Today, Michael and Patrick are discussing Convergence: Green Lantern/Parallax 2, originally released May 13th, 2015. This issue is part of Convergence. For our conversations about the rest of Convergence last week, click here.
Patrick: There’s a scene in every Star Wars movie where the score drops out entirely and the audio landscape is occupied entirely by sound effects. George Lucas, for relying so heavily on the excitement and gravitas of John Williams’ symphonic scores, understood the power of allowing the action itself to dictate the viewer’s sonic experience. Suddenly, Luke and Vader’s lightsaber duel in Cloud City becomes more intimate and immediate, as the viewer no longer has the dramatic distance afforded us by a full orchestra. A silent medium, comic books have a strange relationship to sound effects: do they imply sound? are they fun panel-dressing? are they a reminder of the medium’s limitations? Tony Bedard and Ron Wagner’s conclusion to the Convergence: Green Lantern Parallax mini-series presents an intense sound effects symphony, only, y’know, completely silent.
With the challenge established and the superpowers restored, issue two starts in the midst of Hal Jordan’s rampage through the streets and skies of Electropolis. Kyle Rayner — neither entirely eager to fight off Princess Fern by himself nor watch Electropolis get destroyed — strikes a deal with this enemy’s Prime Minister. If Kyle can put his buddy Parallax on a leash, the Electropolians call off their attack. Between Parallax and the denizens of Electropolis, we’re mostly dealing with bad guys here, so it should come as no surprise that the deal falls through and Kyle has to go back to fighting Princess Fern the old fashioned way (i.e., Green Lantern construct mech-suit). Their fight is cut short, however, when Telos’ voice announces that “the city Electropolis has been eradicated by Parallax.”
That’s an intense and dark ending to this story, and the most dramatic and action-packed part of this narrative happens off-camera. I made the argument in our discussion of Convergence: Aquaman 1, that Bedard occasionally makes the inscrutable choice to leave the most interesting story beats off the page, and it seems like he’s doing it again here. That’s still a disappointing omission in this issue, but Bedard and Wagner show us enough of Parallax destroying Electropolis that our imaginations can fill in the gaps. Part of what makes what they do show us so impactful is Wagner’s imaginative and liberal use of sound effects.
(A quick disclaimer: it’s often difficult to determine who’s responsible for the sound effects in a given issue. I know some writers dictate them in the script, and other times artists or letterers will add them on their own. Because they appear to be in Wagner’s style, and are incorporated into the shape and motion of his panels, I’m going to attribute these sound effects to the artist.)
Hal’s attack on Electropolis is a fireworks extravaganza, with all the same bright lights and colors readers have come to expect from Green Lantern battles. Wagner stakes his own claim on the sequence is by filling the page with sound effects. And they’re not just your run-of-the-mill booms and bangs — though even those are imbued with a little extra oomph. It starts with Hal ripping off the top of the Prime Minister’s tower (with hilarious accuracy, I might add). The sound effect — which is larger than the action itself — reads “SHRIIIP.”
With that SHRIIIP, Wagner starts to imply the physicality of the Green Lantern constructs. That hand is really there, really ripping the top off of a building like it’s a pack of gum. Kyle sends in a battering ram construct in the next page, and it’s accompanied by a much more traditional WHAM sound effect. Neither of these effects are given punctuation, not even the requisite exclamation point, because Wagner has a much more effective way of making these effects meaningful — giving them page real estate. That opening exchange of sound effected attacks is just that: a simple starting volley. The real explosion comes after Kyle tries to talk some sense into his friend, and is proceeded by one of the saddest drawings of Parallax I’ve ever seen.
Hand outstretched and totally silent, this moment could play out in any way. The reality — and it’s a reality we should see coming, knowing what we know about Parallax — is that nothing will stop him from wrecking up the place. I absolutely love this next page, which lets three big sound effects tell its story.
First of all, I’m not totally sure what that first effect is even saying. “FZAMMM”maybe? It’s so tied up in the action, that it’s not super important that we know what sound it’s making, just that the sound is huge. The same goes for the second panel: how many Os are in that “POOOM”? Enough to fill the skyline, that’s how many. Then the final panel turns the tide, and Eletropolis goes on the attack with electric weapons. Notice how the “KZZAK” and “SHRAKT” don’t stay within nice neat lines like “FZAMM” and “POOOM” — they’re chaotic and unruly. These electrical attacks continue on the next page, with a repeated “SHRA-BOOM” effect that encroaches further on the page with each successive panel. It almost becomes of battle of who can be louder, and Hal eventually falls with a “THRUNCH”.
Michael, there’s a whole world outside of sound effects, so I’ll leave it to you to address Kyle and Hal’s relationship. Does Hal betray Kyle in this? Or is he saving him the only way he can? And what’s up with Kyle’s narration claiming that “The Real Hal Jordan was gone the moment that dome fell” — is that commentary on the “realness” of any of these characters during Convergence?
Michael: Yes, that was the saddest of all “Sadallax” drawings that I’ve ever seen. I think like many aspects of comic book storytelling, sound effects can very often get overlooked by a casual reader. Arguably, every time a Green Lantern uses their ring there should be a “FWIISH” or something of the like. I suppose the big “FZAMM” moments are better saved for those huge action pieces where their effects can truly take on meaning. Touching on something that Patrick brought up earlier, I’ve always preferred artists forgoing the exclamation point in their sound effects. When it comes to bombastic explosions, bursts of electricity and smash-punches, the punctuation would be a little redundant, no? Excellent sound effect analysis Patrick, but yes there was some other stuff going on so I suppose I can comment on some of that myself.
As Patrick implied, the question of “Does Hal betray Kyle?” is not so cut and dry. I think the more accurate phrasing of that question would be “Does Kyle feel betrayed by Hal?” The bromance between sad sack Hal and wide-eyed Kyle has been framed like a recovering alcoholic and their sponsor. When the dome was up and Hal was “sober” he felt the weight of all of his actions under the influence; Kyle coached him through this struggle. Now that Hal is off the wagon again, he’s justifying his destructive actions the same way he did when he took down the Green Lantern Corps. It’s clear that Hal hasn’t completely forgotten that sense of remorse, however — he’s merely suppressed it. And since Kyle has come to know the real Hal over the past year or so, he is not completely surprised by the fact that Hal backslides into his super-powered megalomaniac ways. So does Kyle feel betrayed by Hal’s actions? No, not necessarily. Does he feel supremely let down? Absolutely.
Let’s flip the P.O.V. to Hal for a minute — specifically the moment where he listens to Kyle’s pleas for reason, but sends him off in a rocket construct anyways. This act can be seen as one of annoyance or sacrifice. From Hal’s perspective, he hasn’t been possessed by some fear entity or gone mad with the power of thousands of GL rings — he’s seeing things clearly for a change. As Parallax he believes that what he is doing is for the greater good and people like Kyle just don’t understand. With this “Parallax view” of things, Hal doesn’t want Kyle in his way as he plays Telos’ game to draw him out. In this respect, he ejects Kyle from the game like a hand swatting away a fly.
On the other hand we have witnessed Hal trying to peak out from underneath Parallax and listen to Kyle’s logic. Even as Parallax he trusts Kyle on some level; the Electropolis attack on Kyle sent him into a righteous fury after all. So with this “Hal view” of things, Hal engages in some heroic sacrifice by sending Kyle out of the line of fire. You know the old self-sacrifice trope, like when Spock fixes the warp core on the Enterprise and locks the door behind him. Before Green Lantern: Rebirth, Hal Jordan was a fallen hero; nothing more. His final act as Parallax was reigniting the sun, so this could be read as the same type of action on a severely smaller scale.
I didn’t really read into Kyle’s narration that much initially, but it is possible that “The Real Hal Jordan was gone the moment that dome fell” is a dig from Bedard at the Convergence process. I’ve said this in previous write-ups, but I think that most interesting part of a Convergence tie-in is the story leading up to the “Dome moment” where Telos’ game begins. Once the dome drops and powers are restored it’s a free for-all with whomever DC editorial decided was an interesting world opponent. Before that everything is contained — city and story. Hal Jordan’s self-induced purgatory and Kyle Rayner’s plucky resolve and optimism is basically a compelling short story; at least it’s far more interesting than Kyle trying to stop Hal from destroying a planet, believe it or not. I’m not sure that Hal as Parallax was ever a character of great depth to begin with, but he does feel less real and more one-dimensional than Sadallax Hal Jordan in his cell.
My final points are a few stray thoughts on Princess Fern and Electropolis. I agree with Patrick that Electropolis’ destruction taking place off-camera is a curious choice, if for no other reason than it robs Wagner of a bombastic page or two of Parallax-eradication. Perhaps Bedard and Wagner intended for an approach of minimalism with this plot point. Just like Princess Leia and Alderaan in Star Wars, the major impact of Electropolis’ destruction is expressed through Princess Fern’s devastation. Lastly, her outfit totally makes her look like Plastic Man, right??
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 Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?