The powers-that-be at DC Comics have tried to make modern Hal Jordan out to be a legendary but ultimately human hero; unfortunately, they’ve given us nothing but evidence to the contrary.
Before you angrily comment that I’m just bashing Hal here, slow down a second. Need I remind you that I grew up reading Hal’s adventures, and he remains my favorite Green Lantern? My problems with Green Lantern: Rebirth and the following stories weren’t only due to their denigration of Kyle Rayner. I also had a serious problem with the way all of Hal’s problems and quirks were written off as a result of Parallax’s influence. The Infinite Crisis series wrote off even more of them by explaining that as a result of Superboy Prime punching the walls of reality, many of Hal’s low points (and Kyle’s high points) never happened in the first place! (Of course, who knows where that stands now, since Dan DiDio has stated that post-Flashpoint, none of the Crisis events occurred. Make of that mess what you will.)
Hal in decades past was a much more richly developed character. To be fair, we’ll skip everything up until about 1970, as the number of Silver Age characters who were written well ranges from few to none. Hal had a power ring at his disposal, and he regularly faced down cosmic threats…but he also had his home life to deal with, as well as friends and loved ones he had to interact with both in and out of uniform. The relationships depicted here were well crafted, especially when the disparity between what he could get away with as Green Lantern compared to plain ol’ Hal was explored.
I know I bring up Green Lantern (Vol. 2) #76 a lot, but it’s with good reason. That story kicked off a long series of great tales that equally featured Hal’s superhero and human sides, showing that even one of the greatest Green Lanterns in history was far from perfect. (I was really pissed that Hal’s feelings of doubt and confusion during the “Hard Traveling Heroes” era were blamed on Parallax during Rebirth.)
Even Hal as Parallax (the original, superior version, not the stupid space bug) was interesting to read. He genuinely saw himself as an antihero who was doing the right thing, not some mustache-twirling villain. He agonized over his decisions, feeling regret and anger even when he was trying to fix the universe’s problems.
Post-Rebirth, everything just felt bleached. Hal started out back as an Air Force pilot, and he did have some interesting interactions with other officers and pilots (namely Cowgirl), but that was quickly abandoned in favor of event after event, all based on the emotional spectrum. (Which continues to this day.) Hal’s humanity was left by the wayside in favor of him having no lasting problems whatsoever. Worse yet, Hal hasn’t even been the star of his own damned book since 2007; after “The Sinestro Corps War” the other color Lanterns took center stage, with Hal remaining in the background. Except for a few fleeting moments here and there, Hal was just a supporting character, and that’s bullshit.
This is all rather bleak, but things might be turning around a bit. Green Lantern (Vol. 5) #1 shows Hal down in the dumps, facing unemployment and all sorts of other problems on Earth without his ring; in other words, he’s having to deal with real-world issues like the rest of us normal folks. If we can keep up that portrayal, even after Hal inevitably gets his ring back, then we’ll be golden.
It just begs the question of why reversing those decades of human storytelling were even necessary in the first place. Flawless heroes are boring as shit; bringing them down to Earth makes them much more compelling to read. (That’s why the Kyle era was so great.) Hal Jordan’s always worked well as a fearless but human character; it’s high time that creators bring that back for good.