Sunday, May 29, 2005


Friday (uh, Long Weekend) Comic Book Blogging

AKA: Remembrances of Things Past

Though I'm off in DC again this weekend (third time in the last five weeks) -- DJ-ing a wedding for the first time in what seems like forever -- I couldn't let more than one week go by without some comic book blogging. Like the first entry, this one is pretty easy: It's the return of Hal Jordan/Green Lantern in a monthly book:

This is significant for several reasons. Even though
DC Comics has been publishing a Green Lantern book for more or less continuously for decades, the character that has occupied the stands for the last decade has, through no fault of his own, long been perceived as a usurper.

Nearly a dozen years ago, DC decided that the Hal Jordan Green Lantern character -- one of the original "Silver Age" creations of the late-50s super-hero revival -- had run its course. Now, the publisher could have done with the hero created around the same time, The Flash, AKA Barry Allen -- given him an honorable death, befitting his stature. The Barry Allen/Flash died trying to save the universe in the classic
Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries twenty years ago.

Instead, DC decided to have Hal Jordan -- who through his career had become the greatest member of the Green Lantern Corps, essentially an international police force -- go insane; absorb all the energy from the Battery that gave Green Lanterns their power; turn him into a cosmic villain called Parallax; and destroy all the other Green Lanterns in the process.

(To partly redeem himself, Parallax
sacrificed himself to save the universe from a cosmic threat and Hal Jordan's spirt was allowed to bond with another character, the avenging ghost called the Spectre -- the psychotic '70s version of this particular character has just been reprinted. Indeed, the decision to bring back Hal Jordan as GL means that DC has finally recognized that this particular creative direction was one of the worst ideas since Marvel brought cloning to Spider-Man in '94, the same year as the Lantern make-over both happened in 1994. Marvel was smart enough to get rid of the clone pretty quickly.)

Meanwhile, a younger man, Kyle Rayner became the sole remaining Green Lantern (except for Alan Scott, the 1940s Green Lantern, who had a completely different backstory). For many reasons, even though Rayner had a certain degree of popularity, he was never accepted as the "new" GL in the same way that Wally West was greeted as the successor to Barry Allen/Flash. For one thing, West had a lengthy career as Kid Flash and was seen as a logical heir. Rayner had no connection to Jordan or other Green Lanterns.

But the main problem with Rayner was that readers saw that there was a true injustice done to Jordan. Everything that happened to him was completely out of character. It would have been like Superman deciding that instead of protecting Earth, he might as well just take it over. The changes didn't fit. Worse, each time DC tried to "fix" what they had done, it just got worse. Kyle Rayner had a good run as an individual creation, but there was alway fan outcry for the return of the "real" Green Lantern.

The recently-completed "Rebirth" mini-series, written by Geoff Johns, accomplished just that. Johns is, in my view, DC best writer of the "traditional" super-hero books. He also writes JSA, Teen Titans, and The Flash. All three series have the common theme of being books that rely on the rich, complicated history of the DC Universe. JSA (Justice Society of America) features characters that harken back to the '40s Golden Age of comics. Teen Titans is an update of the sidekicks of members of the Silver Age Justice League of America. And, as mentioned before, this versio of The Flash is former Kid Flash, Wally West.

Johns is a man who grew up in the '70s and cultivated a great deal of respect for comic book history. He is in many ways the 21st Century
Roy Thomas, the Marvel and DC writer of the '70s and '80s who always had a special fondness for Golden Age characters.

Ironically, the plot twist that Johns uses to bring back Hal Jordan owes much to a Marvel Comics gimmick. In Green Lantern:Rebirth, readers learn that it wasn't the "real" Hal Jordan who became Parallax. Instead, Parallax was an ancient extraterrestrial force that possessed Jordan. In that sense, Parallax became more like the Phoenix force that possessed/transformed Marvel X-man Jean Grey and became responsible for her destroying a universe. In both cases, the "do-over" strained the credibility-factor, but, hey, this is comic books (and Jean Grey is dead...again).

The main point though is that Hal Jordan has been restored as a true hero and not a genocidal maniac with issues.

And, given how many other genocidal maniac "heroes" there are in comic books these days, yes, kids -- that is a good thing.

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