Green Lantern trade reading order: Geoff Johns’ run and all concurrent lantern TPBs

Want to read a whole lot of awesome Green Lantern comics? This is the list I used to do just that, plus some context to explain the order I chose and some gushing about Green Lantern in general.

Just want the reading list without the context?
Skip straight to the list, and happy reading!

Caveat added in April 2020: Geoff Johns’ primary collaborator on the core GL series, Ethan Van Sciver, is a terrible person. His misogynistic bullshit is beyond vile. Were this a post about his work, it would be long gone from Yore. But this post isn’t about his work, it’s about a decade of Green Lantern comics that includes numerous titles not associated with Van Sciver — and one, the core GL book, which unfortunately does feature his artwork. For now, I’m leaving this post in place as a resource for folks who want to explore this era of Green Lantern comics.

In 2013 I got back into superhero comics (after reading mostly indie stuff for many years) when I read a comic that surprised the hell out of me: Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman  (paid link), which took a character I’d more or less dismissed and made him fascinating. That started a slow burn that led — by way of Morrison’s New X-Men (paid link), Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye  (paid link), Jason Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder  (paid link), and a couple of other titles — to a desire to explore a superhero who was new to me. A bit of Googling led me to Green Lantern, and specifically to Geoff Johns’ run on the title, which was widely regarded as being excellent.

I decided if I was going to jump in, I’d do a cannonball: read Green Lantern and all concurrent lantern-focused titles for all of Johns’ 2004-2013 run, 10 years worth of comics in 40 trades (plus a 41st for good measure). It was one of the best reading decisions I’ve ever made.

I came to love Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, Mogo, Despotellis, Kilowog, Sinestro, Soranik Natu, B’dg, and so many other great characters. I love the Green Lantern Corps, the mythology of the corps and the universe the lanterns inhabit, and the fact that lantern titles — especially Corps — are more sci-fi with superheroes than straight-up superhero tales. Taken as a whole, Green Lantern and its companion titles are over the top, pulpy in the best ways, often pretty wild, larger than life, and a whole lot of fun. They’ve become some of my favorite comics.

But this venture wasn’t without its challenges. It’d been a long time since I’d read a DC or Marvel title on an ongoing basis, and I was unfamiliar with the mechanics of crossover events, dovetailing and intertwining stories that span multiple books, and the like. It was confusing.

More confusing still, while it seemed like there should be one correct reading order, I saw lots of disagreement online about the order in which these titles should be read. I wound up using two lists as the basis for my own (and many thanks to the folks who created them!): this post by SmashBrawler on ComicVine, and The Superheroes List part 1 and part 2.

My reading order isn’t definitive — this is just how I chose to read these titles. I had a blast doing it, and I hope I can simplify this process for others who are in a similar situation.

The goal of this list

For context, here’s what I wanted to do:

  1. Read Green Lantern and every other book starring lanterns (not necessarily every book in which lanterns appear) for the entirety of Geoff Johns’ run
  2. Keep it simple by, whenever possible, reading whole trades at once
  3. Introduce myself to Hal Jordan, who I knew next to nothing about
  4. Avoid spoiling anything in the process of figuring out my reading order
  5. Strike a balance between simplicity (reading trade by trade) and maximum fidelity to the story (reading issue by issue and roping in lots of non-lantern books)

This is the list I used to accomplish those goals. It’s presented as simply as possible because that’s what I found I wanted when I was reading these trades: a simple list. “Do this and you’ll have fun.” I did this, and I had fun.

Green Lantern reading order, 2004-2013

For 1-19 and 23-37, you can read each trade on its own, one after the other. (I call out a couple of cases below where I took the lazy route and you might prefer to go issue by issue.) Three big cross-title events — Blackest Night (20-22) and Rise of the Third Army through Wrath of the First Lantern (38-41) — however, need to be read issue by issue, jumping between concurrent trades as you go, in order for them to make sense.

You can also download this list, including my notes, as a simple text file.

Do any of these books suck?

Red Lanterns is terrible. The first trade is basically just an excuse to put Bleez in lots of boobs/butt poses, the writing in all three trades is godawful, and the story is generally wretched to mediocre. There are a couple of cool moments, but I was glad every time I could put a Red Lanterns trade behind me.

New Guardians wasn’t great for the first two trades (though still much better than Red Lanterns), but it picked up in the third one and finished strong. I wound up liking it.

The two Ion trades were just okay, but important for Kyle Rayner’s story. Not bad, just not great; well worth reading.

Everything else on this list — over 30 TPBs — I loved reading and would be thrilled to read again. This is a fantastic set of comics.

Look, a rabbit hole

In the course of reading these trades, I came to dig the lanterns so much that I bought a replica lantern:

…and jumped at the chance to pick up a piece of original artwork (Green Lantern Corps #15, page 11 — one of my favorite storylines in the whole arc, featuring one of my favorite parts of that story), which my wife framed up for my birthday:

So be warned: Your wallet won’t thank you for getting into Green Lantern — but apart from that you’re in for a real treat.

22 thoughts on “Green Lantern trade reading order: Geoff Johns’ run and all concurrent lantern TPBs”

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    1. Steven Bassile

      Hi there! I just started reading through your list and i have a question. I just finished the 3rd book on the list GL: Rebirth, and i have to say i was very confused. I’m coming into the GL mythos with only the (crappy) movie as backround, and it seems that rebirth takes place pretty far in the mythos. I was wondering why it was suggested so early.

      1. Martin Ralya

        GL has been running for decades, and this is just a guide to reading one specific decade of it. Geoff Johns started his run with a lot of GL history in past books, so that’s why it doesn’t feel like a fresh start/origin story sort of thing.

        1. If I don’t read some of the green lantern corp and ion books such as Darker side of green, and to be a lantern (since they’re both out of print and pretty pricey) will it screw me up, later down the road into things the sinestro corps war if i read everything else. (I already have a pretty lengthy knowledge of the green lantern mythos)

          1. Martin Ralya

            Like I said further down in the comments, you can skip the Ion stuff without missing too much. I’m glad I read them, but they’re not essential.

            Skipping any of the Corps stuff is trickier, because I’m a huge Corps fan — my bias there is a factor. ;-) The deeper into this 2004-2013 period you go, the more likely skipping a Corps book will mean missing out on key story stuff.

            Personally, I’d hunt down To Be a Lantern over the Ion stuff.

  2. The red lanterns might of been terrible then, but now its way better than green lantern and green lantern corps and green lantern: new guardians

    1. Martin Ralya

      Interesting! I took a break from lanterns after finishing this run, and figured I’d check in again once a couple more trades had come out for each title. I’ll definitely give Red Lanterns another look.

      1. Yeah guy gardner takes over the corp, and charles soule takes over the book lol. Soooooo good.

  3. Thanks for this! We were looking for a reading order list once we decided to delve into the GL mythos (for the students of course!)

    It’s too bad some of these are out of print. GLC:Recharge and “Dark Side of The Green” and both Ion trades are a little tougher to find. Not awful; just surprised that DC would let them go out of print.

    Again, thanks for this. Great resource!

    1. Martin Ralya

      You’re welcome!

      It looks like DC is doing a GL omnibus in the near future. If we’re lucky maybe they’ll pull in some of the side stories in a later volume.

  4. The best article I’ve read on trade-collecting GL and GLC so far! Thanks buddy and love your passion for the GL (I just got infected too)!

    Looking forward to your comments on the new GL trades (post-Johns) :)

      1. Hey Martin, longtime fan Sohaib here again :) I just wanted to ask if you ended up doing a post-Johns review (Venditti’s run, GLC, the Sinestro solo, etc)…would love to read your thoughts on them. Also, did you read Red Lanterns AFTER the first 3 horrible trades? The Charles Soule run (vol 4,5,6) are supposed to be pretty good. Also, excited about Grant Morrison’s The Green Lantern? :D

        1. Martin Ralya

          Thanks for checking back in! No, other than dabbling in a couple recent issues I haven’t come back to Green Lantern.

          At first it was one of those things where I was basking in the glow of this run and didn’t want to mess with the vibe. Then I figured I wasn’t going to get another run that good for a while and moved on to reading other runs.

          I did all of Astro City (so amazing!), Brubaker’s Captain America run (not as good as I was expecting), like 90% of Deadpool (Joe Kelly is the best!), and more recently big swaths of Batman, Detective Comics, and The Flash.

          But you’ve reminded me that I need to circle back to GL and its associated books, incouding Soule’s RL run. Thank you!

  5. cant seem to find ion the dying flame, would i really need to read ion or could i skip it

    1. Martin Ralya

      It’s a good arc for establishing the character, and in that sense it provides some context for his later decisions (etc.), but it’s just okay overall. You can skip it without missing much.

  6. Martin Ralya

    @Noah, above ( I can’t nest replies that deeply!), yes, you need Recharge. It’s the re-formation of the Corps, and the foundation for the rest of the Corps books.

    1. Martin Ralya

      I get variations on this question a lot. It really depends on what you want to get out of reading Lanterns books from this era.

      Personally, if I were rereading everything listed here, I’d skip Ion and Red Lanterns.

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  8. Martin Ralya

    Up until today this post hadn’t received any comments in like four years, so rather than delete more spam from misogynists I’m just closing the comments.

    If you have a question about my reading order, my email is on the contact page.

Comments are closed.

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