Cover Date: Late October 1998
Story: Ron Marz
Pencils: Paul Pelletier
Inks: Terry Austin
Cover: Paul Pelletier and Terry Austin
Hal Jordan assaults his older self, Parallax, while the latter tries to convince him of the futility of his actions. To further prove his point, Parallax transports himself, Hal, and Kyle Rayner back in time to Coast City moments before its destruction. He’s frozen time here, and Parallax explains to Hal how he’s only trying to fix things to prevent all of this death. Hal understands where his future self is coming from, but he still can’t permit it. The two continue to battle, but Kyle awakes from the chronal shock and breaks them up, holding Parallax at gunpoint. He tells them that Parallax ultimately failed in his quest to mess with the timestream, but later redeemed himself by sacrificing his life to save Earth from the Sun-Eater. It sucks that the Corps had to fall and Parallax had to cause so many problems, but it has to happen in order to save billions of lives. Parallax is shocked by this, but understands that he has to do what’s right. He agrees to use his power to send everyone back to their correct points in time, and young Hal’s Corps ring will erase the memories of these recent events from himself and Parallax. The young Hal thanks Kyle for everything, and the three emerald warriors unite their powers to put everyone back to where they should be. Back at Kyle’s apartment, he tells Jade everything that happened. Kyle has a new mission before him now, as Hal had secretly given him an important gift…a copy of his Green Lantern Corps ring.
There’s loads of great stuff packed into the “Emerald Knights” finale, but the best part is the battle between time-lost Hal and Parallax. Imagine how both Hals must feel; the younger one is furious at what his future self has done, while Parallax wants his younger self to understand his point of view by force if necessary…but he can’t injure him because that could alter the past, negating the whole thing! There’s already a threat of that to begin with, since the young Hal now has knowledge of the future, and he swears that he’ll never go down the same road as Parallax. More important is that the reader can easily sympathize with both Hals’ points of view. Parallax was always an antihero; he stood apart from his clean-cut heroic past, but he wasn’t a supervillain like Darkseid or the Joker by any means.
Moving on, Paul Pelletier went above and beyond the call of duty with his art in this issue. The battle sequences were superbly illustrated, and holy shit, that cover art is awesome! In addition, the anguish apparent on both Hals’ faces really helped get the story across. It was almost hard to believe they were the same person, separated by a decade of trials, tribulations, pain, and suffering.
“Emerald Knights” stands out as one of the few time travel stories that does not involve either changing the past or hitting the reset button. Sure, Hal and Parallax don’t remember what happened…but it still happened. You could argue that young Hal actually changed the future by giving Kyle a copy of his ring!
Speaking of which…how was that for an ending surprise? As you know, Corps rings can make fully functional duplicates of themselves. Ron Marz’ eventual goal was to bring back the Green Lantern Corps, but he didn’t want to rush it. Later stories would see Kyle making copies of the ring in order to induct the likes of Jade, John Stewart, and even some alien species into a fledgling Corps. Kyle’s choices didn’t always work out for the best, but it was a nice slow burn to the inevitable full return of the Green Lanterns. (Unfortunately, a rushed return of the Corps is exactly what we got once Green Lantern: Rebirth rolled around and stomped all over the Green Lantern legacy, this story included.)
The trade paperback collection Green Lantern: Emerald Knights contains Green Lantern (Vol. 3) #99-106 plus Green Arrow (Vol. 2) #136. The inclusion of issues #97 (at least the last few pages) and #98 would’ve been welcome, but such is life. The trade paperback collection is currently out of print (to the best of my knowledge), but it’s rather easy to find, and well worth adding to your collection if you do not already own it.
“Emerald Knights” stands as one of the best Green Lantern stories ever told, and it’s also how an “event” storyline should be handled: it’s got a solid beginning and ending, with just a bit of a story hook in the epilogue to keep things moving forward. In fact, the final panel showing the Corps ring could’ve been a finale itself; rather than kickstarting the next story, it could’ve been merely left as a memento of Kyle’s travails with Hal Jordan.
Even after the countless retcons and reboots we’ve had over the past decade, “Emerald Knights” still a great read with some fantastic art to gawk over. Now, after writing all of these reviews…I’m going to take a nap.