ACW Extra – Legend of the Green Flame, Chapter 2 (of 4)

Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame, Part Two
“Chapter Two”
“Strange Interlude 1”
Writer – Neil Gaiman
Art – John Totleben & Matt Wagner
Colors – Matt Hollingsworth
Assistant Editor – Frank Berrios
Group Editor – Bob Schreck
Executive Editor – Mike Carlin

The table is set… the whys and hows for this issue have been sorta-kinda established.  Today, we can actually begin talking about the story within!  This is a shorter chapter (pair of chapters, actually), so I’ll try and make up for the brevity with some of the “hard-hitting” analysis you’re accustomed to seeing at this here humble blog!

We open at the entrance to the afterlife… I think, where our heroes are met by another ACW Alum, Deadman!  He informs the big fellas that at the moment they are, in fact, dead.  Hal ain’t buyin’ none of it… and so, Boston decides not to belabor or argue the point.  Instead, he bids them both adieu…

… well, he tries to, anyway.  Superman calls him back in hopes of getting some better answers.  I suppose the quality of answers you receive is subjective, even if you’re Superman.  Boston then suggests the heroes that they’re “probably dead”… so, ya know, all hope ain’t quite lost.  He tells them about a bright light they can head toward… that same bright light he has been unable to cross into all these years.  Hal has another idea, he can just use his ring to send their spirits back to their bodies.  It’s as good a plan as any, so he gives it a go!

We then arrive at the first of our “Strange Interludes”.  Our favorite Stranger walks around a room, admiring the knick-knacks and tchotchkes… he knows his time here is coming to an end.  There’s another place he needs to be.  The Lords of Order require an explanation for his “vacation”…

… even threatening to deprive him of his powers should he act outside their interests, but still… he ain’t about to stick around.

The Lords of Order assure him that if he does decide to leave this room… or whatever this room symbolizes, he will face their wrath.  He leaves anyway.

Kind of a transitional chapter, wunnit?

Well, before we get into it, I wanted to share a little bit more from Neil’s introduction piece that kicked this Prestige Format special off.  Regarding Action Comics Weekly as a concept, “ACTION COMICS WEEKLY had been an experimental anthology comic.  It asked the question ‘Would readers want an anthology series of individual serialized stories featuring Green Lantern, Catwoman, Deadman, the Phantom Stranger, the Demon, Blackhawks and, of course, Superman?’.”

He continues, “The answer was, ‘No.’  They didn’t want it.  At DC it was felt that ACTION COMICS WEEKLY was much more trouble than it was worth.”  Well, there ya have it!  I wish I had sales figures to corroborate that… but I don’t!  All we have at this juncture is the (mostly) overwhelmingly positive feedback featuring in the letters pages.  You’d never know this was as unpopular an endeavor as Neil’s making it out to be.  Then again, my own numbers here at this silly blog nosedived when I took on this direction, so there might just be something to it!

Anyhoo, onto the story!  In a way, it’s not all that different from the Maggin fill-in that would actually wrap up Action Comics Weekly back in 1989.  In both stories, Hal Jordan “dies”… runs into Deadman… and is faced with a decision.  I wonder if Maggin wrote from Neil’s plot/script, or if this was just a cosmic-level coincidence?  Perhaps the Ross Andru ACW #642 cover had already been completed, and necessitated Hal’s “death” in both stories?  I dunno.

So far though… I’d have to say the Neil Gaiman story is better.  We aren’t wasting pages (upon pages) introducing the New-New Guardians, so that’s a definite point in the favor of this take.  Really, the primary difference is… and stop me if you heard this one before… Hal Jordan and Clark Kent are close pals in this story, where they weren’t in the other.  Stands to reason, as that’s the entire reason why we have two endings for this run… but still, that’s the only thing that stands out.

I’m liking the cameos from the ACW Alumnus… however, as the “all or nothing” sorta goofball that I am, I wish there were a way to include every character from the original run.  Get the Hero Hotline in there!  Give us an aside with Human Target!  I mean, we’re playing fast and loose with the timeline as it is… just cram everyone in there!

On that line of thought, something that might be lost on folks discovering this story in more recent years is… Hal Jordan appearing at all and what a novelty that was at the time!  Ya see, this was published back in the year 2000.  Hal Jordan wasn’t Green Lantern at that point in time… and we were often told, in no uncertain terms that… Hal Jordan will never be coming back as Green Lantern!  Kyle Rayner was our guy… and that was the end of the discussion!  So, to get a “brand new” story featuring Hal in the togs was a pretty big deal.  I guess that speaks to the power and influence of post-Sandman Neil Gaiman.  More on that next chapter!

Tomorrow: Not a Dream, Not a Hoax, Not an Imaginary Story… the actual penultimate chapter of the Action Comics Daily project… I really mean it this time!

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