MARC ALAN FISHMAN: It’s Not Easy Being Green… Wait … Yes It Is!
Welcome back to my angry little corner of the Interwebs, folks. Since my column last week seemed to find some harmonious affinity amongst the fine folks reading, I figured I’d continue riding my snarky-train one more week. Don’t fret, I’ve got plenty of anger to dispense at Marvel, Image, Todd MacFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Robert Kirkman, and the new Voltron show on Nickelodeon.
For today, though? I’m shining my hate-fueled lantern of justice on my favorite hero. Yes my friends, this li’l rant is on Green Lantern. Let’s start appropriately, shall we?
In Brightest Day,
In Blackest Night,
Hal Jordan beamed as he soared in flight,
The other lanterns can’t seem to be
Treated just as equally.
Rayner’s got heart,
And Garnder’s got ‘tude,
And John Stewart’s still the one black dude…
Geoff Johns and the DC Elite,
Think the Silver Age is totally neat!
But Sinestro now wears the crown,
For a few months, until sales are down.
Then Jordan’s back, to fight all fears,
And retcon the last two damned years!
The summer before my Bar Mitzvah I was hauled off to a Jewish summer camp, where my bunkmate loaned me his copies of the Green Lantern. Rayner, the newly crowned emerald knight, was DC’s answer to Peter Parker. An every-kid who had actual fun being a superhero. Long story short? It sold me on comics. Soon thereafter, I declared him my BFF in fiction, and I’ve maintained a subscription to the Green Lantern books since the mid-to-late 90s. Not to be just a one-Lantern guy, I’ve since read tons of stories starring (amongst others…) Hal Jordan. I even own the first volume of his “archived” appearances. Suffice to say, I “get” Hal and why he’s the number one ring bearer. From his cocksure attitude to his “not the black guy, Irish guy, or 90s kid with stubble and girl problems” whiteyness, he’s the model DCU hero. An inoffensive guy with a “this was cool in the 60s” secret identity, who Geoff Johns could angst up. I guess the question to ask here is simple: Is Hal Jordan any better than Barry Allen right now?
Since his rebirth, Hal Jordan has been all style, no substance. Sure, Johns wrote up a nice little backstory where we learn that Hal’s dad died in front of his eyes. Not to be out-Batmaned though, Hal conquered fear and became the greatest Lantern of all. But is he really? It reeks of that old guy in the bar who wants to be called “Sarge” or “Captain,” even though he was a cook or latrine boy back for a few weeks during ROTC duty. Hal Jordan’s real claim to fame was his eventual fall in 1994. It was a brilliant turn! This once hero saw his home city destroyed, and he snapped. He murdered friends in a quest for power, tried to retcon history, and when he eventually realized his error… backpedaled into herodom one final time, by reigniting our sun… or something.
It was character-building! It was dynamic! It took balls. Eventually though, Dan DiDeeCeeOh decided the cranky fans who found these new ideas too harsh for their mellow were right. And thus “Rebirth” was born! Geoff Johns gave Hal a nifty way out of his fall, and with it, began on a 5 year quest to remove any semblance of originality out of the Green Lantern legacy. And in it’s place? Epic Mega Events! Multi-Line Crossovers! Huge Crisis-Sized Year Long Behemothic Maxi-Series! Or, more simply put? Smoke and mirrors by way of continuity spelunking. Follow me on this.
During Rebirth, we learned Hal’s epic fail was due not to his inability to deal with catastrophe, but a living being of sentient fear, A.K.A. Parallax. So all that murdering, craziness, and actual change? Gone with a few clicks of the keyboard. After Rebirth, the next Hyper-Super-Mega event was the Sinestro Corps War. And I’ll give it up to Johns on this; giving Sinestro plenty of shades of gray worked wonders for him.
Here, Sinestro became more than just a fallen Lantern with a mean streak. He became of leader of evil, whose intent was order, by any means necessary. It was a great turn. But what was Hal’s part in all of this, really? He was there to strike poses on double page splashes… get his ass handed to him a few times… say the magic oath, and shoot green beams all across the page. A good story takes a character on a journey of change. What changed for Hal in that story? Nothing. In fact, go to the Wikipedia entry on the book. Under the “Story and Character Changes” header you’ll not see a single Hal-laden factoid. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Moving past that, our next Ultimate-Colossal-Adventure was Blackest Night. Once again, Johns spends the lions-share of time dealing with exposition, and universe expanding. Where we had green Lanterns and yellow Lanterns, we soon got red, orange, blue, black, white, and polka dot Corps too. And yet-another-lame-villain was retconned into a super-vile super-villain. What changed for Hal? He tried on a bunch of rings so they could make a bunch of action figures. And in the end, he spoke the oath, fired some beams, and said some mildly heroic catchphrases.
With Blackest Night done and gone, DC gave us one last hurrah. Rather than take some time to really deal with all this fallout, and have Hal catch his breath (and maybe be more than just vanilla ice cream with a lime ring)… Johns unleashed The War of the Green Lanterns. Taking place across 10 parts throughout all the GL books, the “war” was really merely fallout from the last 297 crossovers, with yet-more-villain-retconning! Here Krona, the once normal sized bringer of death via the first Crisis on Infinite Earths, now became a pint-sized Guardian (via a plot device so MacGuffined they might as well had him literally say on panel “Doug Mahnke wanted to draw me as a creepy midget, so here I am!”). And after all the dust has settled (SPOILER ALERT)… John Stewart was forced to kill Mojo (hey, what the hell is that… gasp… character development!), Guy Gardner had to come to terms with the fact that without the Corps he’d be nothing (OMG, more character-building?!), Kyle Rayner didn’t lose another girlfriend, Sinestro lost his yellow ring only to be named a new Green Lantern (creating all sorts of cool new plot ideas), and Hal…
Hal shot a bunch of beams. Hal quipped a few one liners (like “Just fight.” “You’re just old.” and “I fight for w-what’s right.”). Then Hal was discharged from the corps for saving the day.
It truly seems like for the last four or five years the entire Green Lantern legacy has shifted all around Hal Jordan, without requiring him to do anything more than stand- err– fly there, and shoot something. When they broke Batman’s back, he had to retrain himself from scratch. During R.I.P., he journeyed to the brink of his own sanity. When Superman’s home planet was reformed as New Krypton, he left Earth to live amongst his people, to learn more about where he came from. What has Hal had to learn, do, or be during these epic quests of fancy? Nothing.
Where was the cocky ass who didn’t fear anything? Nowhere on the pages of the books I read. I hope in the coming months, our dear Emerald Knight grows into a character of his own, instead of the cardboard cutout he’s been written to be.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander!
- It’s Not Easy Being A Green Lantern Reader (bleedingcool.com)
- Off My Mind: War of the Green Lanterns – The Fate of Sinestro (comicvine.com)
- Green Lantern #67 Sets Up The DC Relaunch Green Lantern #1 (SPOILERS) (bleedingcool.com)