Friday, December 29, 2017

"The End" Week: Action Comics Weekly #642!

This issue kinda-sorta barely counts as a last issue, but I'd been looking forward to it, so we'll go ahead even though it was a bit disappointing: from 1989, Action Comics Weekly #642, "Where There's a Will..." Written by Elliot S. Maggin, art by Steve Ditko, Gil Kane, Jim Aparo, Curt Swan, and more.

You can read a bit more about the Action Comics Weekly experiment here, but while the sales weren't terrible (though they may have been down) producing the book was apparently a nightmare. The various anthology features may not have fit together tonally, or not been structured to make good use of the weekly format, or been hamstrung by creative team changes. On that note, this particular issue was supposed to be written by Neil Gaiman; but his script was turned down by editorial, since they felt at that point in continuity (post-Crisis, shortly after Byrne's run) Superman and Green Lantern would not have been close or known each other's secret identities. Even though reading the final product, I thought they did anyway, or at least Clark knew Hal's.

When Abin Sur crashed on earth, his first choice for his replacement was Clark Kent, but per Guardian bylaws the new Green Lantern had to be a native. (Like many Guardian rules, this may have never come up before or since.) Seeing the other candidates, Clark suggests Hal Jordan, since he had interviewed the prospective astronaut earlier. (Pre-Crisis, Clark had met Hal at least twice before he became Green Lantern!)

In the present, Hal is tracking the theft of fissionable material, but seems cranky and off his game. He also seems indecisive, and easily snowed by a crooked major; although that may have been to set up a Casablanca homage; but he then gets shot and left to die. His ring scans the earth for replacements, and while some are brave ordinary men, it also grabs Nightwing, Guy Gardner, Clark Kent, and Deadman in the body of a criminal. (Guy had his own ring, but wasn't wearing it right that second, as he was challenging a gun-runner to take a shot at him with it!) The ring brings them all, frozen in time, to Hal to pick; but the ghostly Deadman and Clark at super-speed are able to talk to Hal. (Clark plays it off as "...for some reason," but Deadman knows who he is.)

Deadman suggests Hal bow out gracefully, pick a replacement, and check out the afterlife, it's fun! Don't get stuck fighting for ever like he did. Clark takes the opposite position: don't choose a successor, fight for as much life as possible, because there's so much left to see. While Deadman and Clark argue, a power ring projection of Abin Sur visits Hal like the Ghost of Christmas Past, and tells Hal his self-doubt is his impurity, like the yellow weakness of the power rings; and he can either overcome it, or let someone else have a go. Hal returns to his body, seemingly none the worse for wear, and returns the replacement candidates to their lives, all with a "residual charge" of green power that takes care of their immediate problems when they get back. Hal then wraps up the crooked major, and Deadman and Clark close out the series arguing, with Deadman seemingly giving the title back to Superman.

This was an interesting idea, maybe not quite as executed as it could've been; but there is some fun art in there. The question of what it met to be without fear had been an ongoing one in Green Lantern's ACW serial, but I don't think we quite got the answer here.


SallyP said...

Oh Hal. How you ever got the reputation for being the "Greatest Green Lantern", I will never know.

I also loke the completely casual treatment of the plutonium.

googum said...

Most GL's that screw up as bad as Hal are killed instantly. Hal just keeps on going!

Mr. Morbid's House Of Fun said...

Such a stupid nitpick to exclude Neil Freakin' Gaiman, but whatever. I don't think the "Replacement has to be native" rule really ever was mentioned again, and shit wasn't it revealed that Guy was actually Abin Sur's first choice, but Hal was closer?
Still to see Hal jobbed out like this is sad to see. "What Nuclear Blackmail? I don't see any?" "Where do you want the Plutonium?" "Oh but it right over there." Funny.
Nice bit with Clark and Deadman having a nice philosophical debate. Of course Superman would pick the "Don't give up and live" option ;)
Overall a pretty good story I think.

H said...

I always felt they didn't give Action Comics Weekly enough of a chance. If they'd done it about 10 years later, when the internet was really a thing, they would have gotten the feedback they needed to get the stories the right length and the type that people wanted to see. It's a shame too- those last dozen issues were some of the strongest.