Green Lantern Legacy: The Last Will and Testament of Hal Jordan

May 25, 2008

That’s one mouthful of a title. I felt that I needed to say that first.

Every DC reader has his or her favourite Green Lantern: mine is a toss-up between Alan Scott and Guy Gardner because these guys are openly flawed and keep it real. Alan knows so little about what he’s doing most of the time that it’s touching; Guy is entertainingly psychotic, and that’s saying the least. John Steward and Kyle Rayner are oo-ok. You can’t love intensely those you don’t have reasons also to hate intensely.

Treat that, if you like, as my reason for detesting with every bone in my bony body the legendary “greatest Green Lantern of them all”, Hal Jordan. I’ve always found Hal a hugely difficult character to love despite the various major attempts to interpret him in comic succession. This goes beyond Dennis O’Neil’s infamous 1970s version, who was a rigid-to-the-point-of-stupid soldier of establishment values (and here the Guardians of Oa’s command to think less and Hal’s exercise of power shaped by will exactly met). It goes beyond his sidekick Tom Kalmaku being, unlike Batman’s Robins and Superman’s Jimmy Olsen, an unusually strong-minded non-White, an Inuit, who Hal is nonetheless happy to call “Pie-face”.

What O’Neil had seized upon was simply aspects dormant to the character and a notion of his greatness. What Guy Gardner highlights is not the anomaly in a relationship between neantherdal arrogance and absolute power but the complete sense. If I want to find a classic comic embodiment of America’s military-industrial complex, I don’t look at Superman as so many have (it’s your fault, Frank Miller): I look at Hal Jordan. Hal is great because, in Green Lantern lore, he is the only creature with no fear. This means that he does what he wants in a way that can be read as either noble or completely arrogant. His green triumphs by sheer force not just over every battle in black and white but also over every issue in shades of grey.

In short, what Hal wants Hal gets. This is why it is inevitable that 1990s comicdom went straight to the heart of what must destroy him: Hal himself. Consumed by grief, anger, madness, and basically his ego, Hal turned into Parallax and literally obliterated all that he stood for once. He wiped out the whole Green Lantern Corps, killed the Guardians (save one), both his archenemy Sinestro and his friend Kilowog, and then billions while trying to recreate reality. (This important tragic history has been reinterpreted in recent turn of events though.) Ultimately, he sacrificed himself to save the world from extinction in a move largely understood as a quest for redemption. So, noble or arrogant?

And here’s where this book begins. Tom Kalmaku becomes a directionless bitter drunk now that his Great White Hero, the Robinson Crusoe to his Friday, is gone. If you resist this point, just contrast his mourning with Jimmy Olsen’s when Superman died. Mysteriously, Tom finds himself landed with both a will from Hal telling him to repair his legacy and Hal’s supposed child. (See how responsible Hal is?) Who the kid is, is not too difficult to guess once you notice that he comes with streaks of white hair above the ears and Hal’s power ring, that he’s too creepy to be human, that he keeps repeating himself, etc. But the revelation is so banal that you feel embarrassed to have imagined it first and let writer Joe Kelly read your mind.

This is all the book deserves from me as its approach leads me more to ask disturbing questions about Green Lantern’s actual legacy. The pace is slow and the tone sombre and elegiac — very un-DC-like — and the whole experience feels exactly like that long walk home from a pub you know won’t end before dawn. 

Gweek gives this graphic novel 3 loud yawns while rolling his eyes calmly.

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