Green Lantern: Legacy review

Sunday, May 28, 2006

When I first heard about the coming of Green Lantern: Legacy - The Last Will and Testament of Hal Jordan, I expected something a little closer to The Flash: The Life Story of Barry Allen--that is, a retrospective of Hal's life, perhaps told by the man himself, filling in little details and smoothing out continuity up to Hal's shocking and controversial end (at least, at that time). Instead, Legacy is a story that starts with Hal's funeral and spans the wake of the destruction Hal left when he became Parallax; indeed, Legacy, which was published about ten years after Emerald Twilight, is more a retrospective (or, rather, a "Whatever Happened to ...") sequel to Emerald Twilight, much in the way that Superman: Day of Doom was a look back at the Doomsday storyline (and both stories, actually, were inked by Bill Sienkiewicz). Written by Joe Kelly, in the inimitable Joe Kelly style, Green Lantern: Legacy is a trippy, winding story that almost gleefully makes no sense until almost the very end, but for Green Lantern fans, it's an enjoyable game of catch-up with plenty of DCU cameos.

Some time after Hal's death during Final Night (and resurrection as the Spectre in Day of Judgment), Tom Kalmaku--Hal Jordan's erstwhile sidekick "Pieface"--receives a visit from a man claiming to deliver Hal's will, and also his forgotten son, Marty. Tom learns in quick succession that not only does young Marty possess special powers above and beyond the Green Lantern ring that he carries, but also that a dark warrior is chasing them, bent on erasing any remaining traces of Hal Jordan. Tom and Marty's flight takes them from Carol Ferris's house to the JLA Watchtower, and from Warrior's bar to the ruins of the planet Oa, before Tom learns the true identity of both Marty and the familiar figure that's chasing them. In helping to redeem Hal's legacy, Tom comes to realize the failings in his own life, and how he might begin to fix them.

From the beginning, Joe Kelly lets us know that Legacy is as much Tom Kalmaku's story as it is Hal Jordan's. As Tom stumbles out of a bar and into the night at the beginning of the story, the cab driver that picks him up is quickly shown to be the Spectre. With this, the reader understands that no matter how much Hal Jordan's reputation is invoked over the course of the book, Hal himself can't be touched; his fate (at least then) was written. Thus Legacy becomes all the more Tom's story, and the story of those others that Hal left behind--many of whom can't be named here, so as not to spoil the end (trust that if you were a fan of the early `90s Green Lantern stories, most everyone is here: John, Guy, Kyle, Alan, the JLA, Carol, Tom, and some surprise Corps members; perhaps the only one who doesn't show up is Oliver Queen, who was busy at the time being resurrected himself, though he is shown in flashback). In this story of the left behind and examination of Emerald Twilight, Joe Kelly can't help but make this a larger story about what Hal Jordan's madness meant to all of us, the readers. Tom Kalmaku is wrecked by his anger at Hal's betrayal, feeling that Hal's turn to Parallax marred the legacy of Green Lantern that came before; when he says "I felt stupid because I'd devoted myself to idolizing you and the dream you represented," we know it's more than just Tom talking to Hal. These are issues that needed to be examined, and Kelly handles them well; I wonder if some of the furor over Hal's death would have subsided earlier had a book like this come out sooner.

The art on Green Lantern: Legacy is by Brent Anderson, but as with any book inked by the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz, the work immediately takes on his sketchy, edgy feel. It's a look that works and doesn't--certainly, this story is too abstract to have been drawn by Green Lantern: Rebirth artist Ethan Van Sciver, and for the full-page flashbacks, Sienkiewicz adds a moody feel. At the same time, the JLA seemed anemic and silly under a style not at all meant for everyday superheroics. The drag on the book is slight, but palpable nonetheless.

I'm not a big fan of "graphic novels" as opposed to trade paperback collections, as the former are often high priced without much relevance. Green Lantern: Legacy does affect the overall Green Lantern storyline, cementing its relevance, and after all, it brings back Boodikka--BOODIKKA, for gosh sake, who was last seen getting her hand ripped off by Hal Jordan and left for dead--if you happen to find it in paperback or on a half-off table, it's worth a read.

More Green Lantern goodness coming soon, with the Collected Editions review of Rebirth!
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