Green Lantern 26

Alternating Currents: Green Lantern 26, Drew and Mikyzptlk

Today, Drew and Mikyzptlk are discussing Green Lantern 26, originally released December 4th, 2013.

Drew: Any 8th-grade social studies student can tell you that colonialism is a sticky subject. Many decry the loss of indigenous cultures, but how do you weigh that against the boon of western medicine? Are we morally obligated to preserve human culture at the cost of human life, or vice versa? That question only gets stickier when you take those other cultures into account — perhaps they value these things differently than their would-be colonizers. These are questions that have tormented philosophers for centuries — exactly the kind of thing Hal Jordan might blunder into unwittingly. Green Lantern 26 finds Hal struggling to impose his rule on Dekann and while he succeeds, his victory suggests a disturbing new status quo within the Green Lantern universe.

Hal and Kilowog are hopelessly outmanned by Nol-Anj’s Clann, so they call in every Green Lantern everywhere for backup. Faced with certain defeat, the Clann offers to surrender on the condition that Nol-Anj goes free. Trying to avoid a massacre, Hal agrees, but insists that Nol-Anj surrender her Star Sapphire ring. It’s technically a win, but it required so many additional forces as to completely contradict Hal’s goal of conserving emotional energy.

That last bit in particular reminds me of the hand-wringing first world countries have done as China has risen to a lead emitter of greenhouse gasses. It was okay when they did it, the argument goes, because they didn’t know how much damage they were doing. It’s bald-faced hypocrisy — the kind I might reject in a narrative if it wasn’t such a perfect parallel to a real-world situation.

But energy conservation isn’t the only real-world problem paralleled here. As I mentioned in the intro, Robert Venditti has his sights set on the murky subject of colonialism.

Hal is an ass

“You’ll be better of without him.” Hal says, with exactly zero authority on the subject. Hal views the Clann’s actions as criminal, but for their families, it is simply a way of life. Hal upholds the laws that make sense to him, even at the cost of being the criminal in the eyes of the people. It’s both a heroic stand for morals, and a tone-deaf appreciation of cultural differences, all at the same time. I love that Venditti isn’t afraid of letting Hal make an ass of himself.

Of course, it turns out that that kid isn’t a kid at all — he’s one of those shape-shifting Durlans we met back in Green Lantern Corps 21. It’s a deliciously nonsensical twist, but it suggests that the Lanterns may have a much bigger villain to worry about than stray rings.

Actually, Hal’s mission to hunt down all non-green ringslingers may ultimately weaken the universe’s defenses against whatever it is the Durlan’s have planned — a fascinating parallel to anti-gun-control messaging. If the populace isn’t well armed, how can they hope to fend off attacks from criminals? Of course, the GLC will still have guns, but that leads to concerns about abusing that power. Those concerns become ever more valid in the face of Hal’s might-makes-right approach to remaking the universe in his image. Perhaps these planets need a means of protecting themselves from tyranny, after all.

In making the rings dangerous weapons and copious users of finite resources, Venditti has fused the seemingly unrelated subjects of gun control and responsible energy use. Indeed, he zeroes right in on their similarities by creating a faction of Lanterns to act as conscientious objectors. Of course, they don’t seem to object to the idea of using force to get their way. Hannu et al. are carted to Dekann, where they engage in hand-to-hand combat in the name of imposing order. They object to using emotional energy personally, but seem to have no trouble supporting its users in a gratuitous battle (that ultimately may have used more energy than Nol-Anj ever would have in her entire life). I would have liked to see an advocate of non-violence (or at least more of a struggle winning over Vath), but I can understand why one wouldn’t exist within the corps.

Wow. There’s a lot to unpack from this issue, and Venditti seems content to let most of it marinate in the gray area. For me, the loss of clear cut right and wrong is one of the most refreshing changes from the Third Army/First Lantern arcs. Of course, with all of the parallels flying around, the subtext runs the risk of spinning out of control. We haven’t seen that happen yet, but I’m not sure I’ve gotten my head around all of the ideas introduced here. What do you think, Mik? Are you enjoying all of the ambiguity here, or would you have liked a little more defined morality?

Mikyzptlk: I love it when my superhero comics are imbued with moral ambiguity. I mean, moral ambiguity surrounds us every day in the real world, and it’s up to us to cut through that as best we can in an attempt to do what we think is right. We might fail in that attempt every once in a while, but hey, most of us at least try, right? When our favorite superheroes are confronted with that same ambiguity, it’s interesting to see how they deal with it. It can be an uncomfortable way to explore a particular character, but if it’s done right, it can also be a great way to do it.

Right now in Green Lantern, Hal Jordan is being…kind of a dick. Okay, okay, let me rephrase that, Hal Jordan is a being a total dick. Alright, I know I’m not being fair here, but neither is Hal. He has, entirely on his own, decided to police the use of the emotional spectrum. Sure, he’s trying to do the right thing. Like, he’s trying to prevent the destruction of the universe. At the same time though, he’s using emotional energy in order to prevent others from using emotional energy. Obviously, that’s just a tad hypocritical.

Supposing that there is such a thing as an absolute right and wrong, and supposing that certain Lanterns are doing the “wrong” thing with their light, that still doesn’t give Hal or the GLC the right to impose their new restrictions on the universe. It seems to me, as of right now at least, a GL should be able to stop a Red Lantern from terrorizing a planet, but a GL shouldn’t be able to stop a Red Lantern simply for using his or her light.

Of course, that’s just my opinion, and some of you out there might disagree with me, but that’s exactly my point. Hal hasn’t really stopped to consider that there might be other ways to handle policing the light. Hell, he hasn’t even had a meeting with any of the other Lantern Corps leaders out there. Nol-Anj says it herself:

NolThe depletion of the reservoir is something that effects all of the Lantern Corps. They should all have a say in how the light should and shouldn’t be used from now on. Is Hal going to realize this? I’m not sure, but it’s going to be interesting to see where he (and this series) goes from here. I’m all for my superheroes struggling with issues like moral ambiguity. In the end though, they need to figure out how to do what’s right. Otherwise, what’s the point of superheroes?

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

8 comments on “Green Lantern 26

  1. I think you guys are right about the direction of Hal Jordan. The difference is that I think Hal was always this character he just managed to squeeze by because the problems he had to tackle usually amounted to hit it hard. His stupidity comes more to the forefront when he is put in a position of authority where decisions matter more then lantern construct strength. I like that there is a crew that wants to helps but won’t use the rings sort of trying to lead by example. Also they get called out on trying to take the higher ground while letting others expend the light power for them.

    The whole GL universe right now is in a solid place narratively. Much better than it was before the flip. The human Green Lanterns are starting to feel more distinct personality-wise from each other. Also there is a good sense that this is all happening in one universe even though each character has their own story going on.

    To my surprise Guy seems to be the better leader than Hal. He is taking a negative (the color he commands) and using it for a positive where as Hal seems to be doing the opposite.

    • Oh wow, I really like the idea that it was only the clear-cut evilness of his villains that made Hal a good guy — when he’s always fighting things trying to obliterate all life in the universe, it’s hard not to root for him — but that he may not be all that good. Or at least, he doesn’t have enough experience with moral ambiguity to handle it well. I really didn’t like the idea of Hal as leader, but it actually opens up a lot of new avenues for exploring his character.

      • I’m hoping that Hal realizes that he shouldn’t be leading alone. I mean, when was the corps ever lead by one person? Hal needs to put together his own council. If immortal beings needed a council to lead the Corps, what hope does Hal have?

        • I am not sure the level of awareness Hal has self or otherwise. I think he is going to stumble through this for a while. Works for the narrative and also helps to define this era of GL story telling which is always nice.

        • Maybe I just have a low opinion of Hal, but I don’t think that the fate of the GLC should be left up to someone who is as unaware as Hal is acting. I mean, he’s a great action hero, which makes him a great GL, but I’m hoping that his turn at leadership is going to help him grow into a great GL leader too. I think that a part of being a good leader means relying on other GL’s to help him lead. Personally, I’d love to see Hal working with a committee comprised of Kilowog, Soranik, John, Salak, and maybe someone like Hanuu (to represent the non-ring users) in order to help him steer the direction of the Corps.

        • Oh, for sure. After years of being called “the greatest Green Lantern,” it’s fun to see room for real growth. I suspect that Venditti will allow Hal to screw up and learn from his mistakes (and actually change as a character), rather than simply burning him out of this leadership position.

        • Hal has had so many years to grow. Has not happened yet. I would not hold my breath that it will here. It is possible but not probable. I am hoping that we are going to see some realization from Hal that leads to a GL core run by wisdom more then strength since they are actually one in the same.

          I agree with mikyzptlk that it makes a lot more sense to be run by a committee and the GL members he mentions makes sense to me. Really the thing that makes the most sense is to have a committee built from the rainbow of lanterns so you get lots of different insights into how to deal with the problems that the universe throws at you.

      • What I love about Venditti’s version of Hal Jordan is that Hal’s always been kind of a conservative character – he favors order and military service. Even when he knows he needs to break his habit of over-using constructs, he just can’t help himself, he’s so used to making jokey platters to defend people. Like, I don’t know if we can even use the words Right and Wrong to express what he’s up to here – but it certainly is consistent.

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