written by JM DeMatteis, art by Seth Fisher
DC Comics, 2011.
If the idea of Green Lantern as a giant disembodied floating head who can’t even speak because he’s got his mouth full with a buxom six-armed bartender, an alien beatnik, and an angel in cutoff jeans and a t-shirt sounds appealing, then, boy, is this the comic for you!
That said, the draw of this book for most is naturally going to be the art by Seth Fisher.
Fisher tragically died at the age of 33 after falling off a roof in Osaka. Especially tragic because: 1) he was so young, 2) his total output was so minimal, and 3) he was such a phenomenal artist.
Superficially his line work resembles that of Geof Darrow — capable of very fine, delicate inking and hyper-populated detailing. By which I mean, when Darrow draws shattering glass, you get more shards than you would from actually shattering glass, more wrinkles in clothing, more wires in radios, more people in supermarkets. Combine that with the surrealist / psychedelic sensibilities of someone like Brendan McCarthy, and you get an idea of Fisher’s art in this book. The book may even be riffing on Windsor McCay quite intentionally.
In fact, Fisher’s artwork is so detailed that you look at these pages and have to wonder how long it took him to draw some of them. It’s no wonder that he completed so few books during his too-short career in comics. I had a hard time choosing artwork to feature with this review, because he seemed to spend an equal amount of obsessive attention to every page and the work is uniformly consistent throughout. Plus, unlike most of the other Darrow imitators out there, Fisher is capable of bringing to life a vibrant, lived-in world — the details aren’t just noodling for the sake of noodling.
And, importantly, Fisher’s art is an ideal match to this oddball story. So about that floating head. Well, the story begins with a cowboy in a green domino mask riding a strange purple creature through an alien landscape (“The Land of Odd”). He has no idea who he is, where he is, or what he’s doing there.
But of course, since this book is called GREEN LANTERN: WILLWORLD, we know that this is Green Lantern. The title seems to be a play on WESTWORLD, but the book soon drops the whole cowboy motif. He meets some people who decide to help him figure out who he is, and gradually Green Lantern begins displaying strange powers (which he has no control over), and when GL sees someone he recognizes (though he doesn’t know how he knows him) being abducted by the fascist government of this strange dimension, he decides to go on a mission to rescue him and on the way uncovers clues to the nature of this whole reality as it seems to unravel and re-ravel.
Something I found particularly interesting about the story is that you need to know almost nothing about GL or even superhero comics to enjoy it. GL doesn’t know who he is, so the reader doesn’t really need to either. I was surprised how long he goes without any memory. Sure, there are some details that may be helped by knowing a few background details. For example, in one scene GL feels compelled to hop in an airplane and fly around. If you know GL, then you know Hal Jordan is a test pilot in his secret identity. But the fact of the matter is, for most of the story we are as disoriented as Hal is so things like this hardly matter, especially since it’s too fast-paced to let us linger on these things. And there are almost no super-heroics in the book at all — since he has no memory he only uses his powers by accident, and every law of physics is bonkers in this place anyway. Even his domino mask is just one more kooky detail in this whole freakshow of a comic, and in the early Western context seems like more of a nod to the Lone Ranger than anything else.
Fisher was practically an unknown when he drew this book, but it’s remarkable how well DeMatteis has written to his strengths. He must have known what he’d be getting when he wrote pages like the one below where GL travels through the desert for “weeks”:
WILLWORLD was originally released in 2001 as an original graphic novel, and was re-released in 2011 as part of the “DC Comics Presents” line. I’m glad it was because I never would have found it otherwise, and this is a comic worth revisiting again and again: 1) to pore over the art, and 2) to one day hopefully figure out what the hell it’s all about.
Kumar Sivasubramanian is the writer of Weird Crime Theater.