I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Friday, October 7, 2011

My Favorite DC: Green Lantern

The story of my relationship with Green Lantern of Space Sector 2814 Hal Jordan is also the story of my friendship with a guy named Chad. Whereas Hal Jordan proved that he would be the proper Green Lantern candidate when his father died before his eyes and he no longer feared anything, I first met Chad when our Hebrew Bible professor was over fifteen minutes late to class and he proposed that we take a moment to get up out of our seats and dance. I thought to myself, "Why didn't I think of that?" Little did I know, but the entire previous summer Chad had worked his way into my group of friends and turned them all to Dungeons and Dragons. It was only a matter of time before I was a part of this group, and Chad was one of my best friends.

While Chad was infiltrating my video game playing group of seminary friends, I was spending my time in Michigan getting introduced to the woman of my dreams, Amy Bolan. When I met her, I said that my comic book interests included Marvel Comics plus Batman. The fact that she was a Batman fan made me delve into Batman all the more. I'm still working on a Batman reading list that I had originally intended to be a kind of book club for Amy and I. But when I returned to school, Chad's passion for Hal Jordan converted me from Marvel plus Batman to Marvel plus Batman and Green Lantern, and eventually to Marvel plus DC. "The cool thing about Hal Jordan," Chad would say, "is that he would be a hero even if he hadn't gotten a Green Lantern power ring." Having read the recent Green Lantern #1 from the DC reboot, this fact has been proven. A de-powered Hal Jordan jumps from balcony to balcony in order to save someone who appears to need help. But I knew this before I read Green Lantern #1, because Chad had given me a must read list for Green Lantern comics.

While Chad has adored Green Lantern for some time, it is largely the work of Geoff Johns that makes Hal Jordan one of my most favorite comic book characters. Another friend of mine, Zac, was once commenting on how complicated Hal Jordan's story was at one point. After all, when his home town of Coast City was destroyed during the events of Reign of the Superman!, Hal Jordan's fear opened him up to an ancient entity named Parallax, the enemy of the Guardians of the universe who was once imprisoned in Oa's power battery and supposedly responsible for the fact that Lanterns are historically weak to the yellow element. Hal dies in order to reignite the Earth's sun in Final Night, only to be brought back to life as the Spectre in Day of Judgment. The entire thing was way over the top and completely over-complicated. But it gave Geoff Johns a chance to shine. In the Green Lantern: Rebirth mini-series, Geoff Johns pits Hal Jordan against both Parallax and the Spectre. When both the Spectre and and Parallax are purged, Johns re-introduces Hal Jordan as Green Lantern in the fourth volume of Green Lantern, one of the most wildly successful comics of the last decade. In many ways, it was a reboot of the entire Green Lantern story (making it unnecessary to reboot Green Lantern with the events of the new DCU). All of the inconsistencies were made consistent. All of the evils of Hal Jordan's and the Guardians' past were returned upon them. And now Green Lantern is known for great stories.

You know that my initiation into Green Lantern was the result of a fantastic friendship with Chad. You also know something about the history of Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern. But I don't think that tells you why Green Lantern is one of my favorite DC characters. The truth behind that has something to do with the balance of will and fear in the Green Lantern books. Sometimes I believe that I have the will to overcome great fear. But mostly I fear that I do not. Every time I read a Green Lantern story, I am forced to know if I have what it takes to do the right thing, and honestly to do magnificent things beyond the abilities of normal people. Because if I am conquered by fear, I am conquered entirely. The question of whether I am ruled by will or fear has become very important to me, and I honestly think that it has built me into a better person. Sure, I compared myself to Batman in my previous entry, and Batman was offered a Sinestro Corps ring. Does that make me a character who is ruled by fear? I don't think so. Maybe it just makes me smart and unrelenting, if not a little bit haunted. But I think I can be something better. I think that I can inspire. After all, the way that Green Lanterns overcome the taint of the yellow element is to feel the fear and then to defeat it.

Green Lantern has actually been a driving force toward my personal betterment, and I'm not sure that there are a lot of characters who will ever do that for anyone else. I have to say that I've held high a variation of Professor Charles Xavier's dream for nearly all of my life, but the person of Charles Xavier does not do for me what the person of Hal Jordan has done. He is the man without fear and he lives in the city without fear. But none of this would be true if fear had not once been there only to be conquered.

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