Review Brew: The Green Lantern #5 Annotations
The Green Lantern #5
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp, Steve Oliff, Tom Orzechowski
Publisher: DC Comics $3.99
**Note That The Following Is A Detailed Discussion of The Green Lantern #5 Out Right Now And Contains Spoilers**
Darkstar at Zenith
Page 1: This issue picks up where the last one left off: with (former) Green Lantern Hal Jordan joining the Blackstars. With him is Countess Belzebeth the daughter of Justice League villain (and partial Mandrakk inspiration) Starbreaker leading him into the especially gothic vampire world of Vorr. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the Darkstar to Blackstar name change had less to do with Robert Vendetti’s finale using them and more to create a real yin/yang relationship between the Green Lanterns and the vampiric monsters of the Blackstars.
Page 2: With every issue Liam Sharp and Steve Oliff are earning their keep. The heavy metal goth feel of this book is an integral part of its identity and it’s really hard to imagine anyone but Sharp and Oliff selling a Bloodborne-esque page like this. The reference to a ghost train recalls the one that showed up in Batman Incorporated.
Page 3: The point is made quite succinctly as to the difference between the Green Lanterns and the Darkstars. The Green Lanterns gain their power from life and light, concentrated within their rings, Vorr is a place that feeds on those things. And unlike the Green Lanterns, the power is earned and not given by choosing. By sacrifice rather than by overcoming fear.
Page 4: The first bell tolls with twelve chimes to go before Hal Jordan dies. Hal’s quest to recover the three pieces of the Blackstar suit and the lessons and sacrifices he’s meant to realize owe a lot to two specific issues of Batman Incorporated. The primary influence being issue #6 where Bruce climbs the tower of Talia’s making where he’s forced to make a choice between the life of Gotham and the life of his son. The inversion here is Hal being forced to climb below in order to make sacrifices for new wisdom.
Page 5: This page is stylistically a mirror (again) of Batman Incorporated #6’s climb through the tower, with Belzebeth narrating Hal’s journey through the Sunken Quarter. The miasma destroying Hal’s will and sense of self is a Morrison trademark. It also recalls the drugs that caused Batman Incorporated to travel endlessly through the Leviathan maze in Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes, as well as Morrison JLA villain Prometheus who used a “neural chaff” to disrupt Green Lantern Kyle Rayner’s ability to use his ring. It’s also a pretty classic vampire tactic and given increasing doom and dread through Sharp’s artwork.
Page 6: Hal is given the state of things. Green Lanterns rely upon willpower, something that won’t help him now, in order to test what he is when his sense of self is stripped away. The test is one that relies upon stripping away the things that Hal relies upon as a Green Lantern. In this case, his need for the visor leads him to bargain for a clue.
Page 7: Hal enters a building which contains his predecessors in the attempt to become a Blackstar and is appropriately ghoulish. As Hal himself points out, he’s been through worse and Morrison opens the floodgates for his previous adventures, which becomes key given the issue’s end. Hal has faced the dead multiple times including in Blackest Night, as well as tyrants like Darkseid, and was possessed by the fear entity Parallax in Emerald Twilight. His death and rebirth in Final Night and Green Lantern: Rebirth respectively are referenced in his favor, the point being that Hal is someone who’s been around the block. Part of the run’s point being that as a hero, Hal is pretty much unflappable, and not without reason.
Page 8: Hal is attacked and finally triggers the conditions for him to gain the Blackstar helmet which he was wearing all along. It both protects him from the miasma that was clouding his senses, but also allows him to see the monsters attacking him. It also conveniently protects Hal from his other weakness: blunt force trauma to the head. The obvious allegory here is that while the Green Lantern’s ring are at essence wishing rings that allow them to bring what they want into the world, the Blackstars can only see the world as it is. And it’s one filled with evil.
Page 9: Hal being Hal picks up the nearest weapon he can to survive: a shovel, and starts wrecking everything in sight. Continuing Hal’s attempt to probe the Countess’ motivations and navigate the differences between these Blackstars and the Darkstars questions whether it’s an army as the previous one was, or a cult given the connotations.
Pages 10-11: Hal recounts the death of the Countess’s father: Starbreaker at the hands of his pal Oliver Queen aka Green Arrow. His death by silver arrow is an accurate if shortened summary (for one he only killed one of three Starbreakers!) of Starbreaker’s death in Justice League of America #98. His intent to scare her and prove his point about overcoming fear falls rather flat when it turns out she knows what he did and in fact admires him and the Justice League for taking out her dad. Also I can’t help but admire Hal just going to town on space plant monsters with a shovel. That’s bravery.
Page 12: Just like with the helmet, Hal’s assumptions were stripped away and found he had his Darkstar maser gauntlets all along. His shackles literally transform into power once he realizes the tingling sensation he felt was a thought-powered weapon. Though he’s still traveling along a path pre-determined by the Blackstars.
Page 13: Hal immediately goes to town the moment he has the advantage again. The gauntlets contain the maser sling which has been a part of the Darkstars from the very beginning, and a Star-Band Gauntlet belonging to classic Green Lantern villain Evil Star which was stolen from him in The Green Lantern #2. However, in gaining power, Hal was already poisoned in the process and is dying (again).
Page 14: Hal comes upon the Church of Blood at the chime of the penultimate bell and is met by angry residents of Vorr who aren’t too happy about their home being used as a testing ground for crazed space cops. That said, part of the fun of The Green Lantern is that the abnormal is normal for other people and that Hal’s seen too much to be shocked by the strange and the weird. Also can’t help but be impressed by the zombie knight with the darkened horse ready to fight.
Page 15: This page is where things get really exciting with Hal vs the zombified knight in the Sunken Quarter in his 2/3s Blackstar regalia. Which comes with the Countess summing up another difference between the Green Lanterns and the Blackstars: while Lanterns work alone or in pairs, the Blackstars are a collective that works towards one goal.
Page 16: And the Watch-Maggot shows up in all its bloody glory to claim Hal Jordan as its meal. I have to admit that I hope Sharp stays on long-term, this is a relationship that deserves to continue, and is well worth the monthly wait. Hal also has to claim the final treasure of the Blackstars to survive: the Exomantle. Except the Countess is wearing it making Hal’s final objective that much more perilous.
Page 17: Given the Blackstar’s philosophy of operating as a collective front, Hal reasons that there’s no reason to fight her. He also figures out the purpose of this exercise: to strip him of his usual sensibility and ego to work as a one-man army and wing it to victory. The first rule of the Blackstars is to ask for help, but that help comes with strings attached, and in this case that comes with Hal dying if he doesn’t surrender to them. It’s a notable inversion of Morrison’s First Rule of Batman: “I was never alone, I had help.” in an extremely darker light.
Page 18: Which is a perfect time to flash back to The Green Lantern #1 which reveals the full course of Hal’s conversation with the Guardian. While Hal finds out that there’s a traitor in the Corps, one who the Guardians are already aware of… which is meant to be him in order to fool everyone else. While it was easy to see early on that there was more than meets the eye with Hal’s increasing running off the rails and even joining the Blackstars, in the logic of a cop drama which Morrison has referred to this as, Hal is the perfect undercover agent: the Jimmy McNulty of the Corps who’s feigned dissatisfaction may as well be real and makes him an easy mole in the Blackstars.
Page 19: This too comes with its own perils. In order to effectively infiltrate the Blackstars and reach their exotic weapons program, he has to do things that effectively reject the ethos of the Corps, with the potential reward of being disowned if he’s caught. But the final outcome is no different than what first got him kicked out: murder. With his orders to assassinate the Blackstar leader: Controller Mu in order to stop them, Hal may very well have thrown away his oath.
Page 20: This issue is one of two wham pages in the issue. Hal is in full Blackstar regalia (cracking jokes as usual) and being welcomed as a knight in O.M.E.N. (Over-Master’s Executive Network), which may or may not be a reference to the classic Justice League villain the Overmaster, but that’s not important in this instance. In keeping with the theme of Hal’s past as a renegade Lantern, of rebirth coming back to haunt him, some things are new again. Hal Jordan died one last time and he’s now a Blackstar and once again is Parallax. A fallen name for a fallen man.
Page 21: Hal is here to do a job and starts using his position to probe for answers on whether Controller Mu’s new weapon exists. The references to an ultimate weapon powered by thought call to mind the Miracle Machine. It first appeared in Adventure Comics #367 as a gift to the Legion of Super-Heroes. It was an invention of the Controllers and given to them for safekeeping after they defeated a renegade Controller. It could turn thoughts into reality, which given the danger meant it was kept in an Intertron vault by Brainiac 5 (which didn’t stop it from showing up for stories). Relevant for this run’s purposes though: it showed up in Final Crisis where in a last ditch effort to save reality: Superman memorized the 31st century version’s specs and helped create it 1000 years in the past to wish for a happy ending. It was connected then as being a Controller extension of Guardian willpower technology. Hal asking such questions helps bring into sharp relief of his place in things. For one that the Blackstars are based on Rann the homeworld of Adam Strange, and that he’s not welcomed into the fold just yet.
Page 22: One reason being that in order to prove that he really has cast off his past, all he has to do is kill his friend and fellow Justice League member Adam Strange. Which is a pretty hellish place to lay a cliffhanger. See you all next month!