When Heroes Fall: Hal Jordan

I have a confession to make. I love a hero’s fall from grace story. The one where the hero may never recover. Books as After the CapeIrredeemable, and Ultimate Doomsday  all explore the fallen hero. These stories are the most human,  showing a hero is fallible and suffers like anyone else. Their fall is tragic since they are the best in their respective worlds, making it more meaningful and shocking, for most are human in the end.

Hal Jordan was the greatest Green Lantern.  He received a power ring from the Guardians of the Universe. Fueled by willpower, the ring makes anything possible. His duty was to protect his sector of space and be an extension of the Guardians’ will.

Hal’s hometown of Coast City was destroyed while he was off planet. Seven million people died. Blaming himself, Hal attempted to use the limitless power of his ring to bring them back. The Guardians stopped him and tried to take his power. Hal was misguided, but the Guardians could not understand his grief, causing him to snap. One of the Guardians would later comment, ‘Our greatest champion, yet we did not stand by him in his need. Our unwavering adherence to our edicts prevented the slightest compassion.’

Emerald Twilight chronicles Hal’s journey through space to reach the home world of the Guardians, Oa. Once at Oa, he absorbed the power belonging to all Green Lanterns. Thousands of Green Lanterns suffocated in space as a result. Hal became Parallax and had god like powers.

All heroes fear failing to save the most. They will do anything to correct past mistakes. Every act performed by Parallax was to revive Coast City. He was willing to sacrifice his remaining family and friends to bring back those he failed to save. Parallax was stopped in Zero Hour when his best friend, Oliver Queen, shot him in the chest. Readers who have witnessed friends falling apart and hurting others can understand Oliver’s struggle and decision.

Hal’s fall was not absolute, making it more tragic. He committed atrocities but was always trying to be a hero.

“I only wanted to fix things and look what happened. It’s not supposed to be like this. What happened to Coast City, all those people. I should have stopped it. I should have saved them. I’m a hero, that’s what I’m supposed to do. So I tried to change everything – Coast City, the Corps, everything. Put it back. Put it right. Unless I can do that, I can’t be a hero. I’ll be. . . I’ll be one of the bad guys.”

In Final Night he ultimately gave his life to save billions. But this was not Hal Jordan’s end. His soul bonded to the Spectre, the Spirit of Vengeance. To atone for his sins he would host another being with god like powers. By seeking vengeance for the dead, he would work towards redemption.

Until it was retconned.

Green Lantern sales dropped after Hal Jordan snapped. Green Lantern: Rebirth is the first and best Green Lantern story I have read. If Hal Jordan was coming back as a Green Lantern this is how it had to happen. Parallax became a fear parasite that latched itself onto Hal’s soul, influencing his actions. His sudden changes had motivation and showed how some characters were able to forgive him. A deeper mythology was built that still effects Green Lantern stories.

After reading preceding stories, I felt cheated by the retcon. It undercut all Hal’s efforts for redemption by sacrificing his life and becoming the Spectre. His very human struggle with denial, bargaining and madness was blamed on a separate entity, making it less human and relatable. Numerous characters still blamed Hal for Parallax but eventually forgave him. One of the greatest tales of a heroes fall from grace was retconned away.

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