Hal Jordan is haunted by death in DC Comics‘ Green Lantern: Rebirth. One might even say he is hunted by death. Before he became the greatest Green Lantern of all, the seeds that helped shape Hal Jordan into the “man without fear” were planted when, as a young boy, he watched his father die right before his very eyes. No doubt many of us will find that comparable to Bruce Wayne’s experience of his parents’ death causing him to become Batman. But for Hal Jordan, we’re just getting started.
Later, after he had already attained the status of the greatest Green Lantern, Hal’s hometown – Coast City – was destroyed by the villain Mongul, along with everyone Hal had ever loved or cared about. Hal’s heart and soul were literally obliterated in that very moment, leaving nothing but the shattered husk of a once-great hero. Hal went crazy and tried to “rebuild” his hometown with his ring, only creating an emerald facsimile that could never make the cut. When the Guardians reprimanded Hal for using his ring for personal gain, Hal literally went insane, donned a crazy green suit and called himself Parallax, broke Sinestro’s neck, and murdered the entire Green Lantern Corps, Oa, and the Guardians of the Universe. He then took on and bested the Justice League. Talk about a legacy of death and destruction. But then a glimpse of the Hal Jordan we all knew and loved shone through the murderous facade of Parallax: during DC Comics’ The Final Night event, Parallax/Hal Jordan launched himself into the Sun, re-igniting it as his last dying act and therein saving the planet Earth.
In 2004, Geoff Johns began what myself and many others consider one of the greatest–if not THE greatest (which I personally think it is!)–miniseries ever written: Green Lantern: Rebirth. In Rebirth, Johns brought Hal Jordan back to his rightful place as the greatest Green Lantern of all, and he did so with such tact and grace that he singlehandedly restored not only Hal Jordan, but the Green Lantern mythology as well. The mini-series was Johns’ beautifully nostalgic and emotionally resonant study of death and life, specifically, the study of what death can do to a man’s soul, and the redemptive, restorative journey of that man to become who he used to be – a man whose greatest strength was to embrace the light of life in the darkest of nights.
Johns rightly uses Kyle Rayner as the literal means to bring Hal Jordan back to glory. Kyle retrieves Hal’s body from the center of the Sun, at the behest of Ganthet, the sole-surviving Guardian of the Universe. While Kyle and Ganthet protect Hal’s physical body from all sorts of threats (including a rogue Kilowog, a violently erratic John Stewart, and a not-so-dead Sinestro), Hal’s soul is in a fight of its own. Having been grafted to the Spectre when he died saving the world, Hal’s spirit dislikes every moment he has to carry out “God’s righteous vengeance.” Not only that, but Hal’s spirit is also possessed by Parallax, who is revealed to actually be an entity that thrives on fear. Parallax was the so-called “yellow impurity” that had weakened the Green Lantern rings for millenia, and when Hal’s hometown was destroyed, Parallax took its chance and possessed Hal, and the rest is history. Hal’s spirit is looking for peace – he just wants to atone for his past sins and rest in peace. But the Spectre won’t have it, and Parallax wants nothing more than to torment Jordan day and night, night and day. After an intense inner-struggle between these three forces of will existing in the the one spirit of Hal Jordan, the Spectre and Hal work in tandem to expel the parasite Parallax and thereby set Hal’s spirit free (much to the Spectre’s chagrin). Hal’s spirit is sucked back into his body, and in what I consider to be the single most wonderfully epic, beautiful and chill-inducing moment in all of comics, Hal Jordan emerges – body and soul – from his coffin as Green Lantern.
Rebirth could have stopped right there and it would have been great. But Geoff Johns – God bless him! – went for the gold: he keeps the story going and makes it perfect. Hal is restored as Green Lantern, and must go about taking on Sinestro, who is now harnessing the yellow power of fear and channeling Parallax. And he doesn’t do it alone – he is joined by Green Lanterns Kyle Rayner, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and Kilowog in one of the most epic battle royales you’ll ever witness. And when the dust settles, and the mini-series reaches its conclusion, Geoff Johns has set in motion the framework for the newly restored Green Lantern series, as well as future epics The Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night. But perhaps the greatest battle the recently redeemed Hal Jordan must face is how to go about re-earning the trust of his fellow Green Lanterns, the JLA, Carol Ferris, and pretty much everyone in between.And that is where Green Lantern: Rebirth truly shines – beneath the emerald action and neon mythology beats the heart of an intensely down-to-earth story of a man who must reclaim all that he lost, all the he once was, and all that he will be.
If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and pick it up. I could go on and on about this particular book – it is my favorite, after all – but instead of reading another 100+ words about the book, wouldn’t you rather just read up Green Lantern: Rebirth?