Rumble in the graveyard
In Brief: Hal, Sinestro and Atrocitus engage in an epic bout of fisticuffs, destroying a fair number of headstones in the process. In the aftermath Hal discovers something new about the Ferris family and has a heart to heart with Sinestro before the both of them get called in to the little blue principal's office.
In keeping with the whole spirit of this series of reviews- writing them based on the merits of the series when we take it on its own terms, and keeping the perspective of a person who is new to Green Lantern, i.e. this is their first exposure to the issue. Having read the other reviews on this issue I am inclined to agree with some of what they have said- if this is your first introduction to the Lantern, then yeah, you needed to have read the other issues in this arc to get this one. And yeah, if you like another origin story this might not be your cup of green tea. However, if you are the target audience and this is your first introduction to the universe and you have put in the requisite amount of work (that is you have read the issues leading up to this one) then get prepared- this issue is incredible!
: This is kind of the issue that all others have been leading up to. It is a near perfect blend- thrilling action, serious character development and momentous events in terms of plot.
Lets start with the action, shall we? That is where the issue starts, so why not a review. Johns keeps it motivated and interesting. How? Well, by weaving things like character development into a fight scene. The fight starts off with Hal and Sinestro sans power rings- they were drained by Atrocitus' doohickey (cosmic divining rod technically, but I like doohickey. I am also partial to thingamajig). But, what does Hal do? He jumps in anyway, punching and kicking. This is incredible! It shows just how much of a hero Hal is, and how headstrong and anxious he is compared to the level-headed tactician Sinestro. Even without his power ring, Hal Jordan leaps into the ring to take on a physically superior (and far more terrifying looking) foe. This tells you so much about him, I love it when action scenes do that!
The fight is also hilarious. Sinestro begins lecturing Hal on the virtues of keeping your battery stored in a pocket dimension...... Hal says he keeps his in his locker. Classic.
When we get in to the real nitty-gritty of the fight, i.e. Hal and Sinestro at full power vs. Atrocitus, this is where some of the real coolness begins to happen. We see just how far the teacher/student dynamic has developed and how these two are actually becoming friends. Examples- whilst Sinestro is pounding away at Atrocitus with a giant Abin Sur he is giving Hal useful tips on how he is to narrow-minded and his anger is weakening his constructs... such a teacher. Always nitpicking. But notice a few frames later for those of you that might already have the comic- see the look of concern in Sinestro's face when Atrocitus is about to crush Hal. Concern! For Hal! From Sinestro! This is incredible! The unflappable, level-headed Greatest Green Lantern shows genuine concern for this rookie he constantly criticizes, this is indicative of the friendship that is developing, as such it is one of the best moments of the entire fight.
My favorite moment? Atrocitus is about to smash Sinestro into Korugar Crunchies with a yellow backhoe. Hal sees this and, with genuine concern for Sinestro's safety, with genuine alarm and determination to save him, unleashes this F-16 construct that smashes the backhoe to bits. He saves the guy that has been constantly nagging him, but Hal respects Sinestro so much that in order to save him he breaks an emotional barrier and cracks the yellow impurity to boot. No Lantern had ever done that before, (again... to our knowledge using only this arc as a reference) but Hal does it because he was motivated by a desire to protect Sinestro. He cares for him that much! It is touching and, if you continue on in the Green Lantern universe, just plain heart breaking. This scene has implications for the rest of the Sinestro/Hal dynamic that is one of the most interesting in comic history.
Beyond the fight scene though we do get some great character development. Best character-building scene- Hal has gone to the Ferris house to finally chew old man Ferris out once and for all. At first we think "come on Hal... I thought we got over this immature 'chew out an old man' thing...". But apparently Hal needs some closure, he is still human after all, and he heads to the house where he discovers that Ferris is seriously ill and Carol has been covering for him. What happens then? Forgiveness! Emotional growth! Hal has finally reconciled with the people that he has held a grudge against for his entire life. He brings himself to say mature things like "I'm sorry", "I've never been there for my family" "you didn't deserve this" and "you're not alone". This entire scene is touching and it carries some serious emotional implications for Hal and company. They are growing up, such different people than they were at the beginning of the series, and that kind of change is so satisfying- makes this issue much more portentous and memorable.
The Art: Good things to say as always. The fight scene was drawn with aplomb- the last issue was drawn like a horror movie in terms of framing and panel editing, well, this one was drawn like a well made action film. Shot/reverse shot, close ups, long shots to give us a good view of the action when it calls for it, just well put together. I also love how Reis is equally good at drawing emotions in a close up (just examine the scene at the Ferris house) and then he can instantly transition to this grand, sweeping shot of a vista, and they are both equally beautiful. Shows just how much range he has (he is not just a character artist or a landscape artist, he can combine both with style).
The Star of the Show?: The star of this show is not a single character, but an interaction between two characters in a single scene. Right after the emotionally impactful scene at the Ferris house Hal and Sinestro have a heart to heart. Hal has just let go of this anger that he has held on to his whole life, has come to terms with his father's death (he makes a construct of him) and Sinestro points out that he has finally learned the true power of a power ring- it can give you the will to live. This is a cool idea already (I mean, Green Lanterns are chosen for their willpower, but it is not a one-way relationship. The ring gives some back too, metaphorically anyway), but the rest of the discussion between Hal and Sinestro is just amazing, beautiful writing that is so memorable and you see, again, just how far Hal and Sinestro have come in their friendship. Hal is beating himself up over hating the Ferris' for so long and Sinestro, in a bit of brotherly kindness, says "berating you is my job, not yours." How often do the rest of us need to hear this? Stop beating yourself up. Sinestro then opens up, stating that if it were not for his mentor he would not be a green lantern period, let alone the greatest. He then says one of my favorite comic quotes of all time- "for beings like us, overcoming fear is what we do best. But when it comes to guilt, regret, loss, even Green Lanterns struggle with those." This is just such a cool idea, it is why I love Green Lantern so much. All this overcoming fear and willpower talk can make them seem so superior to the rank and file comic reader... then Sinestro breaks out this gem and you are reminded just how human they are (even the aliens), and how human we all are. Hal will continue to use this line throughout his Green Lantern career, reminding the reader what an important idea it is to the Green Lantern universe.
Overall: One of the greatest comics of all time. All issues leading up to it have been worth it for this one comic. It is meaningful in terms of story and character development and contains powerful ideas done in a writing/artistic style that fits the comic medium (yes, it can be over the top and didactic- but that is what comic books do best! This is a situation that calls for those things!). Pick it up for the Hal/Sinestro scene mentioned above- then read it with an open mind, take the issue on its own terms (try and avoid saying "well this was different than that one origin story I read 9 years ago") with a fresh perspective and it'll give you goosebumps.