The Funnies Ain't So Funny Anymore

By Omri 

Issue #7 

      Lately I’ve been re-reading some of the story arcs that I haven’t visited for a while.  Those emotional, powerful stories that DC has a habit of putting out every once in a while.  For today’s column, my random pick was Green Lantern Rebirth, one of these recently reread miniseries.  One of the largest fanboy disputes out there is the question of who is the better Green Lantern.  This miniseries is a certain fanboy turned writer’s fantasy come true of re-legitimizing the late Hal Jordan. 

      Hal was the Earth GL of the silver age and the early modern age, until he went insane after the Death of Superman arc, and destroyed his corps, his superiors and Oa in general.  He was very quickly established as a villain, which was a less than noble way of replacing him for the modern age.  Compared to Barry Allen, the silver age Flash, Hal left his legacy title with a very unfavorable light and shrouded in controversy over how he did or did not deserve to become that. Years passed, and his odd appearances more and more supported the new persona of Parallax, his new adopted name.  Zero Hour came and went, which asserted his position as a force to be reckoned with (after all, he did try and to a certain point succeeded to rewrite the whole universe from scratch.)  But then came The Final Night, and with his last glimmer of humanity, Parallax sacrificed himself to reignite our dying sun.  A noble hero’s death to a man who had been so much for the world, but was now only remembered for his recent actions.   

      Ok, enough background history for now.  Let’s just fast forward a little to Day of Judgment, where Hal was chosen as the new host for the Spectre, as a chance to redeem himself or, as the Spectre put it, his penance.  Batman’s mistrust of him only grew from here on. 

      If you ask me, this seems like a succession of rabid fanboys trying to give credit or discredit their favorite GL.  Once it was time to replace Hal, DC decided to make him mad over the destruction of his city.  A writer who liked the newly created character of Kyle Rayner decided to eliminate the competition by making Parallax a full fledged villain.  Another writer later joined these ranks and made him even worse.  Then came a writer of the other band who liked Hal more than Kyle, so he showed us the Hal that was still buried inside Parallax.  Then the Batman writers made plenty of comments on how Hal can and could never be trusted.  And then came the redemption as yet another skirmish in this never-ending tug-of- war.  Hal has gone through so much pulling and pushing that the number of stages he went through in his evolution almost equals Hawkman’s.  At least Hawkman’s were attempts to fix something broken, whereas whatever state Hal was in, one of the GL fan camps thought he was in the wrong place, and went on to change it.  Rebirth is just another one of these attempts. Geoff Johns is a ‘Hal over Kyle’ kind of guy, and it killed him that Hal did not realize his full potential, so he decided to change that.  But he was smart while at it: he made sure his reincarnation would have a shield against all the previous attacks, thereby making all the arguments against him null, pleading to the case of “it wasn’t me, but someone else in my body!” 

      Can’t DC make up their mind? Well, in a certain way, they already have.  It is no secret that they are in this business to sell books and make money.  Any story that readers would buy is worth publishing.  And for someone as controversial as Hal Jordan, whatever light is cast on the character, it is a fact that half the GL fans would buy it.  It is simply a question of alternating the good guy and bad guy stories to appease both sides.  But Johns went beyond that in Rebirth.  His story really begins at the birth of sentient life in the universe, and creates an entity that feeds on fear called Parallax.  This creature was imprisoned, forgotten, and eventually escaped captivity through a conduit to Hal’s ring, possessing him in the process.  This particular story is about the internal struggle of the Parallax creature, Hal Jordan (the normal, sane version), and the spirit of the Spectre.  With one swift stroke, not only had Johns explained the ring’s age old weakness to the color yellow, but also claimed that Hal was not in control of his body during all his actions, and as such does not deserve the scorn directed at him.  Yes, the story is very well written, both structurally, script-wise, true to the characters, captivating and emotional.  And yes, the art team, led by Van Sciver, is absolutely stunning.  But did such a decisive move have to be done?  Many would claim that yes, as Hal deserves his dues and this finally clears his name, but the question is a different one.  It is why did the name have to be cleared in the first place?  We have plenty of villains who attempt redemption (Suicide Squad and Secret Six) some of which even succeed (Flash rogues, mainly.)  But where is the flip side of the coin? Where are the heroes who turn evil?  The closest we got to that was Terra in the New Teen Titans, but Wolfman revealed her to be a villain working undercover all along, and not a hero-gone bad type.  The next one was Hal Jordan, who truly went all out, but the powers to be felt that this was too much, and allowed his redemption to go through.  The current Supergirl is so interesting exactly because her programming is tugging her to do bad things, but she fights it.  Why can’t we have a truly good hero turn a complete 180 and stay that way?  I truly believe a series following his exploits could hold its own.  Morally ambiguous, it’d explore his motivations, disillusions, and document his slow descent into the darkness.  Bah, who am I kidding?  A title like that would get pushed to the Wildstorm imprint immediately after issue 2, or skip Wildstorm altogether and go directly to the darker Vertigo.  DC proper just can’t have that kind of darkness and ambiguity.  In the last couple of years, a huge push has been made to make Superman more human, make Batman saner, make Flash more contemporary and all the team books more effective.  This was done by taking them as low as possible, dragging them down there in the mud for a while, and only then picking them up and letting them climb the summit.  The ‘darkness’ and ‘immoral’ stage is powerful and necessary, but in the DCU, it is always a stop along the path, never the destination itself.  Personally, though I liked the story, I absolutely disagree with the redemption of Hal, but with the DCU in the shape it currently is, it was inevitable.  I blame you, DC, for believing the world has to be inherently good.  For believing that good things can happen to bad people but bad things to good people are never permanent (remember – the story of Ralph isn’t over yet!)  Stop twisting impressionable people’s minds with your feel good tales.  Take some gambles once in a while.  The Parallax Saga, the now defunct Lobo and Vigilante titles, and the recent Lex Luthor- Man of Steel were good stepping stones in this yet experimental approach.  Secret Six bent the envelope a little more.  I think the world is ready for a full fledged villain book.  One written from the bad guy’s perspective, and where our title character would actually end up winning for a change.  The world is ready - now we sit patiently and wait…