Were you around for this? I was, and it felt wrong. One of the few moments in my life I felt like a bystander.
It’s the early fall of 1999, and there’s a sense of the Millennium in the air. I’m reading comics, and right now, I’m distracted by how good the cover of last month’s Hellblazer was (issue #141, “The Crib,” for those of us keeping score), and how psychologically riveting Brit writer Warren Ellis has managed to make the lead character, John Constantine.
But I’m reading other comics as well. I’m watching Batman: No Man’s Land play out. And I’m waiting for JLA: World War Three (just a month away now), the long-awaited, spectacular conclusion to Grant Morrison’s reinvention of the Justice League of America.
But before that, it’s issue #35, “The Guilty.” It’s a filler issue with a guest creative team. Mark Pajarillo whose art I love, and JM DeMatteis, whose writing I loved ever since his late ‘80s, early to mid-‘90s reinvention of both Doctor Fate, and oddly enough, the Justice League.
And this issue’s going to be, it features Hal Jordan, no stranger to the Justice League, in fact, in his role as Green Lantern, Jordan was a founder member. But this is a different Hal Jordan. It is Jordan as the Spectre, the DCU’s Spirit of Vengeance. It is Jordan reclaiming some of his earlier virtue after being recast as the cosmic villain Parallax. Hal Jordan’s redemption. The return of a founder JLA member, how could I resist? I crack open the cover.
And of course it is a flawless issue; poignant, hauntingly beautiful. It is a point-perfect illustration of why DeMatteis has become so powerfully evocative a chronicler of human remorse and redemption, and why he’s sustained such a profound career making this his stock in trade.
But I also feel like a bystander.
Because this is not the daredevil, devil-may-care, push-the-envelope, winner-takes-all Hal Jordan from the ‘60s. Even through the ‘90s, with Hal returning as a kind of elder statesman of the GL Corps, I never got to see that risk-everything Hal. And I feel like a bystander, because this is what comics means now, it means, “we’ve grown older together.”
But of course, 2004 is around the corner. Geoff Johns will be given a cultural moment to be able to reinvent Hal Jordan as that reckless, caring daredevil. And for the next decade, Johns will define both Hal Jordan (the Hal of the ‘60s, the Hal very few of us met the first time round), and the Green Lantern Corps on an unimaginable scale.
For a decade, ending last year, Johns made sure that both Hal Jordan and the GL Corps rocked. Rocked by being generationally definitive, in the same way that with his introduction, Hal Jordan defined the nascent Silver Age of comics.
But where do you go next? How do you top, that?
Robert Venditti has the answer. Along with Van Jensen, Charles Soule and Justin Jordan, Venditti steers the familiar GL’s of Earth (at home in Space Sector 2814) to a newer, darker destiny. If Johns’s vision of Hal Jordan, and John Stewart, Guy Gardener and Kyle Rayner, was what Hal and the Corps should always have been, then Venditti’s vision is about asking the tough questions and pushing the envelope, taking Jordan and the Lanterns into unfamiliar, even dangerous territory.
And that’s we you should be reading Green Lantern, and all the GL books (Green Lantern Corps, New Guardians and Red Lanterns)—because this is where no writers have dared to take these beloved characters yet. Into their own, character-driven unknowns.
But there’s an even more basic reason to be reading Green Lantern: Lights Out—because, will-you-or-never-so, this is the breaking up of the band. There’s going to be no more collegial fun, no more clubhouse. The world of the GL Corps changes completely. And Lights Out is The Green Lantern’s “Pictures of You”.
Please enjoy our exclusive preview, chock full of process art and story pages, of Green Lantern: Lights Out.
// Notes from the Road
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