Green Lantern and Parallax
Hal Jordan was once the most powerful hero of the DC Universe after Superman (just check any episode of the Super Friends for proof). A fearless man armed with the most powerful weapon in the universe, there was nothing that Hal Jordan could not accomplish… against anything not colored yellow, that is. As interest in his monthly series waned, writer Gerard Jones came up with a new idea designed to attract new readers by adding a new layer of development to the fearless Jordan.
Headstrong and defiant, Hal Jordan brought a level of humanity to the alien police force known as the Green Lantern Corps. An oddity amongst the stoic and dutiful corps members, Jordan stood out by questioning the wisdom of the ancient Guardians of the Universe who presided over the corps and defended the
great battery on Oa in the center of the universe. Despite the initial success of the Green Lantern comic book, readers had grown bored with the concept and it was up to Jones to jazz it up a bit.
It’s important to note that this is not the classic version of Jordan introduced in 1959. The newly updated Jordan was a cocky older man who had a history of regret and angst built into him by the Emerald Dawn series that rewrote his origin after the continuity-changing Crisis of 1985. Other revisions to the Green Lantern mythos included a deeper relationship between Hal and his arch foe Sinestro. The culmination of these ideas came during a fragile time in DC Comics history after the death of Superman. The galactic tyrant Mongul destroys Jordan’s home turf of Coast City, driving Hal over the edge. Betraying his better judgement, he turns on the Guardians and kills anyone who gets in his way.
Desperate for a solution, the Guardians even enlist the aid of Sinestro, freeing him from prison to defeat Jordan who had grown drunk with power. But even that was not enough. To cut a long story short, Hal Jordan, once a well-respected and honorable hero, had gone kill crazy mental. As if this wasn’t enough to upset fans, a new Green Lantern was created… the ONLY Green Lantern, in fact, as the corps had been destroyed. Kyle Rayner was the subject of much ridicule and animosity as he carved out his place in the DCU as a member of the JLA. Even though all of this may sound outlandish and disrespectful to fans, it sold comics and returned Green Lantern to its place as a hot monthly series due to the controversy and bloodshed, not to mention the regime change that made an impenetrable series finally approachable to new readers.
But nothing ever really lasts, especially in comics.
As it turns out, writer Gerard Jones had not intended his story to turn out this way. After deciding that Hal Jordan needed to become a villain, editorial took the
book away from Jones and gave it to Ron Marz who was left with the unenviable task of vilifying the old guard and selling readers on the new guy.
You think that was difficult, imagine returning not only Hal Jordan but also the Green Lantern Corps itself to comics and dealing with the Emerald Twilight story… and the tale that made Jordan into the wraith of God known as the Spectre (I’m not even going to go into it). Geoff Johns had already proven himself as writer on the Flash and Hawkman, but it has been his work on Green Lantern that has made him such a success with readers.
Part of his talent is in taking what others have written and weaving it into a character’s continuity, no matter how outlandish. The Parallax-thing with Hal proved quite difficult, but devising a reason behind it allowed Johns to liberate Jordan from his crimes, explain away the yellow impurity that never made sense anyway and build a legacy around the title at the same time. In his 6 part series Green Lantern: Rebirth, Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver rewrote the book on what a Green Lantern is all about while making Parallax into something very new.
In Rebirth, Johns explained that Parallax was a living creature entombed by the Guardians in the great battery. Preying on the base fears of those channeling the battery’s power, Parallax looked for an outlet. The result was a yellow impurity in the Green Lantern’s power rings. Guided by a fellow inmate of the great battery, Sinestro, Parallax found a suitable tool in Hal Jordan as its weapon of revenge on the Guardians and their vaunted corpsmen.
There are those who despise the Emerald Twilight story and think that Johns’ story is just another bad idea stacked on top of a mistake. However, Johns has shown in subsequent years that his Rebirth story was not just a simple retcon designed to undo past mistakes but instead built up to his current story, Blackest Night. By preying on the Guardians’ distrust and fear of the emotional spectrum, Sinestro has forced the Green Lantern Corps down a path it did not want to explore, making it into something wholly new and hopefully capable of dealing with the new threat facing the universe. Like many well written hero/villain relationships, the characters of Sinestro and Jordan have been shown as perfect foils for each other. Sinestro isn’t simply destructive but is strong-willed and determined, often stating that he believes in the Corps itself as much as any member.
By making Parallax into a force of influence rather than an evil persona of Jordan’s, Johns has crafted a one despised story into an essential part in the Green Lantern mythology.