Action Comics Weekly #614 (Green Lantern)
“Bring Me A Man”
Writer – Peter David
Art – Tod Smith
Colors – Anthony Tollin
Letters – Albert DeGuzman
Assistant Editor – Dan Raspler
Editor – Denny O’Neil
Today we’re going to discuss one of the “bigger” chapters from Hal Jordan’s time as the “headliner” of Action Comics Weekly. A chapter which could have informed the character from this point on… if only it weren’t immediately forgotten about.
This is the one we’ve been building too for awhile now… let’s get right to it.
When last we left, Hal was zapped into his own ring in search of answers. We open with the familiar scene of Abin Sur’s dying body. Before he passes, he commands his ring to locate a replacement… a man who is “totally without fear”. So, nothing out of the ordinary… yet.
The Ring complies with the request and searches the nearby area… electing to start with folks with minimal fear… and wean down from there. Since time was of the essence, the Ring chose a local… with a minimum amount of fear… Hal Jordan!
Now, here’s where the other shoe drops. The Ring’s instructions weren’t to find someone with minimal fear… it was supposed to find someone completely without fear. Ya dig? And so, the Ring made the decision to “rectify” any “inconsistencies” in Hal Jordan. The Ring made Hal Jordan a Man Without Fear!
In other words, the Ring mucked around in Hal’s mind… in it’s own words, “rearranging his psychic profile to eliminate all fear.” Hal is flustered at the thought that he’d been lobotomized… but the Ring ensures him that it didn’t cut away any brain tissue. Thank goodness for small favors!
We shift scenes to the Chicago streets, where a suicidal man is threatening to jump from a ledge. While the police try to talk him inside, Hal is instructing his Power Ring to put him “back to normal”… which is to say, remove his Ring-induced “fearlessness”. And… it does!
Hal hears the ruckus outside, and deduces that the would-be jumper is a few blocks away. He leaps from the window… and, get this… begins to plummet to the ground! Heyyy, it’s just like the cover to Action Comics Weekly #602!
Our man manages to pull himself together before going splat. Turns out, all of the fears that had been repressed in the years since his “non-lobotomy” are rushing back at once… which is really putting him through the mental ringer. He tells himself that in order to be Green Lantern, he doesn’t need to be a “Man Without Fear”… he just needs to be a “Man”. And no, I don’t think that was intended as a sexist statement.
He lands on the ledge next to the jumper… and, he’s still pretty freaked out by the rush of fears. The jumper sees him, and (somehow) concludes that Hal is acting the way he is in order to illustrate how the jumper himself is feeling… scared! This is enough for him to reevaluate his life… and climb back inside his window.
We close out with the hooting and hollering of a celebratory streetfull of Chicagoans (and Arisia). Hal gives a victorious wave… though, might just chill up there for a little bit before daring to take to the skies once more.
So, yeah… the big reveal is: Abin Sur’s Power Ring mucked around in Hal Jordan’s brain to eliminate his ability to feel fear.
Now, I’m not really sure how I feel about all of this. I’ve never really been one to draw a solid line under the concept that “Hal Jordan is a Man Without Fear”. Ya know what I mean? I feel like this is one of the things that shouldn’t really be played with. I mean, we can assume that he is fearless… or, we can assume that he has the baser “life-preservation-type” fears. I don’t think we need to really “dig deep” on this… just let it “be”.
How would we even play something like this out? Would Hal try and discuss this with the Guardians (wherever they are)? Would he begin second-guessing all of his prior actions? Would he begin second-guessing all of his future actions? There’s potential for this to be either very interesting… or, very “sticky”. Overall, if I were pressed… I’d call this a “net-negative”.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t like the story, however… because I did. I feel like this was an interesting (and probably, at the time, mind-blowing… pun always intended) revelation… and it really “pays off” the story up to this point. From Katma’s death, to the Carol Ferris “murder”, to Green Lantern’s Q-Rating taking a dive, to the appearance on Oprah, to Mind Games… it all comes together here, with this revelation. Whether I feel like the “non-lobotomy” should be explored, I cannot deny that it was well-written… and damned creative! I don’t think anybody saw this coming. I give a ton of credit to Peter David for thinking “outside the box” with this one.
Let’s look at this story (and reveal) in a vacuum for just a moment. I mentioned during the synopsis that this story featured a scene that looked a lot like the cover to Action Comics Weekly #602.
This Perez cover has almost got to be in reference to this story. If we were to look at Mark Waid’s note in the Letters Page of Green Lantern Corps #224, he mentions that Peter David will be the incoming (and first) writer for Hal’s Action Comics Weekly exploits. That tells me that this story was supposed to be the one that kicked off the anthology. But then… something happened.
Not sure what… or why. But I am interested to know what the original story-progression was to be. Without the “build”, would the non-lobotomy story have hit the mark? Feels like this is a reveal that needed everything that came before it in order to give us that true “A-ha!” moment. I’m definitely curious though!
Going forward… Being a proponent of playing the ball where it lands/playing the cards you’re dealt… I don’t like the idea of just wiping this all away (which is where this is headed… the finer points of this story, to my knowledge, are never referred to again). This is the end of the arc… and we’re going to be moving into a very different story next week… with some very different art.
Overall… an interesting and creative ending to a very unique Green Lantern story. Despite it being swept under the rug (like so much of Hal’s late-eighties exploits), I recommend checking it out, whether as a novelty, or for the very well-written “What if…?” story it’s become.
Tomorrow: The Phantom Stranger deals with Mind Games of his own!