Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Monday, November 13, 2006

The Problem with POW

I'm going to preface this complaint with the disclaimer that I haven't gotten around to reading Green Lantern #14, so I honestly can't evaluate the storyline as it's currently being presented.

But that said, I think it's fair to say that I have a problem with this POW storyline. A big one.

I'm usually a big fan of Geoff Johns. I like his character moments and his ideas tend to be a lot of fun. I have nothing against real world issues being used in comic book storylines (though my personal preference is that if Green Lantern is involved in a POW experience, it should be with aliens, darnit!). But I have a real big problem with this. Because it relies on a plot point that simply does NOT make sense.

From what we've seen, (pre GL #14), the whole reason Hal got into this mess was that he didn't bring the GL ring on his mission.


Now, I've joked about how stupid Hal (hell, all Lanterns really) can be sometimes. And I've definitely blogged about Hal's self-absorption. But leaving behind his ring on a mission simply doesn't make sense even for Hal. Especially for Hal.

I'd imagine the leaving the ring behind is indicative of some sort of death wish. Which I can appreciate. Hal's been through a lot and is carrying a metric ton of guilt with regards to the whole Parallax experience. I didn't have a problem with the scene in Recharge with Hal flying without his ring.

In the Recharge scene, I got the impression that Hal was courting death. Certainly there are many ways fighter-piloting can go wrong. Without the ring, Hal's possibilities for survival decrease dramatically. But the reason that scene worked for me is that I was under the impression that it was a practice flight. Not a mission.

I have a big problem with Hal not bringing his ring on a MISSION. For one thing, it's incredibly irresponsible. Sure Hal himself may have a death wish, but he's not the only person on this mission. Cowgirl and the kid who's name had something to do with Rockets were there too. And there are many ways such a mission can go wrong. What if there was a mechanical failure? Or a freak supervillain attack (this IS the DCU after all)? Both innocent people on his team would be in danger!

What if someone needed saving on the way? Say...a weapon goes wonky and lots of lives are suddenly at stake. Or an attractive woman falls off a building. What if, since this is during the missing year, some sort of huge alien invasion kicks in? Clark, Bruce and Diana are gone. That leaves Hal as one of the heaviest hitters they've got left. Which means, he's basically an emergency room doctor, on call at any given moment. A mission is a LONG time to be incommunicado.

This changes things considerably. Recharge was before the Crisis. Before the worlds split and reformed. Before Clark, Diana and Bruce went AWOL. When there was a Justice League rather than a Lex Luthor funded band of misfit amateurs. Even ignoring the very likely event that a hero is needed on Hal's own mission, he's got a responsibility to the world.

And Hal might be occasionally stupid and an asshole, but he's responsible. His guilt and culpability in the Parallax Affair would, I'd think, make him MORE hypervigilant in an attempt to atone. Not less. (I'd have preferred to see Hal's death wish take the form of being TOO gung-ho with the superheroics. Biting off more than he can chew. Not calling for help when needed. That seems like a more organic way of utilizing a subconscious death-wish element)

Besides, while Hal is arrogant enough to assume nothing would ever go wrong on his own mission, he does have a huge ego and a savior complex. What if the WORLD needs him? What if something happened to everyone when he was incommunicado? (Considering that his own lack of vigilance could be considered to play a big part in the Parallax possession to begin with, it definitely doesn't make sense)

I usually love Johns's characterization of Hal but this seems like a serious misstep. It's completely illogical and feels like an contrived and ill-concieved attempt to shoehorn Hal into this new traumatic and angst-ridden storyline. And it'll have to be a damn good story to make up for that, for me.

I'm honestly not holding my breath. Sorry.

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  • At November 13, 2006 9:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How is not bringing the ring during a practice mission any different from not bringing the ring in a real mission?

    Either way, lots of things could go wrong. Either way, someone might get hurt. Either way, he's going to be partly responsible.

    Personally, I think it works because it shows how arrogant Hal can be, and how more often than not, he has to pay for that arrogance. It goes back to what I think is the character arc of Hal, that of redemption (as opposed to Kyle, who has the opposite).

    Besides, one can also see it as Hal trying to separate his normal life from his superhero life. Considering that his superhero life isn't doing all that well (almost everyone in the Corps hates him), it wouldn't be unlikely that he'd want to compartmentalize, especially since in his normal life, he's the top dog.

    Then again, I've only been reading Green Lantern since Rebirth...

  • At November 13, 2006 9:50 AM, Anonymous CrimsonThunder said…

    I think it comes down to:

    Hal as test pilot and Green Lantern works.

    Hal as combat pilot and Green Lantern doesn't.

    I can see him not using the ring as a crutch when testing new airplane designs, as a sign of arrogance/confidence etc. ANd it makes sense because mostly its him thats in ganger if it goes wrong.

    Also as a combat pilot his job is pretty much to kill people, I have a problem with that.


  • At November 13, 2006 10:48 AM, Anonymous Loren said…

    Interesting...I got something completely different out of his not bringing his ring. For me, it wasn't arrogance or courting death that makes Hal leave his ring behind while on a mission but, because he was the all powerful Paralax who once destroyed the world and because he was the all powerful Spectre (both situations where he was controlled by a greater power), I felt he left the ring because he needed to know he was human and his own person. He wants to know that, regardless of what he's been through, he can be Hal Jordan when he wants to and Green Lantern when he wants to.

    Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but that was my take as I read the issue...

  • At November 13, 2006 12:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Issue 14 pretty much dwells on that decision, and the guilt Hal feels because of it.

    It's clear he thinks it was a big mistake, too. It's a mistake I don't have a problem with him making, since it does tie into his confidence that nothing would go wrong. But now that he's seen the consequences, I can't see him making it ever again.

    Yeah, it was a bad idea for him to do it, but since it was a bad idea that fits snugly with how I see the character, I'm okay with it. (I don't in any way think of it as a death wish; it's more a feeling of invulnerability, I'd say.)

  • At November 13, 2006 1:36 PM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Actually I think that I can understand this behavior of Hal's. The flashback sequence takes place before OYL, and therefore not TOO long after Rebirth, right? Leaving his ring behind was a monumentally stupid move on Hal's part, but not necessarily without precedent. I mean, Hal's pretty, but Stupid is practically his middle name.

    I'm wondering if he was still feeling a bit skittish about the whole Parallax/Spectre deal, and therefore a bit reluctant to use the ring. He may have thought that they'd be in and out, and no harm done...which is in and of itself pretty dumb. I also wonder how much he has adjusted to BEING an Airforce pilot rather than merely a test pilot. He's still trying to do things HIS way, which is not the way that the military is going to do it.

    Be that as it may, it was a really really dumb move on his part, and now he's stuck trying to fix it. Tyring to fix things, seems to be a recurring theme at any rate.

  • At November 13, 2006 2:41 PM, Anonymous Mark Engblom said…

    I'm disappointed because the last thing I was looking for in a new Green Lantern series was more hand-wringing guilt. Didn't we get buckets of that when Hal was the Spectre?

    A strange way to start out your reinvigorated Hal Jordan character by saddling him with even more guilt.

    Also, for Hal to so cavalierly set aside his responsibilities to the Corps by taking off his ring shows, at best, a startling immaturity or, at worst, someone completely unsuited to the responsibilities Abin Sur passed onto him all those years ago.

    Is it just me, or has Johns been on "auto-pilot" when it comes to the Green Lantern book? I just don't feel like he's bringing a whole lot of his A-game to this book. It's got a real "last book on the To-Do list" feel to it.

  • At November 13, 2006 3:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I found it quite plausible. Hal established his don't-wear-the-ring-while-flying pattern while he was a test pilot -- no lives on the line but his own. When he abruptly went from test pilot to combat pilot (which seemed far more forced and bizarre to me), he didn't change his habits when suiting up. Not wearing the ring, Hal Jordan is not Green Lantern, and can, in good concience and without offending the Guardians, act as an agent of the United States against a foreign power. Wearing the ring, even out of uniform, Hal is Green Lantern, and is supposed to be above nationalism. Yes, he set aside his higher calling for a while for patriotism, and there were bad consequences. But that he would do so, and fully expect it to work out well, seems very Hal to me.

    -- Jack of Spades

  • At November 13, 2006 5:37 PM, Blogger Elliot said…

    Hal isn't the only one. I have been bugged a lot lately by all the Green Lanterns taking off their rings.

    I can understand the logic behind Hals decision, he worries that not wearing the ring will make him lose his edge as a test pilot. It is still incredibly stupid not to wear it. Even the most careful test pilot can end up killing someone when his plane crashes, and how about the wasted money as a multi-million dollar jet smashes to pieces just because ol' Hal doesn't want to lose his edge.

    In GLC recently, Guy Gardiner gets jumped by a bounty hunter while his ring is in a hotel safe. Was he worried about losing his edge with women if he had the ring on?

    How many times did Kyle take his ring off and offer it to someone? I seem to recall him even giving it to Major Force at one point.

    How about Abin Sur? He was even featured in GL 14, anyone remember how he died? He decided to go for a flight in a space ship, and left his damn ring off (ok, I think he just forgot to recharge it, but close enough).

    A story I'd like to see is one where a building collapses next to one of these idiots who left their ring at home. Maybe a charge of criminal negligence would get the point across.

    However, Jack of Spades has an excellent point, one I hadn't considered for this story.

  • At November 13, 2006 9:08 PM, Anonymous Starman Matt Morrison said…

    Actually, this point was addressed in JLA: Year One. It was the first place I remember hearing about how Hal never wore his ring while he flew and it's a character choice I agree with for the reason given.

    Basically, Hal refuses to wear the ring when he flies because he thinks that knowing he has the safety net might make him over-cautious, at least subconciously, on a mission when he has to put his all into his flying.

    Also, for the record, Hal did the same thing with Kyle when he took him for a ride in his jet in the most recent GL Secret Files. So this isn't a totally out of the blue plot contrivance - Johns has established this as being something Hal does even before this story.

  • At November 13, 2006 9:55 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    dvdty: The difference for me is that during a test/practice flight no one else is depending on him.

    Also a test/practice flight does NOT take as long as a mission even regardless of whether the mission goes wrong. It's a measure of responsibility for me. My conception of Hal might be arrogant and a little dumb sometimes. But this crosses the line into unbelievability for me. It's criminal negligence at best and I simply can't buy it.

    Jeff: Yeah, I was fine with test pilot minus ring. This is something else. His situation may not be without precedent, but things have drastically changed.

    loren: It's a good take really. And another reason not to mind a test flight sans ring. My problem though is that mission flights are different. The duration and the fact that others are depending on him make the fact that he leaves behind the ring incredibly, unbelievably irresponsible.

    rob s: My problem is that Hal's military. He has to be aware that there's a serious difference between test and mission flights.

    It's like the difference between Superman somehow using magic to become like a normal person for one night versus a week. (Especially as other heroes would be around!)

    I might have even bought the mission thing except for so few heroes are around in the missing year. No Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman. Inactive Flash. Inactive Justice Society. AWOL J'onn. John undercover, Kyle god knows where and Guy barred from Earth. This is not a time I can buy Hal being so irresponsible.

    sallyp: This is definitely during the missing year, not before. We've seen Hal in 52, and the time frame in GL established Hal's prison time to be about 4-5 months before.

    It's the timing issue. Hal is dumb, but there is almost no other active major heroes right now. He's the only Lantern on Earth since John's presumably on his secret mission by now. Bruce, Diana, Clark are who knows where. No Flash or J'onn. The only active people involved in life-saving really seem to be the Titans (scattered) and Infinity Inc. Now some of that may change the farther we go in 52, but I can't see Hal (jerk that he is) as THAT irresponsible.

    Mark: I've actually liked most of Johns's run. Though I complain of his pacing sometimes. This one doesn't work for me for exactly the reason you stated

    Hal's MORE likely to take his Corps responsibility seriously now, I think.

    Jack: That's a good point. But still. This isn't a time I can see Hal dropping his responsibilities like that. Maybe I could buy this happening NOW. But during the missing year? With so many heroes inactive and missing? No other Lanterns on Earth?

    I simply can't buy it.

    elliot: Actually I could buy Guy leaving the ring behind easier than Hal.

    Guy was on vacation. It was dumb. But no one was depending on him at the time. There were a number of other back-up Lanterns to pick up the slack. And no one expects anything to happen on vacation.

    A mission is a little difference.

    Matt: Just because the precedent makes sense doesn't mean this makes sense now though.

    A test pilot needs to be as risk-taking as possible. A combat pilot's situation is different.

    If nothing else, missions are *longer* that's more time incommunicado.

    My biggest problem though is still the lack of other heroes. I think Hal is smart enough to recognize that NOW is a different situation and that in the year without major heroes, he was absolutely needed.

    I think Hal would have the experience/responsibility to know better. And that he doesn't really drops the character in my eyes. It turns him into a shirker, willing to let his own issues overwhelm his greater responsibility.

    It's not good. And it doesn't really make a difference to me that Johns established a precedent. It's still a spin I wish he wouldn't have taken. I'll still read the comic and probably even enjoy it, but it definitely changes/damages the character in my eyes in a way that I sincerely doubt I will enjoy.

  • At November 13, 2006 11:57 PM, Anonymous Dan Coyle said…

    Wait, the entire series up to this point is about Hal atoning for past mistakes and Johns has him do THAT?

    Geez, that's just freakin' lazy.

    Although now that Hal has killed someone, Darwyn Cooke is probably curled up in a fetal position somewhere, plotting New Frontier II, where Hal didn't mean to bomb Laos, it was an accident!

  • At November 14, 2006 12:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I guess I can't fault Hal for the timing issue (leaving his ring behind for what he expects to be a day while the other heroes are missing for a year). If Hal's being irresponsible, how irresponsible are Batman and Diana being (Clark has no choice, I know)?

    I also think Jack of Spades makes a really good point about setting aside the ring while working for the US Millitary. He probably shouldn't be working for both as it is -- what if the guardians called him up while he was on that mission? His duty to continue with Cowgirl and Rocket-Man would conflict with his duty to go where the Guardians sent him. That conflict of interest may be more irresponsible than leaving the ring behind while he was acting as an officer of the Air Force.

  • At November 14, 2006 3:29 AM, Blogger Marionette said…

    My reading of the Guy story was that he specificaly took off the ring so that the guardians couldn't interrupt his vacation by calling him away. Irresponsible, and proud of it, that's Guy.

    Hal really needs a slap. He'd have a lot less angsting and hand wringing to do if he wasn't so self-centred and arrogant in the first place. It's very hard to feel any sympathy for someone whose own negligeance is the cause of his troubles.

  • At November 14, 2006 4:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It makes sense to me. Jordan is a Lantern with no affiliation to the U.S. or the planet earh, he's assigned to a space sector. That's why he can wear the ring in the first place.

    But he's only a fighter pilot when on a mission. You want to be involved in earth's affairs, bomb Chechnia as a U.S. Army pilot? Okay, no ring for you!

  • At November 14, 2006 1:31 PM, Blogger SallyP said…

    You know something that has really bugged me? In GLC #5, Salakk shows up to save Guy, because he has discovered that Guy took the ring off...ergo, Guy must have been incapacitated or dead. Why then, didn't Salakk show up on earth to check up on Hal, who also took off the ring, and then had it sitting inactive and out of power in his locker for up to FOUR MONTHS? Or did he show up, and realize that Hal was a POW, and therefore, not the Corps problem, as they couldn't interfere with politics? I'm probably not stating this very clearly, but it seems like another whole can of worms.

  • At November 14, 2006 10:06 PM, Blogger Elliot said…

    Very good point Sallyp. And Salakk wouldn't even be aware of political niceties on Earth, GL has established Earth as very backwards due to our fractured, tribal systems, as opposed to a single world government.

    I have another problem with the theory he left the ring home for conflict of interest reasons. Even if Hal wanted to avoid being seen operating as a Green Lantern while on US government business, that still shouldn't have stopped him from tucking the ring into his belt.

    The only real argument against that idea is that it would be too tempting, similar to the whole losing his edge as a test pilot angle. But I was thinking about this and the more I do the more I come back to what are supposed to be the two defining characteristics of Green Lanterns, fearlessness and willpower.

    If Hal truly is fearless, he wouldn't lose his edge when he puts his ring on. In point of fact, he shouldn't even have that edge, since the edge referred to is that which is caused by the natural reaction to fear/danger.

    Hal has one of the strongest wills on the planet. Are we supposed to believe he cannot summon the willpower to not use his ring when he is on a mission? This is akin to saying he couldn't compete in a walk-race, because he would be too tempted to start running. He would lack the willpower to avoid "cheating".

  • At November 15, 2006 3:43 PM, Anonymous green with wheelpower said…

    First Salaak is a jerkAND full of himself:)

    Second regarding Guy: that IS in character and y'all who complain forget a basic rule of superhero comics
    "Any hero will have the right to vacation, however, this will cause a Murphy's Law corolary to activate cause the @#$% to hit the fan in a manner & at a time convient to only the writer.":)


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