Green Lantern Volume 2 #182-200 + DC Retroactive: Green Lantern – the ’80s
on July 7, 2013
It’s a well known fact that “Green Lantern” was a tough seller for much of its history. One would have to wonder why, as the concept is one of the best and most original in the super hero genre. I could actually go down a list and make an argument as to why based on multiple factors, but I’ll spare you and cut to the chase.
The real reason is simple. The comic was usually extremely boring.
According to prolific writer, Steve Englehart, no matter what was done to the “Green Lantern” book, its sales never changed. Apparently, those sales weren’t at a level DC was satisfied with, so all kinds of things were tried to inject excitement into the magazine. In the ’70s, Green Arrow was added as a co-star and a series of Earth-bound stories with social relevance (at the time) were featured. Though that run won awards and is a noted breakthrough in comics even today, it didn’t work from a business perspective. The book was canceled for years due to poor sales.
DC eventually brought it back, ditched Green Arrow (which was a good idea) and tried other gimmicks like featuring Adam Strange backups, which were no good. They got rid of Adam Strange and hit upon a great idea with their next gambit; Tales of the Green Lantern Corps backups. It was a comfortable addition, and a lot of really classic tales came out of that series of short stories. Still, Steve Englehart said that even good stories weren’t changing the sales numbers.
When writer Marv Wolfman came on board, he decided to take a sci-fi approach and focus on cosmic stories. Hal Jordan was exiled in space for one year because he neglected every other world in his space sector besides Earth. That sounds like an intriguing idea on paper, but all it did was spawn a bunch of incredibly characterless stories, lacking in humanity. When Hal’s exile was ended in the mid 80s, Len Wein took over writing duties and got the idea to do something incredibly drastic. Hal Jordan gave up his power ring and his backup, John Stewart, was brought in as the main Green Lantern.
Bingo! That one got people’s attention. Wouldn’t it get your attention when every time you saw a Green Lantern cover there was a black guy on it in the Green Lantern costume?
Under the creative team of Len Wein and Dave Gibbons, the “Green Lantern” series takes an exciting turn from what it was. Wein sets things up very cleverly. Ferris Aircraft falls under attack by a silly but awesome group of villains called the Demolition Team, who are hired by Congressman Jason Bloch to cripple Ferris Air Craft company.
Let’s rewind a bit to see why this is actually happening.
For a while, Green Lantern comics centered around the business goings on of Ferris Air Craft. The business was frequently in jeopardy of going under due to not getting government contracts, sabotage, and things like that. Jason Bloch, a senator, is the son of Conrad Bloch. The Blochs have beef with the Ferrises because of certain events that happened when the two families were involved in business in the past. Carl Ferris presented Conrad Bloch with figures that showed Conrad wasn’t coming up with his end of the arrangement they made. Carl Ferris gave Conrad seven days to rectify the situation. When Bloch couldn’t do that, he defaulted and Ferris took over completely. Bloch’s life unraveled and his sons blamed the Ferrises. They tried multiple times to cripple the Ferris business, and in this particular instance, Jason Bloch hired mercenaries to level the main Ferris facilities.
As Green Lantern Hal Jordan was going to fight them off, a cosmic crisis arose, and the Guardians ordered him to take care of that instead of the more personal yet less dire situation right before him. Incredibly frustrated, Hal Jordan flew away from the battlefield. When he returned, Ferris Air was in ruins and Carol was infuriated with him. The Demolition Team was defeated by a new hero called The Predator, who also stole a kiss from Carol.
John Stewart grows out of being a mere backup and is the main character of “Green Lantern.”
Since Ferris Air needed rebuilding, Hal Jordan recommended John Stewart, a young architect from Detroit. The Ferrises flew him into Los Angeles and John was on the scene! Meanwhile, Carol gave Hal an ultimatum. It was either her, or the power ring. Hal chose her and resigned from the Green Lantern Corps, and the Guardians passed on his ring to his successor.
Len Wein introduces John into the cast of the Green Lantern book in a way that makes perfect sense. His plan for John Stewart isn’t that different than his plan for Hal Jordan – work at Ferris Air, interact with the characters there, become a super hero with a secret identity, and fight campy villains. Speaking of which, John’s first challenge is Major Disaster, who is the same dumb character from Joe Kelly’s “Justice League of America” run, even though he seems nothing like his later self. Ironically, Major Disaster and John will become team mates many years later.
Major Disaster threatens to break the Baldwin Hills dam if Green Lantern doesn’t show up to face him. Green Lantern does appear, but it’s clearly not who he was expecting. Watching Major Disaster react to the new Green Lantern is actually pretty funny.
The showdown with Disaster proves to be John Stewart’s world stage, as it’s being televised by reporter Tawny Young and her news crew. While this is pretty much typical hero/villain stuff, it’s good to show John Stewart as a legitimate super hero. He even romances Tawny Young while he’s dealing with the villain. Again, typical stuff, but not really typical, because we’re watching a black man do it. And yes, seeing a black man in an attractive leading role usually occupied by whites makes all the difference and keeps this from being totally trite!
Back at Ferris Air, an enigmatic man named Mr. Smith is lengthening his figurative tendrils around the company and tightening his grip. He is a representative of an entity known as Con-Trol that is bankrolling the recovery of the company. Part of the arrangement is that Mr. Smith gets to be Executive Administrator of Ferris. You know that can’t be good.
There is actually a lot going on at Ferris, and while it’s kind of interesting, it’s perhaps too much. There is Carl Ferris, who is all wound up trying to keep the company afloat. There’s Carol, who’s being a dutiful girlfriend, but she mood swings like nobody’s business, so look out! Dr. Bruce Gordon is working diligently on the solar jet -a new and crucial project for Ferris- while also being harassed by super villain Eclipso. Hal Jordan’s old pilot buddy, Rich Davis, is some kind of administrator who is having heart troubles. Clay Kendall is another doctor working on a project for Ferris, who was recently crippled and lost the use of his legs. He also has his own entourage in his fiance April and his lab assistant Jake. Mechanic Tom Kalmaku is holding a grudge against best friend Hal Jordan, because Hal did not approach him for advise about quitting the Corps, but he went to just about everyone else who knows his secret ID. Hal Jordan is jealous of John Stewart because John gets to be the Green Lantern. And finally… there’s John Stewart, the Green Lantern.
John joins the cast of “Green Lantern,” but during the Len Wein period, despite being the new hero, sometimes it seems like he has next to nothing to do with all the other people around him.
On the one hand, I applaud Len Wein for building a solid gang of supporting characters and having interesting things happening with them. On the other hand, there are so many characters, and so many character arcs that it really eats into the lead character’s time and role. And some of the characters, like Clay Kendall and company, don’t even amount to anything. The book could have been better served if it was less about personal drama and business. A bit of that is fine, but all the characters are deeply steeped in it, and they all have their own problems. It’s kind of like none of them are really supporting. They’re more like leading their own many storylines, which sometimes have absolutely nothing to do with what Green Lantern is doing.
The way Wein has things happen in more than one instance is that a bunch of stuff will be going on with all the other characters, a villain appears, and then John shows up as Green Lantern to fight the villain. That’s exactly what happens when John battles Eclipso. That story is more about Dr. Bruce Gordon and Rich Davis, who dies of a heart attack while taking the solar jet on a test flight, by the way. Eclipso tries to get a hold of the jet for his own nefarious purposes. John is just there to supply the action. There are times when he feels quite far removed from the story, despite being the hero. To be fair, Wein does give him a stimulating origin.
Interestingly, John initially turned down the offer to be Green Lantern full time. It wasn’t until he was accused of cowardice by Katma Tui, Green Lantern of Korugar, that he accepted. Katma has serious resentment for Hal Jordan, and she takes it out on John. Hal Jordan, in a display of hypocrisy, persuaded Katma not to leave the Green Lantern Corps to be with the man she loved. Now, Hal Jordan turns around and leaves due to his own love life. I don’t believe Wein had any intentions of making Katma John’s love interest, as he seemed more interested in having Earth reporter Tawny Young fill that role, but considering what the next regular writer, Steve Englehart has in store, it’s poetic nonetheless that Katma is the catalyst for John’s decision to join the Corps as Earth’s primary Green Lantern.
Before the ingenious Steve Englehart comes on board, there are a few blanks to fill in.
To give him and returning GL artist Joe Staton time to situate themselves, writer Paul Kupperberg takes on issue #187 with the help of Bill Willingham on pencils. They do a pretty good job, and it’s a key issue!
More is revealed about The Predator, who goes from being a mysterious guardian of Ferris and romantic rival for Carol’s affections to some kind of stalkerish villain. He breaks into Carol’s Malibu beach house and sexually harasses her. When ringless Hal appears from the other room Predator gives him an embarrassing beat-down right in front of his woman and leaves after passionately kissing Carol again on the lips while a shamed Hal lays and watches. It’s primal humiliation, and an incredibly powerful scene. From that moment forward, Hal Jordan sets out on an obsessive quest to destroy The Predator.
Meanwhile, Green Lantern botches a rescue attempt of a space shuttle. The crew survives just fine, but they fix their problems themselves and John’s well meaning intervention only made their situation worse. He returns to Oa, beseeching the Guardians of the Universe for some kind of help or guidance so something like that doesn’t happen again. It’s here that the relationship between Green Lantern and Katma Tui of Korugar really begins, as she is assigned to train John in the arts of ringslinging.
This issue has a very different tone from the ones under Len Wein. The tension between Carol, Hal, and Predator seems much more real than the Tuxedo Mask stuff that was going on before, and instead of performing astonishing feats with a power ring, newcomer John Stewart has a hard time saving a simple space shuttle that is having technical difficulties. The issue feels more believable and less like a fairy tale than the Len Wein ones. It is definitely a welcome change of pace. While Len Wein’s writing is charming, fun, and intelligent, it is really your meat and potatoes super heroing, with maginificent impossible powers and silly villains. Kupperberg brings some gravity to all of that with a single issue, as he sets things up for Englehart to take over.
Green Lantern settles things for good with Tawny Young in a Retroactive tale.
Also, somewhere around here “DC Retroactive: Green Lantern – the ’80s” can be fit in. That is a story written in 2011 by Len Wein and illustrated by Joe Staton that explains what happened to Tawny and John’s relationship. When Steve Englehart came on board as regular writer, he swiftly established Katma Tui as John’s love interest, and while he doesn’t get rid of Tawny altogether, John and Tawny’s romantic situation is somewhat left up in the air. Wein touches upon things in issue #185 by having the two go on a date that goes awry, but he returns to give total closure to the issue with a really fun story titled “The Big Betrayal.”
After stopping The Shark from launching nuclear missiles from a downed USSR submarine, John takes Tawny on a date to a restaurant and then to a park where our naive novice hero unveils his secret identity to the reporter as he declares his love for her. Tawny seems to welcome his feelings, but John is in for a surprise when he wakes up later in his apartment to find news crews outside and discovers that Tawny revealed his identity to the public on television.
Knowing that Tawny Young is romantically linked to Green Lantern, Sonar, the master of sound kidnaps her and, much like Major Disaster, calls Green Lantern out to a showdown. After a large battle in the city streets, GL defeats Sonar and saves Tawny. Feeling betrayed, John Stewart has a few final words with Tawny and discards his domino mask before leaving her for good.
Wein writes as if no time has passed at all. John is still the footloose wise cracker he was back in the ’80s, and Tawny Young is as career driven as ever. She seems exactly like the woman who dumped a bowl of spaghetti on John’s head in issue #185. There is plenty of Wein’s campy yet exciting action, but one of the best things about it is that it keeps things simple and focuses solely on John. It isn’t bogged down with all those other character arcs.
Staton’s pencils are really nice. Of all the artists drawing the series around this time, he is the best. I’ve seen him criticized for being too cartoony or goofy looking, but Dave Gibbons’ work, while not bad, comes across as stiff in comparison, and his proportions aren’t the best. He has a habit of awkwardly drawing characters with really big bodies and small heads, including his women, who oftentimes come across as rather butch. For example, Gibbons’ Katma Tui is horrendous. Interestingly, Staton draws Katma better than any artist ever has.
Though the comic was already great, when Englehart and Staton combine powers, things really start to heat up. Englehart’s writing is very daring, and his stories are more colorful and filled with drama, but at the same time more fun than Len Wein’s. Whereas Wein wrote “entertaining superhero stories,” Englehart shoots for more as he delves deeper into the characters’ psyches; from Hal Jordan’s obsession, regret, and jealousy, to Carol Ferris’ insecurities, Katma’s resentment and love, to Green Lantern’s sense of wonder and maturation as, through Katma, he comes to have more respect for the Corps, the Guardians, and the power at his disposal.
Englehart gets right into issue 188’s story “Decent Exposure” by doing away with John’s secret identity. He’s exposed on national television by Tawny Young, and readers are cleverly brought up to speed on who John is from Tawny’s news report. Sonar, the master of sound, sees the news report, and in classic fashion, decides to challenge the new Green Lantern to a duel. John returns to Earth with his mentor Katma. A really funny touch is that Katma changes her usually bright red skin tone to match John’s so she can blend in better.
When John returns to work at the Ferris facilities, he brings Kat with him. His workday doesn’t last long, however, as Carol Ferris fires him on the spot, claiming that she doesn’t want Ferris Air associated with Green Lantern. It’s actually a somewhat understandable decision considering what happens next. Sonar shows up right there at Ferris and the battle is underway. John defeats the villain with cunning and so ends a spectacular chapter in this series.
The art has more style and character. Katma Tui and John look great under Joe Staton’s pencil. Joe had been a penciller on Green Lantern years before, but his work on these issues is much better than his earlier days. I’m not sure if it’s due to inker Bruce Patterson, or if he just cleaned up his work. The writing has more special moments than Len Wein’s comics, like when Katma turns her skin brown, and when she plants a kiss on Hal Jordan in front of Carol to drive a wedge between the two. Remember, Katma is mad at Hal for leaving the Corps, so she attempts to disrupt his personal life!
The action begins right away in the next issue, as two villains break Sonar out of jail and John and Kat arrive to stop them. The two Lanterns are defeated and the villains get away. Englehart writes Clay Kendall (the cripple) and his gang out of the story with the mysterious executive, Mr. Smith firing them, and Bruce Gordon left after the Eclipso event, so the overabundance of characters is being delt with and the comic is focusing more on John and Katma, but Hal and Carol are prominent as they hunt for the secret identity of the Predator.
John becomes romantically involved with Katma Tui, which is one of the largest milestones for his character.
Sonar’s team of villains attack Disneyland and the Lanterns engage. Katma gets in dire trouble and John performs a stunning power ring feat to save her. After the villains are beaten, I guess lost in the moment, John kisses Katma. She says that kisses have no meaning to her, as the rituals among her species are different. Long ago, Hal Jordan had kissed Katma, but it didn’t do anything for her. John kisses Katma again, but more passionately, and Katma has a revelation, as she begins to understand the human display of affection. And such is the beginning of a new, captivating romance in the pages of “Green Lantern!” The creative team knocks it out of the park, as this story is even better than the last.
Issue #190 begins a new story arc that deals with the memory stealing Zamarons.
The Predator is now a problem for John and Katma, as he breaks into John’s apartment to steal a video tape that Tawny Young stops by to show them. It involves John, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Tawny, but none of them can remember the taped event ever happening. Suddenly, all in the room are frozen in place except Katma, and the Predator bursts through the window and takes the tape and manages to escape Kat.
During all this, Hal Jordan, consumed by thoughts of vengeance, tracks The Predator down to his hideout, which is an awesome looking abandoned theater. Hal smells Carol’s perfume there and begins to become very suspicious.
Carol takes an interesting turn in the next issues, which are very centered on her, Hal, and The Predator. John and Katma are off journeying to the planet Zamaron, as Katma is familiar with the Zamarons’ memory stealing M.O. And wants to see if they have anything to do with recent events.
After another home invasion by Predator, Carol Ferris’ subsequent kidnapping by him, and a fight between Predator and Hal in the abandoned theater, Hal learns the truth about The Predator. The Predator and Carol literally fuse into one and become Star Sapphire! It turns out that the Star Sapphire gem, which Carol uses to become the villainous Star Sapphire, is like an addictive drug to her. It allows her to forget all her worldly problems and become a woman with vast superpowers at her disposal, and a queen of powerful warrior women – the Zamarons. In times of despair, she would turn to the gem, but would continually lose her memory of doing so. Still, it offered a release for her.
She fell into despair when Hal Jordan was exiled to space for a year, and when her father took control of Ferris Aircraft from her. She turned to the gem and it split her in two. One being is herself, and the other is The Predator. The Predator gave Carol what she desired, just as the Star Sapphire gem did in the past. He took over Ferris Aircraft through Con-Trol and Mr. Smith, and he murdered her enemy – Senator Jason Bloch. He gave Carol attention when Hal Jordan neglected her in favor of fulfilling his Green Lantern duties. It had been Carol’s goal for Hal Jordan to stop being Green Lantern and she succeeded.
The mystery of The Predator culminates into the return of Star Sapphire!
Hal Jordan gets ultimately screwed as the woman he left the Corps for turns into Star Sapphire and leaves him stranded. When he refuses to be Star Sapphire’s consort, she leaves for planet Zamaron to rule over her subjects.
The return of Star Sapphire is justly handled as a big deal. Issue #192 is one of the more interesting ones, since it explains the mystery of The Predator and Mr. Smith, as well as gives an overarching explanation for Carol Ferris’ erratic behavior over the years. Joe Staton takes on the style of Green Lantern artists of yore in telling this tale and does an incredibly good job of it.
Following that is another remarkable issue in which John Stewart and Katma Tui meet the being called Replikon in Jupiter’s asteroid belt. Englehart excels at pacing his story, as this issue is very simple and action packed, and takes us out of the convoluted revelation of the Predator, which he lingers on just long enough for it to stay interesting and not get tiring. 193 has nice lessons learned, hard hitting action, beautiful illustration, and great tender moments between John and Kat that show they really do love each other by this point. Katma is very charming, as she plays a romantic game of space tag with John, and gives him rather coy answers during their conversation.
That issue serves as a great interlude, but things get complicated when John and Katma return to Earth. Issue #194 is when Green Lantern gets caught up in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover, and the beginning of the most powerful segment of this entire run. The crisis rattles the Earth, turning the skies crimson and sending the weather into a turbulent frenzy. A mysterious woman known as Harbinger appears to take John Stewart away with her. John isn’t willing to go, and a battle ensues between John, Katma, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and the arcane blonde lady. None of the heroes are able to stop her, and John eventually gets the feeling that going with Harbinger might be a good idea. He decides to trust her and the two are teleported to a strange location filled with other heroes and villains from across the DC Universe. The large group is jumped by shadow demons in service to a being called the Anti-Monitor. Those familiar with Crisis on Infinite Earths will know this part.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Katma contacts the Guardians via sending her energy twin to Oa. She tells them of the situation, and the Guardians are surprised and upset to hear the information. Katma is greatly unnerved, as she isn’t used to seeing them confused and disconcerted. She tries to contact the Green Lantern of the neighboring sector only to discover that the entire sector has been wiped out. It’s at this point that Katma begins to seriously freak. She attempts to contact Oa again and becomes very scared when she discovers it’s blocked off to her. Englehart and Staton build seriously intense anxiety here.
Not knowing where else to turn, Katma rushes to Hal Jordan and the two have a very special moment. Katma, having fallen in love with John, now understands what true love is about. Therefore, she has a different view of Hal Jordan’s situation than she did before. She asks if they can be friends, and uses her ring to give Hal an alluring memory of a time when a much younger Hal first met Katma Tui. That greatly cheers Hal up, and he gets closer to putting his inner demons behind him. He decides that he wants to reveal who he is to John when he sees him, and wishes Katma luck as he goes to visit Abin Sur’s grave, the place where this run began in issue #182. Surprisingly, he finds someone there desecrating the grave, and it turns out being his old backup Green Lantern, Guy Gardner.
Now things start to get really interesting.
Guy is digging up the grave in search of a ring and power battery. Hal attacks Guy for defacing the grave and suddenly a Guardian appears to give Guy a ring and power battery. Hal, wanting desperately to be a Green Lantern again, tries to convince the Guardian to give the power to him instead, but to no avail. The Guardian teleports back to Oa with Guy, but Hal grabs hold and goes with them, albeit uninvited.
This is some pretty fascinating stuff. There is a lot crammed into this issue, and unlike some parts of the Wein issues, every character is doing something great and something that really matters toward the advancement of the overall plot.
The next issue gives us a refresher on who Guy Gardner is.
Guy Gardner, a Green Lantern the likes of which has never been seen before, becomes a continuous problem for John Stewart.
Guy Gardner was Hal Jordan’s original backup. He was just as worthy to wield the ring as Hal, but Hal Jordan happened to be closer to Abin Sur’s crash sight, so the ring chose him. Guy Gardner was utilized as a backup. Should anything happen to Hal, Guy would take over for him. Sometime later, Guy was hit by a bus and incapacitated. This is when the Guardians saw fit to elect John Stewart as the backup for Hal Jordan.
Some pretty jerky stuff happened to Guy. One time, Hal was going off into space and asked Guy to cover Earth for him. Guy agreed, but the battery of power he got from Hal was damaged. When Guy used it to charge the ring, he was sent to the Phantom Zone. When Guy was gone, Hal Jordan moved in on his fiance, Kari Limbo, and she gave into his advances. Hal and Kari were going to be married, but Guy Gardner was able to reach out to Kari telepathically. See, Kari is a psychic! With the knowledge that Guy was still alive, Kari would not marry Hal, and Hal went to rescue Guy. Sadly, Guy wound up in a coma due to the process of the ordeal and that’s where he’s been since. The Guardian who appeared on Earth claims to have brought Guy out of the coma. Guy is awake and incredibly angry and power hungry. He’s missed his opportunity to be Green Lantern time and again and the Guardians could have brought him out of his years long coma whenever they wanted, but they let him sit in his vegetable state, because he was never officially inducted into the Green Lantern Corps. Needless to say, he’s pretty miffed about everything.
All of the Guy stuff in the issue is cool. Hal Jordan takes up a decent percentage of the ish and his parts are mostly boring. He gets stranded in the Oan desert and works his way back to the Guardians’ citadel. Katma Tui is on Earth doing the best she can to save people from the crisis, but much to her misfortune all the Green Lantern rings except for Guy’s stop working, due to the Central Power Battery on Oa malfunctioning. The most fascinating development is that the Guardians have split into two factions. One group are defeatists who are willing to accept the end of the universe. They feel it’s their just desserts, seeing as how an ancestor of theirs, Krona, created the Anti-Matter universe from where all this destruction is flowing. The other sect of Guardians chooses to act through Guy Gardner, and give him a power battery powered by their own life force, which explains why his ring works.
The next issue in this series sees John Stewart return home to his beautiful red woman. By this point, the rings are working again, and the two have a touching reunion. John, having battled and defeated the Anti-Monitor’s (the villain behind the crisis) forces is convinced the Crisis is over, but Katma still has doubts, because the barrier around Oa that blocks entry of her energy twin is still in place.
Elsewhere, Guy Gardner battles The Shark and loses. Hal Jordan, who had been spurned by the Guardians and teleported back to Earth, reveals himself to John and tells him about Gardner and his unknown mission. Seeking revenge and a satiation for his hunger, The Shark bursts through the wall and attacks Hal Jordan while in John’s apartment (Steve Englehart is just a sucker for guys unexpectedly bursting through dwelling windows, this must be about the fourth time it’s happened). Hal gives John some tips about the Shark and John defeats the menace. Afterward, Guy Gardner appears, claiming to be the “Last True Green Lantern,” and wants to take The Shark away, but John doesn’t know for what purpose. Guy threatens John and the issue ends as the two are about to do battle.
Guy Gardner is a good character and adds a new dimension to this story. He’s basically a villain who believes he’s doing something good. It’s shocking to see a Green Lantern level several buildings in his hometown just on a whim. Guy Gardner is a symbol of the maturation of comics. He represents that not everything is black and white in these stories anymore. A villain who’s on a quest to save the universe, and is a Green Lantern backed by some of the Guardians is a thrilling concept. It’s these types of daring developments that make these Green Lantern stories so much more interesting than any that have come before.
Something else that is really nice is Hal and John’s interaction when Hal reveals to John that he is the first Green Lantern from Earth. Hal is very proud of John, in a somewhat fatherly way. He’s glad that John is continuing his legacy honorably and nobly. John feels that he’s finally “The Green Lantern” by this point, and justly so. Englehart has done a really good job building John into a very credible hero who puts his own signature stamp on Green Lantern.
The showdown between Guy Gardner and John Stewart happens at last. Green Lantern vs. Green Lantern! Guy gets the better of John because John was preoccupied with containing the Shark in a bubble. Guy makes off with the Shark and also gathers up villains Hector Hammond, Goldface, and Sonar along with his two buddies who we saw attacking Disney Land issues ago. Breaking these baddies out of jail further solidifies Gardner as a renegade figure, but Englehart still imparts an element of understanding to the character’s situation. He stresses that in especially dire times, such as the end of the universe, the typical honorable super hero schtick might not be enough.
A very interesting point is that Hal Jordan receives a power ring again. The supposed “Last True Guardian” contacted him and inlisted his help. He explains that the rest of the Guardians have given up, but that he will not. He believes attacking the white spot of the dark moon of Qward, which is where the Anti-Monitor was born, will destroy the Anti-Monitor and the Crisis will finally end. He has sent Guy Gardner to round up a group of powerful villains to be the force behind the attack. Hal Jordan, not one to sit idly by and wait for the end, aligns himself with Guy Gardner and the super villains.
You know heavy stuff is going down when Sinestro appears.
When John Stewart learns of this, he isn’t sure what to do. With the split in the Guardians’ ranks, he doesn’t know what to believe or which way to go, but his loyalties pull him toward the main group of defeatist Guardians. He views the other Guardians and Guy Gardner as renegades. Katma, however, trusts Hal’s judgment and gives her consent to let Hal, Gardner, and the supervillains carry out their mission. Things get even more complicated when, after Gardner’s force leaves, Sinestro appears to John and Katma and tells them that if Gardner and company carry out their attack, it will doom them all.
Englehart really sends readers for a whirl with that one! Guy Gardner is a bad person trying to do something good, and now he has Hal Jordan on his side, but is that really the right course? Now, Sinestro, who is also a bad person, is telling John and Kat that they need to stop Gardner. This type of conflict really keeps readers on their toes and needing to know what is going to happen next. Again, never before had “Green Lantern” been nearly as captivating as it is at this point.
Admittedly, as interesting as thing are, the story has taken an extremely twisty-turny route and some might get lost in all the confusion. Is Sinestro lying? Is “The one True Guardian” right? Are the other Guardians wrong?
Well, this is how it goes down in the start of issue #198, which is giant-sized. Because this is so confusing, John doesn’t decide on anything until he asks the Guardians about this. Energy twins can’t get through Oa’s barrier, but physical forms can. However, flying to Oa in physical form will take too long. John comes up with the idea of combining his and Katma’s powers with Sinestro’s in order to propel him to Oa and get him there quickly. However, the resulting pressure from doing so may prove fatal, but it’s a risk John is willing to take.
The plan works and John finds the Guardians with a group of Green Lanterns, including Tomar-Re, Arisia, Ch’p, and Xax. John asks the Guardians what’s up. It turns out Sinestro was lying. He secretly followed John to Oa so that he could attack the dark spot on Oa’s white moon, and therefore destroy the Guardians. Oa and Qward are like opposite numbers. One (Qward) exists in the Anti-Matter universe, and the other (Oa) is in the positive matter universe. Sinestro attempts to do to Oa what Guy Gardner is attempting to do to Qward, but John realizes this and the Guardians catch Sinestro.
More wackiness ensues when the Central Power Battery of Oa possesses Tomar-Re and through him tells the Guardians and Green Lanterns that Sinestro is actually right. Attacking the white spot on Qward’s dark moon will destroy everything, so Guy Gardner must be stopped. After deliberation, the Guardians agree with this and send the team of Green Lanterns off to the Anti-Matter universe to stop Gardner from destroying the universe.
The first half of the giant issue is very interesting, but also convoluted. The second half balances things with the Battle of Qward’s Moon. It’s pretty great! It’s a big epic fight between three factions. One side is the defending Weaponers of Qward. Another is Guy Gardner and his villains, who are now branded renegades, but still believe they’re doing the right thing. The last is a contingent of Green Lanterns led by John Stewart, who are there to stop Gardner and crew. The Guardians teleport Katma there, so she adds her ring to John’s team. The high stakes battle begins with Gardner’s force engaging the Weaponers. Hal Jordan leaves the battle because he refuses to kill the Weaponers.
It’s silly stuff like that which actually makes people root for Guy Gardner, even if he is a villain. He’s a far out character, but he brings some realism to this superhero comic and makes Hal Jordan seem old fashioned. Let me just repeat what happened to add emphasis.
In this battle to save the universe, Hal Jordan -who begged to play some part in this- leaves the minute the battle begins because he won’t kill the Weaponers, who are by no means good people. In fact, they serve Sinestro and the Anti-Monitor. Gardner won’t tolerate such B.S. and attacks Hal, takes his ring, and leaves him for dead in space on grounds of insubordination. Hal quickly grabs the space helmet off a floating corpse of a Weaponer and puts it on, which saves his life, but he’s left very weak. He’s picked up by the timely arrival of John Stewart’s force.
John Stewart defeats Guy Gardner in single combat and his group of super villains retreat!
The battle goes on, and each side suffers casualties. Guy Gardner makes a charge for Qward’s moon and breaks through, heading for his target – the white spot. John Stewart zooms after him and the two engage in another fight. This time it is completely fair. John stomps Guy due to his stronger willpower. With their leader down, the villains scatter and the battle ends. Furthermore, a shock is sent through both the universe and Anti-Matter universe, signaling an end to the crisis at last. Somewhere, the Anti-Monitor was finally defeated.
On Qward’s dark moon, the remaining Green Lantern force under John Stewart gathers and reflects over the cost of the battle. Katma helps Tomar-Re, who was mortally wounded by Goldface, lie down. Tomar, who is called the noblest Green Lantern, has final words for John, Hal, and Katma, and in his last act, he selects his successor. His ring chooses John Stewart, and John’s ring slides off his finger and flies to Hal Jordan, and just like that, Hal Jordan is a Green Lantern once again.
I think it’s lame that John loses his ring and wears Tomar’s. Not that it isn’t an honor to wear Tomar Re’s ring, but John’s ring was his. For it to go back to Hal Jordan is cheap. Hal gave it up. John earned his spot and there should be consequences to leaving the Corps. At that point in time, the ring that belonged to Abin Sur belonged to John Stewart, and to take it from him is wrong. Oh well. Just another one of Hal Jordan’s many “get out of jail free cards.”
Issue #199 is the aftermath. The crisis is finally over and now the Lantern Corps and the Guardians must deal with the devastation it wreaked on the universe. About nine hundred Green Lanterns died and the Guardians are reeling from the fact that they were wrong and almost caused the complete destruction of the universe by allowing Guy Gardner’s mission to take place before the Central Power Battery interfered to tell them what’s up.
The Guardians assemble the entire Green Lantern Corps (or at least the great majority, since we know that Mogo doesn’t socialize) and Hal Jordan gives a speech about being honored to be a Green Lantern again. Afterward, the Guardians give the Lanterns missions. Hal is to check up on Star Sapphire on Zamaron, John and Katma are to go to Maltus and request the presence of Appa Ali Apsa, and Arisia, Ch’p, and Salaak are sent out to capture Goldface and some other alien criminal. The rest of the Lanterns also get sent out on some sort of clean up duties.
It’s clear that the Corps will not be the same after recent events, and John and Katma can feel something big is about to happen.
John and Katma have another emotive moment aboard their starship on the way to Maltus. John is thinking about asking the Guardians to share sector 1417 with Katma. Seeing Katma’s reaction is very heartwarming. John’s suggestion means a lot to her and she says she’s honored to share anything she has with him. The two meet Appa, who, to their surprise, turns out being a Guardian who was transformed into a human. Astute Green Lantern readers will know this character. He is the Guardian who was assigned to accompany Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen so that he can observe humanity. In so doing, he made an important decision based upon his emotions rather than reason and the Guardians demoted him to being a human and transplanted him to Maltus. Appa seems perfectly fine with this and does not wish to see the Guardians. Katma and John eventually convince him to go, because they admit that the Guardians lost control and need help.
Englehart sets up things for his future “Green Lantern Corps” series as we see three of the characters, Ch’p, Arisia, and Salaak, doing some pretty cool space policing – something we don’t see enough of in Green Lantern comics, unfortunately. The interactions between Ch’p and Salaak are actually pretty hilarious. The trio tracks down Goldface and his criminal companion to a cosmic club and has it out with them as the Lanterns try to bring the criminals back to justice. Hal Jordan joins them and the group brings Goldface down after a hard fight. Meanwhile, Star Sapphire’s Zamarons have deserted their planet without her knowing and Guy Gardner allies himself with her.
Which brings us to the grand finale, the 200th giant sized issue, titled “Five Billion Years!”
The final issue sees John and Katma bring Appa Ali Apsa back to Oa, but not before repelling an attack by a gang of Weaponers from Qward who seek to free Sinestro. Hal Jordan battles Guy Gardner, Star Sapphire and Hector Hammond as the three jump him on a moon. He defeats all three and brings them back to Oa as prisoners.
The meat of the issue happens within the auditorium of Oa where the Guardians explain that they’re going to stop administrating the Green Lantern Corps and go off to another realm with their Zamaron counterparts to engage in some kind of mating ritual so they can create a new generation of Oans. They abolish the one Green Lantern per sector rule and basically let Green Lanterns do what they want. They elect Appa Ali Apsa to act as their sole guide. However, they assign both John Stewart and Hal Jordan to guard Earth at all costs, because the humans there are destined to go through the next important evolutionary phase.
It was a good story, but I don’t like the way things played out. What happens is that John, Hal, and a group of alien Lanterns set up base in Los Angeles and call themselves the Green Lantern Corps of Earth. It’s a pretty silly idea. I would have preferred the stories to have more of a cosmic focus. In issue 200, for the first time, Oa really seems like it was developed well. It didn’t just seem like a big desert with one lonely building. It was similar to the modern interpretation of Oa, with a bustling city of Green Lanterns flying about and taking care of their business. It’s my view that they should have taken the book toward something like that, with the Green Lanterns still under the Guardians, but working more closely with each other. Therefore, Englehart could still flesh out characters like Arisia, Salaak, and Kilowog.
Green Lantern is typically at its most interesting when it’s delving into cosmic goings on, not when it involves living life on Earth and catching street level hoodlums. It has too rich and big a universe to be fooling around with trite stuff like that. What makes Englehart’s stories so good near the end is that they deal with aspects of the Green Lantern mythos, like Krona creating the Anti-Matter universe, the Controllers and Zamarons choosing to leave the Guardians, and the Guardians disagreeing with each other, and that stuff is pretty fascinating.
Writing the Guardians out of the story and leaving the Lanterns to govern themselves is not particularly compelling. It’s actually dumbing things down. It’s doubly bad because the whole Guardian/Zamaron child thing was never really followed up on. The important storypoint here is utterly fruitless. That’s not Steve Englehart’s fault per se, but it still doesn’t help.
John Stewart and Katma Tui enter a new era for the Green Lantern Corps together.
All that said, just because I don’t agree with the status quo shakeup doesn’t mean these stories aren’t great! In fact, these comics are the best to come out of the regular “Green Lantern” title.
This run is filled with incredible characters, drama, mystery, and a believable, very well handled romance that isn’t overbearing and is easy to get invested in. There’s charming superhero corniness, afros, comedy that’s both intentional and not, and a really healthy balance between the usual earthbound superheroics and cosmic science-fiction. It’s in these comics that John Stewart evolves out of being Hal’s backup and fully becomes “The Green Lantern,” and a totally capable leading character.
Passing the ring to John Stewart was an incredibly daring move that paid off! It gave “Green Lantern” a shot in the arm that it desperately needed, and by doing so, the creative teams helped forge a character that would go on to be unforgettable to millions. Unlike the Kyle Rayner period in the 90s, Len Wein and Steve Englehart carried out this transition gracefully and without disrespecting absolutely everything that came before. The story naturally progressed into having John take on the mantle of Green Lantern instead of being a spur of the moment attempt at shock value to get attention.
If you don’t have these issues, hit up comixology.com or eBay and pick them up. You can get this run -save for the Retroactive issue- in the Green Lantern: Sector 2814 trade paperback collections. If you’re a John Stewart fan, you absolutely need these. If you’re a Green Lantern fan, you need these, too. While I say that Mosaic is a must for John Stewart fans, I can see some not being into its rather progressive and deviant style. However, this run should be enjoyable for anyone interested in Green Lantern. If you can stomach some campy ’80s villains and kind of ridiculous pre-Crisis super hero feats, then you’re in for a blast!
Indeed… This run is one of the very best times the Green Lantern franchise has ever had.