Green Lantern: Ganthet’s Tale

September 6, 2009

Green Lantern 2My old comic of the month is this mind-snapping more often referred-to than read Green Lantern story. First published in 1992, Ganthet’s Tale has probably one of the most ill-designed DC covers in both conceptual and aesthetic terms, but that’s just me being shallow. Its narrative ranks among the tightest and most idea-filled p.c.b. (per cubic brain) in my own experience, which is still saying the least. One just doesn’t leave this book without whole assumptions about life and reality being ripped apart – yes, it’s that kind of book! Should one expect any less from the pen of none other than the creator of the Ringworld series, Larry Niven?

Way before the current trend of getting wildly popular super-novelists like Brad Meltzer, Denise Mina, Joss Weldon, and Ian Rankin to write comics, there was this marriage of hard-core science fiction and Green Lantern. The outcome is a mixed bag of fun: Niven’s essentially anti-origin origin story takes the reader on one crazy ride while John Bryne’s dynamic art seems, at points, to forget its duty to some existing script! But those were the early days of such collaboration, and part of the fun is to watch 2 different mediums trying to waltz. The story is too story-ish – possibly better in words than in pictures – and the art is too desperate, like a boxer made to perform within the confines of a pavement tile.

The Ganthet in the title would go on to become a key character in the DC universe. He stands out among the little Guardians of the Universe for being vocal, highly individualistic, and capable of feeling with less condescension for life-forms like us miserable blob-evolved creatures. Here, Ganthet calls on Hal Jordan to help him defeat a fellow Guardian bent on changing the history of the universe by stopping another Guardian, Krona, whose ancient attempt to understand the moment of creation began cosmic history itself! All reality is once again in need of a superhero’s help but not before we are all subjected to Niven’s summary of 10 billion years of everything, at length intertwining human civilisation with the diaspora of the blue immortals…

I always love DC’s version of Genesis: the cosmos as we know it is a product of the sin of Krona, who is – get this – a scientist par excellence before whom Victor Frankenstein and all mad scientists in literature pale. Somehow, in his relentless quest for knowledge, he broke the time barrier and caused the universe to lose a billion years and thus born old. In shame, the Guardian race damns itself to various forms of permanent self-delimitation. So what can be wrong with this new crusader’s attempt to “correct” the universe and undo primordial wrong? There’s the twist within the twist within the twist that makes this story so special: I’m not even sure that DC has come to grips with the traumatic foundation Niven established after all these years. Poor Hal certainly didn’t: although the revelations were blocked in his unconscious by the end, what responsibility might we assume they played in the damaged mind that would, in 2 years’ time, surrender to the monstrous Parallax?

Gweek gives good ol’ Ganthet 8 party balloons.

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