Monday, November 28, 2005

NJP is Right!

New ideas in comics? Are you kidding? The "return" of Hal Jordan is a keystone in the regression of creativity at DC. As a Hal Jordan fan I personally don't mind new stories, but there is no reason those stories could not be told "in his time."

What Hal Jordan represented in his prime was the epitome of what the Green Lanterns could be, and at points, what a hero could be. A man without fear who is given the most powerful tool in the universe is a science fiction gold mine. I speak of the ring, of course, and while most writers and fans describe it as the most powerful weapon in the universe, they are limiting themselves. The concept of the Green Lantern Corps is fascinating, if not somewhat Orwellian, that of a galactic spanning police organization. The appeal I found in Hal Jordan was his entry into a world so much bigger than his own, and that he became the greatest Green Lantern all despite of it. Of course he became the greatest because they wrote it that way, even though there was no shortage of other Green Lantern characters whose stories were told over the years.

In the Green Lantern canon, things get really interesting in two places. They are both based on the classic addage, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." First, one of my favorite Green Lantern stories of all time was Emerald Dawn. It was revealed that when Hal Jordan was first introduced to the Green Lantern Corps, he was to be trained by Sinestro. Sinestro before this story was only known as being Green Lantern's #1 foil. I thought it was awesome that Sinestro was once a Green Lantern himself who ended up taking advantage of his power. So much so that he turned his home planet into a fascist regime, where he was feared by his entire race. Eventually the Green Lanterns discovered this and expelled him, thus forming the beginning of Sinestro's criminal exploits. Prior to Hal Jordan's introduction to the Corps, Sinestro was considered the "best." In turn, Jordan was trained by the best, and yet those many years ago no one could see what now looks like a natural evolution of events.

As Hal's exploits became more grandiose and legendary (or I should say were written as such), it came to be that Jordan would begin training new Green Lanterns. While this was going on, two other folks on Earth became members of the Corps: Guy Gardner and John Stewart-- but let's stay on focus here. The second turning point in the Hal Jordan story came as a shock to almost everyone in the Emerald Twilight storyline... or did it? During the concurrent Death of Superman storyline, an alien warlord named Mongul destroyed Coast City, Hal Jordan's home. Flat out nuked it to dust, the whole damn city. Everything Hal Jordan had loved on Earth was suddenly gone. And that kinda drove him a little nuts. Here he was, the greatest of Green Lanterns, with this incredible, near limitless power, and he felt he had lost everything. Burdened by the additional guilt of millions of deaths, Jordan decided it was finally time to use his ring for a little personal gain. By sheer willpower, he decided that he could re-create Coast City as it once was. But his ring proved not to be enough, so in a move many readers felt was out of character, Jordan embarked on retrieving all of the other Green Lantern rings, most of which were not given up willingly. Despite his continued accumulation of power, his deeds did not go unnoticed, and things did not end well. Finally it came to a point where even Jordan knew he had crossed the line, but at that point he had already gone so far over that line that there was no turning back. In a weird "I told you so" plot twist, Sinestro was resurrected (from some form of cosmic prison suspended animation) to combat the evil Hal. It wasn't enough since Hal, calling himself Parallax, killed Sinestro, some other dudes, and caused all of the Guardians (the little blue guys) to commit suicide. So yeah, it was a mess. But in hindsight, a fine, tragic mess it was. Out of it was introduced the sole Green Lantern we have all known for over a decade, Kyle Rayner.

Where we are at now with the return of Hal Jordan is because of two subsequent events, both of which were detriments to his history. First up was the pre-mature Crisis-like Zero Hour crossover (which ironically was born out of a need to retcon Hawkman). Someone was messing with the time stream and looking to re-write history, and that history happened to have a Coast City. The mastermind behind it all was indeed Hal Jordan as Parallax. Parallax seemingly had tapped into the very essence of the power infused to Green Lantern rings and batteries and was using it to form the universe in his own image, teetering on godhood. This may have been the natural next step after what had happened in Emerald Twilight, tho I personally did not feel it was executed that well. Sort of a bungled Crisis On Infinite Earths wannabe. Suffice it to say the universe was saved and Parallax thwarted. Next up was the Final Night crossover, where the Sun Eater was consuming the Earth's sun. In an anti-climactic redemption move, Parallax returned to make good on all his misdeeds and sacrificed himself to save the world by consuming the Sun Eater. This bothered me because it seemed like a bow to pressure. People just could not accept that Hal Jordan's fate was to be a bad guy, so they had to do something to bring him round again.

Just when you thought Hal was as dead as Jason Todd (-ahem-), he returned as the spirit inhabiting the Spectre. This was a super-bonehead move and I can hardly bring myself to acknowledge it. Again, people just could not accept the fate of Hal Jordan, they just had to have him around in whatever form available.

Which brings us to The Return of Hal Jordan. Most recently in Green lantern: Rebirth it was revealed that the well known impurity of Green Lantern Rings, the color yellow, was in fact the embodiment of fear itself-- an actual intelligent, malevolent entity. It was this creature who was responsible for all the corruption associated with Green Lantern N'er-do-wells like Sinestro and eventually was what took over Jordan's mind as Parallax. So much for personal responsibility. Did I mention that Rebirth was written by Geoff Johns? The end result is what too many people wanted so badly-- the return of Hal Jordan as the one, true Green Lantern. Would it have been so bad to just launch a new series set around the untold tales of Jordan in his prime? Are the core readers of the comics world so entrenched in the past that they can't accept new concepts? Take for example Hal Jordan himself-- as the launch of the Silver Age, Jordan and his cohorts like Barry Allen, the Flash, completely took over the roles of the heroes whose name they bore. You know, it took a little longer, but somehow they managed to work those Golden Age versions back into continuity, too...

What I hope some readers will get out of this is that it is okay for things to change. The stories will not disappear, you can choose to remember and honor your favorite era to your heart's content. But if all we can do as comics readers is keep pouring those same molds, where can it ever go? Right now, as Infinite Crisis is in full swing, it appears to me that there will not be a total reboot as there was with the original Crisis. There should be a total reboot, and there's no reason there can't be a new Green Lantern for this generation, Hal Jordan or not. But there won't be a reboot, just a little continuity shuffling so the die-hards can put their favorite characters in all the right places. I won't say that's the end of good stories, but I do suspect it puts a cap on doing anything spectacularly creative.

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