Green Lantern (vol.3) #154 (November, 2002)
“Hate Crime, Part One”
Writer – Judd Winick
Penciller – Dale Eaglesham
Inks – Rodney Ramos
Colors – Moose Baumann
Letters – Kurt Hathaway
Editorial Assist – Morgan Dontanville
Editor – Bob Schreck
Cover Price: $2.25
Now, I’m not usually one for “trigger warnings”… but, what you’re about to read may disturb some of you. It’s a very serious story about a very serious issue…
The quick of it is… Kyle Rayner’s assistant Terry Berg is nearly beaten to death for the simple fact that he is gay. Some of you are probably at least somewhat familiar with this story… it did get a fair amount of press back in 2002. If this isn’t a story you wish to read about, I totally understand. I feel like it’s an important story… and one I couldn’t just not cover here, but again… if it ain’t something you want to read about… I get it.
Those who have been reading for awhile might have noticed that I usually blur out curse words and what not. There are some slurs in this issue that I decided to keep in to truly illustrate how ugly and horrible these events are. Again… if you wanna turn back… no worries.
We open with David, the boyfriend of Terry Berg. We haven’t talked a whole heckuva lot about Terry, but he’s been like Kyle’s “assistant” since he started working at Feast Magazine. David is recounting the events of the evening… and it’s about to get grisly. He and Terry were leaving a dance club… and happened to share a kiss in front of the wrong group of animals. Slurs are thrown… and the young men are chased.
They came to a split in the path, and David suggested the split up… hopeful that their pursuers would just give up rather than split up themselves. What he wasn’t banking on, however, was the gang simply deciding to keep following one of them.
Five minutes later, David would come across the body of Terry Berg, beaten within inches of his life… beaten to a state where he was unrecognizable… except for his sneakers.
This brings us to the present. Terry Berg lay in a hospital bed… and it’s not looking good. Besides being comatose, he’d suffered several broken bones, a collapsed lung, might lose an eye! The narrative caption goes into grisly detail.
Also in the waiting area, Kyle Rayner and Jennie Hayden. Jennie is busy trying to comfort David, assuring him that this isn’t his fault. Kyle is… well, he’s just lost in thought. All the power in the universe, and he can’t stop something like this from happening to one of his pals. He watches as Terry is wheeled out of the operating room… and he. is. ticked.
After a shot of a news report on the attack, Kyle is approached by the detective assigned to the case. They may as well have drawn horns and a forked tail on this guy. He tries to frame the event in a way where it was less about hate… and more about happenstance or a previous conflict. First he suggests that they were at a “gay bar” instead of a dance club… then, goes as far to claim that Terry and David were “hitting on” their attackers. I mean, I understand trying to look at something from “all angles”, but this is just ridiculous. He also tries to blame drugs… which doesn’t hold water with Kyle.
The detective breaks away to confab with an associate. Kyle wills up a construct “bug” to listen in on their conversation. Turns out, they caught one of the attackers… but suspect that the remaining two will probably split town before they can be apprehended. Well… not if Green Lantern can help it.
And so… we’re off to Rikers Island, where Green Lantern is about to pay the arrested attacker a visit. At first, dude ain’t talkin’… so, Kyle makes it crystal clear that… for all intents and purposes, they are the only two people on the planet. He can cry out as loud as he’d like… nobody is going to hear him. He then… snaps his wrist, like a full-on torturer!
Dude still won’t squeal… so, Kyle snaps his other wrist… promising to get “more creative” from there.
Turns out this is enough to get the scumbag to squawk. Next we know Kyle is confronting the other two a-holes… and, lemme tell ya… he ain’t messin’ around. He taunts them with their own words… and beats the living crap out of them… it’s really quite hardcore.
It gets to the point where it looks like Kyle’s just going to drill his fist through one of their heads! He pauses just long enough for the scumbag to beg for his life… which is enough to get him to spare him.
We wrap up back at the hospital. Kyle returns to Terry’s bedside, where Jennie had been holding vigil. He tells Terry that he “did his part”… and now it’s Terry’s turn… all he’s got to do is wake up.
Cards on the table to begin. In my “real” life I don’t socialize all that much (shocker, right?). That being said, some of my closest friends over the years have been gay. Trying to wrap my head around the idea that events like the one portrayed in this book actually occur… I mean, how could it even be, right? Getting beaten up… killed, even… for just being who you are?
I understand not “getting” something… I mean, there are plenty of things in this world I don’t “get”. But it’s another thing altogether to beat someone to (as far as the scumbags in this story knew) death because you don’t “get” the way they live their life.
Way I look at it, we only get one shot at this whole “life” thing… and we owe it to ourselves to live that life the happiest way possible. People often talk about and debate the “Meaning of Life”… and to me, it’s pretty simple… it’s “be happy”. If your perfect soulmate and partner-in-life happens to be of the same sex… what’s the harm? You owe it to yourself to be you… and be happy… and not be ashamed.
Now, coming from my standpoint… as a dude who never had to worry about anything like this… getting it through my head that these are legitimate fears my friends were faced with on a daily basis, it’s enough to make my lunch come up and my blood boil. It’s difficult to even find the words, ya know? And that’s just one of the reasons why this issue of Green Lantern is so important.
With my “cards” now “on the table”, let’s talk about the story.
Terry Berg has been a pretty fun character since his introduction. He’s a take-no-crap kinda kid… often depicted as a sort of fun-foil and overall irritant to Kyle as he works on his “day job”. This story didn’t feel “forced”… and made great use of the existing cast of characters to really drive home how “close to home” a tragedy like this could be.
Heh, I’m trying to look at this as “just a comic book”, and I’m having a difficult time. I’m about to go off into a tangent wherein I say that this story didn’t feel “forced” (which is doesn’t)… but, I dunno… it just doesn’t feel right.
Let’s talk Kyle. His playing the role of a torturer is one of the more divisive things about this arc. There are a couple of ways we can look at this. First: Terry’s attack was “personal” to him… and so, if he was ever going to “cross the line” from white-hatted hero to gray-hatted vigilante, now would be the time.
On the other hand… this is the same fella whose girlfriend was murdered and stuffed in a refrigerator, and he didn’t react this severely. Also, this isn’t even the first time Kyle has had to face off against homophobic villains.
With all that said… I’m really not sure where I stand on the whole “torture” angle. In the heat of the story… it makes perfect sense to me. Taking a step back, however… I’m a bit conflicted. I still think the attackers had it coming… but, I’m just not used to seeing Kyle in this light. I suppose desperation could lead a man to do things he normally wouldn’t. All the power in the universe… and he can’t save one of his friends.
Apropos of nothing, this issue does not carry the Comics Code Authority seal. Further apropos of nothing, this issue does have a whole bunch of ads catering toward young readers (included below). I’m sure ad-space is purchased and planned far ahead of time… but, it is a bit weird to go from a serious scene to an ad for Gummy Bears and Super Mario Sunshine.
Before we wrap up… I want to tip my hat to Judd Winick for handling this very serious and important topic without interjecting politics. To do so, I feel, would take attention away from the matter at hand. This was a very matter-of-fact take, and I appreciated it. I’m also happy that this issue hit shelves in a time before social media was “a thing”… I feel like, had this happened in 2018, the message of the story would be completely lost, leaving us with only vitriolic “hot takes” and divisiveness.
Overall… this is an important issue. It’s also an “ugly” one. You’re not going to enjoy reading it… because you’re not supposed to. I still feel like this is important to comics history, and one worth owning and checking out. It is available digitally.