When Action Comics was revamped into a weekly comic, it was decided that a strong drawcard would be one of DC's favorite characters - Green Lantern. GL was, at the time, starring in The Green Lantern Corps, and it was decided that this had to give way. Original Green Lantern artist Gil Kane returned for the last two issues in a tale that had the Corps sentencing renegade Sinestro to death; however Sinestro took over the central battery and ultimately led to it's destruction. The battery was left with a small amount of power, and all Green Lanterns who were on Oa had their rings destroyed (except for Hal Jordan). This set the stage for Action Comics Weekly #601 which starred Hal Jordan as Green Lantern as it's lead feature.
The creative team on the feature were writer James Owsley and artist Gil Kane - which was odd, as in the letter-column of GLC #224, editor Mark Waid said the team would be Peter David and Todd Smith. Anyway, the ACW run begins with Hal and his girlfriend Arisia living with ex-GL John Stewart and his wife Katma (another ex-GL). The tight living conditions are causing friction between the group, and John suggests that Hal take some diamonds from an abandoned diamond mine in South Africa. While he's gone, Star Sapphire murders Katma to leave a message that she's after Hal. She appears at Katma's funeral and leads Hal into battle where she crashes a plane into buildings, leaving an address for Hal to follow. Hal tracks her to her old apartment where they fight until Star Sapphire is beaten. Hal deliberates over killing her, but while he is deciding, she regains her composure and takes him down. She then imprisons him on a distant planet and leaves him to the elements.
In the meantime, John Stewart has been brought on trial for the crash of the plane, and the destruction of Carol Ferris' apartment. John explains that he is no longer Green Lantern, but Carol enters the courtroom as a witness. At the same time, Hal's ring appears on the table in front of John - Hal has sent the ring to John so that John can come and save him. John puts on the ring, and captures Carol Ferris in a bubble. She feigns her death to incriminate him, and he runs from the courtroom. He realises that he's not cut out to be a Green Lantern, and by his wife's grave he sends the ring back to Hal, only to be arested by a shadowy group of people. The ring returns to Hal, who eventually escapes his bonds by channeling the ring's power into his limbs. He returns to earth where Star Sapphire has been fighting an alien creature. The alien steals her gem and knocks her out. She regains consciousness to find Hal sitting near her with her gem., but he too is attacked, and when he comes too, Sapphire and the alien are gone
In Action #606 (by Owsley and Todd Smith) Hal returns home to find his building destroyed. He also finds that people are afraid of him, as the papers are reporting Green Lantern has killed Carol Ferris. Hal calls John, who has been arrested, but before he can help he needs to find a friend to talk to. He tries in turn Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, and Oliver Queen. The first two politely discard him, but Ollie tells him to 'Get a life', leaving him feeling truly alone.
John's arrest is covered again at the start of The Green Lantern Special #1, dated 1998. This special is written by regular ACW writer Jim Owsley, pencilled by Todd Smith, and inked by a surprisingly competent Denis Rodier (yeah yeah, I know; you don't want my opinion, just the facts). After his arrest, John appears in court, facing various charges, including destroying the jet, and taking the diamond from the abandoned mine. The country of South Nambia has charged him with grand theft, and he is extradited to await trail. South Nambia practices apartheid, and the all-white prison staff beat John to prove their superiority.
Out of sight, out of mind. The legal system has no more to do with John while he is away, but Hal has bouts of guilt over Johns incarceration, and decided to seek help before acting. He visits the last remaining Guardian, 'The Old Timer', and finds him acting very erratically. The guardian has no advice to give, but hands Hal a second power ring for John to use if he wants. Hal charges the ring, and takes it to John. Hal apologises for getting him into trouble, and gives him the ring. John throws the ring away and 'throws' Hal out.
Guard Captain Holmes wants John to sign a confession, as a strike for apartheid. In return, he will send John home. The two guards sent to get the confession beat John badly, and he retaliates by using the ring and destroying the prison, freeing all the prisoners. Among them are an activist, Dorian Alexander, and a viscous thug, Lester Wills. John finds refuge with Dorian and his family, and begins to see the effects that apartheid is having on the two races living in South Nambia. He decides to join the fight against apartheid, and he and Dorian start vandalising white property to try and convey their message.
In the meantime, Lester Wills, who was also freed by John, has organised a band of men who are breaking into white homes and indulging in theft, rape and murder. It makes the international papers, and brings Superman to Hal's apartment. Superman tells Hal to sort the problem with John out before he does. Hal finds Superman and tells him he'll "handle" John.
An important white festival attended my top Nambian politicians is held, and is the place where Dorian's group decide to make a stand. John is prepared to use his ring to destroy some new oil tankers, but is stopped by Hal. During the course of John and Hal's fight, a hole is torn in the side of one tanker, revealing a bomb planted by Dorian in case John backed out. While the people try to clear the ship, Dorian shoots police captain Holmes, and in turn gets shot by police. One of Dorian's men blows the tankers, and Hal stops the explosion, while John rescues the diplomats. Holding all the diplomats aloft, John hears the crowd chanting for him to kill them, and he wrestles with his conscience, wondering if their deaths wouldn't change the state of things in South Nambia for the better. In the end he can't do it, and ends up returning his ring to Hal. Hal gives it back saying he trusts him, but ends up wondering if he's done the right thing.
For a self contained special, this gives one of the most interesting stories I've read in a comic. As an African American, Owsley could have biased the story terribly, making the whites monsters and the blacks heroes, but instead we are given a wonderfully balanced story, with very three-dimensional characters. Lester Wills is shown as nothing more than a violent criminal - he has no political agenda, he doesn't tun up at the end as the major villain, he's just a thug (and the reason Superman feels he needs to get himself involved). Dorian, on the other hand, seems to be an earnest political protestor, but is shown to be a vengeful killer at the end. And in the middle are two Green Lanterns whose personal hang-ups make it difficult for either to see a clear and logical solution. Whether or not you read this as part of the ACW stories, this is still one of the best comics I have seen to date.
Action #607 starts with Hal and Arisia in a Cost City hotel room, Arisia watching television and Hal trying desperately to sleep. Wracked with guilt over what happened to John, Hal leaves Arisia to her television, and flies around the Earth until he comes across a skirmish in a middle eastern country. In the middle of the fight a mother with a baby is trapped, and about to be crushed in the stampede. He separates the warring groups and approaches the lady, but she slaps him; she and all the others there are scared of him. The reputation he has earned from the 'death' of Carol Ferris has put the people against him, so he decides to go on television to restore his image.
For some odd reason, the Green Lantern story in ACW #608 is taken over
by Peter David (not odd that Peter writes it, but odd that it is mid-story).
Green Lantern turns up to the set of Oprah to do an interview (after stopping
some bank robbers). During the interview he explains about the Corps and
the different Green Lanterns. During question and answer, Oprah asks why
he was chosen as Green Lantern, and his reply that he is without fear
sends the audience into fits of laughter. The crowd begin to psychoanalyse
the validity of Hal's statement, leaving him with doubts about his lack
of fear. This leads him to tackle a crazed swordsman without his power-ring.
He takes down the swordsman, finding later that the man had no criminal
record. The police also get a note from someone threatening to turn more
people into murderers if he doesn't get a $500,000 ransom. The police
ignore the demand, and the next murderer turns up at the apartment of
Hal and Arisia. Arisia fights off the attacker, and he ends up with his
knife in a powerpoint. Hal emerges from the shower just in time to save
the man from being electrocuted, and they take him to the local precinct,
where he can't remember doing anything. Hal's contact at the department
tells him that 27 people have attacked strangers, so he's looking for
the ransom message to look for clues. While waiting in the station, Arisia
is offered a modelling job by another person waiting to file a complaint.
Hal is then struck by the madness which has been sweeping the city, and
attacks his police friend. Hal tries to destroy the policeman with his
ring, but can't focus his will power, and the policeman is able to tackle
Hal to the ground and keep him there until the effect wears off. A TV
broadcast is then picked up from the person who sent the ransom note.
As a demonstration of his power he turns a large number of the population
crazy. GL is able to detect where the source of the madness is coming
from, and he flies there to find a transmitter dish. After destroying
the dish, he confronts the 3-foot tall 'Mind Games'. Mind Games turns
his power on Hal, causing him to hallucinate. He feels hatred toward the
rest of the Corps, then Jealousy, causing him to kill them. Passion is
next (where the slightly pedophilic relationship he has with Arisia is
momentarily addressed), then Fear. However, as he is a 'man without fear',
he is snapped out of his hallucination and able to overcome Mind Games.
After this experience, Hal asks the ring to explain to him how he can be a man totally without fear. The ring's answer (in ACW #614, with a sensational GL cover by Mignola and Templeton) is that when Abin Sur told the ring to find a man without fear, it could only find men with a minimum of fear. When it grabbed Hal it took the initiative to remove fear from his psychological makeup. Slightly unimpressed by this, Hal orders the ring to restore him. The ring explains that since it didn't do the original operation, and that the database on Oa has been destroyed, it can't be sure it can do it correctly. Hal tells it to do it anyway, and the ring complies. Taking off to rescue a jumper, Hal experiences overwhelming fear of heights, and plummets, only gaining control at the last minute. Seeing this, the jumper decides maybe he doesn't want to fall to his death, and leaves Hal on the ledge to try and regain his composure.
Hmm, I think that's quite enough for one month. My deadline is pressing in around me, so I'll continue Hal's ACW adventures at a later date. Next month? Maybe, but we have a special Golden Age issue, and the Golden Age characters being my favorites, I may bump the rest of GL to the next month. Catch you all in 30!
Simon Brown lives in Australia.
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This piece is © 2002 by the author listed above.
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