Who To Protect and Who to Serve in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 23

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

“To Protect and to Serve.”

LAPD motto

The motto above (or some variation thereof) is so commonplace among police forces that it’s easy to forget that the saying originated from a contest the Los Angeles Police Department held in 1955. They were gathering submissions for slogans for the police academy, and Officer Joseph P. Dorobeck submitted the now-famous five-word phrase. By the end of 1963, the motto was officially adopted by the LAPD. Less than two years later, the Watts Riots pitted police against civilians, in a role that was neither serving nor protecting them. The Los Angeles Police have had a rough history with the people they’re meant to protect, often revealing the population they serve to be themselves. In this week’s Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, writer Robert Venditti reminds us that the Green Lanterns are just cops, with all the same failings as the LAPD.

Hal and John have the criminal Bolphunga in custody, and he’s threatening to broadcast a video of a Green Lantern killing a Yellow Lantern unless he is released. Hal and John appear to have different reactions to this threat, but they are unified in one extremely shitty character flaw — they both value their own agendas over revealing the truth, however damaging it may be. Hal takes the stance that Bol is a criminal, and therefore a liar, and his threat is simply a power play, while John resolves himself to discover if there is any truth to the accusations for the sole purpose of burying the story. That’s the issue’s big heel turn, but artist Ethan van Sciver is careful not to tip the creative team’s hand. This moment is presented though a morally neutral lens.

John is not heroically posed here, but neither is he portrayed as a villain. We’re working within the realm of metaphor, but the parallels to police killings are obvious. Is there value in John’s loyalty to his brothers in arms? Or does that stand in the way of justice? For me, the answer is clear. John is choosing who to serve and who to protect. And it ain’t the Yellow Lanterns.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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