Commentary: Justice League: Green Lantern: The Darkseid War
"Isn't that what God's supposed to do?"
The above words are spoken by Hal Jordan -- one of several Green Lanterns of Sector 2814 (don't worry, it will make sense in a bit) -- in Justice League: Green Lantern: The Darkseid War by Tom King. This is a standalone one-issue comic (or a "one-shot" if you wanna be a know it all) that ties into a larger D.C. comic-book event "The Darkseid War," which features the Justice League pitted against a force of pure malevolence conveniently named Darkseid (pronounced "dark side"). SPOILER FOR A SEVERAL YEAR OLD COMIC: Darkseid is felled in the main storyline and, as a result, interplanetary evil gods are released to wreak havoc. Hilarity ensues. This title tracks Hal Jordan's efforts to deal with the chaos.
But first a little detour.
The modern day incarnation of Green Lantern arrived on the scene in 1959. He was (and still remains) a cocky test pilot who occasionally -- ok, often -- substitutes bravada for brains. In comic lore, the Green Lantern Corps is an intergalactice police force that patrols 3,600 sectors of outer space. Earth belongs in Sector 2814 (told you it would make sense). Each sector has at least one Green Lantern officer who is outfitted with a ring fuled by his/her/it's willpower. When a lantern expires, the ring is programed to search out a replacement in that sector.
What makes a lantern? In the halycon days of the silver age, a lantern had to be fearless and honest. Later, it was just fearless. Later still putative lanterns had to have the ability to overcome fear. This was a significant and welcome change that gave writers the ability to explore the stories of brave but ocassionally flawed ring bearers. More importantly, it granted writers more freedome to explore what it means to be human (alien origins notwithstanding).
And it is this humanity that drives not only Hal Jordan but #JL:DW:GW (I call dibs on the eventual hashtag and subsequent social media explosion). Because of Darkseid's death, his associated "motherbox" -- think a super smart computer -- becomes free and seeks out a new host. Not unlike a Green Lantern ring. Motivated by the search for power, the motherbox seeks out a worthy replacement in the form of the main Green Lantern power battery on the Planet Oa. This battery powers EVERY Green Lantern ring. And like any good evil force, the motherbox brings an army in tow. Caught off guard, the Green Lantern Corps is quickly overwhelmed and Hal Jordan is called into action.
Jordan finds himself single-handily attempting to overcome over 1,000,000 combatants. Here we see Hal's trademark "act first, think later" style on display. As he mows his way through evil space demons, he disregards his own safety simply instrucing his (talking) ring to "count em' out." The "em'" refers to those demons as Hal dispatches them. It creates a nifty little refrain, akin to a hero's ongoing trials in ancient greek poem...but with less spandex...or less clothing come to think of it.
The moment when Hal becomes truly overwhelmed marks the true meat of the story, and what, in my opinion, makes this one of the most enjoyable Green Lantern stories of the past few decades. Like a classic Greek hero, Hal encounters a god in the form of Darkseid's mother box. Hal accepts the box's offer to becomes its new master and, essentially, becomes his own god. Throughout the comic, we get flashes of young Hal Jordan debating the purpose of God with an unnamed stranger. You see, Hal's father was a test pilot like his son, however, not like his son, he died in a tragic accident. Consequently, young Hal rightfully wonders why God didn't get off his keister and save him. After present-day Hal ascends to godhood we discover that the stranger talking to young Hal is actually current day Hal (eat your heart out Quantum Leap).
Anyways, the two Hals have a heart to heart and older Hal comforts the younger by explaing that God has no choice but to let things unfold to suit His purpose. Man has no such limitation because he has will and can forge his own path. And just like that, in one exchange, Tom King nails the essence of Hal Jordan, Green Lantern of Sector 2814. Behind all that brashness is the simple realization that facing and overcoming fear through individual will power can make a king out of a commoner. Why be a simple god when you can be a man? Reaffirming this principle with his younger self, Hal uses his newfound power to restore the status quo. But he also voluntarily abandons his godhood knowing that his will makes him more powerful than any trinkets. This last point is an interesting one as long time GL readers will know that Hal once sought and obtained power to recreate reality to his own desires. Hal won't go down that road again, though. So maybe there is some brains behind that brawn afterall.
In summary, if you have any interest in finding out what it means to be a Green Lantern, I can't reccomend this title highly enough. If you'll excuse me, I need to reread this issue again. Ring, count em' out....