The Beat’s Managing Editor, Joe Grunenwald, is generally inclined to like things, so when he doesn’t it really vexes him. In Gru’s Clues, Joe tries to get to the bottom of something he’s not into and figure out what about that thing does not connect with him. Or maybe he does something entirely different! Who knows? Gru knows?
A few weeks ago, DC Comics released a cover image for an upcoming issue of Batman & Superman: World’s Finest. The art by Dan Mora features Superman and Batman in the foreground and Green Lantern Hal Jordan in the background. Mora is a great artist, and I joked with my fellow DC Comics reviewer pals that I was “Mad at Dan Mora for making me think Hal Jordan looks cool.” And truly, we should all be mad about that.
Because Hal Jordan is the worst Green Lantern.
Okay, let me back up, that might not be fair.
Hal Jordan is the worst Green Lantern compared to all the other Green Lanterns.
I know there are a lot of people who really like Hal Jordan. Some of those people even famously banded together to harass DC Comics writers and editors back in the ‘90s. I expect that some of those people might pop up here in the comments to tell me how wrong I am.
Welcome, H.E.A.T.ers! Please explain yourselves to me! Why do you like Hal Jordan so much that you would send someone death threats over how they’re treated in a comic? What about the character is compelling to you?
I am a thirty-nine-year-old man who grew up reading comics in the ‘90s. Maybe I met Hal Jordan when he was on his downswing? Hal with his graying temples and a bunch of more interesting characters around him. Guy Gardner has a personality. John Stewart has a personality. Hal Jordan has never struck me as Mr. Personality. He works for a bunch of little blue guys and they tell him what to do and, for the most part, he does it. It also may not have helped that Hal’s adventures were being written by someone who would turn out to be a literal monster.
You know when Hal Jordan became interesting to me?
Emerald Twilight. When he became Parallax.
For as long as I’ve been reading comics, Hal Jordan has been hailed as ‘the greatest Green Lantern’. He’s the Green Lantern who can do no wrong, to the point that when he does do something wrong it gets retconned away that he was actually possessed by a yellow fear demon.
The greatest Green Lantern becoming a villain? Completely rewriting the rules of what it means to be a Green Lantern? But still believing in his heart of hearts that he can fix things if he’s just given the chance? That is interesting. That’s a compelling hook for a character.
Hal Jordan was never more interesting to me than when he was either Parallax – a villain who thinks he’s just a misunderstood hero – or The Spectre – a hero trying to atone for the sins of his past.
I don’t really have a favorite Green Lantern, but if I did it would probably be Kyle Rayner, an everyman who came into possession of the most powerful weapon in the universe and made it his own. He’s a character with trackable development over a number of years, both in the pages of his own series by Ron Marz and Darryl Banks and also in writer Grant Morrison’s greatest Green Lantern run, JLA.
Hal Jordan was a test pilot who was gifted a power ring because he was the best. He was already Green Lantern before he ever got the ring. Kyle Rayner had to earn it. He had to overcome his fear and his doubt, and there was a steep learning curve to get there, including a company-wide event that thrust him into a starring role mere months after his introduction.
I should be clear: I want to like Hal Jordan. I read Green Lantern: Rebirth and the first dozen or so issues of the 2005 Green Lantern ongoing series hoping that things might be different. Maybe now that he had more of an interesting past, Geoff Johns (the writer who had made Hal The Spectre in 1999’s Day of Judgment) could do something meaningful with the character. I wanted to read about a hero trying to earn back the trust of everyone around him.
Aside from his interactions with Batman, who famously at the time trusted no one anyway, there was none of that. Hal was back and he was back to being the best, no questions asked. Parallax was just a fluke. His time as The Spectre was ignored. The gray in his temples was even gone, that’s how perfect he was/is.
When’s someone going to do something good with this character? Is the core conceit of the character flawed? Or am I just missing the inherent thing that makes him great?
I implore you, dear reader, please explain it to me.
Or maybe Mark Waid, Dan Mora, Tamra Bonvillain, and Aditya Bidikar will be able to finally show me in that upcoming issue of World’s Finest. That cover almost made me a believer, after all. Still a little salty about that.
How wrong is Joe? Yell at him in the comments!