Green Lantern: First Flight Special Features Review

Russell Burlingame Reporting

So it's been a week since we wrote about the actual movie of Green Lantern: First Flight. This week's installment will be to look at the special features on the two-disc edition of the DVD. Why? Because frankly there are a lot of them, and mostly fairly cool. Also, because another Green Lantern story right now--while he's the hottest property in comics and Blackest Night has taken over the superhero blogosphere--can't hurt.

First of all, it's good to see a special edition, two-disc DVD where the "extra disc" features actual content as opposed to jut a digital copy of the movie. First Flight carries a digital copy code inside its front flap, but the second disc features a couple of commentary/documentary style features, a Looney Tunes cartoon (yep--a Looney Tunes cartoon) and a couple of old Justice League Unlimited episodes, ostensibly hand-picked by Bruce Timm to showcase the Green Lantern.

I'll start with those last--the story is called "A Past and Future Thing," and features Green Lantern (John Stewart), Batman and Wonder Woman fighting Chronos. The result is a story that's broken up over two episodes and sees them interacting with both DC's western heroes (Jonah Hex, Bat Lash, El Diablo) and the DCAU's futuristic heroes (Terry McGinnis/Batman Beyond, Hawkman/the son of John Stewart and Hawkgirl, and a few others). It appears, though, that the only reason this episode appears on the First Flight DVD is that for a moment, chronal anomalies (the story is kind of a poor man's version of Zero Hour) turn Stewart into Hal Jordan, one of his only (if not THE only) appearance in the DC Animated Universe. The story really belongs to the guest-stars, and while John Stewart shares the spotlight with Batman a bit--particularly in the second episode--he's more or less a cipher of a character for the most part. Other than the plot thread relating to John's relationship with Hawkgirl, it seemed to me all through the story that Booster Gold would have been a better fit for the tale. John served mostly as "the guy who holds a force field," and occasionally flew in to blast stuff. Booster could have done all of that, plus would have been more in his element with a time-travel story. Not an entirely un-enjoyable pair of episodes but one really does wonder why they were deemed Lantern-y enough to be included here.

The Duck Dodgers story "Green Loontern" was also included, and that was the highlight of the collection for me. The Looney Tunes style of animation really suited Ch'p and Kilowog, who was as good here as he was in First Flight. Cameo appearances by Green Lanterns like Medphyll, Chaselon and Guy Gardner--all conspicuously absent from the feature film--were a treat for hardcore fans, and Kevin Smith as the voice of Hal Jordan was worth the price of admission alone.

Beyond all of that, though, comes the real prizes of the collection (at least for those of you who, unlike me, have seen the other cartoons before): a series of short documentaries on Geoff Johns' Green Lantern philosophy; on Blackest Night; and on Sinestro and the Guardians.

While the Blackest Night doc (included on the first disc along with the movie and available to everyone who bought the film, even in the cheap version--smart move, DC!) is pretty boilerplate stuff for comics fans, it'll be a great introduction to a little of what's going on in the DC Universe for people who bought the cartoon and don't already know. Regarding the ongoing battle happening online over terminology, it's worth noting that Peter Tomasi and Dan DiDio both use the word "zombie" to describe the resurrected Black Lanterns, which to me is good enough to quell the debate. They also say that the POV from the Black Lanterns reveals the character's CURRENT emotional state, not their overall aura, which changes the recent Green Lantern issue just a bit for me; I had read its registering Barry as reading him as a potential Blue Lantern--someone capable of instilling great hope in others. Instead, it now appears as though he was just feeling hopeful at seeing J'Onn apparently alive again. Nice to know, for future reference, so I suppose there's a little something in that doc for everyone.

The Green Lantern: Behind the Story documentary was a little more general, and will serve as a great primer for viewers of the video and cartoon fans as to who Hal is and why he's important, the various colored Corps and such--but for longtime readers it's pretty much a review session and, as with ALL of these DC documentaries from the Superman: Doomsday DVD forward, it's full of a lot of self-congratulatory back-slapping and self-evidently wrongheaded talk about the accessibility of the characters and comics to "anyone who wants a hero who's fearless and honest."

Little five-to-ten-minute minidocs on Sinestro and the Guardians are great primers for new viewers and might help to enhance the viewing experience of First Flight--but only if someone were to watch the special features BEFORE the movie. They're a little short and not full of very much information, but it's worth the cost of the film just to see DC/Warner giving a little love to legendary Green Lantern penciller Neal Adams, who appears discussing Sinestro--a character he was instrumental in defining--and the way he's changed in the years since Adams was done with him. Johns appears here, too, as he does all over the DVD, along with Peter Tomasi, Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns. More than the recent DC animated features, these documentaries will speak to comics fans as they incorporate creators as opposed to just Dan DiDio and Bob Wayne.

It's interesting--after having waved people off buying the DVD in my review of the actual film, I'm re-thinking it. Fans may find the special features alone worth enough to justify the price difference between rental or pre-viewed ownership, and buying the special edition. Certainly if you're GOING to buy this new, pick up the two-disc for the extra four bucks. The Duck Dodgers episode alone is worth it.

Russell Burlingamee is a journalist and columnist living and working in New York City. In high school, Russell interviewed Elliot S. Maggin for a review of the Kingdom Come novelization, and since then has worked consistently in and around the comics industry. He interned for Wizard magazine, and has freelanced for Wizard and Newsarama, in addition to a number of non-comics publications, Russell is currently working on a graphic novel based on Cap'n Internet, the comic strip that ran in his college newspaper; and a graphic biography of folk singer Phil Ochs with artist Marion Vitus.

Currently, in addition to his freelance work and his comics projects, Russell writes a number of columns for ComicRelated, including Conscientious Sequentials, The Gold Exchange, What's Perhappenin', Closing Statements, Reflecting 'Pool and To See or Not To See. Russell also takes point on the Hot Shot of the Week feature.

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