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"Green Lantern: The Animated Series" Shines

There’s a ton of superheroes out there. They’re on TV, they’re in the movies, they’re even on our underwear. Green Lantern has always been one of the big ones. Obviously not Superman level, but his popularity has been so steady, it was bound for an explosion. Luckily, the return of Hal Jordan to the comics a few years ago spawned several Green Lantern events: multiple on-going comic book titles, direct-to-video movies, and even last summer’s live action movie. Box office returns notwithstanding, Green Lantern is one of the most eye-catching superheroes there is, really taking the superhero concept for all its worth. To some extent, every superhero story is a power fantasy and wish fulfillment, and a superhero who can create anything he imagines is the ultimate in wish fulfillment. Prior to his solo movies, Green Lantern has been constantly animated in various DC projects, but now he’s finally been given his own animated series, and it’s about time. We’re finally getting the chance to see just how awesome the concept of Green Lantern really is.

There’s a lot of mythology involved in Green Lantern. Heck, that was the purpose of the DTV movie Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. But a DTV can only hint at the scope of various alien cultures and protectors of the universe with a history that spans back to the beginning of sentient life itself. There are literally thousands of Green Lanterns with their own personalities, cultures, and stories to share, and it’s a concept that is loaded with potential. Of course, it has to be grounded somehow, and that’s where Hal Jordan comes in.

The premiere episode doesn’t give us Hal Jordan’s origin, but it does show who he is. We know Hal Jordan is a test pilot on Earth who, unlike other Green Lanterns, thinks it’s important to maintain a secret identity. We also know that he answers to the Guardians of Oa, although he is a bit of a cowboy. Through Hal, we see Oa, the Guardians, Salaak and Kilowog, but there’s not much of an introduction to the various other Corpsmen before we’re whisked off to our main plot. Expanding on the Green Lantern mythology from the comics, we’re told about a frontier sector of the universe policed by Green Lanterns that Hal and Kilowog never knew about. Thanks to an advanced ship that can take them to said far reaches, Hal and Kilowog travel to sectors of the universe they’ve never been before and meet the antagonists of the series, the Red Lanterns.

Sinestro’s been a long-time villain of Green Lantern, with his fear-powered yellow energy serving as a counter the good guys’ green. He’s even created his own Corps in recent comics. Expanding on the concept of different colored lights based on different emotions has also introduced the Red Lanterns, a Corps whose power is fueled by the wearer’s rage, as opposed to the Green Lanterns, which run on willpower. I guess with Sinestro in the movies, they had to go down a different path for the show, which is fine, because the Red Lantern leader Atrocitus is a pretty cool character in the comics. Plus, he’s got a history with the Guardians and a reason to be angry with them, which is touched on in the premiere and I’m sure will be built upon later. I’ll miss Sinestro, but Atrocitus and his Red Lanterns are a welcome substitute.

I’m not completely sold on the animation yet. CG animation can be a mixed bag, and when it comes to facial expressions and depicting various emotions, that’s where it falls on shaky ground. Luckily, the series is content to spend a lot of time on alien worlds where most characters on the show aren’t human, so the artists can get creative not just with their body proportions but also the way they show emotion. Atrocitus in particular has a cool looking sneer about him. The downside, of course, is that our star is a human being and doesn’t look as visually interesting as the aliens he’s surrounded by. I guess it’s just going to take some getting used to.

The upside of the CG animation? The action scenes. My oh my, the action scenes! You can’t shortchange Green Lantern when it comes to action when you’ve got a hero with the power to create whatever he imagines. Adding villains with their own power rings means twice as many awesome visuals. Anything can and should happen in a Green Lantern fight scene. If the skirmishes in the pilot are any indication of the ring-slinging that’s ahead of us in the series, we won’t be disappointed. The speed, the color, the imagination: it’s everything you could hope for in a Green Lantern dogfight. The only limit is the ringbearer’s imagination, and thankfully, we’re given a powerful and resourceful Hal Jordan who thinks on his feet.

It’s a solid premiere, but can it work a series? The problem presented here can hold up for a season arc or so, but it might make longtime Green Lantern fans (or even more casual ones who can still recognize various Corpsmen) want more. There’s four or five Earth-based Green Lanterns alone, not to mention some of the alien Lanterns that have become fan favories. These Lanterns are just begging for an appearance on this series. Plus, Hal’s got a retty healthy rogues gallery on Earth. Hopefully we’ll get to see them cause him trouble. Plus, further expansion on what Hal’s life is like when he’s not doing his duty as a space cop would be welcome. But this is all for stuff down the line. Right now, the show is very entertaining and shows loads of potential.

Green Lantern: The Animated Series premieres tonight, November 11, 2011, at 7:00 PM (6:00 PM Central) on Cartoon Network in the U.S. and at 8:00 PM (ET/PT) on Teletoon.

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