Considering the live action Green Lantern film is due out this month, I thought now would be a good time to do a GL month of sorts, like we did for Batman back in December. This will be a little smaller and somewhat less nerdy than the seven or eight articles I wrote on Batman. Here we'll be discussing the two pivotal modern Lantern stories, which also happened to inform on the movie: Green Lantern: Secret Origin and Green Lantern: Rebirth.
Secret Origin was Geoff Johns deciding to retell the beginning of Hal Jordan's career as Green Lantern. Hal Jordan fixed largely in his plans in the expanded DC Universe going forward (leading into Blackest Night and Johns' seeming desire to re-create the Silver Age), so the broad strokes of Jordan's story is the same from what we know. What's different--besides the clues to Blackest Night--is the character depth afforded to Jordan.
One of the major themes of the story is fear. It's a theme that belongs to every Lantern story, admittedly, because it's willpower that powers the Green Lanterns; fear and rage weaken the Lantern's constructs. Jordan, in the history of the character felt plenty of rage, but only felt fear twice in his life. The first time, we see here in Secret Origins (and we'll him feel fear for the second time in a few days in Rebirth) where he witnesses the accidental death of his father as a young boy. That perfectly rendered by Johns and artist Ivan Reis, we see a young Hal Jordan ripped apart and forever changed. In that moment he stopped being a child, and stopped all normal feeling. As we see him age, he is fearless--as nothing could scare him worse than this loss--and he becomes distant from his family.
It is the distance that allowed Jordan to be a great pilot--he's dangerous, pushed limits, highly talented--but at the same time, no airfield will take him because he's reckless. It doesn't necessarily come from arrogance, though he is a bit smug--and his sense of humor is dark at best--but it comes from a place resembling indifference. He tests his limits because consequences do not matter to him; death and pain never mattered. He was the alpha male not only because of his skill, but because he was just programmed to overcome. Yet all of this--the indifference, the anger, the distance--were all an outgrowing of feeling fear once as a child.
Jordan blames his father's former boss Carl Ferris for the old man's death and carries a chip on his shoulder the size of Texas. We see him become aware of the damage he's done to his family, but totally unaware of how to fix it. Even after Jordan receives his ring, he's still brash and abrasive and dangerous, and it's not until he meets Sinestro that Jordan learns how to become complete. Sinestro plays the role of teacher and surrogate father, without all of the baggage of hints of his later turn as a bad guy. He's a smug hardass, yes, but he takes the role of mentor seriously and Sinestro and Jordan earn each others respect begrudgingly.
The reason Jordan was able to overcome the yellow impurity (yellow symbolizes fear in the power spectrum and the power of the Green Lantern is therefore ineffective again yellow) was because of his willpower--he forced himself to do it--but because if he didn't, Sinestro would have died, and because of his brashness and his unpreparedness; it would be his fault. He was able to overcome the impurity and was able to save the life of his mentor, cathartically being able to save Sinestro the way he couldn't save his father. Being able to this time stop the death (he uses the construct of a plane; his father died in one) Jordan was already starting to change the way he lived, pressing the reset button on his life.
The primary trait of Hal Jordan is the effect of fear, willpower, and rage and how it makes him into the man he is. When the ring chooses him it says its usual refrain: "You have the ability to overcome great fear" and it isn't just a platitude. Hal Jordan felt the same fear about his father's death twenty years ago as if it happened yesterday. His fear of feeling the loss kept him from developing ties with others beyond that of co-worker or one night stand. It's not until the end of Secret Origin that he finds the true power of the ring and overcomes his fear. In finding what happened to Carl Ferris, the way he lived his life after the death of Jordan's father, and using the ring to bring an image of his father to life, Jordan learns that the dead aren't truly gone. Unable to let go of the past was what killed Carl Ferris and what would have killed Jordan as well; he sees this and in finally bringing about his father's image does he realize that his father lives on in him, his brothers, their children. He finally, then, opens himself back up to his brother Jimmy, to Carol, to the Lantern Corps and begins upon his journey as Green Lantern.
Geoff Johns later explained why it was that Batman and Jordan never got along. Batman relies on fear to make him successful and Jordan doesn't feel fear. Naturally, their team-ups are highly dysfunctional and entertaining, but it sets a great precedent; Hal Jordan can even be a problem for Batman.
Green Lantern: Secret Origin: 4 out of 5.
While I understand the complaints of others who weren't happy with Jordan coming back (the Green Lantern field was already overcrowded), his return was done with class, and we'll be exploring it further soon. In the meantime, the next entry will be my hundredth article, so we'll be doing something a little bit different.