Throughout the history of their adventures, an individual Green Lantern has undoubtedly said:

“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!”

– Green Lantern Oath.

Any fan of the Green Lanterns knows that oath, probably by heart. For new readers, or those looking to catch up on the various ventures of the green heroes, tracking down all the essential issues can be a challenge. The Green Lanterns and their series have been around since the 1950s, and have had several human Lanterns all take the reins throughout. An individual Green Lantern has stood for many things: bravery, justice, and, in some cases, vengeance.

No matter what Lantern you’re looking for, we have the essential reading you need to get to know each of them intimately.

Green Lantern: Essential Alan Scott

Alan Scott, the first Green Lantern. As an individual living on what is now designated Earth-Two, Alan has walked down quite a different path than the other Lanterns on this list. In fact, he isn’t considered a proper member of the Green Lanterns Corps! Created by Martin Nodell and Bill Finger (who also was instrumental in the creation of Batman), Alan Scott has spent his time battling baddies with the help of the Justice Society of America, of which he is a founding member. Now that we have the basics out of the way, it’s time to look at some of his most important adventures.

SECRET ORIGINS VOLUME 2 #18

Green Lantern

To understand what exactly makes Alan Scott different from all of the other Green Lanterns, you’ll have to go back to his first appearance. Well, at least the first appearance that stuck. See, comic book characters get retooled, rebooted and re-imagined all of the time, and Alan Scott is no different. So, to get a sense of who Alan Scott is, you’ll have to read SECRET ORIGINS VOLUME 2 #18. Although not his very first appearance in the DC continuity, this comic is a retooled version of his origin story. It explains how his beginnings differ from the rest of the lanterns, and how he gets his power from something that calls itself The Green Flame of Life, not the Green Lantern Corps. Central Power Battery.

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MADE OF WOOD

Green Lantern

You would think, considering Bill Finger had a helping hand in creating both Batman and The Green Lantern (not to mention they both operate out of Gotham City), that their stories would intersect at least once right? Tucked away in the re-release of the Batman title THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, you can find an absolute gem of a mini-arc called MADE OF WOOD. Although this story is technically under the banner of a Batman piece, it is one of the finest Green Lantern tales ever written.  Coming out of retirement, The Green Lantern returns to help Batman find a killer that eluded him many years ago. The story makes great use of flashbacks, as it goes back and forth between the two heroes’ times as Gotham’s savior to bring the reader a complete story of what is going on and why.

ALL-STAR COMICS VOL. 1 # 33

Green Lantern

Living in Gotham during what is known as The Golden Age of Comics, some may argue that The Green Lantern had it easier than his fellow Gothamite heroes. When one thinks of Gotham villains, they usually think of the Joker, Penguin, Poison Ivy, etc., and although Green Lantern’s time in Gotham didn’t overlap with any of those villains, there was one recognizable adversary that the Green Lantern sparred with regularly: Solomon Grundy.

Grundy, being partially made of plant matter, was one of Green Lantern’s most difficult foes. Seeing as Alan Scott’s ring doesn’t work on wood, it only seemed natural that these two would have some epic battles. None were more iconic than ALL-STAR COMICS VOL. 1 # 33. Although it might not have been the toughest battle the Green Lantern was ever in or the one with the most on the line, it was the most iconic, as it was the best representation of the weakness of Alan Scott’s ring and ends with Grundy in prison on the moon.

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ALL-STAR COMICS VOL. 1 #3

Green Lantern

One of the biggest differences in the Earth-Two universe was the creation of the JSA or Justice Society of America. Although only one letter off of the Justice League we all know and love, the Justice Society has created a name of its own, and that is no small part thanks to Green Lantern Alan Scott. Throughout Scott’s time with the JSA, he has been a pillar of the group and along with Jay Garrick, one of its most important. That’s why I include ALL-STAR COMICS VOL. 1 #3 in this essential reading list, as Alan Scott is to the JSA as Superman is to the JLA.  As well as the JSA’s first appearance, it’s the perfect JSA story, as it firmly plants Alan Scott as one of the group’s leaders. Plus, it is pretty entertaining to boot.

Green Lantern: Essential Hal Jordan

Hal Jordan—Green Lantern, Justice League member, and the golden boy of DC Comics’ silver era. From his origins to his battles with Sinestro and Parallax, Hal Jordan has had a ton of adventures throughout the many years he has been in action. For new readers, catching up on the essentials can be difficult with the sheer volume of Hal Jordan-based comics are out there. Fortunately, we have the 411 on all the essentials of Hal Jordan you’ll ever need.

GREEN LANTERN ARCHIVES

Green Lantern

Originally published in September 1998, the GREEN LANTERN ARCHIVES shows the very beginning of Hal Jordan becoming the Green Lantern of the silver age of comic books. Illustrated by Gil Kane, new readers saw the cocky test pilot come to wield one of the greatest powers in the known universe via a selection process done by a Green Lantern that sacrificed themselves to ensure the core lived on.

The GREEN LANTERN ARCHIVES is a basic collection of Hal’s adventures that are on the old school side. With some of the silver era storylines and art, ARCHIVES is a great place to get a general idea for some Green Lantern action. If you want old school action, you might also consider SHOWCASE PRESENTS: GREEN LANTERN Vol. 1. These are some serious classical stories for Hal Jordan and features artist Gil Kane at work. Mind you: these are old comics, so prepare to see some old-fashioned ideas and views.

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GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH

Green Lantern

Carrying on from the dramatic destruction of Jordan’s hometown, Coast City, by Superman and Cyborg, REBIRTH features a reintroduction to the storyline that most think of when it comes to Hal Jordan’s time as a Green Lantern. After descending into madness, terrorizing an alien planet and going so far as to kill several fellow Lanterns as well as almost all of the Guardians, Hal Jordan crashes back into Earth with the ominous warning of “Parallax is coming…”

This is the one that everyone will recommend for essential reading. With stunning art, Geoff Johns did an amazing job of presenting the origins of Hal Jordan, as well as his history, in a fantastic manner. There is a lot of craziness that goes on to bring Hal back from villain status (that’s a whole other list of required reading), but Johns makes it work. He manages to take a highly complex set of storylines and a very confusing universe and place every character in just the right place for them to be. If you want something straightforward and revealing on Hal Jordan, then this is the series you should start with. Highly recommended, no question.

GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD DAWN

Green Lantern

Like ARCHIVES, EMERALD DAWN revisits the origin story of Hal Jordan as well as adding in some new insight on both his beginnings and the 90-day jail sentence he received after being taken under training by the nefarious Sinestro.

EMERALD DAWN is another great source for hearing the origin of Hal Jordan, though this one is more detailed and modern. For those who want to get the inside scoop on Jordan and get to know him, EMERALD DAWN is a great series to check out. It has six issues in total and is currently collected in trade. New readers will be able to get all the essentials of Jordan’s origins from this small series without all the confusion and less-than-charming archaic views from ARCHIVES. You also won’t have to deal with Hal’s old sidekick Pieface, which is always a plus.

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SINESTRO CORPS WAR

Green Lantern

The SINESTRO CORPS WAR is a great issue that brings in some heavy-hitters in the DC Universe. Sinestro, with some newly collected allies that include Parallax and the resurrected Anti-Monitor, set out to destroy the Green Lanterns at any cost. Not only does this see the return of Superman-Prime and the Cyborg as villains, as well as Superman himself (Hank Henshaw), but also sees Kyle Rayner possessed by the insidious Parallax.

SINESTRO CORPS WAR portrays an all-out battle between the recently defeated Sinestro, his allies, and the Green Lanterns. It is a fantastic display of Hal Jordan and his interactions with the other Lanterns as well as members of the Justice League. It is a chance to see the sinister Sinestro at some of his best and most deliciously evil moments, as well as giving him a chance to shine as a supervillain leader among powerful enemies. If villains are more your style, this is the one for you. The events of SINESTRO CORPS WAR also lead to the events that happen in BLACKEST NIGHT, which is another series that you might want to check out.

WAR OF THE GREEN LANTERNS

Green Lantern

This ten issue series sees some serious action between the Green Lanterns and events spread all across the DC Universe. Not only is Hal Jordan on the run for working alongside some unlikely allies like Atrocitus, Sinestro, and Saint Walker, but the Green Lanterns are all turned against one another. Chaos quickly unfolds as Hal and his remaining allies attempt to save the universe from dark influences. It’s a great visit for readers who want to see Hal Jordan thrown into a true war.

With enemies taking over Green Lanterns and turning them on each other, Hal, Guy, and Kyle must all make a desperate gambit to protect the Green Lantern Corps, as well as free their possessed friends from the influence of Parallax. When it comes down to it, they even go so far as using differently colored rings, much to the displeasure of Guardian Ganthet. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and it is is a thrilling ride to see if the Lanterns will survive this all-out assault.

Desperation Makes for a Great Starting Place

Those are the best places you can start. Of course, there is a ton of material out there if you want to get to know Hal Jordan. REBIRTH is probably the most recommended for essential reading, but you have plenty of options. Hal Jordan has played a hero, a villain and a man torn apart by his responsibilities and humanity. From his help founding the Justice League to his many battles against colossal forces, Hal Jordan captivated readers in his debut and continues to do so to this day.

Of course, Hal Jordan wasn’t the only Green Lantern to ever take the spotlight. Though his origins and involvement have been substantial, the silver age Lantern never quite stood on his own. With that in mind, we introduce Kyle Rayner.

Green Lantern: Essential Kyle Rayner

 In 1994 DC Comics famously (or infamously, depending on your point of view) had longtime GREEN LANTERN protagonist Hal Jordan go insane, murder a majority of the Green Lantern Corps, and turn into the supervillain Parallax. In his place writer, Ron Marz introduced the youthful character of Kyle Rayner, the last Green Lantern.

 While some older readers were aghast at the treatment of Jordan, many younger readers were drawn into the GL mythos through Rayner. The character, in his initial incarnation, is a 20-something artist living in New York City, more in the vein of Spider-Man than a typical DC Universe character.

 GREEN LANTERN: BAPTISM OF FIRE

 Green Lantern

While Kyle’s first adventures as Green Lantern beginning with GREEN LANTERN #50 gained a great deal of press and fan attention due to Hal, the character didn’t hit his stride until the second and third year of Marz’s run on the title. The only collection that captures this period is the BAPTISM OF FIRE trade paperback.

Collecting issues 59, 66-67, and 70-75 of GREEN LANTERN, the collection focuses on stories of Kyle proving himself to other heroes of the DC Universe. There’s an issue focused on his time with the Teen Titans and romantic relationship with Donna Troy, his first crossover with The Flash, and the five-part “Hero’s Quest” storyline.

The later arc is the true highlight of the collection, showing Kyle seeking advice from Batman, Robin, Sentinel (original GL Alan Scott), Captain Marvel, and Wonder Woman on how to be a better hero. From there, he’s sucked into the middle of an intergalactic battle teaming with the Darkstars and Adam Strange to protect Strange’s homeworld RAAN from the fighting son of Darkseid, Grayven. The battle and the overall arc truly establish Kyle as a worthy Green Lantern.

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JLA VOLUME 1

 Green Lantern

When Grant Morrison and Howard porter relaunched the Justice League of America as JLA in 1997, it was more than just a cosmetic change. They rebooted the whole concept of the title, eliminating the X-Men-like multiple teams that had sprung up since the 80s and replacing them with a single group of DC icons. They positioned the league as the pantheon of Greek gods, with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Flash, and Green Lantern protecting Earth from above.

Morrison’s version of Kyle, especially early in the book, is full of youthful exuberance. He’s confident in his abilities, but at the same time intimidated by being on a team with icons he grew up admiring. While he isn’t often the main focus of the book, his characterization makes it a must-read for fans of the character.

GREEN LANTERN: NEW JOURNEY, OLD PATH

 Green Lantern

When Kyle Rayner’s creator Ron Marz left GREEN LANTERN with issue #125, the series passed into the hands of the then new-to-comics Judd Winick. The writer/cartoonist, who would go on to famously bring Jason Todd back from the dead, was at the time best known for his stint on the MTV series THE REAL WORLD.

Winick changed the direction of the series, evolving Kyle from a young, unsure of himself character to a more mature, established superhero. He also retooled Kyle’s personal life, giving him a job as a cartoonist at a fashion magazine, and ramping up his relationship with fellow heroine Jade. The first collection of Winick’s work, collecting issues 129-136, climaxes in a multi-issue battle with Nero, an insane asylum patient who’s been given a yellow power ring. Winick’s new direction was a breath of fresh air for the book and character.

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GREEN LANTERN: BROTHER’S KEEPER

 Green Lantern

As Judd Winick’s run went on, he introduced Kyle Rayner’s magazine-assigned intern Terry Berg. The character was soon revealed to be gay and developed a deep bond with Kyle, who was there to help Terry through the process of coming out to his family.

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In the two-part “Brother’s Keeper” story arc that makes up GREEN LANTERN #154-155 (itself collected in a larger trade paperback of the same name that collects #151-155) Terry is brutally assaulted due to his sexuality. Very loosely based on the murder of Matthew Sheppard, the story allows Winick to tackle numerous social issues related to hate crimes, while at the same time telling an interesting superhero story of a guilty Kyle unable to come to grips with the fact that there was nothing he could do for Terry even with all his power.

There you have it! All the essential reading you need to get to know the Green Lanterns, and each human Lantern, personally. Throughout all the trials, tribulations, and challenges faced by each of them, Hal Jordan, Alan Scott, and Kyle Rayner left a huge impact on both readers and the DC Universe. No matter which Lantern or which series you choose to start with, you are in for truly spectacular action.

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