Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Green Lantern 23, originally released August 7th, 2013.
Patrick: I moved out to Los Angeles because I wanted to be a television writer. If you want to be a lumberjack, you move to the forest, right? I don’t have much in the way of family on the West Coast, and I knew that distance from those that I loved was just going to be part of this bargain I was striking. The idea of giving up family for my art was romantic — I could live an idealized life of creativity and yeah I’d suffer for it, but I’d be suffering for a reason. When my older sister had her second kid, however, I was on a plane to Atlanta: I wasn’t going to miss out on meeting my nephew. It’s love, and it’s a primal motivator. No matter how much you will it away, love can dictate your actions. It’s the sort of thing that will make Hal Jordan drop the fight that he’s right in the middle of to check on the girlfriend he swore off to defend the corps.
Hal’s cleaning up from Larfleeze’s attack on Oa. He’s frustrated, so he’s basically pissy with everyone — especially the new recruits. He softens a bit when he realizes one of those newbies was killed in battle, so he chases down the closest thing he can think of to a responsible party: Nol-Anj. But Nol-Anj — before she was a sciencell prisoner — was some kind of outer space pirate. When Hal catches up with her, he’s surprised to learn that she’s also a Star Sapphire. They start throwing constructs around like it’s going out of style, when Nol-Anj switches up tactics. She tries to use Hal’s love against him by suggesting that Carol is off on sexy space adventures with Kyle Rayner. But the visions she projects are of Carol and Kyle in danger. Hal flips out, and it seems like Nol-Anj has him, until both their rings short out. The second the rings come back online, Hal bails, but considering that his ring cannot detect Carol, Kyle or the Guardians, it’s hard to say where he’s going.
Though, it’s really no surprise that Hal would be so impulsive. He’s only chasing after Nol-Anj in the first place because he couldn’t keep his emotions in check. He’s a sentimental guy, moved to action by things that might make the rest of us reflect on our experience. I love this moment where Kilowog accuses Hal of showing off when he threatens to run down Nol-Anj on his own.
Sometimes it’s pretty hard to swallow Hal’s ego — everyone’s always telling the guy that he’s the greatest Green Lantern ever or the only hope for the universe or whatever, so a little inflated self-esteem is to be expected. Additionally, I think it’s hard to write “willful” without accidentally writing “boastful” — both are confident, both are assertive. Anyone should feel free to check me on this, but Hal’s so much more endearing when he’s motivated by emotions, even if those emotions cause him to make poor decisions. He didn’t need to chase after Nol-Anj this second, and he certainly could have been more useful boosting morale around Oa. But he makes the charmingly impulsive decision to seek immediate — if slightly misplaced — justice.
You know, I was just trying to remember what motivated Hal during Geoff Johns run, and I think I’ve uncovered an ugly little truth: Hal was only ever motivated by Johns’ clockwork mythology. I mean, for all of his New 52 time, he’s following SInestro around, doing what Sinestro wants to do. What kind of agency is that for a hero? And if we zoom out for a second, it appears that he was only ever a pawn in the Guardians’ plan to rid the universe of all emotion. So if the plotting of this series seems a little less purposeful than during the Johns’ era, that’s probably why: Robert Venditti is allowing the character to dictate the action, rather than the other way around.
Reasonable people can disagree on which approach is “better.” Drew, I’m fascinated to hear what you thought of this issue. Drew doesn’t have nearly the same built-in affection for Green Lantern, but I could see where this stripped down, emotionally honest version of the space operatics might be more appealing. This is our third month of the new wave of Green Lantern books, and it might be time to make some decisions about what we want to keep pulling and what we can drop. I don’t see anything particularly wrong with this series — in fact, re-focusing on the lead character’s emotions is downright admirable — but it certainly does feel less essential than it did under Johns fat, clunky pen.
I recognize that’s almost an insane opinion. Between the new recruits, Larfleeze attacking Oa and the business with Relic, Venditti has packed in more brand new Green Lantern mythology into three issues than John did in the first two years on Green Lantern. And Billy Tan’s artwork (aided by Rob Hunter’s inks) has a very Jim Lee feel to it. Plus the whole team, including colorist Alex Sinclair, comes together for a handful of nice light construct moments in this issue. The beginning of the issue sees a lot construct-construction equipment buzzing around Oa, cleaning up after Larfleeze’s attack. That’s a great detail: looks great, says a lot about the corps. Or how Hal’s defense against being shot at?
That’s right — rather than simply defend himself, Hal got clever, reflecting these bolts back at his attackers. That’s a perfect damn metaphor for Hal’s impulsive actions and attitude.
I’m seeing a lot of great moments, but I sure do hate playing this constant game of “is it better than what Johns was doing?” (That’s another insane-ism, as I’m no longer convinced that what Johns did with Green Lantern was all that great.) Drew, I need a spiritual adviser on this one.
Drew: You know, the thing that’s standing out to me about Venditti’s take on Hal isn’t the boastfulness — I think Hal is actually less of an ass here in that regard — but his impulsiveness. Now, I’ve read enough Green Lantern to understand that Hal has always been impulsive, but I don’t think it had ever occurred to me just how essential that quality is for depicting willfulness. I’ve often joked that will isn’t really an emotion, but it had never considered how difficult it might be to make a character relatable when he’s defined emotionally by his will. How do you demonstrate a character’s will in a more meaningful way than just having them win arguments or give up chocolate? You tie their willfulness to their emotions. Sure, it makes Hal as impulsive as a toddler, but it also makes him particularly vulnerable to attacks from the other corps.
Hal flies off to face Nol-Anj because he’s too pissed to care, and then leaves because he loves Carol, but it’s also easy to see the fear creeping in — he’s afraid to let more new recruits get killed in action, and afraid of what might happen to Carol without him. It seems that his ability to overcome great fear only applies to fears for his own personal safety, which may explain the egotism we tend to associate with the character. He wants to do everything himself for fear of harm coming to anyone else. I’m not really sure what it would look like for someone to have the ability to overcome fear for their loved one’s wellbeing (I believe we just call that “being an asshole”), but Hal would clearly be served here to have a little more faith in the ability of Carol, Kyle, and Saint Walker to take care of themselves.
Then again, if their rings also turned off for 26 seconds while they were in deep space, they’re already dead, right? Actually, NASA suggests otherwise, so I guess there’s still hope for them. They would almost certainly have lost consciousness, but I suppose the wearer doesn’t need to be conscious for those life-maintaining features to kick in — which would be a reasonable feature to include if you run the risk of getting knocked out in space on a regular basis. Actually, it’s more remarkable that Hal came so close to dying where he was — has the dude not heard of holding his breath?
I agree with you about the strength of the art, Patrick. The constructs are clever, and that double pager of Hal’s vision of Carol et al. is as thrilling as anything we saw Mahnke do on this title. My only gripe is that Billy Tan’s comedy pacing could use some work. Kilowog crushing Salaak’s chair should be hilarious, but the punchline is scuffed by some less than clear layout work.
Patrick, I might be with you on questioning keeping this on our pull (though I look forward to some dissent in the comments). I was willing to play along when we were wrapping up a decade-long epic, but I’m just not sure Hal is a compelling enough character to get me invested in the world around him. I appreciate that Venditti is making a point of getting Hal emotionally connected to these villains, but it’s a well I can’t see returning to often enough to keep this title afloat. Green Lantern may have always been more about the zany space operatics than it was about the people who have them, I think I’m only just realizing that it isn’t quite enough.
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