Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Green Lantern / Red Lanterns 28, originally released February 5, 2014.
Inigo: I do not think you will accept my help, because I’m only waiting around to kill you.
Wesley: That does put a damper on our relationship.
Inigo: But, I promise I will not kill you until you reach the top.
Wesley: That’s very comforting, but I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait.
Inigo: Is there any way you’ll trust me?
Wesley: Nothing comes to mind.
Inigo: I swear on the soul of my father: you will reach the top alive.
Wesley: Throw me the rope.
-The Princess Bride
Patrick: Trust is a tricky intangible quality — often you don’t know it until you see it. There’s no magic switch you can throw to make someone trust you, and — more tragically — no switch you can throw to trust yourself. It’s both hard-won and easily lost. Robert Venditti and Charles Soule use the newly minted Red Lantern Supergirl to explore how issues of trust are slowly eroding the Greens, the Red and both of their leaders. Turns out all the Rage, Will and Hope in the universe don’t mean shit without Trust.
Red Alert: Part 1
Patrick: Having just recruited a squad of known criminals to help them combat the Durlans, some of the Green Lanterns come to the realization that the only way to sniff out a Durlan pretending to be a GL is to make them use their ring. No construct: not a real Green Lantern. It’s an unsolvable problem where the ex-cons are concerned, and sort of a non-starter where the conscientious objectors are concerned. There’s no time to work out the finer points of this policy, as Lanterns Lok and Bareer have returned to Oa with an unruly new Red Lantern. First, Hal takes her to Saint Walker, but he’s just not hopeful enough to don his own ring and ameliorate her redness. With no other ideas, Hal (and some D-List GLs) escort her to Ysmault to get some answers out of Guy Gardner.
I’m always fascinated by where Hal’s authority comes from. A lot of it is his legacy — everyone knows he’s the Greatest Green Lantern EVAR. Plus the Templar Guardians left him in charge. That explains why everyone follows him, but what makes Hal believe he’s capable of leading the Corps — particularly now as he’s given them such a specific mission (i.e., policing the use of emotional light energy)? We get a weird little peek inside Hal’s mind as he issues the United States Uniformed Services Oath of Office to the criminals now in his ranks. He makes last-second changes, but seemingly only as he encounters them — like he didn’t consider that the values of the universe might differ from the values of the US Armed Forces. John calls him out on this (a nice detail, both of those guys would have had to recited this oath at one point), to which Hal responds “Like I should know? I’ve never sworn in ex-cons, John.”
Hal so profoundly misses John’s point. The oath isn’t inappropriate because their ex-cons, it’s inappropriate because there’s no way those concepts mean anything to non-American, non-human, non-earthings. It implies that Hal doesn’t even consider what those things — like the constitution or God — mean to him. Hal comes into this position of authority pre-brainwashed with delusions of duty and honor as defined by his military service. That’s part of the reason he tries to order Saint Walker to take up the Blue Ring again: he still view’s Walker’s abilities as his duty, and not as a by-product of who he is. The problem is that Walker has changed — he no longer feels the Hope needed to power his ring.
Drew, I’m curious to see how Hal’s sense of this duty carries over, both into Part Two and into the Green Lantern books in general. Hal seems largely unphased by the growing dissent and distrust within his own ranks, but also believes in his ability to appeal to Guy’s same sense of duty.
Drew: It’s interesting — my read on Hal’s relationship with authority is basically the opposite of yours. You certainly have a lot more familiarity with the character, so I’ll accept that I may be wrong about this, but I’ve always seen Hal as the archetypical maverick — indeed, I tend to assume his pre-GL life is basically identical to Maverick’s from Top Gun. I see his tone-deafness with wielding authority as symptomatic of him never actually respecting any authority in the first place. Military service was just a means to the ends of flying planes really fast, and he’s willing to say and do what needs to be done and said (but only what needs to be done and said) in order to get what he wants. In that way, he doesn’t have them recite the oath because it inspired loyalty in him (as you pointed out, he never really internalized what it meant in the first place), but because he appreciates that it might inspire loyalty in others.
The disconnect, as you pointed out, hinges on trust. How can any of these GLs (or deputized convicts) trust Hal’s orders when he himself (again, channelling Maverick) is constantly reneging on his promises? Those promises play a key role in Part Two, but for now, the point is that Hal’s past disloyalty to authority doesn’t exactly inspire loyalty in his ranks.
Plus: he sucks balls at leading. Kilowog has busted his chops before for flying off at the first sign of trouble when he should be holding back to focus on the bigger picture, and that lesson only becomes more important now that comms are down. Even if there’s no contingency for this situation, it just makes sense that Hal would stay on Mogo — if anyone needed to get in touch with him, it’s the first place they would look — not flying out to Ysmault with a box named B’ox (let’s not over-think these names too much, guys). He’s led entirely by his impulses, which doesn’t make for the most inspiring leader, but it might explain why he keeps finding his way back to the home planet of the Red Lanterns.
Red Alert: Part Two
Drew: Hey, speaking of those Red Lanterns, their half of this issue benefits immensely from having all of the emotional payoff of the two-parter. But first, some cleanup from last week, as Guy et al. put Shadow Thief down and confirm that nothing is going to happen with Tora. Once that’s all settled, they rush back to Ysmault to confront Hal (hilariously retroactively explaining why Zilius is so lumpy in the closing image of Part One).
The conflict brings up some immediate problems — what to do with Red Lantern Supergirl, and how to settle the issue of which space sector is the Red Lanterns’ — but it also sets up a doozy of a long term problem: There are eight other Red Lantern rings on the loose, all set to send some unknown alien into a homicidal rage at any moment. I have to admit to being more interested in those errant rings, but seeing Hal and Guy explain this situation to Superman seems like it could be fun, too.
As for this issue itself, I have to admit that I’m wearying of Hal’s regular intrusions into Red Lanterns. This title has quickly become one of the most inventive in DC’s stable, but is periodically hobbled by whatever new problem Hal is bringing. It’s not even that I dislike the problems — like I said, I’m excited to see the fallout of this issue — it’s just that they’re never quite organic, and they always curtail another arc that I was actually invested in. This issue navigates these clunky introductions as well as I can hope for, but it doesn’t leave room for much of this series signature color — especially since we also need to devote some time to treading water on the Atrocitus story line.
Are you feeling those constraints too, Patrick, or did this flow more naturally for you? How are you feeling about the apparently imminent ‘shipping of Rankorr and Bleez? Oh, and do you think you would ever tune in to a drive-time radio show hosted by Zox ‘n’ B’ox?
Patrick: Now, why can’t the radio show be Bleez and Rankorr with the ‘shipping being between ZZ and B’ox? I’d be hard pressed to tell you about B’ox’s gender, but I assume simple geometric shapes are attracted to other simple geometric shapes.
I wish there was some way to get the no-bullshit story about this mini-crossover. For as much as we can bemoan Red Lanterns being shanghaied by Green Lantern storylines, the series actually has a fair amount of autonomy. Like, the rest of the books seems to have a similar set of priorities and issues, but the Reds — especially right now — are just sort of working on themselves. Was this an editorial decision to keep the whole line in the same orbit? Or maybe an attempt to rope in some of Green Lantern‘s hefty audience? And what of Supergirl? It’s a mini-crossover-rama!
And as much as I’m almost certainly not going to pick up a copy of Supergirl to play along, I’m excited to see that character under Soule’s pen. We don’t get much in the way of sentient intelligence from her in this issue – she’s basically just Kryptonian Rage Tornado — but I’m looking forward how the series will explore her going forward. If anyone has a reason to super mad at the universe and confused by her circumstances, it’s Kara. Further, I love it when a Lantern corps gets a hero like this – the Greens used to have Sodam Yatt (a Daxamite, which is basically a Kryptonian, but not) and the Yellows used to have Superboy Prime. I can’t totally put my finger on why that’s so appealing to me, but I can’t get enough of characters breaking constructs through sheer physical force.
Oh, but I was sorta bummed to see the whole Ice thing just fade away. I know that we knew that Guy had to get back to Ysmault (as we’d seen him there a couple pages back in the Green Lantern portion of the book), but I’m not totally clear on why he’d give up right away. Tora even says “this isn’t never” but for all the growing Guy’s done, he still seems to be too impatient to let the relationship grow (or re-grow) on its own. I hope they can team up in the future – if for no other reason than they’d look awesome together now that they’re rocking opposite color palettes. And that mustache. All teams can be improved by Guy Gardner’s mustache.
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