Look on my shoulder pads, ye Mighty, and despair!
(Originally posted on my old blogs, One Man’s Obsession(s)
Parallax was the driving force behind Zero Hour: A Crisis in Time. This alone is enough, in many circles, to condemn him into the unhallowed halls of what Andrew Weiss calls Nobody’s Favorites. But since I’ve never read the story (my desire to read through 90’s event comics is equivalent to my desire to throw myself in a pool filled with sulfuric acid) I cannot truly comment on how crappy said story is. I can , though, look at the whole of Parallax and what went wrong.
My qualifications for this task are scant, I admit. I was between three and four years of age when the major stuff went down and I didn’t even discover that my town had a comic book store for another decade or so. Like so many who came to know and love this most ludicrous and beloved medium of funnybooks after the first Spider-Man movie came out, all I have the firsthand accounts of those either orbiting near the swampland that was the early to mid ’90’s comics industry or those who were up to the necks in the horror show built on poorly realized pseudo-grit, aping the X-Men and following the artistic styling of Rob Liefeld. I am a fan of the Green Lantern franchise (dragged in at the moment of transition men call Green Lantern: Rebirth), and as such I’ve absorbed all I could about the history of the main characters and the Corps itself. Also, I’m not entirely sure if the major point I wish to bring up about where Parallax went wrong has been stated before, so if it has, feel free to inform me.
Now let us look at the beginning. Well, the early ’90’s anyway, where Hal Jordan and company were going into decline in popularity and desperate creative choices. John Stewart would find himself crippled for a brief time and dumped into the Darkstars stable for awhile. Guy Gardner would lose his ring, rob Sinestro of his yellow rig and become a Vuldarian living weapon through the power of the retcon. And Hal Jordan, premier Green Lantern of sector 2814 and child of the Space Age found himself stuck in a world more interested in scowling and guns than his brand of All-American superheroism.With the Death of Superman mega story as a jumping off point, DC decided to shake things up for the franchise.
It started off okay. Green Lantern #48 (cover dated January 1994) began with Hal in the ruins of Coast City, trying desperately to resurrect the place through sheer willpower. Through it he confronts his issues with his father, talks to his mother one last time, and brings and idealized version of his hometown to life. Then the Guardians show up to admonish him, somehow not noticing the man’s grief and anguish. Any creature with even half a brain would immediately order Hal to take an extended leave of absence to deal with such a tragedy, but the Guardians of the Universe have never been ones to be written intelligently. So Hal, grief stricken and mad, goes forth to maim several fellow Lanterns, kill a resurrected Sinestro, murder Kilowog and destroy the Guardians. He takes the power of the Central Power Battery, and becomes Parallax.
Hal’s tenure as a villain was defined by grief, madness and anger. In other words, Hal had become like damn near everyone else running around in tights at the time, just on the chaotic evil alignment. His name made no sense (just look up what the word parallax means to see why) and as a grand universe shaking threat, Hal’s most lasting affect was the full scale reboot of the Legion of Superheroes. But Hal’s attempts at editing the past like so many Wikipedia entries and murderous rampages weren’t the most damning of the whole enterprise. It was the fact that Hal took the entire Green Lantern Corps with him.
That, I think was the real breaking point no one could admit to at the time. Hal was the star of the show so he got the most attention, but the rest of the Corps, that lovely collection of freaky alien beings championing the cause of justice throughout the cosmos was no more. People like Katma Tui, Kilowog, Salaak, Arisia, Ch’p and even Rot Lon Fan? Either gone, dead or pushed to the background even further than they were. There would be only one Green Lantern for quite a while. And the DC Universe just felt smaller. Todd Alcott, a far better writer that I’ll probably ever be, once pointed out that Green Lantern was a job, and one that any sentient creature with the right amount of willpower could have. But after the three part “Emerald Twilight” story arc, Green Lantern was just a guy.
Now don’t get me wrong, Kyle’s a fine character and like the guy quite a bit. Hell, I love most of the people who’ve ever slipped on the most powerful weapon in the (DC) universe. I’m just trying to point out the fact that DC thought it would be the best idea to take away one of the major factors that made the Green Lantern franchise unique in the crowded world of superhero comics. And this is no justification for the existence of H.E.A.T, either. Their legacy (minuscule as it is) is a footnote in within a footnote; a bunch of angry fools tilting at windmills whose proximity to the resurrection of Hal and the Corps do not in fact mean much in the grand scheme of things (I’ve always suspected that Hal’s return owed more to desperation for new readers than trying to placate aging fanboys).
Hal as Parallax lasted all the way up to the event Final Night, where he sacrificed himself to save the Earth in an eleventh hour moment to try and gain some redemption. Hal would float around as The Spectre until 2004, when DC decided to just let Geoff Johns bring Hal back as Green Lantern and bring back everybody and everything that the Corps once was. And yes, Parallax was retconned into and evil space bug representing fear itself. Honestly, that the best possible situation for him. Now he gets to be a cosmic horror of grand proportions instead of a bad heel turn that never really caught on with the comics reading public.
But the resurrection of the Corps is what was most needed. Now Green Lantern isn’t just a guy or a group of guys. It’s whoever or whatever the creators want it to be.