It was a rough go, reading Green Lantern #48-50 (January-March, 1994) for the first time thirteen years ago. That was where and when long-standing, level-headed Green Lantern Hal Jordan mentally cracked under the strain of Coast City’s decimation, murdered a number of fellow members of the Green Lantern Corps, snapped Sinestro’s neck, incinerated Kilowog, destroyed the Guardians of the Universe, and took up the role of Parallax.
Sadly, it only got rougher. Think the immediate follow-ups, Guy Gardner: Warrior #18-21 (“Emerald Fallout”), written with manly gusto by our own Beau Smith, and Zero Hour, written by Dan Jurgens, the man who had chronicled the destruction of Coast City over in Superman and really set the stage for Jordan’s unfathomable decline. I can feel my heart dropping, my stomach churning and my thoughts fuming all at the same time when I think on these comic books.
But Green Lantern #48-50 remains the heartbreaker, though, no doubt about it. In moments, the length in time it takes to read those three comic books, Hal Jordan became The Villain.
Not a tragic villain, or a sympathetic villain. Just The Villain. Jordan became something he wasn’t, so all I had to blunt the devastating impact was an emotional disconnect. I remember reading in the GL letter columns at the time that Hal needed a change. But it wasn’t a change that allowed us to understand what happened to Hal. It was about getting Hal out of the way in the most shocking way possible so a new Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner, could step in, and we would instead be following his exploits as the last of the Green Lanterns.
Which wasn’t Kyle’s fault. I never blamed Kyle. I blamed DC (and not the writers and artists involved; it’s not easy making something so misguided entertaining, and that’s the only praise, my only consolation, I can muster regarding Hal’s ruin). And I never disliked Kyle; I actually grew to admire his character.
But Kyle was never MY Green Lantern. My Green Lantern was gone.
Those were the bad old days, and they continued until Hal went out with a heroic green burst in The Final Night #4 in 1996. There was a decent Parallax special that went with that wherein Hal kinda, sorta came to terms with what he had done, but by that time he had done so much irreparable wrong that death was the only way out, short of him being like, well, possessed, which wasn’t an option back then.
If you’re a Green (Hal Jordan) Lantern fan like I am, matters are much better now, thank you very much, all happy emotions successfully reconnected. And it wasn’t so hard rereading Green Lantern #48-50 a few days back. I believe the last time I read it was a while before Hal made his comeback as GL in the pages of Green Lantern: Rebirth. This was around the time Hal Jordan was The Spectre, which was a clever move, but, personally, it felt like DC was putting a band-aid over a very severe, persistent wound.
Writer Geoff Johns did right by Hal Jordan in Green Lantern: Rebirth. And he didn’t destroy Kyle Rayner, John Stewart, and Guy Gardner in the process. If anything, he made them better.
And now, in this summer’s “Sinestro Corps War,” unfolding in Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps and a slew of one-shot specials, we’re starting to travel to, in high gear, where we didn’t really go thirteen years ago: Into Hal Jordan’s psyche. What makes him tick, what he fears, what’s holding him back, and what he dislikes in himself.
I’ve read a lot of grumblings about how devoid of personality Hal Jordan is. Has been. Is going to continue to be. If these people are still grumbling after reading the current Green Lantern #21, then they just plain dislike the character, and nothing will ever change their minds. Hal Jordan is being treated like a human being right now, and reacting like one. Yes, he’s got a big ego, he’s got pride, but he’s also deeply, deeply troubled. But he’s not so egotistical that he isn’t seeing the faults in himself.
I get the feeling that Hal is about to step up to the plate and start winning the ball game, both within himself and on the cosmic field against a pretty powerful opposing team.
We’ve come a long way in thirteen years; we Hal Jordan fans, specifically. And I know who you guys are, and I know what you’ve been through. For us to state, “The good old days are right now!” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but given a lot of the non-sense we had to endure involving our favorite GL for a long, dark stretch of years (those excruciating “bad old days”), our enthusiasm requires no forgiveness or explanation. We all know what we mean, and so do the others who are not fond of Hal Jordan (because we’ve all had a strong affinity for a particular comic book character who loses direction, eventually to get back on track).
It’s nice when you can appreciate the brightest days you’re in and see no blackest nights ahead.