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Thursday, May 02, 2019 

CBR reviewer thinks Heroes in Crisis denigrates Wally West, but doesn't think Emerald Twilight did the same with Hal Jordan

A reviewer at CBR seemingly pans Heroes in Crisis for denigrating Wally West for the sake of cheap shock tactics (and quite possibly to clear the path for replacing him with the black character bearing the same name, brought in for diversity pandering 5 years ago). But he's very bewilderingly lenient on 1994's Emerald Twilight embarrassment, which saw Hal Jordan transformed into a mass murderer for the sake of shock. His explanation why is a classic laugh riot:
I never cared much for Hal Jordan.

Here was a guy, famously "without fear," who as a Green Lantern had near infinite power, who traveled the spaceways to protect not only Earth but all of Sector 2814 from whatever galactic evil sought to do us harm. Hell, Hal was a hero in his day job, flying test planes and looking tough in that bomber jacket.

But who is he, really? What does Hal care about? What does he talk about with his friends? What does he feel when he looks at Carol Ferris, and how does it affect him when they break up again?
Considering he's not a real person, I don't see why that matters. But as for fearlessness, did it ever occur to the columnist he answered his own question? Aviation pilots have to be fearless, because it's a most dangerous job they're doing, to fly those sophisticated aircraft up in the sky. He should be asking anybody who ever scripted a Green Lantern story those questions, not the site's rank and file audience. This sounds more like a copy-and-paste argument already foisted on everybody by undereducated nuts who can't tell the difference between fiction and reality, by somebody who, if he did read GL, isn't that old and only read it in the 3rd volume's first 3-4 years, written by the now disgraced Gerard Jones. I once saw an argument on the same site's message boards 2 years ago, claiming much of this whole "Hal Jordan is boring" routine was begun at the time Jones was helming the series, including the 2 pretentious Emerald Dawn miniseries leading into the whole mess. Obviously by selfish, badly educated screwballs, to say nothing of the editors themselves, who did nothing to dispel the notion Hal was a real life person instead of a fictional character. And for all we know, that's probably just what happened back then. History is going to find the whole affair quite stupefying.
There's not much to Hal other than "Hero" with a capital H. So when he fell to darkness in 1994's "Emerald Twilight" story arc, I felt like that was the first time he'd ever been interesting. Plenty of fans disagreed, vehemently. Violently. They saw Hal's heel turn as a betrayal of everything the character stood for. They said Hal would never "go mad and kill the Corps." What's often overlooked, though, is that even as Parallax Hal was not the mustache-twirling villain, at least in the pages of Green Lantern -- he very much was in the Zero Hour event and in other appearances, but not in the book where his drama was truly playing out. A reader could follow Hal's murderous logic, how, like Magneto, he believed he was committing evil acts for noble reasons. And when the break came, when he executed his friend Kilowog because he'd already "gone too far," his anguish was clear. We felt it with him.
Whoa, is this guy really off his rocker. We "feel and understand" the logic of the repulsive move? Absolutely not. Nor is it understandable or justified if and when Magneto killed innocent people with no connection to the National Socialists he'd fallen victim to during WW2. I can hardly wait to hear this ridiculous commentator make the same arguments about Doctor Doom, because I'm sure there's other idiots out there who'd claim Victor Von Doom was acting in noble faith when he turned Latveria into a commie enclave and gunned down anybody he thought slighted him there.

And while I'm sure there were nuts on the other side of the spectrum who clumsily said "Hal never would", you can also be sure there were others out there who took the logical approach and just made the case and point it's repugnant to take characters we're meant to admire, turn them into one-dimensional monsters, and worst, claim this all suddenly makes them "interesting". Because there are villains out there who've been written most boringly, courtesy of bad writers, who today could include all the Slotts, Snyders and Spencers who came to litter the medium.
Hal eventually found redemption, sacrificing himself to save the universe during the Final Night story arc. But for fans who felt betrayed, this wasn't enough. They wanted Hal back so much that, with 2004's Green Lantern Rebirth, they were happy to wave away Hal's responsibility for his actions with the reveal that their emerald hero was possessed by a yellow dinosaur.

But I never much cared for Hal Jordan.
Why wouldn't it be enough? Because it really is in poor taste to turn an innocent person into an over-the-top murderer and then leave the murders they committed in canon, unreversed. The same argument also applies to how Carol Ferris was mishandled as Star Sapphire in 1988, when she broke into John Stewart's apartment in Action Comics Weekly #601, and slaughtered Katma Tui (it was never explained how she even knew where the apartment address was located). Similarly, it's not enough to just have Hal found an innocent victim of bodily possession by a sci-fi creature, because it arguably still puts a mark of shame upon the hero they'd be better off without. Same goes for co-stars like Carol. Lest we forget, that while Katma was resurrected, it was only briefly, and that's one more reason why insult was added to injury when she wasn't brought back during Geoff Johns' overrated GL run.

The columnist also obscures whether fans wanted Hal fully exonerated, and the Emerald Twilight tommyrot de-canonized. Because that's what fans really wanted, certainly me. That's the most important part.
Wally West, on the other hand…

Wally West was "my" Flash, but that's not quite the best way to describe why he meant something to me. Because, if we're honest, the concept of the Flash -- the "Fastest Man Alive" -- is not inherently all that exciting. Wally existed for decades before I found him, and I don't get much out of those back issues. But I started reading during Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo's run on The Flash, and they were doing something really, really special. Waid's device of beginning each issue -- "My name is Wally West. I'm the Flash. The Fastest Man Alive" -- drew readers directly into the hero's persona. He and Wieringo had turned a book about a guy who runs really fast into a comic about family, and romance, and legacy, and responsibility. It's something that took incredible groundwork -- really, Waid and Wieringo's version of The Flash could not work without everything that had gone before -- and it's something that has never been meaningfully duplicated. Readers came to know Wally, his girlfriend (later wife) Linda, the fatherly original Flash Jay Garrick, cousin from the future Impulse, and a host of other friends and speedsters on a personal, almost intimate level. There was a supervillain threat every issue, but that was never the point. We strove with Wally, we grew with Wally, we felt the joy of his accomplishments, the weight of his responsibility to his uncle and mentor Barry Allen -- and the conflict Wally experienced when he surpassed his hero.
Well at least this does give an idea how old our uninformed columnist could be. Look, as dismayed as I am with Waid in recent years, I too think his Flash run was an artistic success. But let me note I first read the Flash in the Bronze Age, at which time Barry Allen was wearing the costume, and several years after he'd married Iris West. The first DC comic I'd read was Flash #230 vol.2 from late 1974, also my introduction to Green Lantern, since at the time, GL was running as a backup feature there following the cancellation of the 2nd GL volume in late 1972, until it was revived in early 1976. And I wasn't making a fuss over whether Barry and/or Hal had personalities. What mattered was the entertainment value, and on that, they delivered. Did I mention Hal constructed a giant can opener in the aforementioned issue? One more reason why DC's later defense "Hal was unimaginative" falls totally flat, and they probably knew it.
There's a reason Wally's return in DC Comics Rebirth was framed as a return of hope.

And now?

Heroes in Crisis #8 throws all of this away with a "losing control of your powers" gimmick, followed by a deeply grim, needlessly cruel, and fundamentally nonsensical coverup, in service of a story that often feels like it can't make up its mind what it wants to be.

Look. There is a way to make "The Fall of Wally West" work. Good people go bad all the time; it's tragic, but tragedy is a genre, and the best are deeply moving. Hal's fall in Emerald Twilight, I would argue, is tragedy. Wally's fall in Heroes in Crisis, though, is farce.
Emerald Twilight is tragedy from an artistic perspective. And let us be clear here. Nobody reads Spider-Man and Superman to see them turned into murderers, let alone hoodlums who assault otherwise innocent people, as Peter Parker did to Ben Reilly in the Clone Saga before accidentally injuring Mary Jane Watson to boot. So why does he think it'd work any better with Wally? He fails to comprehend the differences between fiction and reality, and what people expect from the former to escape the misery of the latter. He's right that HIC is farce as much as offense, but to say an earlier atrocity like Emerald Twilight wasn't awful for similar reasons misses the boat by miles. Later, after the idiotic way he goes about with Hal, he says:
In the real world, our heroes disappoint us all the time; their falls take a number of shapes, with varying degrees of severity. Some can be redeemed, while others are lost forever. But superhero comics offer us a better way. There need to be comics where the heroes come up short, yes, and where they make unforgivable errors. But when you've built something irreplaceable like the character of Wally West, that needs to be protected. We need heroes who remain heroes, who represent the best of us, who give us something we can truly aspire to.

For some, that may have been Hal Jordan. For me, it was Wally West. I think I get it now.
Well then for heaven's sake, why did he think it's perfectly fine to make Hal a murderer? Did he ever consider the likelihood his tolerance for such a nasty idea left an opening for the morally bankrupt to exploit? If he won't stand strong on Hal, how can he expect to do the same for Wally? Does he recognize his error now, or not? It's still unclear.
Again, there is one issue left of Heroes in Crisis. I'd like to trust writer Tom King and artists Clay Mann, Mitch Gerads and Travis Moore to pull it off -- King and Gerads' Mister Miracle was superb, and King's Vision and Omega Men were also extraordinary. But those series were all consistently excellent, whereas Heroes in Crisis inches closer to the abyss with each issue. It's hard to see how it might be saved. It's harder to see how Wally might be saved. A dino ex machina won't be enough.
He's making another big mistake to offer praise for King's other series, when his pretentious viewpoint has shown up there as much as in HIC. The non-marriage between Batman and Catwoman was just the icing on the cake for a lot of disappointed readers, who made the mistake buying the book when Dan DiDio, the primary architect of HIC, is still in the driver's seat. It's practically silly to make it sound like this is just a rare misstep from King.

There's a lesson to be learned historically. It's that, if you really want to defend the superheroes you cherish most, you have to defend those who aren't as much your favorites too. And remember that all fictional superheroes, whether one's favorites or not, are all just non-existent fictional characters, and the ability to care about them stems foremost from the assigned writer's ability to make us care through story merit and talent. So if you want to defend Wally West, you have to defend Hal Jordan too, and not resort to pathetic arguments like, "I never cared for fill-in-the-blank in contrast to the other fill-in-the-blank". Doing that contradicts Mark Gruenwald's argument "every character is somebody's favorite. You shouldn't kill them lightly, or worse, ruin their appearances in retrospect." If statements by past contributors like Gruenwald aren't considered, these problems will never be solved. With the industry in collapse, there may not even be enough time.

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" Victor Von Doom was acting in noble faith when he turned Latveria into a commie enclave and gunned down anybody he thought slighted him there."

When did Vic turn Latveria into a commie enclave? A high-tech feudal dictatorship, maybe, but there has never been anything communist about the way he runs Latveria.

Generally, characters are more interesting to read about when they have personalities. Sure, they are non-existent fictional characters; but if you can't forget that for the duration of the time you spend reading the story, then why bother even reading it?

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