BOOK REVIEW: Green Lantern and Philosophy
Aristotle meets Hal Jordan...
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When new movies are released or pop culture characters/television shows reach a certain level of popularity, it’s not uncommon to see the featured section at your local book store fill up with all sorts of reference guides. Whether these are basic photo compilations or advanced science texts taking a look at the physics of a new Star Wars film, all sorts of interesting things can be found. One of my favorite comic book characters, Green Lantern, is currently riding a huge wave of popularity culminating in this summer’s blockbuster film. In stores now and just in time to coincide with the film is a book examining some of the core concepts and characters of the Green Lanterns and their Corps in the comics, GREEN LANTERN AND PHILOSOPHY: NO EVIL SHALL ESCAPE THIS BOOK from Wiley.
With over 50 years of history since the “modern” Green Lantern Hal Jordan first appeared, there’s plenty to talk about. As hardcore fans will already know, Jordan was the first human selected to join the Green Lantern Corps, a universe-spanning police force organized by the Guardians of the Universe. Radiating out from the planet Oa at the center of the universe, each Green Lantern patrols one of 3600 space sectors. The Corps’ equipment consists of the most powerful weapon in the universe, the Green Lantern ring that runs on willpower and can do everything from grant flight and invulnerability to the generation of solid light constructs. Hal Jordan and the Corps have gone through a lot in the last 51 years, from the highest highs to the lowest lows. Green Lantern and Philosophy takes a look at how it all came to be and what it all means.
The "Philosophy" series is edited by William Irwin, while the Green Lantern book is edited by Jane Dryden and Mark D. White. Together with more than a dozen other writers and contributors (all with advanced degrees in Philosophy, English, or Physics), they’ve divided the book into twenty chapters in six parts. Each of the parts deals with a specific theme, while the chapters delve deeply into narrow subjects. For example, the first part is “Will and Emotion: the Philosophical Spectrum” composed of the chapters “The Blackest Night for Aristotle’s Account of Emotions,” “Flexing the Mental Muscle: Green Lanterns and the Nature of Willpower,” and “Women Are from Zamaron, Men Are from Oa.” Other parts of the book examine ethics and the Green Lanterns (taking different looks at Hal Jordan specifically), their relationships within and without the Corps, duty and responsibility, metaphysics, and powers and limitations.
While each chapter is very different, the book on the whole is an approachable text that gives plenty of background from both sides of the discussion: philosophy and the Green Lantern mythos. There are references galore so you can look up everything the authors talk about, and while most of the Green Lantern content is from Rebirth through Blackest Night, some of the notes and call backs go way back (for example Emerald Dawn II, Itty, and Ch’p). It’s clear that a lot of research and energy went into the comic book sections, and of course the philosophy experts brought a lot of their expertise to the table from ancient sources like Aristotle through contemporary thinkers. The chapters alternate between using philosophy to explain Green Lantern concepts and using Green Lantern concepts to explain philosophy concepts. Some of the content can be controversial, like Nicolas Michaud’s penetrating look at Hal Jordan’s guilt for his actions while influenced by Parallax and Ron Novy’s examination of the hate crimes in Brother’s Keeper. Other sections are more light-hearted, like almost any talk of Guy Gardner and the less than amazing technology of many Lanterns’ constructs.
Green Lantern and Philosophy is available now in book stores everywhere, and via download in ebook formats. It will challenge what you think about Hal Jordan and the Corps, but will also give you some new insights that may just add another level to your enjoyment of the comic books. As the book says, whether you’re new to the Green Lantern comics or a longtime reader, there’s plenty in here to learn and enjoy. Get your copy today!
Review by Scott Rubin
Review Sample Courtesy of Wiley