John Stewart’s distinction and ubiquity as Green Lantern in the wider DC fandom and multimedia are in no small part due to his inclusion and portrayal in Bruce Timm’s critically acclaimed Justice League and, by extension Justice League Unlimited, an animated series that ran from 2001 to 2006. Nowadays, a fair argument can be made that his popularity is on par with or surpasses that of perennial title-holder Hal Jordan. All this to say, it is baffling why it has taken two decades to tell even a semblance of an origin story for John Stewart outside of the comics.
Enter Green Lantern: Beware My Power, written by Ernie Altbacker and John Semper and directed by Jeff Wamester.
It starts off by showcasing John (voiced by Aldis Hodge) as a recently discharged war vet suffering from PTSD after his last tour. Hoping to put that violent life behind him, he finds himself chosen to be not just a Green Lantern but the last Green Lantern by a dying alien.
Initially reluctant, John’s space odyssey is catapulted on the premise that by finding the Guardians of the Universe or the Green Lantern Corps, he can respectfully abdicate from this auspicious responsibility of being a super-powered intergalactic peacekeeper. He is joined by the bowstring-happy Green Arrow (voiced by Jimmi Simpson). The impetus for our Emerald Archer to accompany John on this star trek is to find out the fate of his best friend, Hal Jordan (voiced by the uber-talented Nolan North).
Our intrepid heroes gradually discover that a peace treaty between the Rannians and the people of Thanagar gets FUBARed when an experimental device sends both planets into close-proximity orbit, sparking an interplanetary war. At the same time, John and Ollie uncover the tragic fate of the Green Lantern Corps and are joined by the hot-headed Hawkgirl (voiced by Jamie Gray Hyder) and later by the space-hopping hero Adam Strange (voiced by Brian Bloom). We then follow our rag-tag quartet, trying to solve the reason behind the Rann-Thanagar diplomatic debacle before one side decisively exterminates the other.
Long-time GL fans will clearly see the inspirations to “Beware My Power” from the original source material, like Kyle Rayner’s origin, the Rann-Thanagar War mini-series, and one other spoiler-y Green Lantern storyline back in 1994. Aside from the final act, it melds together well enough to make a cohesive story.
To its credit, “Beware My Power” tries to answer an age-old question regarding heroic violence and killing and, to a lesser extent, the concept of war in general. These points often pop up with confrontations between various characters and their philosophical stances. But as the story unfolds, the debates devolve into a muddled moral message rather than a definitive answer or rule of thumb.
What really hurts “Beware My Power” for me is its climax and final reveal of the big bad behind the whole story. I cannot blame the script because it takes direct cues from one of the most controversial Green Lantern stories that tainted the franchise for a decade. Nevertheless, I cannot help but feel John’s rise to prominence was grossly besmirched, coming at the (unnecessary) expense of character assassination. Additionally, John Stewart fans may find themselves underwhelmed by how little autonomy he has throughout the narrative compared to his other more confident and complex iterations.
In the end, “Beware My Power” comes off as a much more mature extended episode of the aforementioned animated series starring John Stewart as the titular Emerald Knight. Again, credit needs to be given for the fact that it even dared to address a heavy and multilayered topic such as murder/killing – something akin to 2012’s Superman vs. The Elite.
For Green Lantern fans in general, I’d much rather promote 2009’s Green Lantern: First Flight, which in my humble opinion, remains the best (animated) movie adaptation to date. Who can say no to Training Day in space?
Hailing from the eastern-most Caribbean island of Barbados, Fabian Wood has long since been fascinated by the power of storytelling to inspire and invoke emotions – whether in film, comics, or video games. No longer content to be just an avid comic book reader and videogamer, he’s eager to exercise his literary acumen as an aspiring writer and reviewer.