Friday, June 17, 2011

My Top Ten Favorite Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) Stories

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On June 17th, 2011 the feature-length film Green Lantern will premiere. In honor of the new film from Warner Brothers, I'll be doing a list of my top ten favorite comic book stories featuring the Green Lantern, Hal Jordan!
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If you haven't already (to learn more about Hal Jordan from my videos) check out Part 25 of the History of Comics on Film! This features the Filmation animated television series, Green Lantern!

10. Green Lantern v2 #164
"Green Lantern The Barbarian"
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An amusing spoof of Conan comes from writer Mike Barr with art by Keith Pollard. We are treated to a tale that begins in medias res, where we find out what Hal Jordan; Green Lantern would call himself when part of a sword and sorcery spectacle.
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Even Dorine Clay's fiery red hair fits the mold of a Red Sonja-esque warrior woman and Haljor even calls her Dorinda. Other friendly faces soon appear under guises such as Thomal (Hal's sidekick Thomas Kalmaku a.k.a. Pieface) and King Caarl (Carl Ferris owner of Ferris Aircraft) who quickly sends Haljor on a quest to save the Princess Caarol (Hal Jordan's first love Carol Ferris).
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Much like the Superman or Batman stories "For The Man Who Has Everything" or "Perchance To Dream", it's a fun story that places a familiar hero in not-so-familiar settings.
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28 year old SPOILERS!
Just as Mongul and the Mad Hatter were the perpetrators behind the dream scenarios of the other heroes, the sorcerer Myrwhydden is revealed to be the culprit behind Hal Jordan's dream prison.
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Myrwhydden is a pretty cool reveal as he is equivalent to Mr. Mxyzptlk or Bat-Mite for Green Lantern and is a pretty nice surprise. ( Even though he is totally on the cover...)

9. Spectre v4 #1-27
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Without singling out any particular issue of this run of comics, I would feel remiss if I did not mention Hal Jordan's stint as DC's spirit of vengeance, The Spectre. This title, written by J.M. DeMatteis, came at a time when I was pretty convinced that I would never see a Hal Jordan comic again without him being the Super-Villain called Parallax.
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Unlike Green Lantern: Rebirth which eradicated the stain of Emerald Twilight (where DC Comics had Hal go nuts and kill all his fellow Lanterns after Coast City was destroyed in the Reign of the Supermen), the fourth volume of the Spectre is about Hal Jordan's redemption for those acts. Taking the role as the host of the Spectre is much like paying penance for all his mistakes after the destruction of Coast City. Along for the ride is the ghost of Abin Sur, Hal Jordan's predecessor, who granted him the ring of Green Lantern way back when.
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Although current day Green Lantern writers probably wish to (and do) ignore this book, for me I was just happy to have a non-evil Hal Jordan in a monthly comic book again. Things like Jim Jordan appearing as an Angel, which would indicate the youngest Jordan brother died in the destruction of Coast City is never referred to again. Jim actually appears alive and well in the current Green Lantern series. I guess Superboy-Prime punched the Angelic version or something off-panel.
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Hal is appointed the guardian of his niece Helen after his older brother Jack Jordan gets killed in a car accident orchestrated by the Machiavellian series villain Monsieur Stigmonus. The yin and yang visualization by Ryan Sook of Stigmonus is quite appealing. Sook's style seems to owe a good deal of inspiration from Mike Mignola whose use of dark space is well known.
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Usually Helen, Jordan's niece, is the focal point of the two's struggle. Stigmonus would push her toward a dark, nihilistic path, while Jordan would seek to have her fulfill her potential surpassing even the Spectre's abilities among the cosmic and spiritual hierarchy.
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Unfortunately, much like Gohan's potential gets neutered in DragonBall GT, the only writer to follow up with Helen Jordan at all was Kurt Busiek during his "Days of Future Past" inspired Superman run.
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I think that's a shame. A reader comes to invest a great deal in a character that simply vanishes from existence, as it were.
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Regardless of the title's status among current day continuity, this was the first series to bring me hope and give me the opportunity to follow the adventures of Hal Jordan when I thought it an impossibility. For that I will always be grateful.
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8. Green Lantern v3 #5-8
"Back Again"
"Two Against the World"
"Homecoming"
"Bringing It Together"
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The Guardian of the Universe, Appa Ali Apsa, or as he is affectionately referred to in the the "Hard Traveling Heroes" run of Green Lantern/Green Arrow, The Old-Timer, has been entrusted to be the sole caretaker of the planet Oa. Without his fellow Guardians to provide companionship after leaving to mate with the Zamarons, the isolation slowly drives the Old-Timer insane. This leads him to abduct cities from all over the Universe to appease his intense feelings of loneliness.
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One of the cities the Old-Timer abducts is Hope Springs, where Hal Jordan had been staying and making a new life for himself with Rose Hardin. John Stewart is already imprisoned within a green energy construct before Hal arrives on Oa and soon enough Hal and Guy Gardner, despite their best efforts, have joined him.
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Thankfully Hal is able to get a message through to the Guardians to end their sabbatical and deal with the Mad Guardian once and for all. Apsa, however, is tapped into the power of the entire planet Oa and is going to be a lot harder to stop than anyone anticipates.
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A concentrated team effort, spear-headed by Hal Jordan, finally puts an end to the Old-Timer's mad spree.
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Throughout Green Lantern, there have been many attempts to have Hal Jordan question himself, which I find to ring false to the character. While "Hard Traveling Heroes" was revolutionary and had terrific art from Neal Adams, I prefer my Green Lantern to be in full command of his faculties. No more "finding himself" or "mid-life crises", which is definitely what writer Gerard Jones and artist Pat Broderick successfully bring back to the table.
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7. Action Comics Weekly #627-631
"And Now Captain Atom"
"Heroes"
"So Long Ago The Garden"
"Will"
"Détente"
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After the abysmal Green Lantern Corps series was canceled, the continuing adventures of Hal Jordan could be found in the weekly anthology series Action Comics Weekly. Usually Action Comics is home to Superman's adventures, but once in the anthology format, various adventurers made it their home in 8 page stories for the next two years.
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Green Lantern didn't always get the cover of the book and the early stories aren't so great, but one of the stand outs among them comes from James Owsley (otherwise known as Christopher Priest) and M.D. Bright. I've enjoyed M.D. Bright's art since I was first exposed to it during Marvel's G.I. Joe comics. Add a semi-superhero-tradition in the meeting of two of my favorite heroes, Captain Atom and Green Lantern, and you've got yourself a winner in my book. The two are both after an alien entity that decides to make itself look like the fictional movie character, Randy Violent. This is a somewhat amusing and veiled reference to Sylvester Stallone's portrayal of John Rambo.
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The writing is pretty even-handed for both characters and does not skew in favor of Green Lantern (even though in many cases favoring the title character is fairly typical).
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A fun element of rivalry exists between the heroes and is injected into what would be a standard "misunderstanding-fight-then-team-up" comic book.
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6. Green Lantern v3 issue #25
"Prize Fight"
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Sometimes I would expose some friends who were non-DC readers to various comic series over the years. Of course, Green Lantern would be one of them. While I would show off certain elements of Gerard Jones' Green Lantern run (along with his Emerald Dawn mini-series) with pride, occasionally they would receive some snickers here and there from friends.
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Regardless, I enjoy the big showdown between Guy Gardner and Hal Jordan a great deal in this issue. When I read the comics at the time, there was a lot of pent up tension leading to this final confrontation. If you read earlier stories with Guy Gardner before and during the Crisis On Infinite Earths, you might even think him a villain, as he has team-ups with the likes of General Zod and most of Hal Jordan's Rogue's Gallery..
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In addition Hal will not succumb to the beat-down Guy puts him through, which evokes the same kind of inspiration that fans of Naruto probably feel.
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Watching Hal refuse to give-in is a lot like watching the Uzomaki kid get knocked down constantly, but stubbornly refusing to give up. Jordan continues to persevere in this fight no matter how many times he needs to take a hit or get back up.
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5. Flash and Green Lantern: The Brave and The Bold #1-6
"Those Who Worship Evil's Might"
"Lightspeed"
"A World of Hurt"
"How Many Times Can a Man Turn His Head?"
"The Man Without Fearlessness!"
"Running on Empty"
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People would often comment about the various comic books featuring Hal Jordan and Barry Allen after their deaths. Some of the best Hal Jordan and Barry Allen stories, they would say, came after they died. Also the characters did actually stay dead for a considerable amount of time. More than most characters do in comics, anyway. Sometimes I'm still surprised they brought Barry back to life.
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This mini-series, written by Tom Peyer and Mark Waid, reminds me of another release in the same year called Batman-Superman: World's Finest. Both books are historical retrospectives of the various team-ups the two characters have had over the years. However, Superman and Batman were not dead at the time of the publication and Hal and Barry were. With all the weight and gravitas involved in their demise, this mini-series looks at the two characters over the years during more innocent times. Honoring the great moments alongside some of the more questionable ones.
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The friendship between the two is played up in an opposites attract manner. I mean you may put Hal next to Ollie and try to suggest he's the straight-arrow type, but you pal him around with Barry and you can see they are worlds apart. I also love the running gag with Hal being the "friend" who always needs to borrow the green.
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By issue #4 the art changes style from Barry Kitson's more angular lines to Tom Grindberg's poor man's Neal Adams imitation. Maybe I'm being unfair and it all depends on who is inking Grindberg's work, but while I love Neal Adams, I've never been particularly fond of Grindberg's work on....well, anything.
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Of course, my particular tastes in art aside, it doesn't really detract from the genius decision to put Barry Allen in the same room with Oliver Queen during Hal's "Hard Traveling Hero" days.
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Even Itty and the Trucker days that followed get some love. I always liked Itty, even if I was never a fan of "finding himself" Hal in any incarnation.
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By the final issue things get a bit more on the heavy side as a result of the eventuality of the story direction that is destined for our two heroes. Flash's wife is murdered by Professor Zoom and he eventually sacrifices his life in the Crisis On Infinite Earths. Meanwhile, Hal would be subjected to 90's comics sensationalism and go rogue as Parallax.
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Eventually Hal's only redemption was to follow in Barry's footsteps by giving up his own life to save the Earth in the DC event The Final Night. Yet this book strives to remember the two and their great friendship in better, brighter times and succeeds wholeheartedly.
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4. Green Lantern v2 #40
"The Secret Origin of the Guardians!"
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I have to put at least one issue from the run of the creators of the Silver Age Green Lantern. John Broome and Gil Kane's first 50 or so issues on Green Lantern are pretty terrific. Somewhere in the middle of that Carol dumps Hal and from then on it takes a good while for Hal to get out of his "find-himself-funk."
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While this issue is not the first time Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, and Hal Jordan would meet, it is their very first team-up in the pages of a Green Lantern comic book. This started the tradition of a team-up that would be repeated again and again.
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Another aspect of this story that would forever be burned into DC Comics history is the origin of the villain of the piece, Krona. Krona, much like fans who have a desperate need to know the origins of their favorite characters, is an Oan scientist who breaks taboo by trying to view the beginning of time itself. In this original story, much like eating from the tree of knowledge, this releases evil into the universe.
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Later this story would provide the framework for the origins of the multi-verse in Crisis On Infinite Earths. As a counter to the planet Oa, the Anti-Matter universe's world of Qward comes into existence. Here on Qward, the ultimate force of evil, the Anti-Monitor, is born. This act, in turn, led to the creation of the Guardians of the Universe and their Green Lantern Corps.

3. Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame
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I don't know who wouldn't view Neil Gaiman writing a piece starring Superman and Green Lantern as a treat, and I don't really want to know them. Gaiman is joined by an all-star art team with such talents as Frank Miller, Eddie Campbell, Mike Allred, John Totleben,Matt Wagner. Eric Shanower, Jim Aparo, Kevin Nowlan, and Jason Little.
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Originally this book was to be a double-sized climax to wrap up the previously mentioned anthology series Action Comics Weekly. When the time came to print the story, DC editorial had decided that Hal Jordan was not privy to the fact that Clark Kent was Superman in the post-Crisis era. Thus the story was filed away, but eventually saw light as a special prestige format one-shot.
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Gaiman's tale includes many of the featured stars of Action Comics Weekly, but the primary focus is on the friendship between Superman and Green Lantern. I appreciate how he attempts to smooth over some of the harshness that proceeded in the aforementioned Action Comics Weekly.
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Superman and Green Lantern find themselves trapped in hell after triggering an old Lantern in the shape of Alan Scott's old Lantern. Superman, with his super-heightened senses, is soon exposed to all the self-inflicted suffering of hell itself.
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Another priceless moment is when Selina Kyle has a brief cameo where Hal Jordan does his best, but ultimately fails when hitting on her.
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Hal eventually saves the day by taming the wild lantern using Alan Scott's original oath as Green Lantern. It's definitely a fun read and makes me yearn for an alternate universe where Neil Gaiman would have tried his hand at "fixing" the current state of affairs in regards to the Green Lantern Corps.
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2. Emerald Dawn #5
"The Test"
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The early issues of Keith Giffen and Gerard Jones' Emerald Dawn seem to borrow Tony Stark's problem with alcohol and apply this to Green Lantern. Later Tony would go nuts and kill people, borrowing from Emerald Twlight. Stop borrowing assholes!!!!
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While I'm not a huge fan of the whole drunk driving aspect of the mini-series Emerald Dawn, some of my earliest Green Lantern books were the last 3 issues of this mini-series. It introduced young readers, such as myself, to Oa, The Green Lantern Corps, and Hal Jordan himself.
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As mentioned before, some friends have scoffed at Hal Jordan getting pwned by a yellow colored Billboard in the earlier issues. While I can see why they found it funny, I do enjoy the payoff to this mini-series which takes place in issue #5. This book has Hal Jordan going up against the golden armored Legion. By now he is fully aware of the yellow impurity the rings contain and knows what he is prepared to do about it.
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Man, I don't care if people laugh about bananas of doom, I love this scene.
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1. Green Lantern v4 #25 (Sinestro Corp War finale)
"The Sinestro Corps War, Part 11: Beware Our Power"
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The culmination of Geoff Johns' The Sinestro Corps War is as great as it is unexpected. Unlike most mega-events, this one is pretty much contained to the various Green Lantern titles of the day. For this reason it tends to feel a bit more solidified than most modern-day comic book events. Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner are at the forefront in the defense of Coast City against Sinestro and his Corps. Even with the Anti-Monitor at their doorstep, the people of Coast City are staying by Hal Jordan's side in this time of turmoil.
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So much action and awesomeness from Ivan Reis and Ethan Van Sciver is crammed into this single comic book. The Guardians fighting against the Anti-Monitor. Superboy-Prime against the DCU. John Stewart and Guy Gardner helping to deliver the final blow against the Anti-Monitor and the Cyborg Superman. Even if later on Superboy-Prime delivers the final-final blow, everybody has a part to play in the victory. Both Hal and Kyle settle things with Sinestro after their power rings lose their charge by depleting Sinestro's own ring charge. The raw energy of this bare-knuckles brawl is the perfect cap to a great Green Lantern story.
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