Into the back issue box #52
You know, for such an iconic cover, this comic is kind of lousy. But does it hook the first-time reader? That’s what it’s all about!
Let’s check out some ground rules for these posts! Okay? And … we’re off, with Green Lantern #127. The story is called “Battleground: Oa!” and it’s written by Denny O’Neil, drawn by Joe Staton, inked by Frank McLaughlin, lettered by Milt Snapinn, and colored by Anthony Tollin. It was published by DC (I know, big shock) in April, 1980 (and the indicia claims it’s “volume 18″ – did they call each new year a volume?). According to the readers of this very blog, Brian Bolland’s cover is the 73rd most iconic in DC history. It is, unfortunately, the best thing about the issue!
O’Neil does a nice job on the first page with getting new readers involved. We get a “Marvel-style” recap of Hal Jordan (“a man born WITHOUT FEAR,” according to the text) and how he’s Green Lantern (must be that lacking fear thing) and then some recapping of the situation: There’s a war between the weaponers of Qward and the guardians of the universe, and Green Lantern is trapped inside the central power battery on Oa, while the guardians are helpless. Salright? Salright. Outside the battery, the weaponers are waiting for General Fabrikant to arrive, because by that time, they should be able to control the “entire energy supply” in the galaxy. Wow! Meanwhile, Hal is inside, trying to get out. His power ring is dead because, as he explains in a thought balloon: “On the inside, the battery’s large field cancels the ring’s smaller one!” O … kay. But then the guardians use their telepathy to make the ring “speak,” telling Hal to break the link between them (they’re all holding hands, and Hal is Red Rover). When he breaks the link, they can use Hal’s body and his ring as “transformers” to broadcast to the other Green Lanterns throughout this arm of the galaxy. Well, that’s good! They broadcast out, and we get a big splash page of all the GLs they’re contacting. I’m sure most readers know who they are, but I only sort-of recognize that orange fish-headed dude and the red chick:
So the weaponers scan a big manta ray Green Lantern heading toward them, so they “dispatch” “him.” How’d they know it was a “he”? Either way, I guess brains aren’t a big requirement to get a power ring, because the manta ray GL thinks to himself, “A missile approaches! It could be friendly — from the guardians!” He blocks it, but when it crashes into his ring-made wall, several smaller missiles shoot out around the wall and blow him up. I mean, do pilots during war say, “Hey, a missile! Maybe it’s friendly!” If someone is shooting a missile at you, I think it’s safe to say that’s it’s hostile. I’m just saying.
Anyway, down on Oa, Sinestro shows up and tells them that he’s ready to assume command, because General Fabrikant said he could. They tell him they were only using him to delay Hal, which kind of pisses him off. He stalks away, and the weaponers turn their attention to the other GLs who are approaching. They launch the “yellow vortex” at the GLs, who are “pulled irresistibly into the whirling center …” Some manage to escape, but many are killed before they can get to the surface. One insect thing manages to get to the central battery and touches it with its ring before it dies. The guardians explain that Hal can put his ring to the other ring, which will allow them to access its power, as it’s outside the battery. Hoo-ah! So Hal escapes, takes the insect thing’s ring (which, of course, fits him perfectly), and is ready to rock!
Meanwhile, up in the yellow vortex, a very funny scene (well, to me) takes place. The red (or is she magenta?) Green Lantern says, and I quote: “The yellow mists are eating through your force fields! In the cold and void of space, we won’t last a moment! We can’t escape … nor survive! We can only wait … for the end! I fear we won’t wait long!” I just love the fatalism – you know Hal wouldn’t give up like that! Wouldn’t a Green Lantern be a bit more active in trying to find a solution? She’s just floating there saying, “Well, we’re going to die. Too bad!” Sheesh, Denny, I know chicks shouldn’t get power rings because they should be pumping out male babies and making muffins in the kitchen, but come on!
Back on Oa, the weaponers aren’t happy that Hal is loose. He gives them a spanking with his dual rings, but then he’s caught by a yellow energy net. However, it’s all good – Sinestro comes to the rescue and releases him! Yes, Sinestro is so peeved that the weaponers dissed him that he’s willing to help the guardians. He and Hal bust into the assembly hall from where the yellow vortex is controlled, so they can rescue the other GLs. Then we get a weird scene: In the teleporter, a small figure appears. One of the weaponers shouts “General Fabrikant!” before Sinestro knocks him out. Neither Sinestro nor Hal saw anyone in the teleporter. We’ll get back to that. The yellow vortex, in the meantime, is gone, and the worthless Green Lanterns who couldn’t be bothered to try to free themselves enter the battle. As they defeat the weaponers, on the next page is a two-panel interlude. Check it out:
Okay, obviously Fabian (Fabian? really?) was the “General Fabrikant” we saw a page earlier, but what the hell? This is obviously wrapping up a plot point from an earlier issue, but while O’Neil has done a fairly good job getting us up to speed on the rest of the story, he drops the ball here. I have no idea if it’s important, but it seems kind of weird that this is all we get.
Hal wants to keep beating on weaponers, but the guardians tell him it’s all over. He says, “Then we won?” and the guardians, sages that they are, tell him, “No! Wars are never won, regardless of who might be the victor! The very act of war is itself a horrible defeat!” Oh, guardians, you’re so wise! Hal wants to go find General Fabrikant, but the guardians tell him they must tend to the wounded. Hal says they also must mourn the dead, as he looks out over a destroyed assembly hall and some dead Lanterns. On that cheery note, O’Neil is out!
For the climax of what seems a fairly big plot (at least three issues), this ending is rather anticlimactic. The weaponers seem rather ineffectual, and I have no idea what’s going on with Fabian/General Fabrikant. O’Neil does a decent job showing a potential new reader what the deal is with Green Lanterns themselves, which is nice, and we get some idea of who Hal and Sinestro are, so there’s that. We also understand what’s going on even if we don’t know much of the history between the weaponers and the guardians. But the issue itself is fairly dull. Say what you will about current Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns (and I have), but he understands the importance of bombast, and that’s definitely missing from this comic. O’Neil knows how to be bombastic, too, but he fails in this issue. It’s the end of what appears to be a fairly big war between the guardians and weaponers, but even the deaths of the Lanterns doesn’t seem all that impressive – the big manta ray dies, as I pointed out, because he doesn’t think a missile is hostile, while the other GLs hang out in the yellow vortex fretting about their fate before Hal and Sinestro save them. And the weaponers fall apart pretty easily. Maybe they were just overconfident.
As a gateway comic, there’s nothing wrong with this. A first-time reader wouldn’t be too confused, I reckon, although they might be bored. A new reader might not return to Green Lantern after this, but there’s no reason for them to swear off comics forever, either!