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“I don’t have anything nailed down.”

After all he’s been through Hal Jordan is one guy who really deserves some down time, and thanks to the Guardians that’s exactly what he gets in this week’s Green Lantern #38.  Writer Robert Venditti takes a pause before plunging into the next big story to allow the title character and the reader a chance to regain their footing and that’s a good thing.  However as the old saying goes, you can’t go home again, and that’s especially true when your home is filled with painful reminders of what has put you in the funk you’re in.

There are early signs that while Hal Jordan might be dealing with all the pressure he’s under just fine on the outside things are boiling just below the surface.  When the Guardians challenge some of Hal’s decision making as the Corps Leader one would expect for Hal to fire back at the Guardians, issuing some of his own assessment of their behavior.  When Hal simply departs for Earth after being sent away while they ponder his future there is little doubt that Hal just isn’t himself right now.

I’m really glad that Venditti chose to address how recent events have taken a toll on Hal Jordan rather than roll immediately into another big arc.  It’s important to let the character breathe and in this case remind us that he is a normal human being tasked with an awesome responsibility that carries a heavy price.  What’s unfortunate for Hal, and the reader, is that he’s not really given the opportunity he needs to get it out of his system.  Once on Earth Guy Gardner forces himself on Hal, a situation exacerbated by the arrival of Barry Allen, an out of costume superspeed entrance which doesn’t draw the attention of anyone in the packed bar.  Guy and Barry dominate the issue and act like the worst kind of friends you could have, dumping their emotions on Hal and never bothering to recognize his need for the same kind of camaraderie.
As this issue progressed I found myself getting just as frustrated as Hal was by the situation.  When a bar brawl breaks it all up Hal finally blows his top, leveling some well deserved harsh words at both of his friends.  It’s then that I had to remind myself that, especially for Barry, he and Guy haven’t been around Hal enough recently to know how Hal has matured and the burden he’s carried since they last spent any real time with him.  They are, quite realistically, expecting the same old Hal Jordan they are used to.  I felt that the way Venditti handled the whole sequence made these three larger than life characters feel very relatable by us “normal” people, however I do wish that fewer pages had been spent on it in favor of the more substantial encounter between Hal and Carol.
Their conversation is one that needed to happen, although I’m not sure it is as effective as it could have been.  I’m just as puzzled as Hal is by how Carol so easily able to set aside the evolution of their relationship as we see it at the end of Geoff Johns’ run and jump into the arms of the first person she spends any time with.  My own perspective here is that Hal shows considerable maturity in his reaction to the situation, however it’s Carol who in my opinion seems to be diminished by her recent actions.

People are flawed and I sometime circumstances make for strange bedfellows, and perhaps my views on friendship and loyalty don’t fit well with the 21st Century, but for me both Kyle and Carol fail miserably as people for creating a dynamic like this.  For me both of them should have had the strength of character to forsake any romantic inklings knowing the awkward situation it will create.  I was not in a too dissimilar situation many years ago and we both chose not to put ourselves and our relationship with another in jeopardy over infatuation, and I think that if Carol and Kyle were both of strong enough fiber to be chosen as ring bearers they should have the personal strength to do the same.  I may be in the minority here, but I have no problem with that.

What pushes the conversation into a strange place is the dialogue near the end of the issue when Hal says that he want to believe that they have a chance to be together – and Carol says “Me too.”  I had to put the book down for a few minutes at that point!  Are you kidding me!?  So Carol isn’t really invested in her feelings for Kyle because she’s still hoping that she and Hal will get back together!?  Emotions are a weird thing but I think at that point I’d have to have told Carol I changed my mine and I don’t want to see here again since she’s so willing to stop trying to make things work in favor of toying with the emotions of both my friend and myself.  Hal deserves better than that, as does anyone.  Geez, maybe I really am getting old!  And if Carol didn’t know Hal was even on Earth doesn’t it seem odd that she’d be scouring the places she’d expect him to pop up on the odd chance that he’s there when she apparently has better ways to spend her nights?

Kyle appears not to be Mr. Right, but Mr. Right Now

Where the conversation shines are the moments when Venditti shows how much Carol understands Hal and tries to steer in him the right direction, and frankly I would have liked their dialogue to have gone on for a few more pages.  I’m not sure I how I feel about a Hal Jordan who doesn’t know himself as it seems to be a regression in the character’s development up until now.  Sure he’s learning to handle the burden of leadership and how to better look out for those who he is responsible for, but I have never thought of this current version of Hal Jordan as someone who didn’t know who he was, but as someone who fully embraced his strengths with a confidence that allowed him to overcome his weaknesses.  Hopefully wherever Robert Venditti plans on taking this part of Hal’s journey, I hope we get the character driven stories that this issue sets up.

Billy Tan takes a break from this issue with the art chores being handled by Admira Wijaya.  Wijaya’s work is a bit of a hit and miss as his work on Carol is done well, Barry is at times not recognizable.  His version of Hal is serviceable but often he’s drawn as too youthful.  I did, however, like Wijaya’s use of negative space, particularly during the conversation between Hal and Carol, and barfight scene really conveyed the stereotypical image of an old fashioned bar brawl.

While I may not agree with the dynamic being established between Hal, Carol and Kyle, I still feel that Green Lantern #38 a solid read and provides a much needed character driven issue.  I would have liked to have seen more dialogue from the titular character than Robert Venditti provides, but this issue does finish stronger thanks to the strong writing.  Admira Wijaya’s pencils look good overall and does a nice job of visually capturing the emotions of the characters.  Four out of five lanterns.

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