Warning: Major Spoilers Below
Here we are at last! The big close off to Season One’s threads! It all culminates here, in this final issue. It’s the crossroads where everything crashes. And it’s the final chapter of this phase of the run before we enter into the next with Season Two. Let’s dig in.
The Space Cop Show So Far
Given this is, in effect, the big culmination, it’s worthwhile, and rather useful to take a look back and study the run at large so far to see how it’s been laid out, and how it’s meant to work. This is its fundamental structure, when you really break it down to the essentials, and look at the actual stories being told.
#1- The Mission
#2- The Interrogation
#3- The Trafficking Sting
#4- The Investigation
#5- The Undercover Op
#6- The Shoot Out
#7- The Oath
#8- The Drug Bust
#9- The Foreign Operative
#10- The Interpol
#11- The Missing Cop Case
#12- The Ambush
#1- The Recruitment
#2- The Coup
#3- The Uprising
And a lot of the reasoning behind the approach to Season One and that specific structure is clarified within this issue, which weaves together a number of threads into a cohesive whole. Elements that seemed to be one-offs or different things coalesce into one big payoff that could not be achieved without the above approach or some facsimile.
While the entire run so far has been a whirlwind of a book, jumping from settings, genres, influences, casts to plot threads, throwing a dozen-ideas-per-minute, it’s been held together firmly by its thematic unity centered around Will/Control. That’s what’s at the heart of the whole thing. And this final installment verbalizes said thematics very clearly, having explored them for over 14 issues now. That symmetrical struggle of two contrasts, that push and pull, best personified in Hal Jordan/Parallax and Countess Belzebeth, is kind of the whole run in a nutshell. Control becomes the overwhelming terrifying threat Hal and The Lanterns must fend off in virtually every issue.
As we’ve established above, #1 was The Mission, with The Controller introduced, and the idea of Control firmly set in place, with Hal getting his mission as part of The Guardian plan to oppose The Controller. Mission Statement feels appropriate for that debut, and it is very much about getting that quest. The second issue sees a Good Cop/Bad Cop interrogation with The Spider-Pirate. But note how this plays out. Attempts at Control are tried but they absolutely fail, and that’s when Hal Jordan must reason, and be intelligent, putting control aside in favor of will. And so it’s ultimately a ritual of exchanging food, and connecting with The Pirate that ultimately gets her to talk, and spill.
Then in #3, we have Space Planet Trafficking, and literal slavers. Once more, control is at the forefront. It’s the issue people chuckle at, because it is, after all Hal vs God (who’s not actually God), and it might feel a bit a bit detached from things, but it too plays on this core theme. ‘God’ is a Terravore monster who’s bought Earth from traffickers, and he has offered Earth’s populace super-powers in exchange for absolute control of their fate and future. The idea that’s vital here is not just control in a vacuum but people willingly giving up their free will, and submitting to someone who will control them, even if it’s open that he doesn’t care much for them, and his only interest is in literally eating them. We have Mike Pence selling the world, it’s future, and the lives of generations hence away to a cosmic murder demon. That isn’t subtle, and it’s not intended to be.
From there on, #4 becomes the ultimate meeting of those ideas, the first initial clash, sparks and all, between Will and Control, in the form of Hal Jordan and Countess Belzebeth, just conversing with one another in a cosmic bar. Then #5 sees Hal Jordan submit to the trials of Control, and be ‘converted’ into an agent of control, a Blackstar. But in #6, the big Shoot Out happens, as Hal Jordan and The Strange Family seemingly have succeeded, beating The Controller, the very idea of control. These first 6 issues, which make up the first volume, Intergalactic Lawman, are fairly tightly done, as heavy Blackstar focused stories. This is obvious. It’s what comes after that can be seen as detached, but is very much not.
While #7 may seem like just a neat standalone one-off set within The Ring, it actually becomes the most pivotal issue by the end. That is one of the two vital ingredients needed to make the resolution we got possible. But that aside, its conceit itself should make it obvious as to how it’s playing on the central thematic idea. Green Lanterns control their rings, traditionally. The rings seem to be Artificial Intelligence, but they’re mostly just a cold instrument controlled by the bearer to get their job done. Morrison and Sharp’s book eschews with that notion, and instead gives life to the A.I, which means everything from a name, a look, and a personality. It’s no longer just a ring. It’s Pengowirr (an anagram for ‘Power Ring’), a being Hal Jordan shares a deep connection with. It’s not control. It’s not one-sided. It’s a symbiotic relationship. It’s democratic. It’s not man, and machine, it’s something more. It’s harmony. It’s balance. These are two sentient beings who deeply care for one another, and know each other by heart. At the very heart of Green Lantern, within that ring’s very core, beneath that sigil, it’s revealed that it’s not Control that prevails, but Will, ultimately. That’s what it’s about, and what it always should be about. Not oppressive will, but Free Will.
Then #8 follows, which may also seem distant, but the story here is also about control. It’s about people submitting their literal souls, their very essence and will, and them being stolen as product by a supervillain, who makes drugs out of them, and sells them to beings from a (literal) higher dimension, individuals who are more privileged, and consume the essence of others for simple recreation and pleasure. That’s the threat. And the villain’s chief ability is summoning up sirens who control people, something Hal, and Oliver Queen must deal with, and overcome. Then #9 strikes, and it features a lawman, Abin Sur Of Universe-20, under control (bearing even a Blackstar Amulet) facing off against Hal. The duel of Lawman Of Free Will and Lawman Of Control is another over display of the thematic struggle, as the conceit of ‘control’ and ‘lawman’ are brought ever closer, as a thesis is ever-approaching. Ultimately, Hal must stop Abin, and free him from control, because to Morrison and Sharp, that’s what Hal Jordan does. He’s an agent of Free Will, liberating people from their shackles.
And at last #10-11 arrive, with The Multiverse story, which seems distant, but again, ties into the thematic heart. It focuses on The Golden Lantern, who has trapped Lawmen across The Multiverse, and hopes to utilize them in a militaristic crusade of war, holding absolute control over them. They’re nothing but pawns on a board to him. And it’s also why, again, Lanterns being controlled is the threat that must be faced, as only Hal and Carol remain with their wills intact. They manage to stop, and arrest The Golden Lantern, once again emphasizing the core notion, this push and pull between will and control. If #7 was the aforementioned ingredient one to make the finale happen, this section is ingredient two. That leads into #12, where in The Blackstars make an overtly big come back, and tie things up, with The Controller appearing in not one form, but multiple. Control has multiplied, only gotten bigger, and worse. And that takes us into Blackstars, as control overwhelms, and changes things, creating this new reality where it reigns supreme.
Blackstars is, of course, the evident uprising of Will in the face of absolute, ultimate, and overwhelming control. It’s all one story, and it comes to a head here.
Space= Meaning and Generational War
The issue itself opens with seemingly a war underway. It’s the big finale, afterall, so a war is what this issue is gonna be about, yeah? Well, no. But it does want you to assume that, and that’s what it opens on, to fan those assumptions. And as that happens, the words ‘The Heart Of Emptiness’ overlay Superman’s sigil. That feels deliberate. Those words emblazoned over Superman’s heart is almost cuttingly clear. The point is evident. We discussed in the previous installment how neutered this Superman was, and that comes back into play in a big bad way here.
And of course, Morrison, Xermanico, Oliff, and Wands opt for a big Double-Page Spread here. The run thus far has had a very specific and clear rule about spreads: Only in Openers and Finales. And so TGL #1 and #12 both had a spread, and now Blackstars #1 and #3 do as well. The choice of restraint is to mark every moment in the book, which can be massive, as everyday. Space= Importance and Meaning in a visual medium like comics. And the allotment of space conveys a message. And so the message with every issue isn’t intended to be ‘this is all-important’. It’s just another day. The beginnings have them and the endings do to mark their nature as explosively vital moments where importance is risen, where there’s greater meaning for what’s happening. They’re visual indicators to guide the reader, even if it’s subconsciously and one may brush past the choice, not making much of it. But it is purposeful.
And thus we get a bit of the ‘war’, which sees the arrival of a Blackstar Meta-Squadron, a special task force of cosmic Metahuman characters, pulled right out of The Superwatch team. For more on that check out this week’s Blackstars piece which goes over their entire history, and all the facets that make up the concept. And then ensues the generational war that’s inevitable.
Grant Morrison is, of course, the premiere Superman writer. He’s done JLA, he’s done DC One Million, he’s done Final Crisis, All-Star Superman, Action Comics, and The Multiversity. All of them play with Superman or his legacy, and mythology in powerful, vital ways. So when he makes a total piss-take on Superman, and calls his heart empty, makes him out to be a coward enforcing the status quo, a petty warlord of a crumbling American Empire, you know he means business. The big thing with Superman since Morrison’s work with him is, of course, Jon Kent, the superson, The Superboy. The choice reframed Superman firmly as ‘SuperDad’, and so Morrison skewers that notion here, taking the harshest blade he has to offer. He’s no kindly father that pushes forward, but an ineffectual parent who’s the symbol of a tired old generation of America that just refuses to let go, and clings onto their old ways, insisting they work, and that they always will, in the face of waves of any change.
Superman as not a radical champion for social justice, and reform but as a weak-kneed boomer dad is the commentary here. And so you have a generational war play out with Jon and Superman, which again gets at the idea of free will and control. The figure of control, the parent, faced head on. But of course, this isn’t the regular universe, it’s a terrible corrupt alternate, so it’s a duel doomed to end in a tragic mess.
Morrison, having not touched Jon Kent much, does the most Morrison thing possible to Jon Kent in this warped world: he makes him another one of his characters. That is to say, he makes Jon into another among his assortment of Enfant Terribles, including but not limited to Damian Wayne, Noh-Varr, and Jack Frost. That is to say, he makes Jon into the brilliant but fiery and passionate rebel who’s ready to tear down any, and all systems that came before, and has an arc, an actual journey to go through a lesson to learn after messing up.
And thus we have the generations duke it out, as Morrison’s own recurring ideas of what older generations do, and have done to younger ones come to the forefront. (Though there is a hilarious meta-subtext to all this, particularly with the ‘We’re here to replace you!’ line, as DC’s 5G Initiative is right around the corner, where Jon is rumored to replace Clark).
We are what we imagine. We are what we tell ourselves. The narratives we weave matter. The only limits upon us are the ones we place on ourselves through our thinking. That’s a recurring motif in Morrison works, obviously. But in the context of youth, it’s even more clearer and honest for Morrison. The idea of older generations telling young people there is no future, that everything is doomed, and dystopic, while not letting them do anything about it, and not relenting power or allowing any change to occur is a big component here. That frustration, and anger, of ‘Your control did this’ plays out here. And of course, Superman dies in the battle, falling to the future. But much like Kylo Ren, Jon Kent learns that killing the past isn’t going to fix the future for you. You can be haunted, and controlled by that which was, even if it no longer is. True free will, free of control, is not through violence and militaristic crusades, although revolution matters. True free will requires something more, and that’s the idea here.
The Cosmic Couple’s Custody Crisis
And as ‘The War’ rages on, Belzebeth and Hal, the newly married couple bicker like the other has changed the channel to the other’s least favorite program. There’s an almost understated mundane aspect to their dynamic, which is lovely. There’s very clear tension there, but there’s also a sense of ‘Ah I know you, you bastard’, like an old married couple having an argument. As a good friend of mine put it, the whole affair is, essentially, Hal Jordan’s Crazy Las Vegas Marriage. And this is the divorce/attempt-at-divorce part. The problem is, now there’s a custody battle, except said custody battle over is the entirety of reality itself.
When you’re a Green Lantern like Hal Jordan, it can be like that sometimes. For all that the opening implies with a big cosmic war, that’s not what the actual issue itself is about. The ‘war’ is over in mere moments. It’s nothing. It’s background wallpaper to make a point, and once it is made, we move on. It’s all, ultimately, firmly centered on our two key leading figures here and is about their dynamic. And it makes sense, given the entire run has been so centered on these two characters, as they embody their respective concepts- The Black Star and The Green Lantern. And it’s entirely about the dichotomy between the two, the relationship between these two symmetries, the binaries from which a thesis must be drawn.
The Rajneeshee Cult Movement
The whole Blackstar enterprise, of course, has very real influences. Grant Morrison is a writer that has never lacked influences (DC put together a whole chart of them for solely this book, which even then is still incomplete) as he consumes varied output across the board. And so the big influence on TGL Season One becomes The Rajneeshee Cult and movement from the 70’s and 80’s, and the whole terrible mess that followed them. Their bio-terror attack was the first and easily the biggest in the history of America up to that point. While a great many may be unaware of the whole fiasco, as it A lot of it is covered in the Netflix documentary series The Wild Wild Country. A long 6-hour viewing, it is fascinating and terrifying look at cults, and how movements which profess noble ideals, freedom, liberation, and decent goals can turn out to be utterly disastrous at times. Not just gradually, but from the start, only getting worse, and worse, until a full on shark-jumping crazy moment destroys everything.
Bhagvan Rajneesh was the leader of the movement, with Ma Anand Sheela. Unlike a lot of spiritual groups of the period, The Rajneeshees offered something different. A way of life where in the spiritual didn’t have to get in the way of the physical, where in you could engage in anything you so wished, thus earning them the title of ‘sex cult’. Rajneesh also felt that unlike many movements which had vanished due to the lack of money, he wanted to build a more ‘modern’ religious movement of sorts, built around capitalist ideals. He offered no god or myth, claiming himself a free thinker, and solely here to create a ‘new kind of man’ that would bridge the ‘western man’ and ‘eastern man’, bringing together spiritualism and materialism. He was also a terrifying dude who almost never blinked if you see any footage of him. And his great sales pitch, worked, as he soared away from the streets of Poona, India to Oregon, America, and there with his vast wealth, had an entire city built from the ground-up by his followers. The aforementioned Ma Anand Sheela, his lieutenant, who ran everything as almost a general, was very vital to all this.
“I developed this need to sit at the feet of my master.” – An Ex-Cult member, The Wild Wild Country
“No matter where I go, I will always wear a crown.” – Ma Anand Sheela, the basis for Belzebeth, The Vampire Queen
The Rajneeshees claimed to be building a paradise, a heaven on earth, where no one would want for anything, and everyone would be free, and they would share. And that there were no real power structures or hierarchies, and everyone was equal, with the power distributed among everyone. But…that wasn’t really what was going on, and there was a clear hierarchy, and the power was hoarded, and the wealth was amassed, not shared, and plenty of people used and abused for luxury. By the end, both Rajneesh, and Sheela made off with what is said to be a considerable amount of money, when all was said, and done. All this context is vital because it does end up informing a lot of what’s on the page here.
So for instance, in #2 of Blackstars, Mongul goes nuts and goes off about socialist ideals, the redistribution of power and money. Now, that could be read as a presentation of those liberal values as bad. But that’s not what’s going on at all. As the above panel from the same issue, just pages prior shows, Belzebeth confesses to the fact that they do not redistribute power or money. They just take it all for themselves. Do they need to? Nope. Not at all. But they do. They amass their wealth and power, while preaching about noble ideals, such as peace, order, love, mercy, sharing. The ideals are cover for self-serving agendas. That’s the thing about cults. Never take things at face value. They’re scary as all hell.
And that sense and approach repeats here in #3 of the book as well, with the captions echoing the propaganda-esque values of The Blackstars. They’re sneaky, cruel, reflective of the main lead of the book, who is Belzebeth, as Morrison was very clear about:
“It’s like the Black Mirror to the Green Lantern series,” Morrison said. “It’s the opposite — it’s this dark, this Blackstar version of the thing that was kind of bright and hopeful, and positive. It’s mean spirited and nasty, and sneering, you know, and it kind of reflects the main character who’s Belzebeth, the Vampire Princess. So Hal Jordan in this, he’s almost like the…he’s the Mister Spock to her Captain Kirk in this series. And like I said, very much an inversion, an upside down, a Halloween version of the regular Green Lantern book, where everything that’s up is now down.”
The book reflects the personality and spirit of the character, much the way The Green Lantern reflected Hal Jordan’s. And thus you get roasts of superhero comics, and all kinds of fun jabs, as Morrison goes a lot more meaner than he usually ever does. So it’s worth remembering with the work. The Blackstar way is that of lies, propaganda, oppression, and systemic cruelties, demanding absolute obedience and loyalty, and utilizing capital punishment to enforce what it can’t inspire. It’s the way of absolutely gaslighting the hell out of people, as Belzebeth keeps doing to Hal Jordan in this book. Jordan’s gotten himself into one hell of an abusive relationship.
But even beyond that, there’s a whole lot more to discuss on The Blackstars. There’s a very obvious, and evident Jedi/Sith symmetry in play here, which I discuss in depth in this week’s Blackstars piece. Let’s not retread the same ground. Let’s instead cover another angle, which is equally as fascinating…
Conversion! Collective! Control!
Doctor Who is, of course, obviously the chief influence on the book. And Morrison, in setting up his Season Two, in #12 set up his own equivalent of The Daleks in the form of The Weaponeers. The Daleks are, for those unaware, screaming mutated monsters in giant space pepper-tins of destruction, who’re basically Space Nazis. They’re the big, chief, DW threat. Coming in at #2 of course though is The Cybermen. And it’s worth discussing The Cybermen in the context of this, because effectively, The Blackstars ARE Morrison’s Cybermen throughout his tenure.
Seeing those space robots, you might be inclined to assume that obviously, the Green Lantern equivalent to these metal menaces are The Manhunters. And that’s a fair, easy leap. But it doesn’t quite work beyond those aesthetic similarities, as there’s a grave conceptual difference. The Manhunters are just a new kind of life, an Artificial Intelligence. A mechanical life that’s made from nothing. The Cybermen? They’re not that. They’re something far more eerie, something far more creepy, and utterly terrifying. They’re us. They’re humanoids who have cut off their emotions, who have been ‘converted’ into another cog in the collective, all serving one unified idea and purpose. Your free will and individuality are no more, as you serve one singular oppressive, toxic will. They’re all obsessed with absolute control, and they are cold, apathetic beings of ‘logic’, and ‘reason’ who do terrible things in the name of the supposedly noble idea of ‘salvation’. They believe they are making everyone better by ‘upgrading’ them, by ‘converting’ them, by making them like them.
And that’s the same primal horror Morrison, Sharp, and Xermanico tap into here. The idea of ‘conversion’ becomes ‘conversion into a cult’, as is natural and understandable. Rather than you literally being converted, with all your body ripped apart, and your brain put in a metal cage, like you’re some army of Robotmans, you’re converted by their trickery, their allure, their promises, and other techniques. They’re Religious Cybermen, in a sense, if the religion was the ideal of ‘Control’. Narratively, this affords them a lot of possibilities, as they reflect back the worst of what we could be. Not changed by metallic torture instruments but by words, and actions of fellow people. The metaphor is much more clean and clear cut with these guys. It’s much more real, and horrific.
The Power Of Narrative Substitution
All that said, arguably, the best part by far of the book may just be its use of Narrative Substitution. A term coined to define a specific storytelling technique where in you think you’re reading one story, but at a point, the story changes completely, revealing it was always another new, different story. The technique works best when its usage is motivated by an ideology or a clear idea to make a point about the nature of the story being discarded and put aside, and the story being told to replace it. And that’s effectively what’s happening here.
‘Change Your Reality’ has been a consistent Morrison idea for years now, a throughline present in virtually all his work. The idea that you can self-actualize, and transcend beyond who you were to become who you are to just change the nature of your life in the moment. For Morrison, it’s absolutely real through his beliefs in Chaos Magick and Sigils, which he employed extensively to supposed great effect during the 90’s while writing The Invisibles. And so it makes sense that his antagonists, much like others prior, cease on that instinct in this run. Mu and Belzebeth literally attempt to change reality. They try to re-write the very story of reality to make it one that suits them, they create a fake history of fake news to aid it on top of all that.
And that’s in keeping with Morrison’s line of antagonists. Often, when they confront their heroic counterpart, they come at them the only real way you can. Not through some nebulous meaningless power of mythos or lore, but through ideology or critique, through ideas, through assumptions and readings about the fundamental concept, and everything that makes it what it is. Effectively, the antagonists do what anyone has to really do to tackle any idea they don’t like: they write a story. Doctor Hurt, and Vyndktvx are two fairly recent examples of this. And, of course, both fail spectacularly, although in vastly different ways, as Morrison always tailors these things via specificity to a property. Hurt attempts to re-write the fundamental story of Batman in RIP, to which Bruce says ‘Go to hell’, and the very immediate story afterwards is Return Of Bruce Wayne, which sees Bruce Wayne (re)building his story, the very myth of Batman, tracing a pulp history, to really lay down what goes into making a Batman.
Since the get-go, we’ve been told that this is a story of a universal/multiversal reboot. It’s the main world, Universe-0, the world that’s been rebooted or reshuffled a million times now, to great chagrin, whether it be Crisis or The New 52 or others. It was assumed to be a familiar narrative, something perhaps akin to those, and other alternate timeline stories. Ultimately both of these types of stories, of reality reboot/re-write that has erased the past, rely on some very familiar and necessary narrative thrusts. So for instance, that world has to be undone in some fashion to return to the old. But this is not that story. Controller Mu and Belzebeth, the self-aware figures of this saga, who attempted to re-write the story of the universe thought they were telling a story they were familiar with. A good ol’ classic they knew and had the full grasp over. They thought they’d made it. They thought they knew this story. They couldn’t have been more wrong.
The book’s revelation of it actually having been Universe-15, a dead wreckage world that’s been revamped and renewed, with nothing erased, and everything safe, is massive. It immediately re-contextualizes the whole narrative. This isn’t a story of a temporary timeline that must be undone. This isn’t that rewrite story you know. This is a new one. It rejects the notion of those familiar plot-lines, where in things must be re-written again, and thrown away for good, never to return properly. It rejects the idea of endless rewrites to the main world, the ‘events’ which are deeply tiresome, and are consistently undone, and instead presents a narrative of taking a broken mess, a hollow shell with nothing, a literal graveyard, and a wasteland from the abominable series Countdown, which is reviled as one of the worst DC books ever, and making something new in its space to be worthwhile. Here’s a real, true offering, a gift for anyone to use, and play with down the road eventually, if they so wish or choose. Building something from nothing.
The Man Of The Eleventh Hour
And chiefly, we get to the key figure of this whole Blackstar Saga. Hal Jordan. This may just be the best take on the character to date, in a really curious way, because what we get here is something rare, and usually unseen: Smart Hal. Hal Jordan, for all his dumbness, all his Guacamole IQ jokes, and other pure idiocy, was a brilliant dude in the original John Broome/Gil Kane comics. He could improv the impossible, and somehow get stuff done. He was simultaneously the dumbest, and the smartest, in an odd way. And what Morrison and Xermanico do is a thing we haven’t really seen much of in the modern era: Hal Jordan The Trickster.
Hal here is far closer to The Doctor than he ever has been. Heck, Xermanico’s artwork even makes him look like Matt Smith here, sexy grin full of confidence and all. Even his declaration of his name, his very title, his statement of identity, feels like it could be scored with Murray Gold’s I am The Doctor theme (or, alternatively, Never Tell Me The Rules. Take your pick). It’s a powerful, powerful moment. What Hal does or is revealed to have done from the start, is actually quite clever. He was put in an impossible scenario, and so he decided ‘Yeah, I’ll give you what you want, but just not at all the way you’d planned or hoped’. He turns his foes’ plans against them, and smirks like a sneaky trickster. And given Morrisonian Cosmology, as Universe-15 is a world with no Green Lanterns at all as a concept, Hal’s statement that they are properly trapped once he leaves is true. It’s not as though The Blackstars are gonna miraculously get their hands on Boom Tubes from The Fourth World or get The Transmatter Cube (only one exists per universe, allowing multiversal travel) which The Multiversal Lanterns have under careful watch. Ultimately the lesson here? Be careful what you wish for.
And none of this could’ve worked, this resolution could’ve have existed, if not for #7, which established not only the sentience, personality, and awareness of Hal’s ring, but also his relationship with it. That, as well as the tour of Earth-15, which established it clearly, so the conclusion would be logical, and obvious, even if completely unpredictable (thus making it work so remarkably well). No one could’ve guessed that Hal would bluff out cosmic super-geniuses and masterminds with a simple but sneakily brilliant trick like that. And that the connection feels so obvious once it’s made is a testament to the writing, which captures the essence of how Hal should feel. In any case, let’s move on, because really, we all know this is ultimately the story of how Hal flees from his wife, just after marriage. Good ol’ Hal Jordan. What happens in Universe-15 stays in Universe-15.
The First Truth Of Green Lantern
If Morrison’s Batman consistently built, and built, examining what Batman was, what all made up, and defined a Batman, with various figures assuming they knew exactly what it was coming out with their theories, to unveil its true thesis on Batman, Green Lantern is somewhat similar. Much like The Three Batmen or Superdoom from Action Comics, The Blackstars are all The GLs are not, or ideally, should not be. They’re fair readings, and assessments of the concept that Morrison finds harmful and problematic, and antagonistic to the basic foundation more than anything else. And it’s also what makes them a great, meaningful threat with the potential for longevity. They’re a clear commentary on Green Lantern, and a mirror by which to examine it. What its doing right, and what it’s doing wrong.
And so we finally what is, effectively The First Truth Of Green Lantern here, which is, let’s actually try to attempt to define ‘Will’ in the context of Green Lantern. It’s often a broad strokes term that’s equivalent to ‘strength’ or ‘ability to overcome fear’ in GL, but usually, it’s not dug into beyond that. But given the run is so much about Will at its heart, and Will not in a vacuum, but in contrast to Absolute Control, it has to make that attempt. And so Morrison does, laying out his thesis on Green Lantern, and what makes it worthwhile, while filtering out all that doesn’t into The Blackstars. And as he does that, making a case for Green Lantern, he also makes one for Hal Jordan’s role within it, what makes him worthwhile.
“Our wills are ours alone. Our decisions and choices are ours to make, and right now–we need to choose what we stand for. Will is a power we all share to think a thought so real it can be touched. We can imagine a table, a bridge, a child, a play, a blackstar construct, a better way of life. Without will, we’d never bring our dreams into reality. Will is what resists inertia and inaction. Will allows us to resist the forces that drag us down. We don’t need control to tell us what to do.”
And thus we get some truly iconic and powerful lines that are maybe the best delineation of the whole dang thing perhaps ever.
“I’m always gonna have a problem with authority. It all balances out. It’s my duty to rebel. The Guardians rely on me to question their methods. It’s my job to challenge the people in power.”
Will as explicit Free Will, which allows us to resist inertia and inaction, the power to, quite literally, imagine a better way, something that allows us to fight fascistic forces that seek to oppress us, and impose their control over us, as something to use to face the things that try to drag us down? That’s a much better case for Green Lantern than any that’s been offered in the flagship in ages. And clearly emphasizing that the very job of a Green Lantern is to challenge the people in power, and that they are relied upon to question things, where in the process is democratic, where it’s a fair back and forth of mutual understanding? That’s a much better presentation of the whole enterprise than is arguably given, with Guardians usually played as geriatric jerks who are fascists (It helps that most of those Guardians were all killed at the end of Johns’ era). Morrison’s Guardians are decidedly not that. They’re closer to the more classically benevolent space smurfs of the 60’s. And Morrison plays them as wise Space Monks, in contrast to Controller Mu’s ghastly Cult Leader. To Guard is one thing, and To Control is another. The difference is the point. The contrast is the statement. The Guardians are in the business of guarding and protection, not absolute control or fascistic agenda. Jordan stripping off the tools of fascists, rejecting their philosophy, and denouncing the name ‘Parallax’, a black mark on GL history, to establish who he is, of his own will, of his own choice, and agency, without space bugs involved anywhere or tied to it, that’s it. That tells you everything you need to know about this comic.
And so as Xermanico’s gorgeous layouts kick in, with Steve Oliff’s art, and letterer Steve Wands giving it all, with The Green Lantern sigil forming, and rebuilding in the pages, you understand the team’s vision of this concept. It’s not regular law enforcement, it’s not like anything we have ever had on our world. It’s why there’s nothing like a ‘You have violated Section 1867 of..’ in the entire run. This isn’t about a lawman enforcing a clear broken down system of laws and sections, this is about something weirder, something stranger, and more fanstastical. He’s an Intergalactic Lawman, and so the law he enforces is much more out there. It’s something not based in humanity and human law, but is a sort of higher cosmic law, a Dharma of sorts. It’s divine law, fundamental to the makings of the very cosmos. To hear Morrison himself speak on the subject matter:
“I’m really trying to figure out, in some ways, the dharma, the way of things. How to make this all work, without sounding cosmically fascist.”
“I grew up a punk and I f-----g hated the police. Now, I know we need this stuff. So basically what “The Green Lantern” is about, is that there are laws to the universe, and the laws of gravity, and the laws of magnetics, and it’s about that. It’s not about any of these things we have; the Guardians stand for four distinct laws of nature.”
And really, that’s what it’s been all about. To do Green Lantern, a book about cops, and not be cosmically fascist. To filter out, and point out the problems that underpin the concept, and to then re-frame it, and re-contextualize it as something different than anything we know, something else entirely, something weirder, and more wonderful, something out of imagination, that’s the idea.
Thus ends Season One, challenging the Green Lantern concept as it has existed and offering a glimpse at what it perhaps could be, if done well. That this is an idea that is still evolving, still capable of change. And not into something harmful, but something far more wondrous and impossible in its potential than those that came before may have considered. All you need to do is imagine. Not what was or has been, but what could be. That’s the essence of The Green Lantern.
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