Thursday 12 September 2013

The Rainbow Twilight Crisis

When I first started reading Green Lantern comics I failed to register the gravity and importance of some of the messages that could be taken away from it, and it wasn't until later that these things began to really take root in the way that I processed the world.

For me, Green Lantern is about the importance of willpower and imagination in overcoming fear and uncertainty, but after Emerald Twilight (and the follow on Zero Hour: Crisis in Time), which chronicles the psychological collapse and subsequent world shattering destructive behaviour of Hal Jordan, it was also about responsibility and vulnerability. It was about owning the mistakes that you had made, and it contained a cautionary tale about the potential for darkness to find its way into all of us. In this, is the reason that I consider Emerald Twilight to be one of the most important stories about the human condition that has ever been written, in any format. It is about the vulnerabilities that we all share. It is about our own capacity as a destructive force  in states of righteousness and grief. As justified as we may feel at the time, and even later, in the end we have to take our dues, and accept responsibility.

Emerald Twilight was divisive. People were upset. I was upset. For Green Lantern fans the fall of Hal Jordan was some deeply serious shit. It wasn't quite the death of Optimus Prime, but it was heavy. 'The Man Without Fear' was crippled by grief. This kind of action inspired some truly vitriolic nonsense. People got nasty, and they stayed nasty. In some ways, this is the right reaction to the story. The feelings, not the behaviour. It was a story that was meant to upset people, and it had come off the back of The Death of Superman, which had been intended to do the same. The difference of course being that Superman didn't completely fall from grace, and he came back in the end. Hal Jordan betrayed everything that he had represented, and his actions fixed the entire multiverse on a path of destruction.

In the end though, the weight of this story was completely undermined by Geoff Johns, when he rubbed out the frustrations of every Hal Jordan fanboy who'd been nursing a cranky semi for the past decade by completely and officially absolving the hero of all responsibility for what went down in Emerald Twilight and Zero Hour: Crisis in Time. He accomplished this mass happy ending with the old "It's cool guys, he was possessed" chestnut. Responsibility for his actions <= 0. Early nineties status quo restored. I have no doubt that Geoff Johns patted himself on the back as he watched the fanboys go nap time in their hazed state of post masturbational euphoria.

This was kind of weird for me, not because of the mass gratification and smug nonsense that suddenly appeared on DC forums, but because I had always been a huge Hal Jordan fan, and while I was devastated by what happened in Emerald Twilight, I have always thought of it, and the surrounding story arc, as one of the best stories ever written (as stated earlier). I was glad to see him wielding his power ring and spouting the oath like the old days, but the way it was handled struck me as an immensely stupid and lazy way to get Hal Jordan fans to stop cranking and to start buying comics again. It's shitty story telling. Prior to Geoff Johns' Green Lantern: Rebirth, the Green Lantern Corps had an interesting conundrum on their hands, in that between Sinestro and Jordan their two greatest enemies had both also previously been considered the two greatest Lanterns to ever take the oath. Afterwards they had The Great Rainbow Showdown. They went from exploring the human condition through the New Myths, to "Hey, colours! That could be a thing."

The full introduction of the emotional spectrum, their colour-coded adventures, and the Power Ranger Mood-ring Lantern Club that resulted isn't a bad storyline. It's actually pretty good, but there are times when it feels like the concepts might have come out of conversations with three year olds, and some of it stands as the least imaginative stuff to come out of DC in the history of the brand. Emerald Twilight is the far better story, and Geoff Johns reduced it (not in the cooking way where it gets stronger and richer, but he made it less than it was) in order to sneak Hal Jordan in under the line and back into the green before he started his new storyline.

The question that rolls around in my head is: How did the The Flashpoint Guy not reach further on this? He clearly wanted to bring Hal Jordan back, and he clearly wanted to introduce the easily distinguishable mood teams, but I don't understand why the complex emotional journey of 'The Man Without Fear' wasn't more closely tied into the emergence of the other emotional spectrum Lantern Corps. Hopefully, in ten years time a new Johns will come along and retcon his shit.

The other problem, which is more to do with the role that stories play in our lives, is that shifting blame in this manner is the kind of behaviour that is often indulged in reality. Where we live. We excuse our shit, instead of owning it. Granted, it's on a much smaller scale, but we justify our mistakes and the damage they do. It's always nicer when it turns out we can blame something else, but it doesn't always work out like that. Hal Jordan had become iconic as the representative of guilt and grief. His role in the DC cannon was one of the most abject tragedy, and he was robbed of that.

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