Every so often I give Geoff Johns a chance to convince me that he’s not a hack. I do this because he keeps getting such glowing praise that I think to myself, “It must be that I just haven’t read the right Geoff Johns comics.”
But it never works. Every time I try reading something by Geoff Johns, I always find the same thing: Mediocrity.
My latest effort has been his work on Green Lantern. I started with Green Lantern: Secret Origin (which was a decent retelling of the origin story), continued with Green Lantern: Rebirth (which was a passable effort at making a pure Tale of Grand Retcon(TM) something other than a mind-numbing exercise in dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s on the way to explaining why some other set of stories never actually happened), and landed in Green Lantern: No Fear.
These pages from the last of these volumes, taken from two back-to-back stories, tell you pretty much everything you need to know about Geoff Johns.
(You can click for larger images.)
While the surface quality has been changed, those pages both tell the exact same story: Random and essentially nameless man and woman chat for a couple of panels. The big bad guy for the issue shows up and slaughters the man in a gruesome fashion. The death of the woman is then implied, but left off-panel so that we can imagine it in our own gruesome detail.
I don’t have a problem with the story. (The first artist, in particular, does a great job of pacing it and that final panel of red is inspired.) I do have a problem with the fact that Johns is repeating himself in the most formulaic fashion.
It would be one thing if this was just some random nitpick. But the real problem here is that these pages are merely the most perfect encapsulation of what’s wrong with these volumes: At both the micro level and the macro level, Johns repeats himself. And repeats himself. And repeats himself. And repeats himself…
And once you’ve noticed it, you also can’t help noticing that Johns is also repeating a lot of other people, too.
I don’t mean this in the sense of plagiarism. I just mean that there is absolutely nothing interesting or inspiring in anything that Johns has to say: We’ve seen these stories before. And we’ve seen them done better.
If you’re brand new to superhero comics, then you might potentially find Johns’ work nifty. It’s a workman-like rendition of nifty stuff drawn from what is clearly Johns’ own passion for superhero stories. But unlike Kurt Busiek or Grant Morrison or Mark Waid (when he’s at his best), there is absolutely nothing transformative or reinvigorating or fresh in anything that Johns is doing. Instead, it’s paint-by-numbers storytelling so predictable in its technique that it’s as if Johns is dealing a hand of poker using transparent cards.
But I’m a sucker, so give me another five years and I’ll probably give the guy another shot.
GREEN LANTERN – SECRET ORIGIN: D
GREEN LANTERN – REBIRTH: D-
GREEN LANTERN – NO FEAR: F
Published: 2008 / 2005 / 2005
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $19.99 / $14.99 / $12.99
ISBN: 1401230857 / 1401227554 / 1401210589