Perfect 10: Hal Jordan

Perfect 10 is a series of essential recommendations that fully encapsulate a comic character – 10 desert island picks of runs, single issues, arcs, etc – curated by Comfort Food Comics.

  1. Green Lantern Vol. 2 #134: By Marv Wolfman, Alex Saviuk, Dave Hunt, Adrienne Roy & Ben Oda. This is the middle part of a three part Doctor Polaris story but I’m only putting this one issue on here because it’s a very cool issue that focuses on the man, Hal Jordan and not Green Lantern. Doctor Polaris steals his ring and abandons him in the arctic, seemingly to die. Before we get further into this article, I should make it known that I’m not a huge Hal guy. Most writers want him to be a superhero version of Maverick from the movie Top Gun. Let me tell you dear reader, Top Gun is an awful movie, Maverick is a sexist, braindead idiot for middle class white dweebs to idolize, and Tom Cruise is a poor actor and an even worse human being who is the celebrity God of an extremely harmful cult. Top Gun is the Fight Club for even stupider people. Good soundtrack and jean volleyball scene though ………..where was I?? Ah yes, Hal. Most writers tend to write him as some great white hope, a classic all american, square jawed ideal for all the toxic dudes whose time has come and gone. To me, Hal is more of a sad dope who is so simple, so earnest he can bumble his way through anything, regardless of how successful he is. I find him infinitely more interesting as a stupid blockhead of a man who is literally too dumb to quit. That is the Hal we get here. A sad, cold dope that has to fight a polar bear and a wolf and keep dragging himself through the snow, because he’s too damned stupid to die this way. Also, did I mention he fights a polar bear and wolf?

2. Emerald Twilight – Green Lantern Vol. 3 #48-50: By Ron Marz, Bill Willingham, Darryl Banks, Fred Haynes, Romeo Tanghal, Denis Cramer, Robert Campanella, Steve Mattsson, Anthony Tollin & Albert DeGuzman. Ok, first off, if you’re a card carrying member of H.E.A.T., please stop trying to find my address and call off my murder. Make no mistake, Emerald Twilight is one of the best Hal Jordan stories ever. It’s one of the boldest, craziest shakeups corporate comics has ever had and IT WAS GOOD to boot! Look, I know it’s rushed and not perfect, you know it’s rushed and not perfect, Hell, even Ron Marz knows it’s rushed and not perfect. He wanted more issues to do Hal’s descent but DC needed it ASAP and this is what we got. This is still one of my favorite comic stories of all time. Hal is framed here as a villain (Yes he kills Kilowog, it ain’t great), but to me he has an arguable point to his actions in this one. You can really identify with how this man has lost everything in his struggling superhero life. He has the most powerful weapon in the universe on his hand. It is LITERALLY a wish ring. Why wouldn’t you want to use it to make your wishes come true? Doesn’t he deserve that for all he’s done. This is also a natural extension of my preferred Hal take of “too stupid to quit”. He is now too broken, too shattered to stop once he starts down this path. He just doesn’t have what it takes in his head to go another way. A lot of people just like to cry “Out of character!” at this one and that doesnt sit well with me. Mental health is something that superhero comics tend to not do very well, but I think this story deserves more attention focusing on that. What does this life do to one’s mental health and spirit? At this point, Hal had become so useless, a shift to a broken, warped man that wanted to set things right through questionable means was a revelation. I have always said Parallax was a way for DC to have its own Magneto and just this year in a Newsarama interview Marz said the same thing:

“I saw Hal as Parallax very much in the Magneto mold. He was convinced in the righteousness of his cause, and he was willing to do what was necessary to achieve his goals. He was very much a sympathetic character to me. All-powerful, but broken.”

THAT IS SO GOOD! Hal as Parallax is the most interesting and deep the character has ever been and it all starts here.

3. Hal Jordan is..The Spectre – The Spectre Vol. 4 #1-27: By J.M. DeMatteis, Ryan Sook, Norm Breyfogle and many more. This is the series DC wants you to forget existed. This is the series where Hal Jordan was The Spectre. Have you ever wanted a Hal Jordan book without the toxic masculinity? Well, this one is for you. Hal’s best time in comics may have been when he was Parallax, but this is by far the best series he’s ever had. DeMatteis is one of Hal’s greatest writers and this whole series is an amazing meditation on spiritualism, family, religion, magic, the afterlife and so much more. It’s usually presented in a dreamlike, whimsical manner with Hal’s niece as a main supporting character who seemingly no longer exists outside of this book. Incredibly charming and full of so much creative heart, if I recommended any Hal Jordan book, it’s this one.

4. John Broome’s Run – Green Lantern Vol. 2 #1–16, 18–22, 24, 27, 29–31, 36, 39–40, 44–47, 49–56, 59, 66, 69–71, 75: By John Broome, Gil Kane and many more. While trying to pinpoint a specific John Broome Hal Jordan story to put on this list I realized I created and own this website and while you are kind enough to be my audience, you are also beholden to my creative whims. I cannot cut up the John Broome era, so you get every issue he did as a selection this time. This era is one of the only times Hal Jordan, the man, is interesting. Like I said earlier, I only like him when he is a stupid dope with a plucky earnestness that falls ass backwards into a win. Broome’s Hal, from the start, is said dope who slips on soap and knocks himself out. THAT is Hal Jordan. An extremely human man with the limitless wish weapon in his hands who doesn’t really know what to do with it and ends up getting knocked out more often than not. He’s a lunkhead. He’s donkey brained. But doggone it, he’s gonna jump head first into some wacky shit without thinking twice. It’s fascinating! It’s fun! There is a refreshing heroic charm there that gets lost in all future iterations when he is propped up as some determined always right Alpha Male. I prefer this realistic, vulnerable man to the parody we eventually end up with. This run’s enjoyment is very similar to classic movies for me. It’s like watching Paul Newman, a very dumb Paul Newman, act through a movie that’s simultaneously a silly 60’s zany rom-com as well as a crazy sci-fi movie with deep Christian Heaven and Hell analogues. It is terribly interesting material even if the actual quality differs.

5. Green Lantern Vol. 2 #171: By Keith Giffen, Robin Snyder, Joey Cavalieri, Alex Toth, Terry Austin, Anthony Tollin & Phil Felix. This is an entire Hal story drawn by Alex Toth. Do I really need to say more? Ok, so the story is nothing special but you get legendary artist Toth just having a day drawing Hal and his space galpal of the time, Dorine Clay in a V-neck leotard exploring a strange alien world. It’s some of the best art to grace a Green Lantern title, or any title ever. Go find this one and feed your eyes.

6. Green Lantern Vol. 2 #164: By Mike W. Barr, Keith Bollard, Dan Adkins, Gene D’Angelo & John Costanza. Oh man, do I love this one. So most of the issue is Hal in a dream world that’s basically Conan’s Hyborian Era mixed with a little fantasy Dungeons and Dragons elements. HALJOR THE BARBARIAN! Quite possibly the most fun you’ll ever have reading a Hal Jordan book. I love seeing the elements and characters of his world plugged into a Conan parody world.

7. Parallax View – Green Lantern Vol. 3 #63-64: By Ron Marz, Darryl Banks, Mark Bright, Mike DeCarlo, Romeo Tanghal, Steve Mattsson & Albert DeGuzman. Marz and Banks continue their development of Hal as something different here. After his fall in Emerald Twilight and failed attempt at fixing things in Zero Hour, Hal Jordan, seemingly back to normal, confronts Kyle and the last Guardian, Ganthat in Kyle’s home to ask for his ring back. Marz does such amazing work writing him with an off kilter, disturbing tone where you dont quite know what to believe or think as the tension climbs like a slow burn horror movie. Marz doesn’t get enough credit for writing Parallax’s shattered, ever changing mental health struggles so well. Soon enough he flips out and reverts to his Parallax look and starts just wailing on Kyle to take back his role as Green Lantern. Ganthet assembles a ragtag group of the old Justice League to confront Hal and they try to talk him down but a huge dogpile fight happens. Superman eventually joins and Hal takes them all out, puts his ring back on and changes his look to his GL outfit. Ganthet as well as Kyle, now just barely standing, wielding a steel pipe, try to yet again talk some sense into him and show him that he can’t go back to the way things were. I love this whole sequence because it’s just as much about Hal as it is about the comics industry as a whole. Change is a constant. We can’t just keep going back to the original superhero status quo you read as a kid. Shakeups need to happen. Characters need to evolve and, like Hal says at the end here, become something else. He merges with Ganthet and leaves as Kyle and the heroes regroup. The absolute BEST part of these issues is the ending that hits you in the gut SO HARD!! You see an epilogue drawn by Mark Bright who had done the majority of art for the Post Crisis Hal stories give us a scene of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, returning a lost dog to a crying boy. A big bold splash page is next – The boy calls him his hero and remarks how he makes Coast City the best place in the world to live. Hal replies : That’s what I’m here for!” beaming, swelling with muscles and power, the very picture of the ideal superhero. The splash page has a corner box of this same image in greyscale in an oval. As you turn the page, it keeps zooming out showing us this image is taking place in Parallax’s eye, in his broken mind, his mouth agape in an almost catatonic way. The final image of the book is Hal as Parallax sadly sitting, alone on some alien world. He looks mentally destroyed, clutching his shins as he pulls his legs closer to his body like a hurt child. It is an utterly heartbreaking and extremely powerful image that just knocks me on my ass every time I see it. I’m getting chills just describing it.

8. Green Lantern Vol. 2 #172-#186: By Len Wein, Dave Gibbons, Anthony Tollin & more. Wein and Gibbons take over this book and give it a fresh start as they refocus things and bring Hal back to Earth after he’s been gone for a very long time per Guardian’s orders. Wein does such an amazing job with Hal’s supporting cast in such a short time giving us a very focused new status quo. You get a series of very fun battles with D-List villains like Javelin, the Shark and eternal personal faves of mine, the Demolition Team. Hal and Carol Ferris’ romance here is done in such a satisfying way and is pretty much the only time I’ve been into it. Halfway through Hal decides to give up the ring so he can stay on Earth and be with Carol. He becomes a major civilian co-star as John Stewart takes on the new main role of Green Lantern. This never quite hits a new creative renaissance high, but its just solid, heartfelt super hero comics. As meat and potatoes as they come, and sometimes that’s all you need to be a really solid favorite comic. The only downside here is that Wein & Gibbons create this new era and character shift but leave after 13 issues. This is Dave Gibbon’s best work in my opinion. Career high for sure. Better than any of his UK work, better than Watchmen, better than Super Soldier, better than Marsha Washington. It’s so clean and sharp and expressive. I absolutely love his art here.

9. Final Night #1-3, Parallax: Emerald Night, Final Night #4: By Ron Marz, Mike McKone, Karl Kesel, Stuart Immonen and many more. Final Night is an insanely underrated short and sweet 90’s DC event comic with a simple premise that an alien Sun Eater has extinguished the sun causing the Earth to rapidly freeze over. How is the sun reignited and the day saved? Parallax, good ol Hal Jordan of course. In between issues 3 and 4 of the event we get a spectacular one shot, again by Ron Marz, of Hal finally eneacting vengeance on the Cyborg Superman for the destruction of Coast City, but feeling nothing, still dead and broken inside. Kyle Rayner comes to him and tells him of the latest calamity and Hal isnt so sure he wants to help. We then get him visiting Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Tom Kalmaku, Carol Ferris and the rubble of long dead Coast City where he purges and converses with Ganthet who he previously merged with. It is an INCREDIBLE character study of Parallax and all of Hal’s relationships since he was forced to become something else packed with so much emotional heart. It serves as his goodbye, his Last Will and Testament as he finally makes up his mind to help. In Final Night #4 he teleports in and talks with the assembled heroes before saving everyone by reciting his old Green Lantern oath and using all of his Godlike power to sacrifice himself and reignite the Sun in a final atonement.

10. Green Lantern/Silver Surfer: Unholy Alliances: By Ron Marz, Darryl Banks, Terry Austin, International House of Colors, Gloria Vasquez & Chris Eliopoulis. This is no joke, one of the COOLEST comics ever made. Not only is it a wild DC/Marvel crossover but it’s by the regular Green Lantern team and actually fits into their continuity. After the events of Green Lantern #0’s destruction of Oa, a dimensional rift has opened and the Cyborg Superman enters the Marvel Universe with Parallax hot on his trail. They run into the Silver Surfer and it’s here Hal and Norrin sit and talk and compare how similar their own tragedies and lives are. Parallax convinces Surfer to join him and share his Power Cosmic, which lets Hal start to alter reality and bring back the eaten by Galactus planets. Over in the DC Universe, Thanos tricks new GL Kyle Rayner into teaming up to stop Hal. So you end up with a comic where Ron Marz, who wrote BOTH Surfer and Lantern, has Thanos and Kyle Rayner go up against the Silver Surfer and Parallax. IT IS EVERYTHING I COULD EVER DREAM OF!!! Eventually Thanos turns on Kyle and uses his ring to transfer Godlike powers into himself. What follows is an amazing opposit fight as Thanos, intent on annihilating everything in reality clashes with Parallax, who wishes to remake and reset reality. Hal remakes Coast City only for Thanos to destroy it all over again and so on. The Surfer and Kyle finally see the truth and team up to save the day in a creative way and everything is set right again by the end. I cannot think of a more perfect use of a crossover that matches up characters that seem fated to meet and clash with pitch perfect plot and characterization. This thing is literally a miracle it worked so well. It’s yet another in a long line of Hal Jordan gems by Ron Marz.

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