Friday, September 1, 2017

Parallax: Emerald Night #1 (1996)


Parallax: Emerald Night #1 (November, 1996)
"Emerald Night"
Writer - Ron Marz
Penciller - Mike McKone
Inker - Mark McKenna
Colorist - John Kalisz
Letterer - Chris Eliopoulos
Associate Editor - Eddie Berganza
Editor - Kevin Dooley
Cover Price: $2.95

Sooo... let's find out what that green light from The Final Night #3 was... 

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We open with... the Cyborg Superman.  He's floating in space, unsure how he got there.  His attention is suddenly taken by, well the giant wall full of bodies he floats before.  Ya see, he's at the Source Wall (referred to as just the Wall here)... the very edge of the universe.  He soon finds out that he has been brought here by Hal Jordan... Parallax.


Hal reminds the Cyborg (and the reader... more the reader, probably) about the Coast City atrocity.  This occurred during The Reign of the Supermen when Cyborg Superman and Mongul did their whole Engine City dealie... and wound up reducing Hal's hometown to a smoldering crater.  Well, it's time to pay the piper... and with Mongul already dead (he died during Underworld Unleashed), the Cyborg is the only one Hal can take a pound of... metallic flesh from.


And so, for the next several pages, Hal proceeds to beat the holy hell out of the Cyborg.  Before the battle ends, it's revealed that Parallax isn't fighting the baddie (baddier?) alone.  He's actually joined by the seven million people who perished in Coast City.  It's really a great scene (and a beautiful page).


With the Cyborg Superman dead, Parallax waits to be hit by a wave of satisfaction... or peace to wash over him, but it never comes.  This was nothing more than a hollow victory... and at worst, marks the loss of the one thing that's been giving him any direction of late... revenge.  There's nothing left for Hal Jordan.  It's now that he is joined by... Green Lantern.  Hal looks him up and down, and thinks to himself how great it would be to have his youth and (relative) innocence back.  How much better life was before he became a jaded and bitter man.  He sees Kyle's optimism and eagerness... and in addition to feeling envy, he can't help but to feel pride.


Kyle's there with dire news... and since we're reading The Final Night, we kinda know what he's on about.  Hal proves to be difficult to keep on topic.  Instead of talking about the Sun-Eater, Hal asks how great it feels to be Green Lantern... how great it feels knowing you have your whole life ahead of him.  This gives Kyle the opening he needs to say "Hey, we might not have much life ahead of us if we don't get to work...".  Hal goes on the defensive... and says the last time he tried to give his old friends a "better world" (during Zero Hour: A Crisis in Time) the DC heroes told him to pound sand... and shot an arrow into his heart.  Kyle tries to reason with Hal... saying that just like Coast City, Earth is his home.  Hal doesn't commit to anything... 


And with a snap of his fingers, Hal sends Kyle away.  He decides he needs to see this Sun-Eater for himself... and so, he does.


We shift scenes back to Warrior's... and revisit the the ending of The Final Night #3, with Guy trying in vain to get drunk.  He's bathed in green light... and finds himself joined by, hey lookit that... it's Parallax.


Despite Guy feeling a bit froggy, Hal tells him he's not there for a fight.  He's really just there to ask him a question.  We all know that Guy is... kind of abrasive.  Hal asks him how he was able to keep going... keep being a hero, even though all the other heroes hated his guts.  Guy replies with "You do what you gotta do", which was apparently all Hal needed to hear.  He thanks Guy, and vanishes.


Next stop, John Stewart's bedside.  Now, John had been crippled during his time with the Darkstars.  I don't think I've read those issues... but suffice it to say, the fella can't walk.  Hal's arrival inspires, as you might imagine, a whoooooole lotta questions.  Questions that unfortunately, Hal doesn't have the time to answer.  He thanks John for his friendship over the years... then gives him the power to walk again.


We then shift to one of the opening scenes from Green Arrow (vol.3) #1... a book which won't come out for five years!  Hal is stood before Oliver Queen's grave... and lays down a bouquet of flowers.  He stands there for a moment in silence.  This goes to show how long that Kevin Smith run was in development.  Actually the WATCH this space column (I'll include it below) that comes in this very issue kinda crows about the possibility of Smith calling DC Comics his home for awhile.


Hal's tour continues with a stop in, I dunno... maybe Alaska?  He's in his old pal Tom Kalamaku's hangar... and is surprised to see him tinkering with his plane instead of being with his family during these tense "end times".  Tom, who is ecstatic to see his old friend, says he just needed to feel busy... which is understandable.  He tells Hal that he's working on a book that will tell the world how great (and misunderstood) Hal Jordan was... to which, Hal informs him that he's about to give that book a proper ending.


Last stop... Ferris Aircraft.  (A very tan) Carol knew he'd eventually show up.  Hedging his bets... or perhaps having cold feet, Hal makes one final play for her heart.  He tells her that he can take her someplace safe... where they can be together forever.  She tell him that it's not about the two of them... and maybe it never was.  She tells him that she loves him, but this is goodbye.  She's confident he will do what's right.


And so, after one last kiss... Hal heads to the crater that once was Coast City.  He kneels beside a stuffed doll (which might just be the same one from Green Lantern (vol.3) #48) and concentrates... purging Ganthet from within him (!)  I guess the last Guardian took up residence inside our man to keep tabs on him.  They argue a bit about the Emerald Twilight thang, before Ganthet ultimately apologizes.  He says that the Guardians of the Universe were always too rigid... and refused to break any of their self-imposed rules, regardless of how worthy they might be.  He then manifests a Lantern ring... and offers it to Hal.


Hal stares at it for a moment... before realizing that getting his ring back won't make him the man he used to be.  He tells Ganthet he won't be needing the ring... and so, the last Guardian leaves.  Hal thinks about how lives are judged... are they by actions in the moment?  Are they by legacies left behind?  Does it even matter?  He returns to Kyle with an answer... he will aid the heroes in taking down the Sun-Eater.


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Wow... that was one hell of a story.

Ya know, thinking about things like Green Lantern Rebirth (the first one)... all of this Parallax whatsits was swept under the rug by blaming Hal's actions on a giant yellow fear bug from outer space.  We accept that, because it's comics... but, it totally takes the steam out of stories like this.  This is the era of "broken Hal"... different than "broke as a joke Hal", "broke outta prison Hal" and "broken-hearted Hal", and feels like such a natural progression for the character.  This is a dude who knows he's screwed things up... a dude who once sought to reboot the entire universe to give people what he thought they wanted.  At his core, he's been an altruist... a selfish altruist (if that can even be a thing), but an altruist none the less.  I think taking these actions out of his control do him a real disservice.  If he's still got the Parallax buggy inside him... do we second-guess this story too?  Did Parallax make him visit his old friends... and decide to put his life on the line for his home planet?  I dunno... folks like Ron Marz, Dan Jurgens, among others put in so much effort to make Parallax work (and I feel like he did work) that wiping it away is just something that's always kinda bugged me.

Let's get into the story itself... this is, Hal Jordan attempting to make peace (and learn from) his oldest and closest associates and friends.  To his mind this might be his final contrition... perhaps a way to wipe his spirit clean before facing the unknown.  Perhaps, he's just looking to make amends... maybe he was just looking for a sign that he was going to do the "right" thing.  Whatever it was, it made for some wonderful scenes.

It was really neat seeing that, of all his old running buddies, he now has the most in common with Guy Gardner... because everyone hates/hated them!  Guy's answer to the question... how he can still be a hero despite being despised, was about as perfect as it could've been.  Guy's a jerk, yeah, but he's still a hero... and heroes do what they gotta do.

The Carol scene was great... you really get the feeling that the situation is becoming real for Hal here.  You get the feeling that Carol knows the real reason for his visit as well... he's not there to take her away, he's there because he needs to hear her tell him that what he's about to do is the right thing.  Hal, despite his Parallaxian stumbling, is still a hero.  If he was willing to push the limits of his own power to bring back Coast City... he's likely going to go all out to save the Earth.

I appreciate how we joined Hal as he was tying up his final thread.  Taking out the Cyborg Superman, with the aid of seven-million Coast City-zens was not only a powerful scene, but a bittersweet one as well.  He's left... alone, with one of the scariest questions a person can ask themselves... "What now?"  He's been so fueled by revenge... so driven... that, now he's gotta question what purpose his life even has.  He's slayed all his demons... so, what now?

Let's talk Ollie for a bit.  It's not clear here that Hal brought his buddy back... and it wouldn't become clear for nearly a half-decade... but I really liked that this scene was included.  The behind the scenes machinations are always fun to consider, but even as just a "saying goodbye" scene, this was a good one... it's a scene where silence says so much more than words might.

Finally... Ganthet.  Hal's known the little bugger's been latched on, but hasn't done anything to expel him.  Perhaps, the Guardian gave him a measure of comfort.  We have Hal offered his ring back... which, we may imagine is all he ever wanted in the first place.

The ring, to him, likely signifies a more innocent time in his life.  A time he can never (fully) get back.  He's done what he's done... and no matter what costume he wears, he's always gonna be "that guy".  It's such a human way to be... and it's great.  I can think of times I've cleaned out a drawer in my dresser, and found an old shirt that doesn't quite fit the same (or at all!) anymore.  I pause for a moment... and think about what my life was like back when it did.  Sometimes it's a memory of better (easier) times... other times, it's a memory of a time I'm glad to have behind me.  This scene was quite powerful... 

Actually, I think if I were to sum up the issue in a single word... it would be "powerful" (add "beautiful" if I can use two words... the art here is fantastic).  If I had to pick any nits, my only issue is that this might have gone unread if you were just following the main The Final Night miniseries.  This is a story that I would implore you to check out.  It's a wonderful Hal Jordan-as-Parallax tale that allows us to really get into the man's head.  He's not power-mad... or even just plain mad.  He's a man... a confused, lost, and atoning man... who needs direction, and perhaps forgiveness.  As luck would have it, it's available digitally... I'd highly recommend checking it out.  This book reminds me why I love comics.

We'll wrap up our battle with the Sun-Eater tomorrow.

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WATCH this space:


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