Mythological and Emotional Mystery in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 26

by Patrick Ehlers

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

John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner and Hal Jordan are interesting characters. They’re all men with tremendous baggage, and perhaps the decades of dragging around said baggage have trained them to just blurt out their feelings with the blunt force of a green-light mallet. All of them are reeling from Soranik Natu Sinestro’s heel turn, and the defection of the Yellow Corps, and maybe they’re all a touch too eager to yell about their feelings. That emotional transparency is at odds with the opaque plotting of issue 26. The inherent mystery in “what is Orion doing here again?” makes the reader double back on those seemingly clear emotional statements.

Orion appears amid the rubble of a shattered system, and offers little more information than “There’s trouble. [Highfather]’s asking for your help.” Then he’s shot out of the sky by omega beams. There are other hints in the issue that suggest what all of this might be about. Graf Toren, the Light Monk, has a vision that taps into both the iconography and language of the upcoming uber-story “Metal” (there’s an ad for Dark Knights Metal not two pages previous). Writer Robert Venditti is playing on his readers natural inclination for piecing together tasty bits of alluring mythology. In the greater context of whatever else you’re reading from this publisher, Orion’s appearance suddenly makes more sense.

But that’s ultimately not that interesting to me — I come back to Green Lantern books because I care about the characters, and we find all four of our mains in weirdly confessional modes. In both of these conversations, our heroes put a quick stop to their actions, having heavy conversations against a backdrop of busy sci-fi nonsense, but not at all engaging with it. Artist Rafa Sandoval puts in a ludicrous amount of detail in these backgrounds as Venditti’s characters bark their emotionally raw dialogue.

My first reaction to this page was that Venditti was writing both of these dudes with an emotional intelligence they have in no way earned, all while bringing the action of the issue to a screeching halt. It feels like clumsy, obvious storytelling. But the GLs are soldiers — grunts with wide variety of tools at their disposal, and not always the best judgement when it comes to applying them. When Orion is hurt, they know they can take him to get medical treatment on Salaak’s home planet. That ends up being a mistake — putting a whole goddamn world in peril. The same is true of the Lanterns’ emotions. It’s not Venditti clumsily wielding their emotional weapons, it’s Guy and John and Kyle and Hal. Confession, they believe, will set them free. Why else would John so immediately offer a response as naked as “You’re my best friend. […] I feel better knowing you’re close by to back me up.”? The Kyle and Hal scene suffers from the same simultaneously stilted and open dialogue, staged against literally nothing but our heroes flying through space. Throughout both conversations, the most compelling questions are: what are they not saying to each other? What feelings aren’t they expressing. They’re trying to force their way to being cool with each other, leaving their true emotions the real mystery.

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

2 comments on “Mythological and Emotional Mystery in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 26

    • I thought heel turn was the commonly excepted phrase to use to describe this pattern. I know it was originally a wrestling term, but from my understanding, it is one of those phrases that has transcended its roots to have a wider cultural meaning for this specific trope. I certainly know I saw the phrase on TVTropes to name this exact trope long before I was aware of the connection to wrestling. And I was aware of what ‘heel turn’ meant in a greater cultural context long before TVTropes. It would never occur to me to see the use of ‘heel turn’ as a specific wrestling reference except in the contexts of wrestling, simply because the term has become universal. Just as I would never treat ‘fridged’ as a Green Lantern reference or the Bechdel Test as a Dykes to Watch Out For reference. Whatever these phrases’ origins, these terms are so universal these days to have acquired a meaning beyond its original context.

      This is honestly something I’ve been thinking a lot about, the ways that how language, especially our critical language, is being developed by the rise of nerd culture and the democratisation of criticism away from academics etc. The fact that, say, then random comics fan Gail Simone created one of the most important terms in feminist theory, and it is a random Green Lantern reference, is fascinating. And as time goes on, our critical language is going to increasingly be made up of references to wrestling, comics, internetspeak etc instead of professionally written academic articles and random European words. Really shows how language is constantly in negotiation, and the effect that greater access has on this negotiation

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