Reboots in animation leave room to revitalize stories for longtime characters and bring obscure ones to new audiences. John Constantine is a favorite character who in the comics, live action and cartoons is unapologetically damaged. In the animated film ‘Justice League Dark: Apokolips War’ John asks Flash to create another ‘Flashpoint’ since the world they were in had minutes until it ceased to exist. He did this in such a way as he would be the only one taking on the bad karma for these actions. Though some say this new timeline or Tomorrowverse began in 2020‘s ‘Superman: Man of Tomorrow,’ ‘Apokolips War’ shows a definitive choice being made in creating a new history or universe for these DC animated characters. After all Clark is an intern at the Daily Planet, not a full-fledged reporter. He’s also beginning his role as a superhero. Arguably we can say that ‘Man of Tomorrow’ begins to show us these new origin stories. Now there is a whole new universe with room to play. Here is where we find new takes on canonically established characters in DC animation.
Ironically, the 2022 cartoon film ‘Green Lantern: Beware My Power” is closer to the first issue John Stewart appears in the Dec 1971/Jan 72 Green Lantern/Green Arrow limited comic book series. Cocreated by Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams, that first appearance has John rarely wearing his costume, dealing with his PTSD, battling white supremacy and banging heads with Hal Jordan. During the animated film John, voiced by AldisHodge, is dealing with flashbacks of his time in a war somewhere in the middle east. Soon when he’s retired from active duty, he’s met with a dying guardian who gives him Jordan’s ring. This leads him to find a way to get to the bottom of the Thanagar/Rann conflict. Here we meet Green Arrow, Hawkgirl and Adam Strange. The untapped wealth of storytelling in Adam Strange will have you cheering at the screen. Adam, who has no codename has something in his DNA that attracts him to a type of energy that transports him to random places. He never knows where he ends up, but somehow, he’s always where he needs to be. In the comics Adam created by Julius Schwartz and Murphy Anderson in 1958, feels inspired by the Edgar Rice Burroughs character John Carter. Adam is set up as an archeologist from earth who ends up on the planet Rann, he marries, has a daughter and one of his enemies appears to be his father-in-law. In the comics, through this rebooting universe, only the cosmetics of his origin has changed. But what makes his appearance exciting is how the film draws from the history of the comics while simultaneously injecting new life into the standard characters we’ve come to know. Hawkgirl, a Thanagarian, in this timeline has not joined the Justice League, instead she is a soldier in a war with the Rannians. We now get to also see the warrior uncompromised by the codes of the league.
Parallax, a well-known storyline in DC Comics is also brought into the fray. It’s where Hal Jordan goes from being the greatest green lantern ever known to a murderous villain who destroys everything around him, due to the corruption that takes over his mind. There’s even an homage to famous the comic book cover of Hal having several of the green lantern rings on each finger. The entity parallax in turn causes Hal to embrace being completely evil. In the comics there is a redemption arc where Hal once again becomes the best of the lanterns. But it seems that in this new universe there may not be room for over exposed heroes. Instead, this is the chance to explore the other aspects of John’s history. Eventually giving a new meaning to the green lantern oath said in the comics by these space cops since the 1940s.
The animation of this cartoon feels like a comic came to life. There’s CGI but there’s also a solid amount of an old school feel. Characters are well drawn from Green Arrow/Ollie’s blonde beard to Sinestro’s uniform, you will appreciate the attention to detail.
Throughout this animated narrative John is coming to terms with the man he was and finding a new purpose. As a marine we see his trauma as a sharpshooter. Then once he’s left the military he’s battling psychopaths, being confronted by cops for defending a homeless man, and has a myriad of people attacking him when he’s looking for help at the Justice League’s watchtower. He is constantly, simultaneously apart from and within the battle. All this prepares John to reclaim what the lantern mantle is meant to be on his own terms. It’s also fun. No, the problems don’t go away in this near 90-minute animated film. John is learning how to be a green lantern, rebuilding needs to be done with little guidance. That’s what makes this exciting, the potential of this new universe being given a chance to tell new stories.