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The ’90s Revisited: Green Lantern #81

greenlantern0081nFuneral for a Hero

Writer: Ron Marz
Pencils: Darryl Banks
Inks: Romeo Tanghal
Color: Pamela Rambo
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Associate Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1996
Cover Price: $1.75

“That was a good issue.” That was my initial thought on closing this, the first time I’ve ever read the issue. Oh, there were some odd bits here and there, but the oddity largely comes from my present knowledge of stuff in 2016 contrasting with reading a book that’s some 19+ years old.

This issue gives us the funeral of Hal Jordan. Though this is functionally #31 of Kyle’s series, and he was introduced to “replace” Hal in the title…until now, Hal had not actually been dead. He’d first simply become Parallax, destroyed the Corps and then been “not on Earth.” He returned in Zero Hour trying to re-write reality, to fix things…and was stopped. I recall (though not in much conscious detail) the #0 issue of Green Lantern…of Hal and Kyle interacting, and I believe the then-destruction of Oa, and I think I’d figured Hal was out of the picture. He then came back in The Final Night, where he sacrificed himself to save Earth and re-ignite the sun…which brings us to this issue.

Kyle has created a cathedral construct for all the mourners, in part of the crater that was once Coast City. We see the arrival of Jon Stewart and Donna Troy, and Donna’s reunion with Dick Grayson; she officially introduces Dick to Kyle. We see there are quite a number of individuals gathered–some heroes, some villains, some not even “invited.” (But that’s life, innit?) Superman speaks, followed by Guy Gardner and Jon Stewart (former GLs both), then Dinah Lance (Black Canary) on behalf of Oliver Queen (deceased at this point in continuity). The Flash (Wally West) speaks, followed by Carol Ferris…and the service concludes with Kyle. Next, the mourners move outside, where the memorial “eternal” flame for Coast City is magically transformed into a GREEN flame (Hal now reunited with the city he so loved) by the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott. Finally, Swamp Thing causes a massive growth of plant life in the crater…transforming the lifeless, desolate pit into a massive green space to honor the fallen hero…while Kyle erects a statue construct of Hall at the heart of it.

While many might say that you need to have constant action, constant “big stuff” happening, huge events, every issue must be merely a chapter in an ongoing story…I myself am very much a huge fan of self-contained one-shots…and of quiet, personal stories. A couple of my favorite X-Men comics involve the characters at home, just being themselves and interacting…not saving the world or facing some catastrophic event or the latest apocalyptic villain. This issue is like that. No huge action-event. No action-stars. No villain crashing the party and making trouble. This is not part 1 of some epilogue mini-SERIES to examine the death of Hal. This is not a “bridge” issue shepherding us from the last event right into the next.

This is a quiet, moving story where we get to see a number of DC characters interacting as themselves, in context of a loss. Perhaps there should be mention that the WORLD has just nearly ended, but there’s not even that–this isn’t “just” a follow-up to The Final Night…this is simply a story of people coming together to mourn the death of a man whose life had–in some way–touched all of theirs. And I suppose the way I’m going on and on like this ought to “say” enough in itself, outside of these words I’m typing.

For me–having grown up through the ’90s, having been quite immersed in DC‘s continuity (if only on the Superman side) through much of this period, being “aware of” if not directly following every title–this is an instant classic. I paid $3.99 to buy this from a back-issue bin; no bargain-bin or quarter-bin…just a “full priced back issue” in this case. The $3.99–just over double original cover price–makes this issue a “match” for any current 2016 issue…yet to me, the quality far exceeds most anything I’ve read recently from DC.

To say the least…the writing for this issue is great, and my sole complaint would be what feels like a tacked-on bit from Batman for the sake of a pretty bow on the situation, quite opposite of how Batman would be portrayed through later years until Infinite Crisis nearly a decade after this.

Banks‘ art is fantastic as well…I have no complaints on the visuals, and to me the only way characters seem slightly “off” visually I think is that they look almost “too human.” There’s a deep authenticity to me here, between the visuals and story combined…as any comic book should be! And unlike contemporary comics that seem full of silent or near-wordless 2-page spreads…this issue has an example of where something like that is truly justified…giving us a huge, powerful moment…whose silence echoes loudly as we see the interior of the cathedral, the pews full of mourners, Kyle and Donna moving through.

greenlantern0081cThe copy of this issue that I bought has a $1.75 cover price…which honestly surprised me, as I’d thought all DC books were $1.95 or so at this point. Based on the barcode on the cover and no “Direct Edition” text, I can only assume this is a true “newsstand edition” copy…and perhaps these editions were slightly cheaper than the comic shop editions. (I do recall the X-books having a similar thing with a cheaper lower-paper-quality edition and then the more expensive, high-quality-paper “deluxe edition”). This would be yet another difference with contemporary comics…as in 2016 I have observed the “newsstand” editions being seemingly-arbitrarily priced at $1 more than normal.

All said…this was a great issue, and very much worth my $4, putting virtually any current comic to shame, value-wise by comparison. And it only took me some 16+ years to get around to paying a “premium price” to acquire and get to read this issue.

The ’90s Revisited: The Final Night #1

final_night0001Dusk / Week One: Armageddon

Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciller: Stuart Immonen
Inker: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Gaspar
Asst. Editor: Ali Morales
Editor: Dan Thorsland
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

I’m quite sure I’ve read this before…but I’ll be darned if I can remember it. This actually felt like I was reading it for the first time. Knowing I’ve bought the entire series at least once before in bargain bins or as a cheap set, I can’t imagine I didn’t read it…though that’s entirely possible. I know I’d read the Superman tie-ins, as events from this led to the electric-Superman saga.

This issue sees an alien arrive on early, bearing grave news: an entity that consumes all heat/energy is approaching Earth’s solar system and will destroy the sun, and in turn rendering Earth a lifeless iceball. The heroes–around Superman–gather, and launch a two-pronged plan to repel or distract the sun-eater…but this wouldn’t be the start of an event if things worked out right away, would it? The heroes’ plan fails, and Earth is left in darkness…a final night from which nothing will survive more than a few days.

I can’t say I’m overly enthused at the art. I should like it–I usually enjoy Immonen‘s work–but there’s something a bit "off" about it here. Perhaps it’s reading this out of context, or expecting something different, or just seeing a number of no-longer-currently-familiar characters that doesn’t quite do it for me. The art is hardly bad…it’s just not what I "expected" or thought I remembered. Still, we have numerous characters and multiple super-teams represented in this issue, and things move pretty quickly from introduction to action to result in what I would (by contemporary standards) consider an "ultra-compressed" story.

The writing is good, solid stuff, and certainly makes sense for what’s going on. We have the introduction of a massive threat, a gathering of heroes and plan to confront it, the execution of the plan, and the result. Given this event is one month long, and its core is this 4-issue mini-series while more generalized action plays out in other titles, I am ok with the lack of detail to stuff here in favor of moving "core events" along. It also has me very interested in reading the various tie-in titles to see far more detail to the unfolding crisis.

While it certainly benefits by way of 1990s comics being so cheap these days, this is also the sort of "event" I would love to have today in 2016: instead of having to invest in 3, 4, maybe 6 issues of every single tie-in title as well as an event mini-series or few, the event plays out in a single mini-series as well as just one issue of any given title tying in. I almost wish I’d held off on reading this issue, solely for the fact that I’m ready to dive into the rest of the mini, yet have no idea when I’d actually get around to hunting down all the tie-ins to the event.

I snagged 3 of the 4 issues from one set of quarter bins, and the missing issue from another at a different shop a day later–so I have the benefit of scoring the entire mini for $1 total without putting any particular effort into getting it. As such, this issue is very much worthwhile to me FOR my twenty-five cents, as I can move straight into the rest of the series without waiting. However, I do suspect that taken as a singular issue completely apart from issues 2-4, this wouldn’t be all that great an issue in and of itself.

I enjoyed the reading, and look forward to the unfolding story, and continue to dig in on this run through fun back issues and nostalgia.

The ’90s Revisited: Parallax: Emerald Night #1

parallaxemeraldnight001Emerald Night

Writer: Ron Marz
Penciller: Mike McKone
Inker: Mark McKenna
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Associate Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.95
Cover Date: November 1996

I missed Final Night when it originally crossed the DC Universe. (Of course, that was an easy enough thing to do, as back then an event even of this magnitude seemed to be contained to a single month rather than spread out across half a year or more!)

I came across this issue in a random box of comics I got for $5. I knew it had ’90s stuff in it; my interest was piqued by some Onslaught (Marvel/X-Men) issues and a couple issues of Wizard magazine on top of the stack. This was one of the brightest “gems” of the entire box, though, once I actually dug through…well over 100 issues and yet I found myself leaving everything else partially sorted and began reading this, just because of what it was!

Kyle Rayner finds Hal Jordan–Parallax–and explains that Earth really needs him…the hero that he WAS, anyway. A sun-eater has darkened Earth’s sun, which means if it’s not reignited…well, that’ll be the end of the world, within days. Jordan wallows in indecision given his checkered recent-past, and winds up visiting several figures from his past in order to seek internal “guidance” on making a monumental decision. As we see him interact with Guy Gardner, John Stewart, an old mechanic ally and finally Carol Ferris, we see the influence they’ve had on him, and Jordan–Parallax–makes his decision.

Story-wise, this issue is rather cliche. The Hal Jordan I knew and have had thrust upon me for the last decade or so certainly wouldn’t have had this hesitation…yet, this was a much different character, and was Parallax at the time, which we’ve come to know means he was possessed and thus not entirely himself anyway. That doesn’t remove the cliche, but makes it bearable as a piece of the past, filling in a small gap in my experiential knowledge of this character. Yet, this is a Ron Marz issue, and it’s nice to see the way he handled the Kyle/Hal stuff, and the rest of the Hal stuff…what I recognize retroactively to be making the best of a bad situation.

Visually, I liked the look of this overall–I rather enjoy McKone‘s work–yet it didn’t seem quite as refined as I expected, and something was a bit “off,” keeping this from being as much a visual enjoyment as I expected for the name on the cover.

Still, as something that I functionally paid maybe 4 or 5 cents for, this was very much a worthwhile read, worth my time and I’m glad to have read this. The primary drawback is that now I want to find my other Final Night issues to reread that core story, and I’m re-interested in tracking down the actual Green Lantern issue(s) that tied in, as all these years later I’ve still never read those in any form!

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