Green Lantern (vol.4) #29 (May, 2008)
“Secret Origin, Part 1”
Writer – Geoff Johns
Penciller – Ivan Reis
Inks – Oclair Albert
Colors – Randy Mayor
Letters – Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor – Adam Schlagman
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.99
Now, for the second part in our Green Lantern origin double-feature, the first chapter of Secret Origin. For yesterday’s look at Emerald Dawn #1, click here.
We open during a test flight exhibition by Martin Jordan. His son Hal watches on, proudly clutching his father’s bomber jacket in his arms. We meet a young snobby Carol Ferris who brags that her father owns the planes that Hal’s father flies. Both claim that they’ll be pilots when they grow up (though Carol states she’ll actually own her own plane).
There’s a break in the fence, and Hal sees it as an opportunity to get a better look. He slips in while Carol tattles to her daddy. Hal’s not scared of trouble, and makes sure she knows it. He gets to the other side, just in time to see his father hit the ground in a fiery crash.
We shift to some time later. Hal is diving off of a aircraft hanger and onto a flagpole. Both a show of bravery and disregard for authority. Ya see, Hal doesn’t like authority. Remember that. Hal’s mother gets called to the airbase, and she picks up her bad boy. In the car, Hal gets harangued by his older brother Jack, who even at his young age has taken on the role of disciplinarian father and to an extent, provider.
We shift ahead several years. The clock is just about to tick over to midnight on the morning of Hal’s eighteenth birthday. His younger brother, Jim excitedly bursts into Hal’s room brandishing a wrapped gift… only to find the room empty, with a window left open.
Several hours pass, and we find Hal huddled up on the ground outside an office. He is awakened, and we find that he has been camped out in front of the Air Force recruitment office. Hal has come to enlist.
We get a brief exhibition from Hal, and come to learn that he is rather reckless when it comes to his test-piloting. He presses his test-rigs to their absolute (and literal) breaking point.
One night, we join Hal and some of his buddies tossing back a few at a bar. He overhears a Marine acting unruly with a lady, and decides to get involved. The resulting brawl both leaves Hal with a shiner, and introduces him to John Stewart (though, I’m not sure he’ll remember that)…
Outside the bar, Hal finds his younger brother Jim waiting for him. He’s got news… their mother is dying from cancer. He tells Hal, but cannot let him see her. There was a falling out from his joining the Air Force, and until he is no longer enlisted… he cannot see her.
The next morning, Hal cannot focus on his duties. Rather than report to his Commanding Officer (Stone), he goes on an aerial joyride. When he returns, Stone’s there waiting… and he ain’t happy. We’ve already established, Hal doesn’t “do” authority… so he socks him in the face.
Free from his commitments to the United States Air Force, Hal decides it’s time to make peace with the family. He arrives at the hospital just in time to be told that he’s too late. Older brother Jack gets on his case immediately, and makes it plainly clear that he holds Hal responsible for their mother’s death.
That night, Hal is visited at his home by his younger brother Jim. Things come somewhat full-circle, as Jim is able to finally give him his birthday present from earlier in the chapter. Hal opens it to find a framed photograph of he and his father. He stares at it, and wonders what his future will be like…
We shift to our ol’ (not yet) dying red-skinned friend Abin Sur, as he does battle with Red Lantern Atrocitus. They speak of revelations… and of a Blackest Night…
Well, this is pretty much the Hal we’ve had since Green Lantern: Rebirth… brash, cocky, confident-to-a-fault. Still a great character… he’s flawed like the Hal in Emerald Dawn, but in a different kind of way. It is his determination, his steel-will that is his flaw. It felt as though during Emerald Dawn, Hal’s will was his strength in spite of his all-to-human flaws.
In an age of decompression, I still feel as though this opening chapter had no wasted panels. This tells the story of Hal before he found the ring/the ring found him. We meet a Hal who doesn’t appear to be able to control his emotions… lashing out in the face of authority and, to an extent, reason. While there was no inebriated driving incident… this is still something of a redemption story.
Hal’s guilt is something shared by both origin stories. In Emerald Dawn, it is due to his irresponsible actions… in Secret Origin, it is also somewhat due to his irresponsible actions, although he felt justified in the latter. Those around Hal make sure he knows how he should feel in both stories as well… the nurse and Carol in Emerald Dawn, his brother Jack in Secret Origin.
Both stories open with Hal’s father Martin’s tragic crash. This is an element that is intrinsically tied with Hal’s young adolescence and is a true Rubicon for him. In both stories, it appears as though Hal would do whatever it took to follow in his father’s footsteps. Almost as though he was doing it to make him proud (which if I’m not mistaken, comes into play during Hal’s hallucinations in the lead-up to Emerald Twilight some years later). Here, in Secret Origin, it feels as though his father’s passing has almost made him question the value of life. He pushes himself to the limit on a daily basis… almost daring death to pluck him from this Earth.
Both stories feature a bar scene, though, that’s where the similarities end… okay, not completely. Both are the place in which Hal partakes in self-destructive behavior (either by the drink or by fighting)… however, here in Secret Origin it’s a scene to add to Hal’s pattern of behavior, and an opportunity to give John Stewart a cameo.
The creators here are Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis… and honestly, what can I say? It’s beautiful… words and art alike. Johns has been accused of having something of a man-crush on Hal Jordan… not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s pretty evident that there is a distinct fondness for the character here. He’s a bit too perfect… all of his “imperfections” are the ones that we would love to have… fearlessness, self-confidence, a bad-ass air about us… Hal is Han Solo… and for the most part, that works.
Which take do I like better? I gotta tell ya… when I decided to look at both of these again, I figured it was a foregone conclusion that I would absolutely love Emerald Dawn, and just tolerate Secret Origin. Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed them both. Like, really enjoyed them. When Secret Origin was first solicited, I questioned if such a story was even necessary. The answer, now as then… is yes. For many comics fans, their first interaction with Hal Jordan was during Green Lantern: Rebirth. An origin story (secret or not) is definitely something that newer fans would need/want.
The fact that it wiped the old origin out of continuity aside… this is the start of an awesome Hal Jordan Green Lantern story. This origin actually contains hints of what’s to come over the next several years of Green Lantern (and overall DC Universe) comics. While I like Emerald Dawn, and really dig Emerald Dawn II… I think I’m going to have to give the nod (however slight) to Secret Origin… not that that matters in the slightest, of course. I still think there’s room for (and something to get from) both.