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“Here goes everything”

This week’s Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #31 concludes the two part “Mind Games” story, setting the series up for a bigger return for Hector Hammond while giving a Hal a nice visit back to Earth punctuated by a poignant scene that reminds us of the struggle which has always been a hallmark for the character.  In many ways this arc has felt very familiar in a nostalgic way, brining to mind a lot of the team up stories we’ve seen in the past – and I mean that in the best way possible.

The trap writer’s often fall into when a character guest stars in a book is that one character is usually lessened to make the team up work.  For example, when Batman appeared in the Green Lanterns series the main characters took a back seat to the Dark Knight when they clearly should have had the upper hand, and when Hal recently showed up in Green Arrow his abilities were downplayed in order for Green Arrow to have something to do.  Robert Venditti does a great job with this team up with his handling of Superman, a character who often makes every other hero seem redundant.  The Man of Steel falls victim to the Hector Hammond’s mind manipulations and fares no better than Hal, and in fact Hal’s experience with Hammond gives him a slight advantage but not at the expense of making Superman inferior in any way.

Hector Hammond sees a solution to his problem

This issue also marks the return of the Krolotean’s, who first appeared back in 2005’s Green Lantern #4.  The Kroloteans remain invested with their experiments on poor Hector and it was great seeing that plot thread plucked from the Geoff Johns’ run and given a little bit more attention.  It may have only served as a catalyst for the arc’s story but for readers who’ve been along for the ride for a while it was a nice touch.  They might have ditched their German but the Kroloteans remain an interesting element that have the potential for more storytelling and who knows how their most recent tampering with Hector Hammond will have an effect on one of Hal Jordan’s creepiest rogues.

It’s worth noting, too, how well Venditti writes Hammond this issue as well.  Hector’s hero worship of Hal is always fun to read but Venditti take Hector in a dark direction as well as we see that Hector is also very self aware of his situation.  Hammond’s literal evolution has left him in a sad state of affairs, unable to function in society and able to enjoy a “normal” life.  In Superman Hammond sees an over the top solution to his problem and it really illustrates why Hammond is such a compelling character despite how odd he seems as a Green Lantern “villain”.  Even though his appearance is brief Hammond has a big impact on this issue.

Hal, Carol and Green Lantern – comic’s cosmic love triangle

The heart of the story comes with Hector’s manipulation of Hal Jordan and the world he creates for Hal, perfectly complete with family and the love of his life.  That Hal recognizes that Carol’s reactions to him are not authentic not only served the need for Hal to break free but also underscored how much Hal knows Carol.  How he reacts once the threat is out of the way and we get to externally see Hal struggle with how to deal with it is one of Venditti’s best character moments for Hal.  There’s a great deal to this character that often gets overlooked by the fact that it’s all going on beneath a veneer of bravado and projected self confidence and it takes moments like this where the surface is peeled back to remind us of how complex Hal Jordan really is.  Hal can stare death in the face and laugh about it but at the end of the day he can’t let his guard down enough to communicate with the person that matters most to him.  And then when Hal decides to bare himself, well let’s just say you’re a heartless man, Robert Venditti!

I said that this issue seemed nostalgic and I think that a lot of that comes from the art of Patrick Zircher.  His art reminds me of days gone by but still having qualities we’ve come to expect from modern artists.  Zircher is a very effective visual storyteller and you can tell what’s going on without reading a word and combined with Venditti’s script the whole package works very, very well together.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #31 is the conclusion to a very short arc, but the action and heart packed into this conclusion results in a great reading experience.  Putting the spotlight on Hal Jordan reminds us of why he’s the iconic character he is and leaves me wishing there was more time for this kind of story in a series with a cast that’s bursting at the seams.  Pat Zircher does a fine job supporting Robert Venditti’s wonderful script making this a very satisfying conclusion.  Nine out of ten lanterns.

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