Geoff Johns, Meet John Milton

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June 2, 2013 by NowhereButPop

By Andrew Doscas

About two weeks ago, comic book writer Geoff Johns ended his incredible and memorable run on Green Lantern, a slumping title that he breathed new life into and crafted into one of the best selling and critically acclaimed comics in recent history.  Leading up the climactic issue, I decided to re-read all the issues of Green Lantern that he had written prior in order to ingest the scope and magnitude of all that he had accomplished.  Reading all those issues brought me back down memory lane to when I first picked up Green Lantern, back in December of 2010.

Instead of starting with Green Lantern Rebirth, I decided to start with Secret Origin; I figured that the best place to start would be chronologically from the very beginning.  Secret Origin is not only the first storyline that I read from Geoff Johns, it still to this day remains my personal favorite.  Not only did it get me hooked unto Green Lantern, but it also did something that only the best comics are capable of doing: come off as literary.  I guess I do kinda mean that in a high-brow snobbish way, but I do think that there is some truth to the notion that comic books aren’t exactly the best source of literature.  However, the best ones, runs such as Chris Claremont on Uncanny X-Men, Jonathan Hickman on Fantastic Four, and Green Lantern by Geoff Johns are incredibly literary reads.  Not only do they entertain, but they captivate, emote, and make us think profoundly.

Green Lantern Secret Origin is one of my favorite storylines from any comic series because of the literary comparisons to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, an epic poem that I enjoy thematically more so than I do actually.  These comparisons are most likely coincidental and unintentional, but upon reading Secret Origin for the first time I immediately notice striking similarities between the three main characters of both stories.  It made the storyline that much more engrossing and exciting because to see how certain characters emulate others between the comic and epic. To be able to evoke a comparison between one of the most decorated epics of all time is no small feat.

Secret Origin is as much a Sinestro story as it is a Hal Jordan story.  Whereas Jordan must get acclimated to his new life as a superhero, Sinestro must hunt down the murderer of his friend, Hal Jordan’s predecessor, Abin Sur.  Sinestro is strikingly similar to the character of Lucifer in Paradise Lost in that both characters are exceedingly arrogant, and it is that arrogance that will lead to their downfall.  Sinestro has been told by the Guardians themselves that he is the greatest Green Lantern who has ever lived.  The just feeds his ego and arrogance to that point where he thinks he knows better than the Guardians.  It also serves to facilitate his own fall because being told that he is the greatest seems to justify his totalitarian and oppressive treatment of others under his protection.  Similarly Lucifer is the most beautiful of God’s angels and it is because of this knowledge of his status that he declares himself both above and independent of God, which sparks the events that leads to his fall.  Both characters are blinded by their own arrogance that it skews their own morality and becomes the motivating force behind their fall from grace.

Ironically enough though, both characters are (mildly) aware that they are responsible for their fall, and both secretly want to be redeemed.  Sinestro has always only wanted to be a Green Lantern, and would gladly go back to the Green, if he weren’t so arrogant.  Lucifer throughout the course of the epic questions his own anger and his own sense of judgment wondering if maybe he did do the wrong thing in rebelling against God.  However, like Sinestro, Lucifer is too proud to ask for redemption and continues his quest out of principal and arrogance.

If Sinestro is akin to Lucifer, that would make the Guardians of the Universe (those who created the Green Lantern Corps.) similar to God.  The Guardians fed the arrogance of Sinestro by referring to him as “the Greatest” and by treating him in a favorable way.  God created Lucifer to be slightly above the rest of the angels, which is what led to his own growing arrogance and rebellious nature.  When both Sinestro and Lucifer rebelled against their brethren, the Guardians banished Sinestro to a chaotic parallel universe, and God banished Lucifer to the chaotic throes of Hell.  The next course of action done by the Guardians and God is the same: they both look for replacements.  The Guardians eventually crown Hal Jordan as the greatest Green Lantern, and God creates Adam who becomes his most favored creation.  Because of both their status as the new favorite Hal Jordan becomes a target for Sinestro and Lucifer seeks retaliation against God through Adam.

Therefore, Hal Jordan is then comparable to Adam in that they are the new “creation” and the favored one of their superiors, a distinction that earns the ire and wrath of the fallen, former favorite (Sinestro and Lucifer).  Sinestro’s goal was to always make Hal Jordan fall from grace, as he felt that Jordan had done the same to him.  Likewise, Lucifer attempts to poison God’s newest and most favored creation: man.  Both villains eventually succeed in their task as well.  Sinestro successfully orchestrates the events which lead to Hal Jordan almost destroying the Green Lantern Corps, and Lucifer successfully tempts Eve who in turn tempts Adam despite his hesitation and understanding that he is knowingly disobeying God.  Although both Hal Jordan and Adam were at one point the most favored above all else, they still were able to be corrupted, the former by fear, and the latter by love.  And in both cases, the ones who orchestrated their fall from grace were the ones who used to be the most favored, but fell from grace themselves.

Secret Origin isn’t great solely because of its parallels to Paradise Lost; it is a deeply engaging read that reveals new details every time I read it.  The fact that it deals it deals with themes of hubris, a fall from grace, and redemption, I think allows it to sustain itself as a credible literary piece, as is the entirety of Johns’ run on Green Lantern.  Along with the likes of Chris Claremont, Alan Moore, and many others, Geoff Johns has proven that comic books can be credible pieces of literature, look no further than Secret Origin.

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One thought on “Geoff Johns, Meet John Milton

  1. […] his readers reflect the emotions of the characters that he writes, and in Blackest Night, this rare skill is in full […]

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