Since the greatest GL of all, Hal Jordan, is retuning to the DCU in upcoming issues of Green Lantern, I took the time to go back and re-read selected bits from the various Hal's fall-from-grace storylines of ten years ago. I was among those against the switch from Hal to Kyle Raynor, although I ended up becoming a fan of Kyle... and anyway the GL mythos prepares you to be a fan of the ring, not particularly who is under the mask.
Then again, the character of Hal Jordan is so powerful in DC lore that he never really went away. After renouncing his GL-ship, he spent a brief time as a hokey supervillain, redeemed himself in a very appropriate fashion, then turned supernatural as the new Spectre. As much as I miss having a guy with white age-streaks in his hair leading the Justice League, I really liked how it all ended. "Final Night" was fitting, and it was just plan cool to recycle the character as the new Spectre. Athough, I would not have use that as an excuse for a new "Spectre" series. I would have preferred keeping him in the shadows with rare guest appearances. Bringing him back as a GL will take the emotional punch out of all that... but that's pretty much how comics work. We have short memories. Even those of us who lived by stringent post-Crisis continuity back in the 80s and 90s are today suckered by a great story, no matter how it relates to what has gone before.
Green Lantern: Emerald Twlight (GL #48-50, January-March 1994). I had trouble recalling why I was so against losing Hal back in the day. This awful story reminded me. While this was supposed to illustrate his descent into madness, sparked by the loss of Coast City, it just sucks. Most of the tale is an unbelievable slugfest where Hal takes down the entire Green Lantern Corps, none of whom think to wield anything yellow against him. (Or had the Guardians removed that weakness by this story? I forget.) Anyway, I never really bought into the whole "Coast City Madness" concept. It was too quick, too pat. Granted, I've only been following the modern GL series (since 1990), but I don't recall any strong emphasis on Hal's connection with Coast City. I mean, he wandered for years, he lived with the JLA for years; his childhood home was never played up to the extent that Smallville is in Superman's life. I can totally see Superman going apeshit if Smallville is destroyed. I don't see it for Hal Jordan.
Then there's the silly fight with Sinestro. Although I like the storytelling trick of the unnamed narrator that turns out to be Sinestro, trotting him out for the big final fight with crazy Hal is just pandering. The whole thing reeks of stunt, and it isn't helped by mediocre art and a lack of dramatic layout. I had forgotten that the first time we see Kyle Raynor, he's lounging half naked on a beach at night with his impossibly hot girlfriend. No wonder we all hated him.
Zero Hour #4-0, September 1994. I remember eating this one up, but it doesn't stand the test of time because it illustrates just too well what is wrong with the traditional Comics Event. First of all, it's impossible to read today unless you dig out all the supplementary crossover books. The core series doesn't make much sense without them, there's too many loose ends and diverging B-stories. And it's far too obvious that the end goal is not to tell a great story, but to introduce new characters, all of whom are launched into a new series shortly afterward. (And generally die a short death right after that.) At best, it's simple marketing... but at worst, it's insulting. Manhunter? Primal Force?
Then there's the problem that almost the entire storyline has been negated since then. Zero Hour was intended to retire most of the Golden Age characters (like the original Flash and Green Lantern), ostensibly to winnow out some of the older characters to keep the modern ones from getting lost in their continuity. (You do realize that some day we're going to see a retcon that places these former-WWII era heroes firmly inside the Gulf War, don't you? Maybe Hussein's mythical weapons of mass destruction include the Spear of Destiny?) Since Zero Hour, they have all returned to active duty in the JSA.
The new Zero Hour character changes have all disappeared or reverted back to pre-ZH forms, like Fate and Warrior. And does anybody still include the Zero Hour-spawned notion that Triumph was in fact a founding member of the Justice League? Not in any Year One stories I've read lately.
Not that Zero Hour doesn't have its bright spots. The whole series uses layouts reminiscent of comics legend George Perez, a decision that had to be purposeful on artist Dan Jurgens' part, given the story's connections to Perez's masterpiece, Crisis on Infinite Earths. And plot-wise, Waverider discovering the "true story" behind Crisis still gives me chills, as does Hal's ominous rumination when re-making the universe: "Maybe one world won't be enough."
Oh yeah, that's who were talking about here, Hal. This is where, after destroying the Guardians, he reveals himself as Parallax, your new ultra-powerful super villain du jour. The series starts off with Armageddon 2001 reject villain Hawk/Monarch/Extant, but he's a red herring being manipulated by Hal. And while it looks like Hal's plan is to restore Coast City (there's that chestnut again), any old time comics fan can see what he's doing: he wants to restore the entire Multiverse. Earth-1, Earth-2, Earth-Kamandi, Earth-Evil, everything. (I certainly wouldn't have minded him bringing back Earth-C, home to the Zoo Crew.) That was really the nicest bit to the final act of Zero Hour: it pitted the old comics fans against the new generation. Yet there is no doubt which side the boys in marketing will have win.
One recurring facet to the "new" Hal is him blaming the Guardians for everything. He talks an awful lot about being their tool. I suspect this will come up again during the upcoming rebirth, especially given the Spectre's role has always been explained as a servant of God's will.
In the end, Hal/Parallax dies one of those terrible ineffectual deaths that everyone knows doesn't count. It's handled very well; old friend Green Arrow delivers the final blow. (There's another guy who has recently died and come back, and the two characters fondly traded jibes on that in Identity Crisis.) Nevertheless, it is not long before Hal shows up again, probably chiefly to calm reader outrage over turning Hal into a cheesy villain. "Parallax"? Come on.
The Final Night #1-4, November 1996. They should have titled this one "Sorry about ruining Hal, hope this makes up for it." It's another world-ending, multi-issue crossover, but at least this time you can read the core series and follow what's going on. The idea is that the Sun is going to be destroyed, therefore killing on life on Earth. The assembled heroes spend a lot of time trying to fix the problem (including a nice rivalry between Lex Luthor and the Legion's Brainiac 5) but they end up getting Hal to help them.
Hal's powers as Parallax seem to be infinite, which is always lame. Furthermore, it's impossible to care about, since it gives Hal's appearance a complete deus ex machina feel. After some soul searching (in the one truly relevant sidebar book, Parallax: Emerald Night), Hal agrees to jump-start the sun, kill the malevolent beastie threatening it, and wipe away all the snow currently on Earth so there's no flooding.
What's nice about this scene is that he recites his old Green Lantern oath while doing all this, which is a complete tear-jerker as far as I'm concerned. Again, we're lead to believe he is dead after having accomplished these mighty tasks, but, as the old rule goes: no body, no death. When he restores the sun, it comes back green for a time, which I always thought was a nice touch. Had they actually kept Hal dead, it would have been even greater if, every time the Sun appeared in a DC comics, they would have put a thin green border around it. That would have been a great nod to his memory.
I don't actually recall where and when they turned Hal into the new Spectre. I looked through some JSAs circa 2000 and the three Green Lantern Secret Files I have, and I can't find it. I liked that in concept, and I liked seeing them give the Spectre a pseudo-dual personality. During that Injustice Gang saga in JSA, Spectre would loom over everyone with all his vengeance talk, and then shrink down for a private moment as Hal. Part of the fun of getting Hal back will be divorcing him from Spectre. And what about Kyle? He's come a long way and I think he's earned his place in the pantheon. They had some golden opportunities to get rid of him lately (during that tedious space story after he left Earth, and then again when he came back and found nothing remained of the life he abandoned) but only now are we confronting the Hal issue. I sort of thought Kyle would willingly step down, but the finale of issue #181 - where he finally goes after that smug ass Major Force - left Kyle more in charge of himself than ever. Will both Hal and Kyle stay on as Green Lanterns? If the Corps comes back, that could be a possibility...
Oh, and I really liked having Jade as a GL. Sidenote.