The question still rages today. After nearly four years, many people are still begging for the return of the Green Lantern Corps and Hal Jordan in particular. Considered to be the greatest Green Lantern of all time, the suits at DC turned him into a villain and destroyed the Green Lantern Corps virtually overnight. Fans of Green Lantern had their universe change in a few hasty issues.
This article will try to give you a history of the Green Lantern Corps, with a focus on Earth's Green Lanterns. John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner. We'll take a look at the differences between Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner, what makes each of them great, DC's decision to change the focus of Green Lantern. And we'll finally decide once and for all who the greatest Green Lantern of all time really is!
HISTORY OF THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS
For billions of years the Guardians of the Universe protected the universe from chaos and destruction from their adopted home planet of Oa. They decided to create a group of defenders to keep things under control. Their first attempt, androids known as Manhunters, rebelled against their masters. So the Oans created the Green Lantern Corps. This group of 3600 protectors (one per sector of space) would do the Guardians' bidding. Each would wield the ultimate weapon, a power ring able to create anything the wearer could imagine. The ring would be powered by will and had only a few limitations: it needed to be recharged every 24 hours, and it was powerless against anything that was yellow.
One servant of the Guardians was Tomar Re, who guarded the sector neighboring 2814 (Earth's sector) which contained the planet Krypton. Tomar was notified by the Guardians that Krypton was going to explode, and that the Kryptonians could not evacuate due to a genetic defect. Tomar raced to track down an element that could halt the destructive energy build-up, and he was returning with an adequate amount just in time to see the planet Krypton explode in front of him. The Green Lantern Corps guarded its only survivor, a genetically-altered unborn infant placed in a small starship, as it made its way to Earth; the GLC and the Manhunters waged a fierce battle in the solar system while the rocket made its way to Earth to be retrieved by the Kents.
Abin Sur also served the Guardians for many decades. When Abin Sur was dying, and his ship crash-landed on Earth, his last request was for his ring to find a suitable being to carry on the legacy of Green Lantern. That man would be Hal Jordan.
When comics went through a change in the 50's, a new Green Lantern was born, and the legacy of Hal Jordan started. For 40 years, Hal Jordan would be Earth's Green Lantern. Others would be Green Lantern for periods of time, but it was always Hal who would return as Green Lantern.
JOHN STEWART would be Green Lantern for a short period, but his most noteworthy achievements included policing the Mosaic society on the Green Lantern homeworld of OA, and being responsible for the destruction of an entire planet in COSMIC ODYSSEY.
GUY GARDNER, Abin's alternate choice as a replacement, provided back-up to Hal Jordan until a heroic rescue landed him in a coma. Revived during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, he was made a full Green Lantern and some time later was appointed the official Green Lantern of Earth. When Hal Jordan returned to Earth, Guy was relieved of his duties. After gaining Sinestro's yellow power ring he once again become a super hero, but Hal Jordan (this time as Parallax) would end that, too.
THE HAL JORDAN YEARS
For many years he was a bright light in the DC Universe. As a founding member of the Justice League, and the strength of his own title, Hal Jordan was a mainstay in the DCU. Like any super-hero he had his Rogues Gallery Hector Hammond, Sonar, the Tattooed Man, Star Sapphire, Goldface, Evil Star, Shark and a former Green Lantern, Sinestro, topping the list.
Hal quit the Corps to be with the woman he loved, Carol Ferris (who soon metamorphosed into Star Sapphire and left Hal). During that time, John Stewart (Hal's back-up after Guy became comatose) became Earth's permanent GL. During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Guy Gardner was reawakened and given a ring by a faction of the Guardians. Hal joined Guy Gardner on an adventure in the Qwardian universe, which lead to a battle royale between the two, their criminal army and the GL Corps and hal regained his ring as the dying request of his closest friend in the Corps, Tomar Re.
After the Crisis, the Guardians left the galaxy. Seven GLs, including Hal Jordan and John Stewart, set up a home base on the Earth. When the GL Corps sentenced Sinestro to death and executed him, the great power battery of Oa was weakened and only a few GLs retained their power.
When the Guardians returned and called for the formation of a new Green Lantern Corps, Hal Jordan became a sort of "good will ambassador" of the GLC. His job was to search the galaxy for new members for the Corps. and help to train them.
That left Guy Gardner as the Green Lantern of Earth, and John Stewart would soon be assigned to OA to watch over the Mosaic world (a conglomeration of cities from various planets). Hal would soon decide that he wanted to return to Earth and assume his life back on Earth.
Now I don't know if the destruction of Coast City was planned, in terms of the change in Green Lantern. But it was a perfect place to start all over again
DC'S DECISION TO BRING IN KYLE
Kevin Dooley, editor of Green Lantern, and the Powers That Be at DC, along with new writer Ron Marz, decided that it was time to change the direction of Green Lantern. DC wanted fresh young faces for a new generation of comic book readers. This important decision can still be felt today (Just look at the electric Superman storyline!).
But things started with the death of Superman. If DC could kill Superman, then nobody was safe in the DCU. Batman was replaced for a while by Jean Paul Valley, and both of these were big winners for DC in terms of sales. Some fans hated what DC was doing to their heroes, but new characters for a new generation. Superman, Batman, who would be next?
Well, readers of Green Lantern certainly know the answer to that. In the course of three issues, Hal Jordan had gone from the greatest warrior in the Corps to a villain who wielded unimaginable power. Little did we know what DC really had in store for Hal.
In issue #46 (3rd series) Hal returns to Earth, finds out that Coast City is destroyed and helps Superman defeat Mongul. Issue #47 sees the last team-up between Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen Green Arrow. That would be the last issue that fans of Hal would see their beloved Green Lantern as normal.
Issue #48 sees Hal trying to resurrect Coast City with his power ring. He visits some of his old friends and tries to put things behind him. The problem is that Hal's ring only has a charge of 24 hours and his power battery has been destroyed, so when the power ring runs out of juice, he loses everything that he has created. He soon finds out that the Guardians have been watching Hal, and they want him to turn in his power ring and be disciplined for using his ring for personal gain. (Guess they weren't watching Guy Gardner on the hundreds of occasions he broke that edict; or, more likely, it was never a law before.) That, of course, doesn't sit well with Hal, who sucks all the energy from the Guardian's projection and heads off to Oa, the source of his ring's power and home of the Guardians.
Issue #49 starts off right where issue #48 ends. Hal is on his way to Oa when he encounters members of the GL Corp. He defeats wave after wave of Green Lanterns, in turn taking their power rings and becoming stronger with each battle. He even slices off the hand of Boodikka. Upon reaching Oa, he faces and defeats his friend Kilowog. As the issue ends we see the greatest foe Green Lantern has ever faced, Sinestro, emerging from the Central Battery with a new power ring. His body has been restored by the Guardians in an attempt to stop Hal Jordan's rampage.
Issue #50 is where Hal's fate is sealed. He must battle Sinestro, and at the end of the fight he snaps the neck of his former foe. As Hal is about to enter the battery, Kilowog returns to stop Hal from absorbing all of the green energy, which would mean the deaths of any Green Lantern in flight, in battle or in space. Again Hal is forced to fight Kilowog and this time he kills his friend in order to get what he wants. The Guardians realize that Hal can't be stopped and they sacrifice themselves in order to stop Hal. One Guardian remains. After Hal enters the battery and draws all the power he can, he crushes his ring and flies off to face what destiny has in store. Ganthet, the last Guardian, creates a final ring from Hal's old ring and heads off to Earth to have a new Green Lantern take the place of the Corps. That Green Lantern would be Kyle Rayner. A Green Lantern for a new generation.
KYLE RAYNER: THE NEXT GENERATION
Kyle's first appearance comes in issue # 48, and he assumes the role of Green Lantern in issue # 50. Ganthet comes to Earth and gives Kyle the last ring; gone is its impurity (which made it susceptible to yellow) and the 24 hour time limit, although the ring still needs to be recharged once in a while. Kyle was the new Green Lantern, the Green Lantern for a new generation of comic readers.
The reaction to Kyle was lukewarm at best, with many readers still in shock as to what happened to Hal Jordan; from a personal standpoint that is exactly when I started to read Green Lantern comics. You see I was sucked into the fabulous world of DC with the Death of Superman, and Green Lantern had always been my favorite character when I was a kid. Maybe it was all the cool things he could do with his ring, you see I used to watch the old Super Friends cartoon when I was a kid.
So I never really missed Hal Jordan, because I had never been exposed to him. This is where back issues come into play. Reading all the back issues I could find of Green Lantern and the Justice League, I can now imagine fan reaction when DC up and changed to Kyle.
I like Kyle. I feel that I have had the chance to grow along with him, and approaching 50 issues of the Kyle era, I have enjoyed his adventures over and over again. It appears that Kyle is here to stay for good, until DC decides to revamp it's heroes again.
Over the past several years, Kyle has been a member of the Teen Titans, and more recently a founding member of the new JLA. As the new kid on the block, many of the JLA adventures are seen through his fresh eyes. We have a hero who is not sure of his role, and looks up and sees Superman and Batman and just says "WOW". But with each day Kyle gains more confident, and becomes more comfortable in his role as the last Green Lantern.
WHO WAS THE BEST?
This question is a favorite topic of debate among fans of Green Lantern. Who was the greatest Green Lantern of all time? Well, let's look at the facts. It basically boils down to two choices: Hal Jordan or Kyle Rayner. We can rule out Guy Gardner because of his mental instability, and we can cross off John Stewart because of his cosmic blunder, and you can't really count any of the other Green Lanterns because their stories were not well documented enough to be considered. So, that leaves us with Hal and Kyle.
So who's better? Kyle or Hal? Hal is considered the greatest Green Lantern of all time, certainly by the Guardians. That is, right up 'til the time he became Parallax. But do we count that against him? Let's put that to the side for a minute. Hal has proven himself time and time again, against some of the worst villains in the DCU. Even with his ring's weaknesses, he always found a way. There was no challenge too great for him.
So let's look at Kyle, certainly he has proven himself recently. Even though he wields the superior ring, has he done enough to be considered the greatest of all time. At this point in time, I would say no. But that is greatest thing about comics: the future. Kyle has all the time DC allows him to become the greatest Green Lantern of all time but for right now, Hal Jordan would have to be considered the greatest Green Lantern there ever was.