Made-For-TV: Green Lantern: The Animated Series (Blu-ray)

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In brightest day, in blackest night, No evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might, Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!!!

No disrespect to Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1998), Batman Beyond (1999-2001), or any of the other DC super hero toons that came before, which are all fine in their own right, but, for me, Justice League Unlimited (2004-2006) is DC’s pinnacle of excellence in their history of TV toons and the last word on anything related to the Justice League, thus making Justice League (2001-2004) their second best super hero team toon. But DC had more successes after that namely in the form of Young Justice: Invasion (2012-2013), which was the second season of Young Justice. I wasn’t a total fan of their first season, the animation was inconsistent, being excellent for a few eps then sub par for another, but when Invasion came along the animation in my opinion stayed consistent and excellent for the entire 20 episode arc and the story was more focused. Now during this time DC decided to create their first CGI hero toon and give Hal Jordan his shot at the big time.

Cue Green Lantern: The Animated Series (2011-2013)!

And like Justice League/Unlimited and Young Justice another one was knocked out of the park. I admit when news of Green Lantern being all CGI hit the web I was seriously skeptical, but when test footage leaked all that trepidation was put to rest. The CGI looked fantastic and worked perfectly for the interstellar nature of this particular hero. The action, the characters and especially the design of the ships and the outer space landscape looked dare I saw beautiful, which isn’t normally a term I would ever use to describe a super hero toon, but that’s how the CGI came off to me. Alas, in an interview I read it was stated making an all CGI toon was expensive and is probably what helped the show get cancelled after only one (26 episodes) season.

In that season, however, we got two really fantastic story arcs with a final ending that was not entirely on the happy side and also somewhat open-ended. Most of DC’s and Marvel’s TV hero fare premiere with two-parters, this Green Lantern series was no exception. Right off the bat in the prologue of part one of “Beware My Power” we are made to understand this is a series which will not be catering to 8 year olds, at least, not totally, as Marvel’s new crop of toons (Avengers Assemble, Hulk & The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H. and Ultimate Spider-Man) are doing now. We see Red Lanterns, Razer and Zillius Zox, kill a Green Lantern out in the Frontier Space. We don’t see them do it, but we hear the screams and we see his ring take off back to the Green Lanterns homeworld of Oa, as these rings tend to do when their owner’s lives are ended. Zox even uses the word “kill,” a word Marvel’s new crop of aforementioned shows steer clear of because of their new focus on younger fans these days.

Before I talk more of the series and the two-parter I need to divert this review momentarily to the character of Razer. When I first saw him, as weird as this sounds, he reminded me of this kid I went to grade school with, Jason Spence. The structure of his face reminded me of him, and honestly so did his personality, but it was his visage that brought back memories of him. I know, weird, hey?

Later I found out the actor who voiced him is named, Jason Spisak.

Oh, and seeing this blu-ray confirmed something I had suspected, there was a formal opening credits sequence. DC had a tendency, with this show and Young Justice, to truncate their openings. It was nice seeing the full one for Green Lantern. It wasn’t anything major, but it was a lot longer than just the title showing up on screen when it aired on TV. Personally, I like opening credits.

Okay, back to “Beware My Power”…

After the prologue we cut to 18 months later where we see Hal Jordan (voiced by Josh Keaton) testing a new jet. What I liked about this series was that they didn’t bog the show down with yet another origin story. Hal has already been “indoctrinated” into the Corp and is already a Lantern. The series starts off at an indeterminate time after his “origin” as he’s summoned back to Oa (pronounced Oh-uh) to answer for some “faux pas” that involved slugging an alien ambassador in the stomach. This is all forgotten once that Lantern’s ring from the prologue comes home and the Guardians reveal there have been a lot of Lantern deaths out on the Frontier.

For reasons unknown to them, Hal and Kilowog (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) are then introduced to our next major character of this series, an experimental one-of-a-kind interceptor that is so fast it is overseen by an artificial intelligence that Hal ends up nick-naming, Aya (pronounced Eye-yuh and voiced by Grey Delisle). Her current form is a female voice and a holographic “eyeball” in the center of the control panel.

Being the renegade Hal is he decides to take it upon himself to sneak back and try and steal the ship so he can hit the frontier and bring these Lantern killers to justice. Kilowog is there anticipating Hal’s move, but he doesn’t want to stop him, he wants to join him. So now we have Hal, Kilowog and Aya in unknown space about to confront something they never knew existed—other Lanterns!

Razer is already set up as being the quintessential raging Red Lantern except he has an undercurrent of compassion, but before this compassion comes out he has a hand in killing another Green Lantern as well as aiding the Red Lantern leader, Atrocitus (voiced by Jonathon Adams) in literally blowing up the homeworld of that second Lantern they off.

This two-parter ends with Razer in custody and our main characters stuck in frontier space due to a damaged warp coil, which will take 9 months to repair. This is the set-up for the first story arc and the first 13 episodes as Hal, Kilowog, Aya and Razer go after the Red Lantern corps, deal with each other, and encounter all manner of interplanetary intrigue, more Lanterns and alien cultures waiting while they wait 9 months to pass so they can return home.

Here’s a quick episode-by-episode breakdown of the first story arc:

3. RAZER’S EDGE: Hal and Kilowog escort Razer to the nearest prison, but later on learn all prisoners here are tortured and then eaten by the alien spiders that run it. This doesn’t sit well with Hal prompting him to now launch a rescue mission. At the end of this episode, Hal trusts Razer enough to have him join the crew. Razer’s redemption begins.

4. INTO THE ABYSS: An interstellar truck driver hauling precious cargo gets stuck at the mouth of a black hole. Hal and his gang help. This is the episode Aya shows everyone she can download her consciousness into an artificial humanoid construct, as she strives to be more like a Green Lantern. Razer and Kilowog make peace.

5. HEIR APPARENT: On the search for more Green Lanterns to fight the Reds, Hal and the crew stumble onto an alien culture housing one of the Greens, but the current political strife results in this Lantern’s death and the birth of a new one.

6. LOST PLANET: Since the newly anointed Green Lantern from the last episode refused to leaver her planet, Aya traces the ring of the Lantern that was killed in the two-parter and finds it has touched down on a nearby planet. The crew of the interceptor goes there and encounters 3 criminals who have crashed landed on it. While Hal, Kilowog and Aya are dealing with them, Razer encounters another alien being. Saint Walker is his name and his outlook on life is very Buddhist. He teaches Razer a thing or two about the consequences of eternal hate. Saint Walker will become more important in the second story arc of the series. Hal eventually finds his new Lantern in the form of the planet itself. It’s sentient and its name is Mogo.

7. RECKONING: The Lanterns find the Red Lanterns home base. Razer goes off to get revenge on Atrocitus for making him one of them. In this episode we learn Atrocitus’s hate is not entirely unjustified. We learn the Guardians of Oa used automatons called, Manhunters, to wipeout his people out when they would not worship them. We also learn Atrocitus has an armada of battleships in the ready for some big plan he’s getting ready to unleash.

8. FEAR ITSELF: Food is getting low on the interceptor, so Aya finds a planet where they might be able to replenish their supplies. What they find is two alien races, one humanoid, one not, and the humanoids want to wipe out the other ones. In the middle is the yellow crystals Hal and Kilowog found on the prison planet in episode #3. The yellow crystal nullifies Green Lantern energy, but in its more pure form here on this planet it also makes any being paranoid and violent the longer they stay in contact with it.

9. IN LOVE AND WAR: Another episode that introduces the Lanterns to the existence of another Lantern Corps, the Star Sapphires, a race of alien, humanoid females who use Love and Emotion to conquer “evil.” Problem is their knowledge of Love is backwards ass and it takes their kidnapping of Hal’s main squeeze on Earth, Carol Ferris, and her subsequent turning into a Star Sapphire, to show them how much more they have to learn. This is the episode where Carol also learns Hal is Green Lantern. Of further note we also learn Aya’s image was taken from Razer’s memory of his long dead love when she infiltrated his “dream” in episode #3. Not intentionally, mind you. It was the only female print she had in memory afterwards when she formed her physical form for the first time in episode # 4.

10. REGIME CHANGE: A second chapter to “Heir Apparent.” The interceptor’s crew picks up a distress signal from Queen Iolande (the new Green Lantern from the previous episode) stating the Red Lanterns are laying siege to the planet. Iolande’s brother,  Ragnar, who killed the Green Lantern from episode #5, before Iolande became the new one, has now become a Red Lantern and wants to control the planet. Back on Oa, Guardian Ganthet reveals that there were indeed robots called, Manhunters, they employed to police the universe, before the “ring method” was implemented, but they had trouble dealing with “beings with emotions” and tended to eradicate them.

11. FLIGHT CLUB: For Atrocitus’s armada to reach Guardian space he has to go through this “portal” called, The Lighthouse. But to get access to it you have to know the code. A Green Lantern imprisoned in that prison from episode #3 knows it. Problem is he’s already dead. Good news, he told somebody. Bad news, it’s an imprisoned Thanagarian a couple of cells over, who’s wilier than a fox. But Hal turns out to be wilier.

12. INVASION: Continuing on from the last episode, Hal has a plan. Destroy “The Lighthouse” so the Red Lanterns can’t get their armada through to Guardian space. Hal’s plan goes off without a hitch, but so does Atrocitus’, which involves hijacking the interceptor, turning Aya into a puppet and landing on Oa without any retaliation. In this episode we learn Razer has feelings for Aya and Saint Walker from episode #6 returns and becomes the first Blue Lantern.

13. HOMECOMING: Mogo, Kilowog and Saint Walker battle the armada while Hal battles Atrocitus on Oa. And it ends in a way you wouldn’t expect. Sure Atrocitus is defeated but the Guardians admit their wrong-doing in destroying the Red Lanterns society and offer restitution, which Zox, now leader of the Red Lanterns, accepts, but it’s clear he will not be an easy boss to deal with.

What I love best about the some of these super hero toons is there are always a couple of characters who’s relationship end up going through some magnificent story arc. In Justice League Unlimited it was the Green Arrow/Black Canary episodes that were my favorite. I wish there had been more. In The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Ant Man and Wasp had a pretty noticeable character arc in their relationship. And in this series Razer and Aya are the standouts and what really gives this series the icing on the cake. These two evolve the most and it was this sub-plot that really kicks into high gear in the second story arc.

Here’s how the final 13 episodes break down:

14. THE NEW GUY: A gigantic robotic organism enters our world through a space-time rip over a junkyard-type planet and proceeds to send out a signal that revives all the decommissioned Manhunters. Meanwhile, Hal arrives back on earth eager to pick up his life where he left it, but he’s been replaced as test pilot and on thin ice with his mains squeeze, Carol. Making things worse he finds he’s also been replaced as Earth’s defender. The new guy is Guy Gardner and Hal doesn’t like him. Guy doesn’t like Hal either. They even fight each other but come to an understanding as they discover a decommissioned Manhunter temple on earth, with Manhunters who are now walking, talking and destroying. Oh, right, Carol breaks up with him, too.

15. REBOOT: After being promoted to Honor Guard Green Lantern at the very end of episode #14, Hal and Tomar-Re head off to investigate another supposedly decommissioned Manhunter temple on another planet. And again run into Manhunters who are not decommissioned. The Guardians task Hal with investigating all these “temples” in Guardian space. This where he gets the old gang back together, but Razer is “on sabbatical” as he tells Aya, who is visibly disappointed. Tomer takes his place on the interceptor and they trace the source of all these reviving Manhunters to that junk planet from episode # 14. Here they run into that gigantic robot entity from the same episode and while combating it Hal is seemingly obliterated by its lethal hand beams.

16. STEAM LANTERN: Hal wasn’t obliterated; he was just shot into a parallel universe where we learn the name of that robotic thing they were combating—the Anti-Monitor. This appears to be the universe it originated from and the planet Hal is stuck on is based in Victorian steampunk technology. We also learn this planet was once visited by a Green Lantern, whose lasting impression and tech was mimicked and their hero here is called a Steam Lantern. By the end Hal discovers the Anti-Monitor was feeding on this universe’s sun and made a deal with a resident scientist to be ejected into a parallel universe where he can find new places to plunder if he just leaves this one alone. The deal was done, but it left the sun with an expiration date that comes up sooner rather than later. Hal’s plan—to push the planet into his universe, which has a viable sun. I’ll be damned if he doesn’t pull it off, too.

17. BLUE HOPE: Hal brings the gang to a planet where exiled Guardian, Ganthet, has created the Blue Lanterns. Only two exist at the moment—Saint Walker and a Brother Warth, who looks like an alien elephant. This is also where Razer is trying to get his rage dealt with. Trouble begins when Ganthet activates the Blue Lantern; while it supercharges the Green Lantern crew, it also unknowingly activates the inactive Manhunter Hal brought with them on the interceptor and the shock wave supercharges the same to three more out in space as well as showing them right where the wave originated. On a more personal front, Aya tries to teach the damaged Manhunter that its programming is corrupted. This is the episode where Aya develops calculable feelings for Razer, evident when one of the Manhunters stares at her, for its sensors are designed to notice beings with emotions.

18. PRISONER OF SINESTRO: The one and only episode Sinestro (voiced by Ron Perlan) makes an appearance in. A good episode too that homages The Thing (1982). He’s been tasked with bringing this alien criminal back to Oa for trial. This alien criminal looks like a brain with eyes. It has the ability to mind jump and possess others. That’s pretty much the episode as the crew try to ferret out who’s who.

19. LOSS: A pivotal episode in the Razer/Aya relationship. We also get an origin for the Anti-Monitor that again involves the Green Lantern Guardians. Essentially, it’s a “Frankenstein’s Monster” that goes berserk and is exiled to another dimension, which now explains how it got to that steampunk world in episode #16. As the interceptor crew battles it and it’s Manhunter minions, Aya is fatally injured, and the episode ends as she “dies,” and the crew narrowly escapes.

20. COLD FURY: This episode marks a significant twist in the series as it pertains to who the main villain will be for the rest of the show. Up to now we assume it’s the Anti-Monitor since he’s shown himself to be nearly invulnerable, but the unexpected happens. Razer rescinds his love for Aya and she has trouble processing this since she’s now an artificial intelligence that has gained some rudimentary experience with emotions. Heartbreak is a new one that turns her vengeful. She drains the interceptor’s battery, supercharging herself and then goes outside amongst the war that’s going on between Red Lanterns, the Manhunters, the Anti-Monitor and her former crew and single-handedly destroys the Anti-Monitor. But it doesn’t end there; she takes control of its ruined body, reprograms the Manhunters and tells her former colleagues she’s going to put and end to all emotion in the universe.  She is now the Aya-Monitor. I did not see that coming.

21. BABEL: It’ll take 10 hours for the battery on the interceptor to recharge after Aya drained it. Hal, Kilowog and Razer don’t have 10 hours though. They are pulled into the gravitational field of a planet and without power the interceptor is going to crash. Hal’s fancy flying gets them down in one piece, but the planet’s atmosphere is lethal and it’s leaking into the ship. Plan B—fly to that contained city in the distance and wait for the battery to recharge. Another problem arises, none of their rings are fully charged and any minute they’re going to shut down. More problems…the rings also act as universal translators. Once they shutdown no one can understand one another. It gets worse. Once inside the city the gang learns it populated by troll-like beings that have no love for the law. It gets worse still…. But I’ll leave that for you to see. This is a fun and clever episode.

22. LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD: Aya tries to conquer the Star Sapphire’s homeworld, since in her mind this is where Love originated, but her search to destroy is distracted by Gi’ata’s attempt to explain what Love really is. This forces Aya to reason out in her sick mind that Love and Hate need to battle to see who’s the strongest. She summons Atrocitus and Carol Ferris to the planet and forces them into combat. Hal arrives in time to help, defeating Atricotus, but Aya refuses to play by her own rules. New plan—remake the universe but this time make sure Love is not an ingredient. The episode ends with her and her Manhunters flying off to make this happen.

23. LARFLEEZE: Hal, Razer and Kilowog need a “game changer,” if they’re going to have any chance in stopping Aya. Razer tells them the legend of the Orange Lanterns, whose power seems to be greater than anything in existence. With a destination in mind they head off to the Orange Lanterns homeworld to find out what happened to them and to find this Orange energy. In the end, it’s a power they cannot use. Orange energy is powered by greed, which explains why there are no more Orange Lanterns in existence except for this one Gollum-like being.

24. SCARRED: This is another origin tale and wouldn’t you know it all paths seem to always lead back to the Guardians of Oa. Here we learn about Aya, that she was an experiment by the Guardian science officer, Scar, to create an A.I. that could interact with emotional beings. She ended up creating the most sophisticated A.I. in existence, but the kicker was when she took a spark from the living entity inside their main battery and merged it with the A.I. Not only was it able to emote it was also intensely curious and would not allow the Guardian to shut it down. She managed to and also wiped its memory as well as blocking all access to its emotions. It was its exposure to Hal and his crew that activated its emotions again.

25. RANX: Another episode with a twist. Here we learn the Anti-Monitor was not killed when Aya tore its head off in episode #20. Its consciousness was in its head and it hid itself away on the uninhabited world of Ranx, where it was absorbing energy from the planet, trying to “heal” itself, but Aya learned something about it. Within it’s head is a time travel component and the Anti-Monitor lures Hal, Kilowog and Razer to Ranx to ask for their help to protect it from Aya. They agree, but Aya gets to it regardless, retrieves the component and flies off eager to return to the beginning of time to prevent life from ever coming into existence.

26. DARK MATTER: In this final episode of the series the Aya-Monitor travels back in time to the moment the universe was being born, while her Manhunters successfully keep the Green Lantern Corp occupied. She takes Hal with her so he can witness the end of all emotional organic life. A last ditch effort to try and reach Aya sees Razer joining Hal in this moment, but he cannot kill her as he initially planned. Aya blasts him fatally as he crept up behind her and it is that moment that brings her back to her senses.

She returns the universe to its natural state and hauls Hal and Razer out of the rift before it closes. She uses all her God-like powers to heal Razer but another problem reveals itself. She can no longer control the Manhunters and since she uploaded her program into each one of them every single one is a threat that will continue to find a way to go back in time and remake “reality.” A bittersweet solution…Aya uploads a virus into each and every one that will wipe out her program and this deletion involves herself. In their final moments together Razer tells her he will always love her. She melts into stardust and drifts away.

In a short epilogue, Razer tells Hal and Kilowog it’s hard for him to believe she is really dead and he vows to scour the universe for her. The final scene shows him flying into space with a Blue Lantern ring following behind.

Warner Brothers decided to give this series a blu-ray release through their Warner Archives MOD program back in March. There are no extras at all, just the episodes spread out across two discs with an episode selection option, optional English subtitles and an English stereo DTS-MA audio track. The episodes are 1080p widescreen and look stunning.

This was an amazing series Bruce Timm had a hand in producing and anything Timm’s lends his name too is pretty much a winner in my book. It would have been great to get another season. I would’ve loved to see Razer as a Blue Lantern and I suspect had there been more to the series Aya would have returned. Well, one can only hope that, perhaps, this blu-ray sells well enough to get WB to reconsider putting this series back into production at some point, or, maybe, even making an animated movie from it.

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