Animation Wednesday: Green Lantern: The Animated Series
This post is part of the Animation Wednesday series, a regular column which looks at animated TV series and movies of the past, present and future.
I was a bit nervous about Green Lantern: The Animated Series. For every bit of news which got me excited, there was one I wasn’t sure about. Green Lantern cartoon!! But with the Red Lanterns as the primary villains. Bruce Timm of Batman fame designing characters!! But for CGI. There was also the overarching fact that the show was pitched to tie into the Green Lantern film’s buzz, so there were presumably going to be similarities and connection points for new fans. My lack of enthusiasm for the movie is well-documented.
I shouldn’t have worried. GL:TAS premiered last week with a two-part episode, and it knocked it out of the park. The series follows Hal Jordan, Green Lantern of Sector 2814 (Earth and stuff), as he and Kilowog, an alien GL, explor “frontier space,” a section of the universe outside of their bosses the Guardians’ control. The Guardians have sent rings out to these sectors to an effort to establish some kind of law and order, but the new GLs have been getting bumped off. Hal and Kilowog “borrow” a starship and head out to the frontier, where they discover they’re the targets of the Red Lanterns, a new group who run on rage the same way Green Lanterns run on willpower. They also discover they’re stranded on the frontier, with little chance of backup. The GLs have no choice but to explore the frontier, teaming up with local GLs and battling Reds. It’s kind of like Star Trek: Voyager, but with Green Lanterns instead of Starfleet.
The show does a great job of setting up the primary conflict right from the start, as well as establishing a number of intriguing characters. Hal Jordan is his usual vaguely dickish self, but he has a nice little speech early on about what Green Lanterns do and why they do it. The Red Lanterns, who are little more than feral animals in the comics, are reimagined here as an army on some sort of a revenge crusade against the Guardians. It’s a much more relatable, ambiguous take on the villains, made even more interesting by new character Razer, a young, conflicted Red Lantern. The premise, as well as some of the promotional material, also indicate that there will be a number of other Lanterns of all colors introduced throughout the show.
The animation is also top notch. I was wary of an all CGI series, but computer-generated animation has come a long way since the days of Beast Wars and ReBoot. Bruce Timm’s clean visual style translates surprisingly well into three dimensions, and the result is somewhat reminiscent of The Incredibles, albeit at a television level of quality. The shapes and body types of the various aliens are also refreshingly different, as opposed to the usual “animal head on a human body” that Green Lantern comics often fall back on. Backgrounds and settings are clean enough to not look cluttered, but still detailed enough to be memorable. All in all, it’s a level of quality I don’t usually associate with CGI TV series, with the possible exception of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
We’re only about two episodes into Green Lantern: The Animated Series, but I like what I’ve seen so far. It’s not impossible the quality of the writing could drop off a bit in the future (looking at you, Young Justice), but the premise is strong enough and simple enough that there’s a lot of room for good stories. The show won’t start airing weekly for a month or two, but it’s one to watch when it does.