Closing the Book on Hal Jordan and The Green Lantern Corps (2016-2018)

Having ended it’s run in August, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps closed the book not just on the fifty issues of this particular series or Robert Venditti’s six-year run on Green Lantern comics in general. This may mark the end of a continuity that reaches back to when Geoff Johns took over the series 2004. Green Lantern and the other associate books were largely untouched by the New 52 relaunch in 2011. Sure, Sinestro was on the cover of Issue #1 for Green Lantern but what lead to that happening fed off the events from the previous story arc from the previous universe. In fact, all I can really think of that was changed in Green Lantern universe during the New 52 was who Guy Gardner’s dad was and his family dynamic. Even with DC Rebirth in 2016, events that launch the series I am about to discuss today picks up from where the previous Lantern books left off. In November there will be a new Green Lantern series written by Grant Morrison. While I trust he will write an amazing book as Grant Morrison often does, early indications are that he plans on taking Hal Jordan in a different direction. I have not yet seen what the plans will be for John Stewart, Guy Gardner, or Kyle Rayner going forward. But before we look into what the future holds, let us look back on what I loved about Hal Jordan and The Green Lantern Corps.

DC Rebirth has featured only two Green Lantern books. Green Lanterns featuring newest addition to the Corps Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz. Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps has Hal but also Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and Kyle Rayner. Previously, these characters had been occupying three books in the New 52 universe. All four have been the lead of their own books recently and each have their share of fans. So putting all four of these popular characters in one book was kind of a risk. There was always the possibility a character could be lost in the shuffle. Through my first time reading the series, I felt like Kyle had been pushed to the background but after reading all fifty issues again, Robert Venditti did an excellent job giving each of the Four Corpsmen time in the spotlight. That had to be a challenge writing it in a way that would give each character the proper respect and something important to do without it feel forced.

In an interview, I had read that Robert Venditti wrote this series with a purpose in mind and that he told the story he wanted to in fifty issues. That is usually code word for the writer getting canned for low sales but the sales on this book were quite good. Having read the entire series a second time, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps does seem to be written with a purpose in mind. This book was, in many ways, a return to the status quo for the Green Lantern universe. Without giving too many spoilers right away, by the end of this series the table was reset for the next writer to have a certain amount of creative freedom to take the Green Lantern part of the DC Universe wherever they wish.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps also has some universal themes that are woven together from each story line. Themes like camaraderie, respect, deception, redemption, justice, and power. I think would I would like to do, rather than being a Wikipedia article retelling the entire 50 issue series, I’ll touch on some of these themes and how they are brilliantly tied in to the series as a whole.

If you would like to read this series for yourself and want a spoiler-free review, here it is. Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps is a wonderfully written series with excellent art work that manages to tie all together into one story when looked at as a whole. For a bi-weekly series to have such consistent and good art work is really quite remarkable, especially when you take into consideration how many different artists were working on it. If you remember my review of Spider-Gwen, one complain I had was that when Robbie Rodriguez was not doing the art, it was painfully obvious. Here, the art from issue to issue and panel to panel look pretty much the same to me. I am an untrained eye, so maybe someone could correct me if I am wrong but I felt like the art was consistent. Every character in the series is quite strong. Even small but reoccurring characters have distinct traits that make them more dynamic than one would think or expect. What is remarkable to me is that the character with the biggest arc, thus arguably the main character, is not one of the Four Corpsmen (Hal, John, Guy, or Kyle.) When looked at as a whole, this is a series about Tomar-Re, a long running, lovable secondary character throughout the Green Lantern books. The way the series is structured is very satisfying. There are some loose ends by the time we wrap up but it’s all matters that the next writers can feel free to work with or ignore depending on their desires. As a long time reader, I will say that there is a lack of catharsis. If this is the end for the longest running, not rebooted continuity in the current DC Universe, then I would have appreciated some sense of closure. I suppose we got that with Geoff Johns last issue on Green Lantern, where each character gets a happy ending. Still, I would have liked Vendetti to wrap up his run with a similar conclusive finish.

On Camaraderie and Respect

These are the most enduring themes throughout Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. You see this in the way a friendship develops between Guy Gardner and Arkillo, a high ranking member of the Sinestro Corps. A plan is hatched to bring the two Corps together, Green and Yellow. As one could imagine, not all members of the each Corps are on board for this. John Stewart and Soranik (daughter of Sinestro and new leader of that Corps) carefully craft a plan to find wayward Yellow Lanterns and give them a choice. Meanwhile Guy Gardner takes off his ring, hires Space Cabbie to give him a ride, and tracks down Arkillo. Guy’s plan is to challenge Arkillo to a fight, no rings, just fists. The stakes are that if Guy wins, Arkillo will join this united Corps. The pictures I have provided should demonstrate how foolhardy this plan is. Guy is taking a real chance here for any number of reasons. He purposefully picked out the toughest member of the Sinestro Corps but also one who has the greatest sense of loyalty to Sinestro. Guy sees enough of himself in Arkillo that he makes this challenge with confidence that Arkillo won’t just roast him while Guy is unarmed. Arkillo doesn’t share this sense of respect that Guy has for him, Guy is just another enemy but he takes the challenge out of a sense of honor. Guy is physically outmatched but keeps fighting through sheer force of will. We get a peek into what drives Guy, what makes him who he is, and why he keeps getting back up from the beating that Arkillo delivers. This one-on-one brawl is one of the best fights I have seen in any comic book. It’s raw, it’s bloody, it’s emotional, but also this fight is about so much more than the action. Guy hulks up and makes the comeback in time for the united Corps to come in and keep anyone from getting killed. Guy wins the fight but more than that he wins Arkillo’s respect and friendship.

Once they have healed, they begin to partner together. Their team provides an example for other members of each respective Corps. There is a lot of skepticism in the ranks but Guy and Arkillo show that this alliance can work. The friendship that develops is a strong subplot. When the alliance falls apart for reasons I will touch on later, Guy and Arkillo are face to face, neither wanting to be the one to throw the first punch. I loved this as a character moment for both of them. Neither are beyond throwing a punch, sometimes for just the enjoyment of doing so. But this time it is different. The bond of camaraderie that has grown between them neither want to jeopardize, even though the official alliance is over. We see that this friendship endures when later in the series Guy needs some help in dealing with the Darkstar army. Arkillo risks punishment from the Sinestro Corps by meeting with Guy to hear him out. The bonds of this friendship get tested when Guy test drives one of the Darkstar armors. The Darkstars are a Corps created by The Controllers to deal out lethal justice to those who they feel deserve it. Guy immediately tracks down his alcoholic, abusive father, who is trying desperately to get sober. The armor gives Guy an overwhelming urge to kill his Dad for what he did in the past. Guy’s father feels like he deserves that and worse. But Arkillo comes in and stays Guy’s hand. This final fight between Guy and Arkillo is some powerful stuff, in my opinion. Ultimately, Guy is freed from the Darkstar armor but not by Arkillo demonstrating superior force but by Arkillo expressing his respect and friendship for Guy. There is so much good stuff in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps that I am reluctant to declare any of it the best. However, the story arc of Guy and Arkillo was very satisfying. This was strong enough that ,with a little retooling, it could have been put into a Guy Gardner solo series and turned into a strong book.

Throughout the series, there are small conversations that the Four will have with each other that will convey just how much they respect each other. We mostly already know that Guy, Kyle, John, and Hal all have an incredible bond that has endured through some difficult times. But I have often wondered if the characters know that themselves. Here we get to see how each of these four Green Lanterns interact on a interpersonal level with each other that hadn’t been touched on in other books. In the New 52 universe, Hal was in Green Lantern, John and Guy were in Green Lantern Corps, and Kyle was in Green Lantern: New Guardians. While these books would crossover into big events fairly often, the characters interactions were largely driven around the plot. You may have gotten a moment of dialogue that expressed the friendship one of the four had for the other, but I feel like Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps made this camaraderie a central theme to the book. Many readers have enjoyed the wrestling references inserted into this book. In fact, the book does compare the Four to the Four Horsemen. One funny moment, after the conclusion of a story line, they discussion which one of them is the Ric Flair of the group, each desirous of that spot. In each story line, each character is given a role in the story. You see through bits of dialogue what each of these four characters think of each other. No one story arc is about this specifically but this theme is part of every story arc for all fifty issues.

On Deception and Redemption

If camaraderie is one of the most endearing themes of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps then the other side of that coin for this series would be deception. There are a lot of people lying to the people their suppose to love and respect in this book. In fact, out of the Four, Guy is the only one who isn’t dishonest to anyone in the series. Hal, John, and Kyle all have lies eventually come back to bite them in the backside. I decided to include redemption in this part as well since it sort of ties in but also to keep things from getting too depressing.

Hal Jordan’s deception began before the series started but they do a good job in this book of bringing you up to speed on it. Hal took the blame for pretty much every bad decision the Green Lantern Corps had ever made. Hal turned himself over for arrest but stole Krona’s Gauntlet, a weapon older than the Green Lantern ring and very unstable, then Hal went on the run. By doing this, he draws attention away from the Corps and onto himself. The Corps are left to believe he was a traitor. Through a series of events, this leads to the entire Green Lantern Corps disappearing and the Sinestro Corp becoming the new law, order, and justice in the universe. Hal does make this right by using the Gauntlet to do the impossible, forge a ring made completely of his own will. Hal sacrifices himself to destroy Sinestro once and for all, but he gets better and is made whole again with some help from Kyle Rayner.

While we are at it, Sinestro unsurprisingly has his own act of deception. The Sinestro Corps was able to gain approval to be the Space Cops of the universe through the work of Soranik, daughter of Sinestro. With Sinestro on his death bed, he asks Sora to take over the Corps and lead it in a new direction. She uses the Yellow Light of Fear in a positive way to govern the Universe and gain everyone’s trust including The Justice League. As one could reasonably guess, when the time is right, Sinestro makes a full recovery and takes over his Corps, as was his plan all along. He used his daughter to strength the position of the Sinestro Corps and it worked beyond his own expectations. With most of the other Corps out of the way, the Universe is Sinestro’s for the taking. Unlike Hal, Sinestro is never redeemed for this action. He is quite proud of it. Even with all that has happened though, Sora still takes over leadership of the Sinestro Corps once Sinestro is defeated for the last time (sort of.) Someone has to lead the Yellow Lanterns and she believes in the good word she had previously done. While Sinestro makes no attempt at redemption, Soranik’s actions going forward will be about redeeming his Corps. Briefly, I will touch on Kyle Rayner’s shameful lie, since there isn’t much to tell and it involves Soranik. One of the villains for a storyline is Kyle and Sora’s time traveling angry son. Kyle finds out who he is but doesn’t tell Sora. This lie, more than anything, ended the alliance between the Sinestro Corps and Green Lantern Corps. Soranik simply didn’t want to make it work anymore. For good measure Kyle gets his chest branded to teach him not to lie.

The other part of the failed alliance between the two Corps involves Tomar-Re and his fall from grace. For the purposes of deception, Tomar-Re covers up his murder of a Sinestro Corps member. I will get into some details later. The important matter for now is that Tomar-Re starts to crumble under the pressure of keeping this secret, as well as keeping his victim’s ring from finding a replacement. While this is going on, John Stewart learns from a criminal that one of his Green Lanterns have killed and the criminal is ready to spill the beans unless Stewart pardons him. Instead John sends out his best team to recover the evidence so he could view it for himself. For his own reasons, he keep this from Sora and this proves to be a mistake. When John sees the evidence, he does try to do the right thing. However, the alliance between the Corps falls apart quickly as everything with Kyle and Sora comes to a head at the exact same time. Soranik and the Sinestro Corps are ready to go to an all out war on the spot but John shows he engaged in one last act of deception. When the Yellow Power Battery was put on the Green Lantern planet Mogo, John slipped a safe guard into it in order to prevent what was about to happen from happening. That John felt the need to do this shows a lack of faith that the alliance will ever really work.

The Guardians of the Universe did many horrible things during and before the New 52 Universe. By the time Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps starts, the Guardians are mostly in hiding. Their actions were cold and deliberate. Their final act before being overthrown by the Green Lantern Corps was to attempt to remove free will from the universe and rule over it with an iron will. So the Guardians are largely scattered. Two fan favorites, Ganthet and Sayd are found in exile by Kyle Rayner, After watching how this series plays out, they would like another chance to guide the actions of the Green Lantern Corps and lend their wisdom to future generations. Although most of the Corps objects, John Stewart, as leader, grants them this chance. They really don’t deserve the chance they are being given and John is ready to act if they get out of line. Still, he believes they have something to offer the universe, that they are sincere in wanting to make up for their wrong doing, and he believes in redemption. This is part of the return to a status quo I had mentioned earlier. The normal in the Green Lantern universe is the Guardians making decisions that the Green Lanterns will obey and more often than not have unforeseen consequences. Considering all the blunders the Guardians have made over the years, John Stewart has a pretty big heart to even consider their appeal. They show their worth in a story line featuring General Zod and his Kryptonian family. They have colonized a planet where the locals are lifting up Zod as a god-like figure. Every instinct for the Corps and the reader is to arrest Zod and his family before this threat grows out of hand. The Guardians step in though and point out that Zod has not broken any laws. The people of the planet are glad to have him. He hasn’t formally enslaved them, they are building his Kryptonian monuments out of religious devotion. Being on a planet with two yellow suns does pose a danger but until General Zod does something, who are the Green Lantern Corps to come into his home and haul him away? Krypton exploded. Doesn’t Zod, his wife, and child has the right to find a new place to live? Pointing all this out was a good use of the Guardians and an example of how they can be made useful going forward.

On Justice and Power

Long time comic reads know that the story I just told about will not end in a wholesome and positive way. General Zod will overstep his bounds. He will seek more territory and more power. That is kind of his things. The Green Lantern Corps, while it would be a fight, do have the power to put Zod and his family away for life but would that be just? This theme is also explored throughout the pages of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. After a bad run in with Hector Hammonds and some beings that wished to use his brain as a super weapon, Hal and Superman get to talking. Hal muses that wouldn’t the universe be safer if they would just squash a head every now and again. Quickly, both Hal and Superman say no it wouldn’t. Later, Hector will team with Hal and wipe Jordan’s memory. Hammonds is fancing himself a super hero and tells the Hal that he will get rid of all the bad people in the universe by popping their heads. His psychic powers are strong enough that he could make a very dangerous vigilante. Hal Jordan resists this line of thinking and recovers. Hector then reveals this all to have been a test. I found that to be questionable but it really doesn’t matter. This mini story makes an important point about the overall series. When don’t you use all of your power?

This is all completely applicable to the main character of the story, Tomar-Re. Long time Green Lantern readers know him. He is a Corps member maybe just below Kilawog. We know his name and a few things about his home planet. Tomar-Re has usually been a helpful member of the team. In this book, he will fall from grace and continue falling until he repents in the end. It starts out quite subtly. Until I read the issues a second time, I didn’t realize the seeds were being planted for Tomar-Re’s heel turn earlier on. He has a couple of comments early on that seem a big crass but you can understand how he is feeling. The entire Corps had been lost in another dimension. That’s enough to put anyone on edge.

There are two inciting incidents that set Tomar-Re forth on his villain’s journey. One was a Starro attack on his home planet. Starro is a face grabbing star fish that drains your brain and makes you part of a collective mind. Each lantern is assigned a sector and this was his sector. He takes it really hard that Starro attacked and caused the damage it did. You see Tomar-Re’s mother not accepting of his role in the Green Lantern Corps, the same role that got his father killed. The second his how much Tomar-Re bristles at having to team with the Sinestro Corps. His line of thinking is logical. They have been the enemy for so long, how can we possibly trust them? That is where he ultimately steps over the line. John Stewart orders the united members of the Green and Yellow Corps to go find the wayward members of the Sinestro Corps and offer them a choice, join this new alliance, give up your ring, or get locked up in a science cell. In addition, he orders each Green Lantern to team with a Sinestro Corps member. When Tomar-Re finds one of his own people that is a renegade Sinestro Corps member that willingly surrenders. He opts for the science cell and promises Tomar-Re that when he gets out, he will kill children. Tomar-Re’s had enough. This pushes him beyond the breaking point and he kills this Sinestro Corps member in cold blood. Tomar-Re’s partner is happy to keep the secret, he just hopes Tomar-Re’s conscience can live with what he did. One problem is that the Sinestro Corps ring will look for a new member to replace the fallen one. Tomar-Re puts it in a barrier to keep it from flying away and recruiting someone who spreads great fear. Like the Telltale Heart, keeping this secret becomes too much and he finally cracks. His crimes are revealed and he is locked up for his crimes. We see here, Tomar-Re abused his power for what he thought was justice. His actions and the cover up are one of the things that destroys the alliance between the Sinestro Corps and Green Lanterns.

This is the question at the heart of The Punisher. Tomar-Re, like Frank Castle, sees an unrepentant criminal that may have been caught for the moment but whose greatest ambition is to commit more crimes. What does a cell, science or otherwise, do to help this person? Tomar-Re gets recruited by the Controllers Dark Star army to deal out lethal justice. In the end, he is faced with all the damage he has done. The conclusion that Tomar-Re comes to is that what he successfully achieved as a Dark Star is revenge, not justice. When the Green Lantern Corps goes into their final battle in the series, they employ the help of Hector Hammonds, General Zod, and Space Cabby, amongst others. Space Cabby is a two bit criminal, he hasn’t killed anyone. He had used some of his underworld contacts to help the Green Lantern Corps catch people worse than himself. Zod is a convicted criminal. He is also a brilliantly gifted military mind which can greatly the Corps in the situation they are facing. Hector Hammonds also is a criminal that has caused a Hal Jordan more problems than he would care to admit. Still, Hal Jordan turns to Hector when he needs to. Consider these two people. If Hal or Superman had killed them both, what would have been gained? You can think of it fourth dimensionally and say future crime but without a time machine, you can’t know that in the moment. Now, if they had killed these two criminals, what would have been lost? Well, the opportunity the Corps has right now to offer them redemption. You can’t hope a dead person will change. You can’t show a corpse a better way, even when they have been raised as a Black Lantern. That is the moral of the story of Tomar-Re. Lethal Justice isn’t really justice at all. Killing his father’s killer accomplished exactly what? It didn’t make him feel better. He didn’t help Goldface at all, who was already in a jail cell on an unrelated crime. The DC Universe has reformed criminals, Riddler and Pied Piper are two that come to mind. They show that redemption can work. I can’t say for sure what the future holds for Hammond, Zod, the Riddler, or Pied Piper. Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps don’t know either.

Loose Ends

Wrapping up here, I would like to touch on some of the things that are left over from Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. It looks like Hal will have his own book that focuses more on the day to day life of a Space Cop. I like this more centered approach to Green Lantern but I like the Lantern universe as currently constructed too. There are some things that a writer can work with if they wish. First being that Sinestro is still alive. He somehow teleports out of the exploding Warworld when Hal Jordan weaponize his will into a planet destroying bomb, Sinestro is charred beyond recognition in a different dimension but he lives. And while we are talking about the Sinestro Corps, Soranik has taken control again and led her lanterns to find a new planet. There is a lot of potential to explore if DC sees so fit.

One of the biggest loose ends involves Kyle Rayner losing his White Lantern ring. Kyle worked hard to get that ring and he sure took losing it well. He lost it trying to restore the Blue Lantern Corps and their blue light of hope. The Guardians imply that an outside force interfered but best I can tell, the only greater power involved is DC Editorial. Kyle got to keep his Green ring but the rest flew away looking for replacements. I am probably the last angry man on this topic. What happened to this rings Kyle had? They should be loose somewhere in the 2814. Saint Walker was sent out by the Guardians to restart the Blue Lantern Corps and refer to him as the last Blue Lantern. But Kyle’s Blue ring is out there somewhere. So can he really be the last or am I the only one who still remembers this? Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps was the start of diminishing other lantern corps. I would like to see Kyle get the White ring back but DC seems to be moving in a different direction. When Kyle lost the ring, I was afraid he would be pushed to the background and get lost in the shuffle with the other Earth lanterns. I still believe I am right about that although Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps did a good job of giving all the Lanterns an important role.

Going forward though, something will have to be done with the six Earth Green Lanterns. The standard of writing these characters has been set so high. Either there will be an universe reboot and the book will be closed on all of these characters as we have known them or they will need to find some creative talent to handle all of these bold and dynamic characters. Hal will always have a book unless he murders the entire Corps again. John, Guy, Kyle, and so many others from the characters from these books are in a position to carry their own books. Let’s see if they will be given that chance.

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