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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sibling Rivalry Revisited: Reaction to Green Lantern 11

Okay, considering everyone who's *ever* been to this blog knows that Guy Gardner is one of my two favorite characters and that I find the relationship between Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner to be fascinating has to know what today's blog entry is about.

And well, I never claimed I wasn't predictable. So here we go, a second analysis of the relationship, focusing heavily on GL:11.

Contains Many Many Spoilers, Go Away The most fascinating element of this whole relationship is that, except for a handful of scenes in the last issue of Rebirth, the first of Recharge and Infinite Crisis 7, we've never actually seen Hal and Guy interact on equal footing before.

Hal's always been the superior one in the relationship, as I think I've gone into in my first essay. His control freak tendencies are one of the most fascinating aspects of his character, after all. At the start, we saw Hal track down and befriend his would-be alternate, who had no real idea why this strange person was suddenly talking to him in a Baltimore gym.

(One of the reasons I'm completely fine with the retcon out of ED/EDII. While it was neat seeing Guy as Hal's social worker, it messed with the power dynamics a bit too much. It did add to the theme of Guy as unintentional victim of Hal's thoughtlessness in his heroing, considering the whole hostage situation later. But I think it altered the power balance a little too much. There is a big difference between the meeting of a convict and his social worker and when a hot-shot ex-military test pilot shows up out of the blue at a Baltimore gym to talk to a very young middle school gym teacher.)

The next time they met, Guy was the man the Green Lantern saved from falling off a cliff during the bus accident. The third, he was the green newbie recruited to temporarily take Hal's place, never even knowing that it *was* Hal.

It certainly wasn't an equal match when they were rivals/antagonists. Guy was mentally crippled and almost insane. When Guy got his sanity back, Hal was already Parallax, and then the Spectre. Both beings of incredible power. Not to mention, it's debatable how much Hal remembers of that anyway.

But *now*, as of Rebirth, they're on equal footing. They're both sane, they're both human, they're both Green Lanterns. Hal's Parallax debacle and Guy's experiences as Warrior have placed them on the same level. And it's *fascinating*.

Rebirth has some throwaway lines but the real interaction begins in Recharge, when Guy Gardner flies alongside Hal's plane, completely undaunted by the fact that Hal doesn't have his ring (and makes legitimate complaint to that effect). At first glance, the relationship plays out as it had when Guy was brain damaged. An exasperated Hal being annoyed by irritating counterpart. But there's a subtle difference in the dynamic.

Hal's "You've finally proved you're one of the best" was interesting on one sense, it offers much deserved recognition. But in another, it shows how much Hal Doesn't Get It. Being Green Lantern isn't about proving anything. It's about doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing. It's about doing what it takes to keep the peace and uphold the meaning of the Corps.

The Green Lanterns were *already* worthy. That's why they were chosen. Even Guy Gardner was chosen. Hal's statement is actually arrogant too. What he means is that Guy had proven to him, Hal, that he was one of the best. But who is Hal to make that judgement? Hal is just a fellow Lantern, chosen like the rest. And hell, *Hal* was the one who let himself get influenced, released Parallax and destroyed the Corps. And *he* is the one who gets to say when someone's worthy?

That's the sort of arrogance that Hal's always had though, one of the flaws that made him interesting. And one of the ways that made it obvious that the whole conflict between him and Guy was not one-sided, was not entirely Guy's fault. The Gardner of GL v2/3 and JLI would have picked up on that arrogance and gotten pissed off. But this Guy Gardner is different. And his response is easy and confident: "Finally proved it? Hell, Jordan, you know it and I know it. I always was the best." And in that calm, confident assurance, Guy finally won.

The first time I read through the scene, I laughed. I read Hal's statement like recognition and Guy's as entertaining overblown arrogance. But the thing is, looking at it now, I see Hal as the arrogant one, for the reasons I gave above, and I appreciate the simple truth in what Guy says. There is only one person a hero needs to prove worth to, and that's him or herself. And given the path of their stories, it's playing out. In Green Lantern before the year jump, Hal was getting his delusions and assumptions ripped away one by one, and he's starting OYL at an emotional nadir, and scrambling for his purpose. In Recharge, Guy steps up and takes charge and takes names, and has settled into his position of Honor Guard very well, OYL.

And the best part is how, at the end after being promoted and getting the recognition that he'd always wanted, his response to Hal is exactly the same as it was in Recharge 1. Because in the end, it *doesn't* matter. He proved himself to the entire Corps and it made no difference, because he'd already proven himself *to* himself. (One of these days I really have to dissect Warrior as a really cracked-out coming of age story).

The interactions in Infinite Crisis weren't quite as dissectable I think. But I loved them because I am such a sucker for Hal in an older brother role, and it applied here. Hal calling Guy in as the cavalry was neat in a professional sense, but the "his ring stays with him" made me swoon. I've argued before in my previous essay that I thought Hal paralleled Mace in a lot of ways for Guy, and I get so pleased to see that playing out in the comics. Even if Hal's a lousy big brother most of the time. That's okay. So was Mace.

The last bit was interesting though, when Guy and Hal are watching Superboy Prime's cell. "There hasn't been a massacre like that since--" "I know when." "Oh, yeah."

First because it's funny. Guy's changed but he's still insensitive. But it's oddly sweet too, because the reason Guy's so careless is that he forgets what a big deal it is to Hal. Because it's NOT a big deal to him. Because Guy's forgiven him, completely. He truly, unstintingly believes that the man who caused all that havoc, who killed so many, who impaled him on a *spike* and ripped out his eye before absorbing the yellow ring and putting him in a coma for three weeks was not Hal Jordan. Why should he censor himself around Hal when Hal's not the guilty party at all?

Finally, GL: 11 is a feast for me. The relationship is in full swing and I love every panel of it. It for me and plays out exactly like I hoped it would.

The parallel to Mace stands stronger than ever for Guy, even if Hal is a version of Mace that he can actually be on something of an even level with. I talked about the parallels of Hal and Mace before in my last thing, but here it was even moreso. Guy's still in Hal's shadow as the rookies he's been working with on Oa ignore his ire to attack his dinner mate. Not to mention, Salakk blames him for it. Hal's also, much like Mace with the drugs, something of a user, and is a self-centered jackass. (Which I love, because being a self-centered ass really is a big part of his personality in GL v2/3. It's not all he is of course, but he definitely had his really awful moments. It's including stuff like this that shows that Mr. Johns really loves the character for the character, and not some idealized nostalgia version in his place.)

There's a fascinating element here. Hal is, on the outside, the perfect Lantern: charming, good-looking, polite but still one of the guys. But at least with regards to his relationship with Guy, he's still a domineering user. Having noble reasons doesn't excuse the fact that he both volunteered Guy for the mission without asking first (if you notice, we never see Guy agree to it on panel before Hal goes to ask) and lied to *Guy* about having permission. While it distinctly looked like Guy knew Hal was lying, it's still bad form not to tell your friend your risking both your careers. Where as Guy is outwardly rude, crass, self-absorbed, arrogant and an undeniable jackass, he's, as Hal says, the first person to forgive and accept him. He shows (not very surprising, if you read Warrior) perceptiveness with regards to Hal's emotional state, and of course willingness to follow Hal on a crazy atonement mission. His forgiveness contrasted with Hal's lie makes it clear which character actually has the moral high ground.

Ragnell points out that Hal is probably trying to do him a favor and give him deniability. Which I agree, but honestly, Guy'd never go for that. Soon as Hal started taking blame, he'd leap in with a "Oh come on, I knew the whole damn time. You can't lie worth crap, Jordan," or something to that effect...whether it's true or not.

The really fascinating realization I had writing this is that they're not on equal footing after all. Not at all. But for the first time ever, the power's entirely in Guy's hands, even if he doesn't know it. See, Guy knows Hal. Guy knows Hal very well. He knows the annoying tics, he knows when Hal's zoning out and guilt tripping. He noticed Hal's perturbedness after his nightmare/flashback, even if he doesn't know the cause. And he pretty obviously knew that Hal was lying about the Guardians' permission (which still doesn't excuse the lie!).

But Hal. Hal doesn't know Guy at all. As he said, he expected Guy to be the last to forgive him. But what he doesn't know and the readers (of Warrior at least) do is that Guy had already started to forgive him when he was Parallax. When as far as Guy knew, Hal had just lost his freakin' mind. When he let him stay at Arisia's funeral, that was the obvious one. But even before that, there was no real sense of hate or rage toward Hal, and after his death, Hal was given a monument in Warriors with the others. And that's before Hal had any sort of plausible deniability via mind control and alien bugs from Outer Space. So naturally, now that he knows for sure it wasn't Hal at all, well, okay then. That's settled. Let's get a beer. Or something like that.

If Hal knew Guy, he wouldn't be surprised at the forgiveness. If he knew Guy, he'd never have bothered to lie about the Guardians, because he'd know Guy would a) know otherwise, b) come otherwise and c) claim to have known it all anyway and refuse the damn deniability.

It's not Hal's fault really. The very young man he'd met in Baltimore was sweet, even-tempered and even a little shy. A middle-school gym teacher that was amazed and awestruck at his sudden introduction into the world of superheroics ("So *you're* the Green Arrow! Son of a gun!") right before the battery blew up in his face. A man that the Guardians decided against healing because he had been, in their judgement, "too hesitant".

Then the man he knew after the accident was a something else entirely. In Green Lantern, he was a petulant, angry eight-year-old in a man' body. In JLI, he was a complete caricature...basically like an angry eight year old with bad male role models pretending to be a grownup. The damage wasn't really repaired until after Hal'd gone Parallax, whereupon they didn't have a whole lot of interaction. (And he doesn't seem to remember much from his Spectre-hood).

But that makes for a completely new power dynamic. Hal's kind of blind and is the sort to think he knows more than he actually does, and Guy's the sort of character who likes putting on a facade. Which puts Hal at the complete disadvantage for the first time in their lives. So it'll be interesting to see how this develops. Right now, this story seems like a lot of Hal's assumptions are going to be thrown back into his face, and I'm guessing his assumptions about Guy will be among them. This should be fun.


  • At May 25, 2006 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I wish I felt like Geoff Johns gave one thousandth as much thought to these characters as you do.

  • At May 25, 2006 5:29 PM, Blogger Julio Oliveira said…

    Actually there is one interaction between Hal and Guy during his time as Parallax that is worth of mention: during the Final Night, Hal is visiting the people who meant something for him before taking the decision whether or not reignite the sun, and the last person before Carol is Guy on the Warriors (that "I think the alcool is finally taking effect on my vuldarian phisiology" line is great).

    Because it is Hal recognizing that he may not like Guy but he always admired and respected him. (Is sort of that brotherly talk like "You know we may not like each other like now, but you know we love each other anyway, don't you?")

    And Guy besides his initial reaction don't treat him like "the great threat that destroyed the green lanterns", but just as one of the guys, the one who took a great fall but always wanted to do what was right.

  • At May 25, 2006 5:52 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    charlie: Well, I have to get this stuff from somewhere. It's not *all* out of my ass. :-)

    julio: Ooo, you're right, I forgot about that interaction. It does embody the complex relationship they have, doesn't it. :-)

    (And it was a great line. :-P)

  • At May 26, 2006 2:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    First off, great post. I can only hope this kind of detailed psychology is going to be devoted to the characters in the comics themselves from here on in.

    I picked up a bunch of the latest GL series this week - mostly to test the waters - and with #11, I decided I wanted to start reading regularly, although I'll miss the Pacheco artwork.

    And a big part of that is Hal and Guy's interaction. When I was introduced to Guy, he was an insensitive jerk who was always the first to kick Hal when he was down. I remember the big #25 fist-fight issue from the last series. The Bowlcut years. But here, we have a sense of a personal evolution - we still get, yeah, the insensitive jabs, but then there's this professionalism about him...

    Guy knows what he's doing and at times knows what he's doing better than Hal does; he's read the lore, the Book of Oa, he seems to have a better grasp on the mechanics of the job while Hal's reeling from all the transformations and murder-angst and trying to deal with people that he killed being free to walk around and interact with him again.

    Actually, I wonder if they'll do some exploration into "resurrection guilt" - survivor's guilt when you were brought back to life and other people (like Ke'haan of Sector 786) weren't.

    Katma's still dead, I suppose, but what's Arisia's status at the moment? I suppose I could google around, but I'd love to see her come in as an Honour Guard member.

  • At May 26, 2006 3:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    By the way - have you been reading Peter Milligan's Dead Girl miniseries? It's quite well done, and certainly casts the issue of comic book resurrection into the light, and might be worth looking at in relation to Green Lantern & Corps..

  • At May 26, 2006 3:13 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Well, in regards to kicking Hal when he's down, that was actually pretty bad writing. Most of the time, Guy's interest was in irritating/provoking Hal, but there's a difference.

    And in my opinion, the fist-fight in 25 was a lot worse on Hal's part than Guy's. Hal had quit and Guy had been trying to poke him back into the role. Suddenly Hal wants it all back and pretty much in the process takes everything Guy has left. (Hal had a job and a family and a life outside of the Corps. Guy really didn't. No job, no family, the only thing he had was the ring and the League).

    But it is cool to see how he's grown.

    Arisia died in Warrior, but after one hell of a fight with Major Force. There were narrative hints that Smith possibly intended to bring her back...implications of astonishing healing, some oddness with Parallax at the funeral, but yeah, poor thing is dead right now.

    Sounds like an interesting comic, I'll give it a try.

  • At May 26, 2006 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Nice analysis... but I have a question: When was ED retconned out? Not that I mind- EDI was horrifically wrongheaded, though EDII was actually pretty good.

  • At May 26, 2006 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Kalinara: Arisia died in Warrior, but after one hell of a fight with Major Force.

    Makes me quite sad to hear. There was so much fertile ground to explore with Arisia. The sacrificed childhood angle alone...I do remember that "Whatever Happened to..." story in Green Lantern Corps Quarterly from eons ago, but still...

  • At May 26, 2006 3:16 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    dan: We see Superboy Prime punch it during one of the IC books. Geoff Johns confirmed. Basically he pointed out that it was ridiculous that a guy chosen based on his will/courage would end up in that situation for the stated reasons. I admit, I can't disagree.

    ben: Well, a lot of that was explored in Warrior before then. She appeared in the end of 25, was killed in 43, and in a way that implied if Warrior wasn't canceled she'd be back.

    It was nice though. She was much more interesting in Warrior as Smith wrote her as basically the little sister of the group, playing with the age elements.

    They could still bring her back, but if they do, I hope it's in GLC NOT GL. She's much better as Guy's little sister than as Hal's ex-girlfriend. The former actually allowed her to develop a role/personality beyond her lead protagonist.

  • At May 27, 2006 10:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Apopos of nothing, I was reading this post and thinking of I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League and the interaction -- what little there was of it was fascinating -- between Guy and Mary Marvel. Am I the only person who wants to see more of that? Specifically, I'd love to see Guy spending some regular time with the Marvel Family...Billy's never known the non-braindamaged version of Guy and I think he's honest enough to recognize that Guy's due a reevaluation. And I'm not sure what exactly it was that clicked for me between Mary and Guy but click it did. She's so sweet and he's so crass, but he's got a heart of mushy gold beneath it all and she's a sensitive enough girl to see through the bluster once she's done being flustered. Maybe it's an echo of Guy and Tora, but more platonic? I don't know. But I want more of it.

    Enough rambling. Now I want someone to take this and make it a regular book or at least a LS. Guy Gardner/Shazam: Lightning and the Lantern.
    You all know it would sell like whatever they compare hotcakes to when they're selling well.

  • At May 27, 2006 10:33 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    That could be rather interesting. Especially as Guy has a background in education. It'd be interesting to see if the Guy Gardner that existed in Warrior and exists now in GL/GLC manages to figure a few things out about the Marvel clan He's been proven to be actually quite clever once he's been fixed...

    It *would* be fun.


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