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Green Lantern: Hero's Quest
Dennis O'Neil
Multi-cast narration, adaptation
GraphicAudio, 7 Hours

Green Lantern: Hero's Quest
Dennis O'Neil
Dennis O'Neil is a comic book writer and editor, principally for Marvel Comics and DC Comics in the 70s, 80s and 90s, and Group Editor for the Batman family of books until his retirement. His best-known works include Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Batman with Neal Adams, The Shadow with Mike Kaluta and The Question with Denys Cowan, all of which were hailed for their sophisticated stories that expanded the artistic potential of the mainstream portion of the medium. As an editor, he is principally known for editing the various Batman titles. Today, he sits on the board of directors of the charity The Hero Initiative.

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A review by Ivy Reisner

       "In brightest day, in darkest night,
       no evil shall escape my sight.
       Let those who worship evil's might
       beware my power...Green Lantern's light."

In the back alley behind a smoke-filled bar, young art student and ne'er-do-well Kyle Rayner encounters a strange blue gentleman in a red nightshirt. The gentleman gives him an odd green ring, then disappears. Soon Kyle finds himself possessed of powers he doesn't understand. He is invited to join the Justice League, only the League, and the Watchtower, suddenly vanish. In trying to find out why, he uncovers a plot to erase all of the aesthetically disturbing elements in creation, which would be most life forms. Talk about a crazy first assignment.

This is an alternate reality version of how Kyle Rayner became the Green Lantern, and although it carries a few in-jokes with the original, it doesn't fix precisely into the DC continuity. In this version, Hal Jordan is immediately succeeded by Kyle Rayner. There is no Guy Gardner, and no John Stewart. The Oans are very different in this incarnation.

There is a tremendous growth for this character, and that, more than the space battles, strange aliens, or missing super heroes, is the driving force for this story. Because it is a coming-of-age story for Kyle, we don't get to see much of the rest of the Justice League. We have a few scenes with Superman, and the occasional appearance of Wonder Woman, the Flash (we aren't told which Flash), the Atom, Plastic Man, and the Atom. Batman has a bit more time, but for the most part, those heroes have to move to the side so that Kyle can transform from self-proclaimed slacker to hero.

The structure of this book is particularly interesting. We're facing a quest within a quest here. First, we have the quest to save the universe (and incidentally the Justice League), but second, we have the quest to save, not only Kyle's sense of self, of identity, but his potential. We're told in the beginning that he's not living up to it, that "potential" is all it will ever be. At the end, we not only see it realized, but we see why it is important that his unique potential, not in terms of power but in terms of how he sees the world, is important. We start and end on a small island with a small group engaged in a skirmish with a larger one. The Justice League rushes in at the book's opening to defend the law; Kyle doesn't rush, but that's both his bane and his blessing. When he goes in, at the book's closing, he goes with information, and wisdom. He's telling the story to one person, and along the way mentions how he had been telling the story up to a point to another person, and how he told that other person about telling the story to an even earlier point to a third person. It's a kind of series of concentric narrative rings.

This story deals with time, and you have to pay attention, because there are some parts of the story's history that are changed, but that Kyle, as narrator, doesn't realize have been edited. We're clued to these changes once in a while, so we're told that the planting of a redwood tree was moved back a few decades. Sometimes we're not. Kyle is summoned to the Watchtower, just before it vanishes. Later, Batman shows a video taken inside the Watchtower where it is implied that Kyle called the meeting, and an anomaly that suggests the cameras were filming after they had vanished, only Kyle didn't know how to call such a meeting. Finally, when that meeting ultimately happens, Kyle begins by explaining why he called it. Other, similar distortions happen, and finding them is part of the fun. Those familiar with the DC universe will see another distortion in exactly why Kyle just happened to be "in the right place at the right time" to receive the ring.

How Kyle responds to his surroundings is a telling measure of his growth, and his expectations of himself, though he never seems to get over a fascination with barcaloungers. It also parallels him. He starts small, beaten psychologically into a small curled-up ball, living in half of a basement. As the story grows, his horizons expand, to various parts of the Earth, to the solar system, to the whole of the universe, and he starts replacing terms like "amazing" to "familiar" to describe the same things.

The ending might be a bit disappointing for readers who want a standard, formulaic resolution to the external problem, but this one better solves the interior problem, and in a character-driven story like this, that is more satisfying.

The production quality is extraordinary, with music scored by Dan Smith and Johann Dettweiler, and a host of talented voice actors. The sound effects contribute to the story, without getting in the way, and start to become an audible shorthand for things like the ring activating or charging, and this helps to speed the telling, thereby making the story seem faster. This is one better enjoyed in audio as opposed to text. It suits itself well for it, and it is perfectly done.

Watch for Green Lantern: First Flight coming on DVD in July 2009, then Green Lantern in theaters December 2010. Both of these feature the Hal Jordan Green Lantern. The Green Lantern (again the Hal Jordan version) is featured in his own monthly comic, by DC Comics.

Copyright © 2009 Ivy Reisner

Ivy Reisner is a writer, an obsessive knitter, and a podcaster. Find her at

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