Sapphires in a different direction.
Ragnar seethes with rage and is inducted into the Red Lantern Corps. Hal and the gang must return to Petrasis onlyto be outnumbered by Red Lanterns. The biggest development, though are Ganthet’s admission that the Red Lantern’s “story” about the Manhunters is true and the reveal of his invention, the Blue Lantern, which boosts the Green Lanterns powers and enables them to defeat the Red Lanterns on Petrasis. Ganthet, however is exiled from Oa by Appa Ali Apsa.
Hal and Kilowog are ordered by Appa to destroy The Lighthouse, which can open a portal between the Forgotten Zone and Guardian Space. They must obtain a code from an inmate on the prison asteroid and wind up allying themselves with Byth Roc a duplicitous Thanagarian prisoner who attempts to double cross them, only to be taken captive by the Red Lanterns.
The heroes make it through to Guardian Space, but Drusa, one of the captives on Mogo, has joined the Red Lanterns and takes over Aya and allows the villains to steal the Interceptor, leaving hal, Kilowog and Razer stranded, unable to get to Oa ahead of them and far outnumbered by the invading Red Lantern army. Kilowog alone decides to stand against them, while Hal hatches a desperate plan: to enlist the aid of the Star Sapphires to teleport him to Earth. His plan works, but he loses his memory! Carol helps him snap out of it and he flies to Oa.
Meanwhile, Kilowog is joined by Saint Walker, the first Blue Lantern and Mogo to fend off the Red Lantern army.
Hal arrives on Oa and actually attempts to make ammends with Atrocitus. He offers to help rebuild the Forgotten Zone, but Atrocitus is too angry and refuses. Hal defeats him but makes the same offer to Zox who accepts. He then zooms off back home for “dessert” with Carol.
I felt the culmination of this season seemed a tad rushed, but I suppose that’s better than feeling drawn out. I guess I went into this series with preconceived notions, but after getting past that and taking it for what it is, I was happy with the outcome. It seems aimed at younger kids, so it’s sort of formulaic and simple, but that doesn’t necessarily make it bad. And there are lots of elements from the comics present. It’s sort of amazing to me that they did this whole season and there wasn’t a single reference to Sinestro, Green Lantern’s most famous villain from the comics. They instead pulled in various other characters and concepts and managed to make it work.
No word yet on season two, but as soon as we learn anything, we’ll pass it along! How did you feel about season one? Comment below!