Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 10, 2012)
Although 2011’s big-screen Green Lantern fizzled at the box office, that didn’t mean the demise of the character’s prospects. Green Lantern: The Animated Series seems to have done pretty well for itself and might just buoy the franchise for more exploration in the future.
While I’ve never been wild about the Lantern, I’d heard good things about The Animated Series so I figured I’d give it a look on DVD. Entitled “Season One, Part One”, this two-disc set provides the series’ first 13 episodes. We see them in the order broadcast. The plot synopses come from TV.com; thanks to them for their useful work.
Beware My Power… Green Lantern’s Light, Part 1: “When Hal Jordan (voiced by Josh Keaton), Earth's resident Green Lantern, learns of alleged Green Lantern killers, he journeys with Kilowog (Kevin Michael Richardson) to the deepest regions of space in order to help fellow Lantern Shyir Rev (Kurtwood Smith). Upon their arrival, they discover the existence of two Red Lanterns, rage-filled beings bent on destroying the entire Green Lantern Corps.”
When I view a two-part episode, I save my comments for the end of the second segment.
Beware My Power… Green Lantern’s Light, Part 2: “Stranded on the Frontier, Hal Jordan must prevent Atrocitus (Jonathan Adams) and his Red Lantern Corps from destroying a colony.”
On the negative side, I must say I’m not wild about the series’ animation style. It’s computer generated but not vaguely up to 2012 standards. While acceptable, the visuals often seem rather simplistic and not particularly expressive.
Despite that weakness, the series seems fun – so far, at least. “Power” kicks off Lantern with a big, ambitious story that introduces us to the characters and circumstances well. It moves on a clear path and delivers plenty of good action. Throw in some wit and you have a lively, engaging two-part program.
Razer’s Edge: “Hal and Kilowog drop captive Red Lantern Razer (Jason Spisak) off at a prison asteroid run by the Spider Guild. However, when they learn that the wardens are torturing their prisoners, they go back to investigate and are captured… leaving only Razer and Aya (Grey DeLisle) to rescue them.”
I don’t know if it’ll continue through the whole season, but I like the fact that “Edge” directly follows the events of the two-part premiere. Going into the series, I expected it to largely consist of standalone shows; I figured each program would exist unto itself without much to carry us across the year.
Again, it’s too early to see where S1 will go, but to a certain degree, “Edge” acts as Part 3 of the premiere. That’s a smart way to launch the series, and “Edge” acts as another solid show. It advances the plot and adds more enjoyable action and humor, complete with a Peter Lorre-style alien!
Into the Abyss: “While Hal, Kilowog, and Razer rescue a cargo ship trapped on the edge of a gravitational pinhole, Aya must take extreme steps to help them. Meanwhile, Kilowog remains suspicious of the former Red Lantern, putting the mission at risk.”
Although “Abyss” does less to move along the overall series narrative, it still provides a fun experience. It emphasizes the show’s action elements and packs a nice wallop. I can forgive its lack of development just because it’s so much fun.
Heir Apparent: “To win the hand of alien princess Iolande (Tara Strong), Hal must fight a brutal warlord (John DiMaggio).”
After a string of strong episodes, the series dips a bit with the mediocre “Apparent”. Oh, it’s not a bad show, but it feels a little too much like a rejected Star Trek program. While moderately enjoyable, it lacks the cleverness and zing of its predecessors.
Lost Planet: “Hal, Kilowog and Razer follow an errant GL ring to a mysterious planet, looking for a new Green Lantern. There, they meet the mysterious Mogo (Kevin Michael Richardson) and Saint Walker (Phil Morris).”
The series’ mini-slump continues with the so-so “Planet”. Like its predecessor, it’s a little too Trek to work in the Lantern framework, and the guest characters’ motives tend to be too transparent. Hopefully the series will rebound soon; these last two shows have been decent, but they’ve not lived up to their predecessors. At least it does introduce an interesting new character via Mogo.
Reckoning: “Razer decides to confront his former master and seeks out Atrocitus on the Red Lantern's homeworld of Shard.”
After a couple of shows that seemed somewhat tangential, Lantern gets back on track with the more intense and meaningful “Reckoning”. The use of Red Lantern Razer as a Green Lantern colleague creates intrigue, and this show develops that thread well. Expect a dramatic and dynamic episode here.
Fear Itself: “While searching for food, Hal and Kilowog are caught between two warring factions of aliens.”
Now that we’re in the second half of this two-disc set, I can say that it’s pretty clear Season One will follow the overall Green Lantern vs. Red Lantern narrative launched at the year’s start. That doesn’t mean we don’t still get the occasional digression, and that’s what happens with “Fear”. While it still advances parts of the narrative, it mainly falls into that “semi-Trek” feel of a few earlier episodes. This doesn’t make it a bad program, but it’s lackluster after the thrills of “Reckoning”.
…In Love and War: “Hal and the others encounter the Star Sapphires, who wield violet power rings. When they visit the Star Sapphires' homeworld of Zamaron, Hal is shocked to find Carol Ferris (Jennifer Hale) there.”
Following in the Trek mode, “War” follows a fairly predictable path. It doesn’t take much to figure out the Sapphires aren’t quite as beneficent as they seem, so parts of it drag. At least the Sapphires are pretty hot – for primitive CG creations, that is – and the reintroduction of Carol adds some intrigue.
Regime Change: “When Queen Iolande's brother Ragnar (Will Friedle) becomes an evil Red Lantern, Hal and the others must return to Betrassus to stop him.”
After the more restrained “War”, we return to the heat with the exciting “Change”. This one goes far to advance the overall narrative and it does so with a good sense of style and action. This becomes one of the season’s better episodes.
Flight Club: “With the Red Lanterns building up momentum, the Green Lanterns must stop their efforts to find the code necessary to penetrate the galactic barrier separating them from Guardian Space.”
With its concentration on fights between our heroes and aliens, “Club” could easily be lumped into the Trek-like domain seen in other shows. However, it fits with the series’ narrative better than most of those, and it boasts enough clever fun to overcome the potential pitfalls. Throw in the integration of Byth Rok, one of Hawkman’s foes, this becomes a vivid program.
Invasion: “The Red Lanterns begin their invasion of the Green Lantern homeworld Oa, and Hal and the others must destroy the lighthouse and stop Atrocitus from penetrating the maelstrom.”
While I complained about some of those seemingly standalone episodes earlier, I can now see that I was at least partially wrong. These didn’t exist as islands unto themselves as much as I thought, for S1 brings them back to tie into other programs. That occurs with “Invasion”, which revives characters/themes from “Lost Planet”. It’s still not one of the strongest shows, but it’s solid and meshes well with the season’s themes.
Homecoming: “Hal and the Green Lanterns must defend Oa from the Red Lanterns.”
Season One still has a way to go, but our examination of its first half ends here. Though “Homecoming” may not finish the season, it concludes this package well. Actually, it seems to wrap up the Red Lanterns narrative to a large degree. I’ll be interested to see where the second half of S1 goes, as I assume it’ll launch a new storyline. Given how well the first 13 episodes of the year fare, I look forward to seeing where the rest of the season takes us.