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Rethinking Hal Jordan in Green Lantern: Earth One

Rethinking Hal Jordan in Green Lantern: Earth One

By Meg Downey Monday, March 19th, 2018

Over the past week, we’ve been taking a look at all of the Earth One titles, revisiting the now-classic standalone tales that set the stage for GREEN LANTERN: EARTH ONE. To finish up, we look at how Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko reinvent Hal Jordan in their just-released graphic novel.

If you had to pick one word to describe Hal Jordan, it would probably have something to do with willpower, right? After all, as the first human member of the Green Lantern Corps, a group of intergalactic superheroes who are literally founded on the harnessing of will as energy, willpower is something that sets him apart. That's what makes him able to be a hero, rather than just a test pilot with a reckless streak.

...Or is it?

The Earth One series of graphic novels have no shortage of brand new, unexpected takes for different iconic DC heroes. They're not bound to any sort of continuity or shared universe space, after all, so they can afford to get a little crazy—and the just released GREEN LANTERN: EARTH ONE gets crazier than most.

In this world, Hal Jordan isn't a test pilot for the air force anymore, he's an astronaut, and one who hasn't been back to Earth in a long, long time. This isn't your typical space program, either. Instead, humans have taken to the stars in an effort to mine resources, and the crews that work these jobs consider it enough of a feat just to hold on to their assignment. Make no mistake, this Hal is still a thrill seeker, but he's not angling to break the sound barrier or set a land speed record. He just wants to explore, something that's a little hard to do when even space stations seem to be run by red tape and bureaucracy.

But that's not the biggest thing to set him apart from his main universe counterpart. In this world, Lantern rings don't have a selection process. They don't choose their bearers. There is no grand pronouncement that you have shown the ability to "overcome great fear," no calculated scanning of your sector of space, no designated partnerships designed to cover the galaxy in a protective network or grid. They're just weapons. Just like a Batarang or a combat knife, anyone who happens to get their hand on one can use it. They might not be able to use it well, of course—like with anything, training and practice are key—but they don't have to be picked out of a crowd. It's luck, rather than destiny.

On Earth One, Hal Jordan isn't special, he's not a chosen one and he feels no strong attachment to Earth—but all of that is exactly what makes him a hero.

Strange as it may seem to be dropped into a world where the Green Lantern Corps don't have an oath, structure, home base, or any real entry requirement, it also represents a huge opportunity. One of the core tenants of the Earth One line is the process of distillation and transformation—questioning just how far characters can be removed from their respective contexts, how much they can be tilted on their axis, while keeping them still, fundamentally, recognizable and whole. It's this process that lets us, as fans, actually start to see the DNA that threads our favorite heroes together. You've gotta break 'em down a little before you can start to recognize the subtleties.

Over in the main universe, back in continuity, when you look at Hal Jordan—and I say this as a big Hal fan—it's pretty easy to dismiss him as a guy who is endlessly rewarded for his bravado. He's skilled, sure, but he's mostly just relentless, and he gets stronger the more relentless he is because that's how main universe Green Lantern rings work. He's almost always the chainsaw, even when a scalpel might work just fine.

Here, without that trait in play, without the potential to be bolstered and empowered by his endless, reckless, physically manifested will, we're left with a version of Hal who actually has to rely on his intellect, his moral compass and his training. This is a Hal who is extremely competent, not because he just flat out refuses to go down without a fight, but because he's measured and deliberate in everything he decides to do. He has to be. In this universe, he doesn't have any way around it. On Earth One, if Hal gets angry and reckless and cocky, he won't be rewarded. He'll probably be killed.

Now, that's not to say Earth One Hal and main universe Hal are two completely different characters—they're not at all. I'd like to think that Earth One Hal is exactly who our classic Hal Jordan would have become, had he not stumbled onto Abin Sur's crash site all those years ago. A guy who’s always pushing the limits of what’s possible, guided by a code to ensure he never crosses and ethically murky lines, and possibly dreaming of a brighter day.
 

Meg Downey writes about the DC Universe for DCComics.com and covers DC’s Legends of Tomorrow for the #DCTV Couch Club. Look for her on Twitter at @rustypolished.

GREEN LANTERN: EARTH ONE by Gabriel Hardman, Corinna Bechko and Jordan Boyd is now available everywhere in print and as a digital download.

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