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‘Green Lantern Legacy’ (review)

Written by Minh Le
Art by Andie Tong
Published by DC Zoom/DC Comics

 

“As a fellow visionary, you hold your destiny in the palm of your hand… never let anyone take that from you. It’s our turn now.”

There is so much about Green Lantern: Legacy that is appealing and… fitting.

With so many different wielders of the Oan power rings over the years hailing from Earth, the idea of an Asian-American hero joining those ranks is an idea whose time has come.

That much more enjoyable, that it should be realized in the form of 13-year old Tai Pham, in a project that marks the second graphic novel to be released already this year by DC’s Zoom imprint for young DC readers.

Not surprising that Tai’s story should ring as true as it does. Like his young protagonist, author Minh Le is a third generation Vietnamese American himself, and the story of Tai’s legacy is set against a backdrop lovingly drawn from Le’s own life experiences and the personal mythology of his family.

That history includes Le’s grandmother, a woman he credits with the sort of exceptional bravery that forging a new life as a family of immigrants requires. And this, it appears, led quite naturally, to the truly great idea of this novel – Tai’s own grandmother, Ba Noi, who it just so happens has enjoyed a long career herself as one of the greatest Green Lanterns of planet Earth.

As Le’s story unfolds, both histories come to life as Tai struggles to make sense of a world in which his grandmother’s precious jade ring turns out to be one of the most powerful objects in the universe – one that has selected him to carry on in his grandmother’s footsteps as the DCU’s newest Green Lantern.

That’s a lot for any young boy to come to terms with, no matter how exciting the possibilities, but thankfully this story is firmly embedded in the strength of Tai’s community – his family, his friends, the neighborhood he was raised in. Even, to his great surprise, a whole new family: the legendary Green Lantern Corp of Oa.

That’s important for a young boy suddenly bequeathed with such tremendous power. And also, exciting – who wouldn’t want Green Lantern John Stewart as a personal mentor?

But it also proves crucial.

Because it turns out that in Le’s appropriately modernized Coast City, the tensions between well-established immigrant neighborhoods such as Tai’s and the encroaching ‘progress’ of tech-bro culture, take on even sharper relief within the context of an intergalactic peacekeeping force with enemies of their own.

Enemies like Sinestro, who has always had his own plans for the planet Earth. Complete with a protege of his own.

Le weaves all of these elements into a story that is told simply, but powerfully. Along with collaborators Andie Tong for pictures and Sarah Stern for colors, he creates a world and a young hero which are entirely believable. Tong’s artistry in particular make Tai wholly relatable and familiar.

Between her aesthetics – love that costume – and a flair for dynamism that bring life to all her characters and their activity, she and Le populate their story with a full cast of engaging characters, while simultaneously pulling off a number of wonderful Golly Wow moments that any young comics enthusiast is sure to appreciate.

Mind you, I’m not sure that too many of Le’s readers will need quite as much detail as he offers about who and what a Green Lantern is. Perhaps that’s by editorial direction, with the understandable hope of bringing in new readers to the fold.

But really, how many 13-year olds are there out there who have never heard of a Green Lantern? For that matter, it’s a little surprising that Tai himself seems to know next to nothing about them.

But then, that’s not the only surprise to be found in this book. And there’s one in particular, that is especially intriguing.

When I first read the promo blurb that laid out the legacy Thai inherits from his grandmother, I admit I was very eager to read this story. Bringing a here-to-for unknown new Green Lantern into the history of the franchise, one whose age would place her easily in the Silver Age of comics on a modern timeline, is unexpected to say the least.

Initially, I was excited by the prospect that this story might see a re-introduction of the green flame, the mythical magical source of Green Lantern’s power, the one purportedly powering the ring of Alan Scott for example, the DCU’s first Green Lantern.

But what we have instead is perhaps even more interesting.

Because while indeed our story does place Tai’s Ba Noi career historically at about the same era as the Silver Age of comics, and very definitely draws from the source of the great Oan Power Battery, the one Green Lantern whose stories dominated that period of DC history and mythology is nowhere to be found here.

There is no Hal Jordan. Only Kim Tran.

Kim Tran who was the greatest Green Lantern of planet Earth, and the beloved hero of Coast City. Kim Tran who mentored John Stewart, when first he joined the Corp. Kim Tran whose nemesis Sinestro has been a threat to her homeworld since the day he left the Corp to forge his first yellow ring.

Nothing about Hal Jordan. Nothing at all. Heck the only Jordan here, is the cat.

Which is… very curious. And, most certainly, a deliberate editorial decision. One which leaves us a with a great big question. For those of us who are not just learning about the Green Lantern legacy for the first time, just how should we read this tale?

Where does this story fit with the rest of the DCU?

Is this just another story out there in the vast possibilities of the greater multiverse… Or is this the beginning of a new chapter in the mythology of the Green Lanterns of Earth, one that will help to re-define its history in bold new ways, for a new generation?

Only time will tell. That, and I suspect, the popularity of our newest Green Lantern on the block.

But if that’s the only unknown here, I don’t think any of the team on this book has anything to worry about.

I have a feeling Tai Pham is going to be around for a long time to come.

 

 

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