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“I don’t know how powerful I am”

DC’s “New 52” era is about to come to a close, but not before a handful of the original titles hit their milestone fiftieth issue.  Today’s Green Lantern #50 is the first of the bunch to hit the stands and with the extra page count, and increased price tag, comes and interesting development with Hal Jordan’s relationship with Krona’s gauntlet.  This month Hal comes face to face with Parallax as writer Robert Venditti delivers some of his best character work of his run on the series.

The issue starts out re-establishing who Parallax is just shy of getting entangled in the web of the fear entity or of the events of 1994’s infamous Emerald Twilight story line.  For a reader who isn’t familiar with those events there’s enough here to help provide the bare essence of what caused that version of Hal to fall from grace while not beating a dead horse for those who’ve been there and done that already.  It might have been helpful for an old fashioned editor’s box to have pointed readers to Green Lantern: Rebirth as a way to help anyone fill in the gaps if they desired, but in the age of the Internet anyone who wants to know the tale will have no challenge in finding it online.

On the other side of the equation is “our” Hal Jordan who is trying simultaneously come to terms with his feelings about being responsible for what happened to his nephew Howard while doing his best to be a good uncle to his brother Jim’s children.  The character moments between Jim and Hal are some of the best Venditti has written and Jim’s perspective about the risks and fears associated with parenthood on right on the nose for anyone who’s raised a child.  Jim also does a great service to his brother by pointing out how unfair Hal is to himself for thinking the burden of protecting everyone is not one he needs to bear just because he wields great power.  To turn a phrase – that while great power does indeed come with great responsibility it doesn’t make one responsible for everything.

These opening moments show a huge difference between Parallax and Hal Jordan.  The former is a man functioning as an island who is eaten alive by the fear of failing to live up to an unrealistic self-created expectation, while the later has matured enough to allow himself to have a support structure that reminds him that he is, after all, just one man.  For all of Parallax’s power it’s Hal who is the stronger being.

The personal moments between Hal and his brother are this issue’s strongest asset

Once the two come face to face and all out brawl erupts which consumes the remaining pages.  There are some great visuals as both Parallax and Hal struggle to gain the upper hand.  The fight ends in a spectacular fashion and Hal discovers that his time with Krona’s gauntlet has done something unusual to him.  It’s unclear exactly what is happening to Hal which creates a cliffhanger for the final two issues before DC: Rebirth kicks in.

In my opinion the only disappointing part of the issue from a narrative sense is that the conflict with Parallax doesn’t lead to any meaningful conclusion.  It would have been very powerful  and poetic to see Hal Jordan talk this version of Parallax down and helped him come to terms with the fear that grips him.  While the cover for the May issue looks to have Parallax on it but a close look at this issue shows that some of the art from this month’s issue is a placeholder for the May installment, so there is likely no further planned interaction for the two.  In the end it’s probably for the best that Parallax is left as he is for others to use even though I feel like there’s a bit of a missed opportunity.

Hal tries to reason with his other self

Visually the issue is hit an miss for me and a lot of that’s my continuing dislike of Billy Tan’s depiction of Hal.  While Venditti’s dialogue between Jim and Hal are the strongest part of the issue for me, the art accompanying those moments were by far the weakest part of the issue.  Not everything from a visual sense is bad here, though, and the action sequences look very lively and the pages burst with color and action.  Kudos to Alex Sinclair and Tony Avina for their great coloring work which greatly helped bring Tan and Vicente Cifuentes’ work to life.  Cifuentes and Tan’s styles mesh well enough together that the transition between their contributions flow pretty well.

Green Lantern #50 brings a showdown of sorts between Hal Jordan and his former self, and while there isn’t necessarily a dramatic conclusion to their conflict the struggle does serve as a way to reveal that the prolonged exposure to Krona’s gauntlet is not without its side effects.  Robert Venditti’s great dialogue and personal approach to recent events in the series are the issue’s high points, as are the spectacular visuals when Hal and Parallax thrown down arms.  Eight out of ten lanterns.

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