Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn II #2 (1991)

Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn II #2 (May, 1991)
"90 Days, Part II: Balance of Power"
Plot - Keith Giffen
Dialogue - Gerard Jones
Pencils - M.D. Bright
Inks - Romeo Tanghal
Letters - Albert De Guzman
Colors - Anthony Tollin
Edits - Kevin Dooley & Andrew Helfer
Cover Price: $1.00

Having enjoyed my sinful indulgence so much yesterday, I figure why not continue down the Emerald trail... 

Let's see if the second chapter continues the high quality of the first...


When last we left our hero he was visited by his fellow Lantern, and new trainer, Sinestro.  As we open, a prison guard who just happens to be passing by can't help but to notice the emerald light spilling out of inmate Jordan's cell.  As he approaches, Hal convinces Sinestro to make himself scarce.

After nearly being caught, Sinestro tells Hal that it's time to split.  He finally convinces him by whipping up a Hal Jordan shaped construct in his bunk... and does so without leaving a glowing green residue.  At this point in his ring-slinging career, Hal cannot perform such a feat.

The two Lanterns-in-arms leave the prison.  Sinestro attempts to instill in Hal that he must trust his ring to get him through tricky predicaments... such as weaving through a meteor storm.  The theme is harmony, and Sinestro intends to show Hal how a true Green Lantern handles things harmoniously.

In a skyscraper on a far-off planet in Sector 0131, representatives of various alien races, including the Khunds, the Citadel and the Dominators are discussing forming a mutually beneficial alliance.  They intend to pool their vast resources and strengthen their intergalactic influence.

Shortly, the Lanterns arrive at the high-rise.  After having the situation explained to him, Hal is shocked... and appears to be ready for a fight.  Sinestro tells him to settle down... he's just there to watch.  This situation must be handled with diplomacy.

Inside the office, Sinestro pleads his/the Guardians' case.  He encourages the faction heads to "find an alternative solution" and offers that if they do not, the Green Lantern Corps may find themselves having no choice but to intervene.  The heads ain't impressed, and as such chuck a desk in Sinestro's direction.

This causes Hal to step in, and start throwing ring-construct-fists.  Sinestro is shocked... and annoyed at Hal's impetuousness, which, quite honestly is fun to see.  

Sinestro throws up a protective barrier around the alien leaders while Hal... blows the roof off the place, sending many an alien flying... right into some conveniently placed construct-spoons.

At this point, all hopes at a diplomatic resolution are lost... and a battle rages.  Hal manages to save Sinestro (who he calls "Sin", much to his trainer's disgust) from an attack from behind.  Ultimately, Sinestro impresses upon the alien goons that if just one Lantern can bring such fury... imagine what would happen should the entire Corps come down on them.  

The aliens decide perhaps putting off their alliance would be best for all involved... until the Lanterns are comfortably outside the sound of their voices, at which point it's made crystal clear that on this day the Lanterns have made some dangerous enemies.

Back at the prison, a "Gentleman Thief" called Willie is being escorted to his new digs... he's going to be Hal Jordan's new cellmate (hopefully he fares better than the last one...)

As li'l Willie attempts to climb up to his bunk, he accidentally steps on... and through his cellmate('s humanoid construct), and falls flatly on his back.

Moments later after parting company with Sinestro, the real-deal Hal Jordan pops back into the cell in full Green Lantern glow.  Hand on his head, poor polite Willie is shocked!


Another fun issue of Hal Jordan's early days.  Having come into my Green Lantern reading during the early-mid Kyle Rayner years, I really didn't have much of a frame of reference for Sinestro.  All I knew was that the power-mad Hal Jordan broke the poor guy's neck during Emerald Twilight.  I feel as though this issue gives a really good primer on who this guy is/was and what makes/made him tick.

Having Sinestro actively holding Hal back... encouraging him to think things through, and act diplomatically rather than fists-first was a real treat... and not something I expected.  Hal being headstrong to the point of actually being dangerous really works in the pre-Green Lantern: Rebirth landscape, and almost makes his shift into Parallax feel (at least somewhat) organic.

Great issue, great fun... great cliffhanger.  This issue even made the random DC Comics alien goon squad seem interesting... which, for me is big.  The lame, and in-my-mind interchangeable alien races of the DC Universe have always bored me to tears... this issue made them work.

What more can I say?  Giffen, Jones, and Bright continue to bring the goods in this underrated little tale.  Worth a look!


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Monday, May 30, 2016

Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn II #1 (1991)

Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn II #1 (April, 1991)
"90 Days, Part I: The Powers That Be"
Story - Keith Giffen
Dialogue - Gerard Jones
Pencils - M.D. Bright
Inks - Romeo Tanghal
Letters - Albert De Guzman
Colors - Anthony Tollin
Assisant Editor - Kevin Dooley
Editor - Andy Helfer
Cover Price: $1.00

Depending on your mileage, today we're getting a bit sinful.  I can't seem to locate the exact quote, but it is said that Dan DiDio referred to the Emerald Dawn series' as a "sin" in that they portray a somewhat different Hal Jordan than we've gotten post Green Lantern: Rebirth (2004).

Newer fans only know Hal Jordan as the fearless ring-wielder who appears to have very little in the way of flaws.  In the post Rebirth (the old Rebirth) landscape, Hal was brought to the forefront of the DC Universe with many of his past transgressions either explained away or just plain retconned out.

Emerald Dawn (I and II) would be one of the latter.

The first Emerald Dawn miniseries ends with Hal turning himself in for driving under the influence of alcohol.  Couldn't imagine that happening to the contemporary Hal Jordan... Emerald Dawn II opens up with Hal owning up to his misdeed and being given his punishment... Did Hal's own sins transcend the comic book page?  Is this issue a sin?  Let's find out...


Hal Jordan has just pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol.  He's guilty as sin (!!!) and he knows it.  He doesn't even have an attorney, having chosen to represent himself.  The judge reads Hal the riot act, and decides to give him the absolute harshest sentence possible... ninety days in the state penitentiary under maximum security.  The sentence will start at once, and our ring-slinger is whisked to holding straightaway.

Before being transported to his new digs, he is given a brief opportunity to confab with his lady friend Carol Ferris.  He regrets not having a high-powered attorney to try and fight this... and Carol offers that he's simply being made an example of, after all, "there's some public feeling against drunk drivers lately".  If only he drank and drove during the time when drunk drivers were embraced and held up by society!

That damned "public feeling"... ruining everybody's good time
Hal's loaded into the paddy wagon and is headed to the pen.  On the way, he overhears an armed robbery report coming over the police radio.  He whips up a "Hal" construct, and takes off in his guise of Green Lantern to see if he can be of any help.

At Coast City Savings, a crew of ski-masked jerks are in the middle of their attempt at robbery.  They load all of the workers into the vault... where one might assume the money would be kept... Green Lantern arrives, just in time to be hit with one hell of a threat.  Like seriously... check this out...

do wut now?
Moments later, likely after regaining his composure, Hal makes short work of these goofs.  He whips up several ring constructs, and ultimately entraps them in a cage made of the floor's linoleum tiles.  He frees the shocked civvies and flies off.  This is a time when Green Lantern was an unknown entity in the DC Universe, so villains and civilians alike don't really know what to make of him.

Hal makes it back to the police van just before it arrives at the state prison.  He listens in on the police radio, and hears the telling of an unknown savior who intervened and smiles to himself for a job well done.

During processing, Hal is instructed to leave all of his personal effects.  The officer noticed that Hal's green ring apparently vanished.  He instructs our man that they give all of their "magicians" a special prize... in the form of a strip search.  Hal's annoyed but not surprised... after all, this is his second kinky proposition in such a short amount of time.

Oh, the humanity...
Are you ready for the story to come to a screeching halt?  No?  Well, too bad... we're going to Oa anyway.  The Guardians are discussing the new reckless and untrained Green Lantern of Sector 2814.  They suggest pairing him with the Green Lantern of Sector 1417 for training... if those numbers are familiar to you, you know they're talking about one of the greatest Green Lanterns going... Sinestro.

We rejoin Hal in his cell.  His cellmate, a devastatingly handsome and well-spoken fellow with a missing front tooth, introduces himself as the King of Hell.  He gives Hal the usual prison tough guy talk... that is, until somebody outside the cell shivs him in the back.  This being prison, nobody saw anything.  Our DUI superhero is now being looked as a murderer as well!

Hal's whisked into an interrogation room to await a meeting with his caseworker... Enter: Guy Gardner... seriously.  Guy "the Pussycat" Gardner believes in Hal, and thinks he is innocent of murdering his royal cellmate.  Hal recognizes Gardner as a standout college football player, and asks what he's doing as a caseworker.  Guy shrugs it off and expresses an interest in dealing with people who routinely destroy their own lives.

In Sector 1417, the hyper-violent Sinestro is dealing with a intergalactic threat.  He may be violent and extreme, but he gets results.  He chases a race of lizard-like humanoids out of his Sector, and cleans up their wake.

He returns to his planet of Korugar, and receives a hero's welcome.  The entire citizenry appears to love and admire him, to the point where several youngsters (including one Katma-Tui) are part of a Young Lantern Brigade.  As the people celebrate, however, Sinestro steps on something... breaking it, and is "popped" out of existence.

We next find Sinestro standing in front of the council of Guardians.  They tell him that he's been tasked with training the young brash Jordan.  He begrudgingly accepts, and heads Earthward.

Back at the prison, Hal is sitting in his cell (now all by his lonesome) running through the events of the day in his head.  His thoughts are soon interrupted however, by his new trainer, Sinestro.


Man, do I feel like I gotta say about 15 Hail Mary's after reading that, or what?  So sinful... right?

No, no, no... this was a very good story.  This is a relatable Hal Jordan.  He's not perfect, he makes mistakes... what makes him heroic is his desire to own up to those mistakes and make everything right.  He says all he wants is a "clean slate"... having worked with many people like (this) Hal, I can tell you a clean slate is one of the more noble things a person can endeavor towards.

Is the transgression of having driven while drunk something that damages the character of Hal Jordan?  Of course not.  He's human... he made a (stupid and avoidable) mistake, and he's paying the price.  He's handling his business like a man should, and there's no reason why this needed to be scrubbed from the history books.

This is an almost perfect creative team for a Green Lantern book of this vintage.  I don't usually associate Keith Giffen with GL, but, damned if this isn't plotted well!  Gerry Jones and Doc Bright... jeez, this era Green Lantern just doesn't get better than that!

Jones has one of the great post-Crisis/pre-Emerald Twilight voices for Hal Jordan, while Doc Bright is definitely on my short-list for best Green Lantern artists of all time.  I first "discovered" (that is to say, took notice of) Bright during his time on Quantum & Woody (with another fave of mine, Christopher Priest), and it is always a treat to see his earlier work!

Worth your time?  Hell yeah.  It may not be in continuity anymore (or, maybe it is/will be... who knows?) but it's just an interesting character study on a very similar, but at the same time different Hal Jordan.  These issues are easily found in many'a cheap-o bin... however, if you want it all in one chunk (and have money to burn) it was collected in a now out-of-print TPB.  I have both versions, having lucked into the collection at a record store for about $5... I did get the whole thing in singles for less than the price of a current DC comic, though... so, you shouldn't have a hard time tracking it down, should you be so inclined.


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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Chain Gang War #1 (1993)

Chain Gang War #1 (July, 1993)
"Chain Reaction"
Writer - John Wagner
Pencils - David Johnson
Inks - John Dell
Letters - Bill Oakley
Colors - Steve Mattsson
Assists - Frank Pittarese
Edits - Dan Raspler
Cover Price: $2.50

... and now for something completely different...

Chain Gang War is odd... it feels like something that could only have been made during the 1990's, while at the same time sorta-kinda deal with some relatively contemporary themes and threats.

This feels as though it's a book for the 99% but produced in a time before that phrase was coined (at least popularly).  That having been said, this one certainly has the potential of being a "soap-box" title... I don't like soap-boxers, and I don't like to be preached to... regardless of whether or not I'm part of their particular choir.

With my fingers crossed, let's see if there's more to this one than all that...


Carlo Brunetti, millionaire "businessman" (criminal) has just beaten some charges in court.  He is approached by a news reporter, who provides us with suitable exposition to give this scene context.  Brunetti has the ability to buy his way out of trouble, and therefore appears to be "above the law".

That night, at the Brunetti lodge, three masked vigilantes prowl the grounds.  Through use of stealth and steel chains, they easily take down the security detail.  These are the members of the Chain Gang... and they're ready for War.

Inside, Brunetti is fuming over the way the news is covering his story.  He orders his aide to sic a fella who goes by the moniker "Animal" on the female newscaster to send her a message (ie. cut her up into little pieces, and bury those pieces across five states... that'll show her!).  Before they can act, the Chain Gang bursts into his study.

The Gangsters state that they are only there for Brunetti... and the rest of the crew can leave unscathed and unharmed.  Carlo thinks they'd been sent by his "business" rival Scipio, and has his goon squad attack.

This doesn't really impress the Gang, who rat-tat-tat, budda-budda-budda and whut-whut-whut's the goons til they're full of holes.  They kayo Brunetti and abduct him.

Later, Brunetti wakes up.  His ankles and wrists are shackled, and he appears to be in a small jail cell.  The only light peers in from a tiny barred window.  By the window's location, we get the impression that the cell is for the most part, underground.

The police and media are shortly on the scene of the Brunetti lodge massacre.  Shockingly, there were only three fatalities.  I could have sworn the Chain Gang downed a small army in the prior pages.  The information is shortly broadcast, including bits about Carlo Brunetti being currently listed as missing (and presumed dead).

We now meet Brunetti's rival, Scipio.  He is making a goodwill call to Carlo's son Sammy Brunetti to offer his condolences, and offer his support... he even invites him to his daughter's birthday party.  Sammy thinks Scipio's not only full of crap, but also responsible for the night's events.  After hanging up the phone, he orders an aide to sic the Animal on him (like father like son, I see).

The next day, we find ourselves in the apartment of a shaky man named Ernie.  His wife is asking him how his job search is going, and he admits to blowing it off.  When she protests, he hands her a wad of bills.  When asked how and where he got the cash, he tells her he'd done a job for "Yale" the night prior.  This does not appear to help matters in the slightest.  She fears that Yale is too dangerous a man to be in cahoots with.

Back at the cell, Brunetti is having a pizza delivered by the Chain Gang's very own personal warden.  We get the impression that the makeshift prison is in the basement of Yale Strang's mansion.  We also meet Yale, who's yakking in the toilet... sickened by how he had to commit several murders the night before.

After flushing (and hopefully brushing) Yale calls a fella called Curtis.  They discuss the events of the night before as well as the night to come.  We also learn that Yale's wife/girlfriend was murdered a couple of years earlier.

That night, at Scipio's daughter's birthday party, the Chain Gang plans to strike.  Just like before, they make short work of the security detail.  This time, however, they drip a trail of gasoline across the yard, and light a match.

Why yes, this book was written in the 90's... why do you ask?
Meanwhile, at a meat packing plant we finally (sorta) meet the Animal.  He's interrogating a poor sap named Charlie Smith... trying to get information about Scipio... which is odd, because his employer Sammy Brunetti knows full-well that Scipio is currently having a birthday bash... wouldn't it have made more sense to send Animal thataway?  Anyhoo... when Smith won't gab, the Animal uses a chainsaw to cut off his ear.

Back at the party, Scipio's aides are running around like buffoons yelling about the fire.  This draws the main man himself outside to see what the hub-bub's about.  The Chain Gang goes all Barney Fife and claims "citizen's arrest" before slapping on the shackles.

Gabby Scipio enters the scene to check on her daddy, and finds herself back-handed for her troubles.  These Chain Gangsters don't mess around!

They load Mr. Scipio into one of his cars, and drive through the gates to escape his property.  They bring him down to the makeshift prison, and unmask him in front of Brunetti.  Now they both get a better understanding of the situation they are currently in.  It's no longer a street war... it's something far worse (for them).


Ya know... all things considered, this wasn't bad at all.

It addresses something that has been at the root of DC Comics for as long as I remember, the ineffectiveness of their criminal justice system.  Lex Luthor is always doing something illegal, but (almost) never goes to jail... Arkham Asylum may as well open all their windows and remove their doors for as often as creeps break out of there!  Same with Iron Heights.

The Chain Gang fills a void... and I feel had this series caught on, could have been a lot of fun.  Imagine seeing someone like Lex Luthor or Two-Face locked up in their makeshift prison... imagine the possibilities.  Hell, imagine what the established DC hierarchy of heroes would think of criminals being abducted and held without due process!  Keeping in mind, this is the only issue I've read of this series... and the above may as well have actually occurred (at least in part) is still a possibility.

Is it unnecessarily violent?  Maybe.  The "ear cutting" scene was a bit much... though, it may have been in there to start providing a pattern of behavior for this Animal character.  Overall, though... not bad at all.

We get the impression that the Chain Gangsters are compelled to root out crime, and punish those above the law predicated on their own past experiences.  They're compelled... but, (physically) sickened at the same time.  We see Ernie shaking uncontrollably, and Yale losing his lunch.  I get the impression that the only fella actually enjoying the work is Curtis... who may well be a sociopath.  I also gotta wonder if the name Yale Strang is some sort of nod to Kim Yale and John Ostrander... maybe?

Funny, the more I think about it... the more I'm liking it.  This is definitely a story about justice for all, and yet, it doesn't really harp on it.  These are bad guys, that... for whatever reason (money, power, connections) have been able to maneuver their way through the system to the point of abuse... the Chain Gang is, in a small way, trying to tip the scales of justice back to "even".

I can't see this one ever being collected, but it shouldn't be too hard to come by if you are so inclined.  Shouldn't cost any more than a buck either, I got mine for a quarter.  Check it out if you get the chance... it may change your impression of what kind of story may lurk behind a foil-embossed (and thereby terribly difficult to photograph) cover!


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