My love for ‘Green Lantern’ waxes and wanes over every decade. I forget, and relearn facts only to forget them with every passing year because ‘Green Lantern’, like most comics, is hit or miss. However, when it comes to the 1994 three-part series, ‘Emerald Twilight’ (written by Ron Marz), it’s not just a hit; it’s a freaking grand slam, and that’s why it’s the subject of this week’s Thowback Thursday, ScienceFiction.com’s ongoing column that looks back at the classics of the sci-fi/fantasy/horror genres of the past.
Whenever I think back on the most memorable or amazing moments of comics, be it DC or Marvel, Green Lantern’s ‘Emerald Twilight’ ultimately comes to mind, and it always tops the list.
Because it’s when ‘Green Lantern’ decided to actually look at what it meant to be a super hero, and do something so completely opposite of that, that it’s hard to believe it was believable at all.
So, let me paint you a picture. Green Lantern’s home, Coast City, was destroyed and he was unable to save it. Mad with grief, he utilizes his ring to summon back the world and speak to those who have died, including his father.
“This was the place Hal Jordan grew up,” states the narrator, “where he worshipped at the shrine he called father, where he first knew love. This was the place he started become the man he is”. He walks through his home like it was the Emerald City where everything is tinted in shades of greens (a purposeful allegory to the Wizard of Oz, I should think, where the green of the city is only an illusion) and tries to find solace in the world he can no longer have. He walks through a metaphor of the lost Hal Jordan until his ring loses its charge, the world disappears, and the Guardians appear to tell him he will be stripped of his powers since he used them for personal gain.
And that’s when Hal Jordan goes, not to be too crass in my description, batshit. The writing in the books is brilliant, so I’ll just leave this passage here to explain how batshit he became:
It can happen to anyone, really… Even to the best of us. It weighs upon you… the responsibility of wielding one of the most awesome weapons in the universe… literally billion of lives dependent upon you. And what do you get in return? Well… not much, frankly. You have all this power, and at some point you wonder “What good is it to me? What has it done for me?” And you don’t like the answer. And you do something about it.
That something he does about it? Well, let this picture be your clue.
Why yes. That is Hal Jordan with the rings he stole off the corpses of his former comrades. And yes, that does make him incredibly powerful. Scarily powerful. Don’t-get-in-his-way-Guardians-what-are-you-doing powerful.
It’s precisely because of this that I like this episode. In comics, we have this tendency to worship our heroes as if they were perfect, and one wonders if we forget that heroes are still men, even Hal Jordan. With the death of his friends at his own hands, the quick way he does away with Sinestro, and the vindictiveness in which he destroys the Guardians, it becomes clear that the darkness that can come to a man, even a good man, with power is evident.
All of ‘Emerald Twilight’ leads us smack dab to where Green Lantern is today, with its rainbow of lanterns. Hal Jordan’s madness was caused by the yellow impurity, which we will later know fuels the yellow lanterns, or more popularly The Sinestro Corps. Of course, if you’re going to have green and yellow lanterns exist from certain emotional states, there can be others, hence why we have the purple Star Sapphires, the Red Lantern Corps, and of course the hopeful Blue Lantern Corps.
Without ‘Emerald Twilight’, none of this would have happened, and ‘Green Lantern’ would have a whole lot less complexity, and even less figurines to sell.
My only issue is that lack of permanence in the death of the characters in ‘Emerald Twilight’ which had made the series feel all the more poignant for over ten years until they brought all the dead characters back. When that was taken away in the early 2000s, ‘Emerald Twilight’ lost a lot of the edge it had. Of course, I recognize that in the comic world, no one ever dies. Remember when Captain America “died”?
I would be remiss if I finished this article without truly pointing out the true glory of this series: we get Kyle Rayner as Hal Jordan’s replacement, who, let’s face it, is pretty darn awesome. And what better way to give a new super hero a spin than to pit him against the old superhero? Even thinking about it has me grinning again.
Really, ‘Emerald Twilight’ is a crowning achievement in comics. Not only did it have fantastic art that still holds up today, and amazing writing, it explored deep and dark themes of what it means to be a hero.
Usually, here, I tell you where you can purchase my Throwback, but with this I can’t… that is unless you want to offer me an exorbitant amount of money for my mint condition copies. I say exorbitant because I’m pretty loathe to get rid of them, that’s how good they are.