Green Lantern (vol.2) #123 (December, 1979)
“Mission of No Return!”
Writer – Denny O’Neil
Penciller – Joe Staton
Inker – Dick Giordano
Letterer – Milt Snapinn
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Editor – Jack C. Harris
Cover Price: $0.40
Hey a book with a December, 1979 cover date! That means there’s a pretty good possibility that this issue was on a rack somewhere on the day I was born! Pretty neat, eh? No? Okay, let’s just get into the book then.
Our story begins with Hal Jordan working with Superman in order to gain access to the Phantom Zone where the Zod Gang is currently holding “alternate Green Lantern” Guy Gardner. Superman is a bit nervous sending Hal in there alone… after all, it is the Phantom Zone. It’s not everyday someone heads in willingly. Hal grabs a box, and zips in… where he runs right into the baddies!
Before he can zap’em with his ring, they focus their will through Gardner’s and aim it at him. Hal shields himself with an emerald spinning-top to block the blast. He then opens the little box he brought, which reveals… well, not Kryptonite… but “Anti-Kryptonite”. Man, pre-Crisis DC was a weird and wonderful place. Anti-K is apparently effective against non-powered Kryptonians… and it works! You’d figure that Zod and his crew would embrace death, given that Phantom Zone imprisonment is a much worse fate, no?
Anyhoo, with the baddies on the ropes, Hal snags Guy and heads for the exit. Unfortunately, before they can split, a yellow beam surrounds Guy and pulls him deep into the Phantom Zone mists. This is, of course, back when the Green Lantern rings had that pesky yellow impurity, so Hal is powerless to stop it. Instead, he packs up his block of Anti-K and heads back to confer with Superman.
Back on solid ground, Hal inquires whether or not the Phantom Zone can be reached from Qward, the Anti-Universe. Superman’s all “prob’ly”, which leads Hal to deduce that the person behind that yellow beam is the renegade Green Lantern himself… Sinestro. Superman wishes him well, and Hal heads off…
… to visit his good friend (and former co-star), Oliver Queen. He explains the current situation to Ollie, then tells him he’s not welcome to join him… which begs the question, why did this scene need to happen? If Hal doesn’t want to endanger Ollie, that’s all well and good… but why rub his nose in it? Seems like maybe O’Neil wanted to cram Green Arrow in here.
Next stop on Hal’s heartbreak tour is his sorta-kinda fiancee, Kari Limbo. He tells her what’s going on with her former flame, Guy Gardner, and informs her he’s going to save him. She’s cool with it, but realizes this will mean her relationship with Hal is more or less over.
Hal heads into uncharted space in search of his pathway to Qward. Before long, he finds it… and hops in. Almost immediately, he finds (a very jovial) Guy Gardner. Hal is wary as this is out of character for his favorite carrot top… not to mention, he’s noticed that there is a yellow beam attached to Guy’s back (even though the coloring is kind of “off” in a few panels). He follows the beam to his quarry… Sinestro!
They battle for a bit until Sinestro erects a yellow wall… something you’d assume he’d lead with, no? Hal attempts to reason with his foe… appealing to his sense of whimsy in offering up a game of “hide ‘n seek”. Ay yai yai. Sinestro’s no fool, and instead encases Gardner in a (golden) globe….
… which he shrinks, crushing poor Guy…
Hal pretends not to care about his fellow Lantern, but Sinestro sees right through it. Knowing he only has moments to concoct a plan, Hal stalls for time… asking if he can touch Guy to make sure he’s still alive. Sinestro almost seems amused by this, and allows it. After concluding that Guy is still among the living, Hal fires a blast at a nearby planetoid… shattering it!
He then wills-up a fan, and blows the planet dust into Sinestro’s eyes. Disoriented, Sinestro is easy pickin’s for a Hal Jordan kayo punch!
As this is occurring, Sinestro lets Guy go… floating into space. Hal rushes over to rescue him before he might be crushed between a pair of asteroids. Amid the confusion, Sinestro disappears into the darkness.
Hal rushes Guy to the hospital, where we learn that Mr. Gardner has suffered quite a bit of brain damage. The doctor is unsure whether or not they can “cure” him, and offer that they may have a better idea in six months. Kari Limbo arrives and pledges to stand by her (former) man, Guy as long as it takes. We close out with Hal swearing that he will find, and deal with… Sinestro!
Before we start, I gotta say… when I saw “Solo Star-Spanning Action” emblazoned on the cover, I wasn’t expecting to see Hal hanging out with Superman on the first page! Not that he didn’t span the stars solo, it was just gave me a bit of a chuckle.
Now this is an era of Green Lantern I’m not terribly well-versed in. My reading jumps from the O’Neil/Adams “relevant” stories to Wein/Englehart era. It’s pretty neat to be experiencing stories from this period for the first time… and what we get here is a pretty solid adventure.
I think our recent run-in with Millennium might have soured me a bit on Joe Staton, but… boy, does he bring his “A” game here. This is a very nice looking book. Really dug the art here.
The story itself, I definitely enjoyed it… however, I think I might be trained to read a more decompressed story these days. Hal entering into the Phantom Zone… and later Qward, and running directly into the people he was looking for felt a bit too convenient. Not that I want this issue stretched to the size of a trade paperback or anything, but maybe a panel or two showing him searching would’ve been okay.
I do want to read more from this time period, as Kari Limbo is a bit of a blind spot. I knew she jumped from Guy to Hal, however, before reading this issue, I never realized that she and Hal almost married. I do appreciate how, in light of Guy’s return, the pair understand the need for them to let go of whatever it is they had.
As I mentioned above, it feels like Green Arrow’s inclusion here was a bit forced. I guess coming off the Green Lantern/Green Arrow run, O’Neil may have felt like Ollie at least needed to make an appearance. Fair enough, I suppose… but the scene came off as so unnatural. Not sure why Hal would tell Ollie what he had planned if he wasn’t planning on having him tag along. Oh well.
Sinestro here was a lot of fun. I enjoy this more “tricky” Sinestro, where it’s as though he’s like a cat playing with a mouse before going in for the kill. In his cartoonish arrogance, he’s amused by Hal during their confrontation. It ultimately leads to him losing out, but it was still neat to see. Much rather this than a bloodthirsty or hyper-violent Sinestro.
Overall, I really enjoyed this. Great writing and art. I cannot say for certain that this was never collected… though, I will say that the SHOWCASE Presents… line petered out before this could be published. It is, as luck would have it, available digitally. I’d say it’s well worth your time.