It’s – blimey – the eleventh DC Animated Original, and the second after the mediocre Batman: Gotham Knight to feature an anthology format. Don’t panic, though – Emerald Knights isn’t as artsy-fartsy as that movie; it retains a uniform visual style (which is more or less identical to what was used in Green Lantern: First Flight, although this otherwise has no connection), and each individual tale is linked together by an overarching narrative.
And that narrative is?
The home planet of the Green Lantern Corps is on the precipice of a galactic-scale battle with an ancient enemy, and in preparation for the coming conflict Hal Jordan (Nathan Fillion) regales new recruit Arisia Rrab (Elizabeth Moss) with tales of the first Green Lantern and several of his current comrades. And that’s it, really. We get stories that explore the formation of the Corps; the trial-by-fire that led to Kilowog (Henry Rollins) becoming a certified ass-kicking space-swine; Bolphunga’s (Roddy Piper) meeting of an “antisocial” Green Lantern known as Mogo (Steve Blum); some familial drama as Laira (Kelly Hu) investigates her vaguely Nipponese home world; and a team-up between Abin Sur (Arnold Vooslo) and Sinestro (Jason Isaacs) as they take on the villain Atrocitus (Bruce Thomas) while waxing philosophical about the nature of destiny and free will.
I was particularly partial to Kilowog’s origin story and some of the human-scale encounters in Laira’s homecoming, but mostly due to personal taste more than wavering quality. Unlike Batman’s foray into anthology-style storytelling, which tried to do far too much far too stylishly, and ended up being wildly uneven, Emerald Knights is an incredibly consistent mish-mash of Green Lantern stories which function, for someone like me, as a primer for the material. Before I started this series, I knew less than nothing about the Green Lantern mythos. I still know very little, but the more I learn about the major characters and their personalities, and the intricacies of the mythology, the more I come to enjoy this property quite a bit.
Any particular reason?
I guess I’m just fond of the idea of a galactic police force comprised of all kinds of interesting aliens – many of whom are as powerful (if not more so) than our nominal hero. And the aliens in Green Lantern stories look like aliens, too; they’re not all differently-coloured humanoids. There’s richness and a diversity to Emerald Knights (and, to a slightly lesser extent, to First Flight) that feels somewhat distinct from other superhero properties. And given the nature of the rings, how they can conjure spectral versions of what seems like anything, the action is limited only by the storyteller’s imagination.
Speaking of the storyteller…
Yes, Lauren Montgomery directs, alongside Jay Oliva and Christopher Berkeley, and yes, Bruce Timm produces. It doesn’t seem outlandish for me to suggest that the consistency of these movies is tied in no small part to the familiarity each creative team has with the material and each other. There’s a passion for superheroics in each of them, sure, but also for lush animation, stellar voice-work and big-scale action. These aren’t just smaller, shorter diversions to bide time until DC’s next live-action tentpole; they’re fully-fledged stories in their own right, laboured over and cared about by their creators.
It’s good, then?
Yeah, real good, as far as I’m concerned. Longer than usual, too – at 84 minutes, it’s the longest Animated Original thus far by about ten minutes, and it puts each of them to good use. There’s a chance I’m just down with this property more so than others, and also that the constant onslaught of Batman and Superman films is starting to become tiresome, but either way. Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is a compelling surface-scratching of the mythology surrounding the Corps, and positions itself as one of the more solid entries in a canon that has produced almost nothing but. Check this one out.
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