Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 7, originally released October 26th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Spencer: Have you ever gotten into an argument with a long-time friend? With that much history between you, it’s far too easy for whatever sparked that particular conflict to fall to the wayside as your argument instead becomes about every slight the two of you have ever inflicted upon each other. That’s exactly what happens in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 7. Hal and Sinestro’s grand battle for control of the universe is more of a grudge match between these former friends and rivals; the actual stakes matter less to Hal and Sinestro than themselves finally proving their methods and emotion of choice superior to the other’s.
That ultimately means that the actual fight scenes in this issue boil down to Hal and Sinestro just throwing constructs back-and-forth as each preaches their philosophy to the other, which is a bit of a bummer if only because artist Rafa Sandoval has proven himself so adept at creating dazzling, kinetic action showcases in past issues. Still, Sandoval, colorist Tomeu Morey, and writer Robert Venditti do a fine job of keeping these sequences visually interesting; the battles feature a creative, diverse array of constructs, and Sandoval uses his layouts to emphasize the battle’s two key players and keep their rivalry at the forefront of the reader’s mind.
Hal has a point: both combatants have such conviction in their power that neither will be swayed, and both of them know it. The fact that either tries at all speaks to the strength of their former partnership; in his own twisted way Sinestro respects Hal, enough to try to recruit him as a partner and asset even when he must know that the attempt is futile.
Ultimately, settling their grudge match comes down to their respective choices on the emotional spectrum; Sinestro thinks that proving that the Universe can only be ruled by fear will show Hal that he’s right, while Hal believes that showing that will can overcome fear every time will prove his own philosophy to Sinestro. In real life, might is never a good way to settle a theological debate, but this is a comic book, and a superhero comic at that — proving points through battle is what these books are made for, and that’s exactly what Hal ends up doing.
The issue opens with Hal reminiscing about his life, recalling how overcoming his fears about his father’s death made him a stronger, more powerful person. Since then Hal has often been described as fearless, but that’s not true: he still had one grand fear left to conquer.
Hal’s transformation into a being of pure willpower has been in play for a while now — since before Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps even began, in fact — but in this particular instance Venditti almost treats it like a Shonen-powerup, as if his increased power is a reward for overcoming the last of his fears. Hal’s victory is a proclamation that spreading fear isn’t true strength: overcoming it is.
Perhaps more importantly, willpower empowers all the right people. As we’ve discussed in the past, Sinestro’s reign of fear only strengthens those already in power, those spreading fear; the civilians are weakened, and though crime may drop, true peace is never achieved because the citizens aren’t happy or safe. Willpower, courage, and overcoming fear, meanwhile, are contagious. The courageous stand of just one person can inspire many, and while it’s Hal Jordan who winds up saving the day this time, his ability to inspire others through sheer balls alone may just make Guy Gardner the true hero if this issue.
Ever since being captured, Guy has endured courageously through horrific torture, replying to his captor’s taunts with nothing but sass and his Green Lantern Oath. There’s literally nothing else Guy can do, but his defiance hasn’t been for naught. Just as his body is about to give out, Lyssa’s other prisoners join in with Guy, transforming their fear into will (displayed quite inventively by letterer Dave Sharpe, who has the colors surrounding their words transform from yellow to green as they overcome their fear) and quite literally draining much of Sinestro’s power in the process. Sinestro’s power can only come from the suffering of others, while the strength Hal and Guy display is borne of confidence, courage, and self-improvement. Again, while Hal may do the heavy lifting by actually physically defeating Sinestro, his loss begins in this room with the absolute dismantling of his belief system.
Patrick, I continue to just be so pleased with this book. It hits all my Green Lantern sweet spots — creative designs, gonzo action, characters filled past the brim with emotion and conviction — but the fact that Venditti and Sandoval pull all that off while also building their story on relevant, powerful messages is what really makes Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps stick with me. Are you as happy with this grand finale as I am?
Patrick: I certainly think it’s an interesting way to bring this arc — and seemingly Hal Jordan’s story — to a close. The final action beat suggests that Hal vaporizes Warworld with Lyssa Drak, Sinestro and himself as the planet’s only occupants. Everyone else on-planet was either explicitly commanded away by Sinestro or rescued by Soranik. That’s actually important to Hal’s ultimate surge of power: his last lingering fear is that his actions will put either his loved ones or innocents in danger. With only three people left on Warworld, there’s no one left on the planet that could be caught in the crossfire. But also: the implication is that Hal also sacrifices himself to rid the universe of Sinestro.
Which is an interesting statement on the idea of Will vs. Fear. Fear is self-preservation – literally a a survival tactic. Self-harm and self destruction are, by definition, not survival skills, and willing yourself to ignore them is an act of extreme willpower. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read Hal’s account of his father’s death, and I usually have a hard time reconciling his accident with bravery. Y’see, I think I’ve always mistaken “the ability to overcome great fear” with bravery, and writer Robert Venditti is very careful to make a distinction between the two here. I’m not necessarily sure that will, as it’s presented here, is particularly virtuous, but that may not be the point. The power itself is a tool – it’s what Hal does with that tool that makes him a hero.
Not that I believe for second that Hal Jordan is dead. It wasn’t even that long ago, 2012’s Green Lantern Annual 1, that both Hal and Sinestro were last killed at the same time. Still, Sandoval plays that moment for sincerity.
So while that twist on what it means to access “will” for power is novel, I can’t say that the ultimate trajectory here is. Hal saves the day, Sinestro is defeated, Sora joins the good guys, Guy is rescued, John does… very little. They’re all lamentably familiar beats. Spencer mentioned that much of this fight is just slingin’ constructs with some light philosophy drizzled on top and that’s fairly accurate. It’s also well-worn territory for both this franchise and even for this series.
I am hopeful that the new status quo as established by the end of this issue bears more thematically compelling fruit. Soranik reunites with her former Corps-mates with a small army of Sinestro Corpsmen, but they all appear to be of the non-monstrous variety. Sinestro is a fascist, so naturally, the Yellows under his leadership tended to look like awful space-demons. But there’s an opportunity for Yellow, at just a step away from Green, to actually be a force for good in the universe. It goes back to the same dichotomy expressed above: between self-sacrifice and self-preservation. Maybe these non-Sinestro Sinestro Corps guys can help other peoples survive. Maybe the Greens can learn a thing or two about prudence from the Yellows. I mean, come on, Stewart charges into battle against Warworld knowing that he’s out-gunned and out-manned and his rallying cry is:
Yeesh. “We don’t care” isn’t so much brave as it is suicidal. He’s lucky that they don’t actually get into this fight. Hell, he’s not even aware of the Fear Engine, so there’s a completely separate advantage that he’s not even aware of! So, I guess that’s what I’m hoping for: something I haven’t seen already. And the Greens learning from the Yellows? I ain’t seen that yet.