Friday, May 2, 2008

Green Lantern: Fear Itself

Sometimes problems aren't solved on the first attempt, or even the second attempt. And some problems linger for a LONG time before someone finally figures out a solution. Such is the premise behind Green Lantern: Fear Itself, a 1999 graphic novel written by Ron Marz and illustrated by Brad Parker, in which Kyle Rayner finds himself having to clean up a mess decades in the making, courtesy of predecessors Alan Scott and Hal Jordan.

Readers first see the image of the eye atop the pyramid in a typical U.S. dollar bill. The dollar is being passed from a German guy to a U.S. cab driver in Washington, D.C.

"How is it you Americans say?" says the German. "Keep it?"

"Hey, thanks, buddy ..." says the cabbie, "You have a good day, now, hear?"

"Oh, YES," says the German ominously, looking up at the building where he's been dropped off -- which happens to be the Smithsonian Institute. "I INTEND to."

The German wanders into the building and finds a storeroom holding the Eye of Osiris, the capstone of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Two other Germans join him, and after giving the Eye a "HEIL HITLER," they start performing a little arcane ritual in front of the Eye. Suddenly, the Eye explodes!

"... Mein Gott!" screams one of the Nazis. "Something's WRONG! Someth--EEAAH!"

The scene shifts to the White House Lawn, where the Justice Society of America is in the midst of a photo op with Franklin D. Roosevelt. (Yes, that's right -- this part of the story is set in World War II.)

President Roosevelt thanks the heroes for posing, and then takes a stroll with Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, to have a little chat about the importance of keeping up morale during wartime. Roosevelt points out to Alan that superheroes are very important in that regard. "A decade ago, I told the people the only thing they had to fear was fear itself. That's just as true now," Roosevelt tells Alan.

Suddenly, air raid sirens go off. Alan rushes to get Roosevelt to "the safe room," while Jay (Golden Age Flash) Garrick runs off to see if he can find the reason for the sirens. Jay returns almost immediately: "We have to go, ALL of us. It's SERIOUS, it's...!"

It's a big, nasty monster!

Jay says the monster has already killed three people (probably the three Nazis in the Smithsonian). The Justice Society do their collective best to fight the monster, but the fight doesn’t go well.

One by one, the heroes all fall the ground, helpless and screaming, until Alan Scott is the only one left unscathed. The monster, however, seems to have no interest in Alan. Instead, it moves on to some power lines and begins to suck the electricity from them.

When Alan tries to cut off the monster’s power supply, he also succumbs to an attack:

Alan looks up and sees ... a nightmare!

The transformed JSA members attack Alan, who of course fights back.

“Why are you fighting it!” Jay yells. “We didn’t! We couldn’t! GIVE IN to your fear, Alan!”

“I don’t understand what’s happening,” says Alan. “You’re my friends.”

“We WERE,” Hawkgirl replies. “Now ... we’re what you fear MOST.”


Alan turns to the monster.

“It’s NOT them!” he yells at it. “It never was! It’s YOU! You’re digging into my head and playing out my fears like a newsreel!”

Alan focuses all of his power on the monster, until:

Everything is back to normal, and the monster apparently has been destroyed, reduced to a smoking boulder. Alan is sorry he had to destroy the monster without learning what it was, but Jay isn’t sorry in the least.

The scene shifts to another time, another dollar. This time the dollar is in the hands of aircraft mechanic Tom Kalmaku, standing in a Ferris Aircraft locker room and passing the dollar to Hal Jordan.

“No, really, I promise I’ll get it back to you, Pie,” says Hal. “Don’t I always?”

Apparently, every time Hal has to fly a brand-new plane, he borrows a dollar from Tom with a promise to give it back after the flight. Dollar in hand, Hal proceeds to charge his ring with his power battery, but then a new person enters the room.

“It’s Carol!” says Tom. “Stash the battery, boss!”

Carol marches right up to Hal and apparently doesn’t notice that he’s hiding his power battery behind his back: "The jet's on the runway, fueled up and ready to go, and you're still ..."

While Carol snarls at Hal to zip up his flight suit (“It’s unprofessional!”), Tom very sneakily swaps the power battery in Hal’s hands with a flight helmet. Carol finally demands to see what Hal is hiding. When Hal shows her the helmet, she storms off:
"... and get your butt into that cockpit!”

Hal gets in the plane and takes off, flying out over the Pacific: "She feels GOOD. Handles GREAT. Nice and responsive. Wish I knew more WOMEN like that.

“Hal. It’s CAROL at the other end,” Carol radios from the tower.

Hal’s only reply is, “OOPS.”

Suddenly, Hal spots something in the water. It’s a submarine, and it suddenly FIRES a MISSILE at the plane!

(Darn good thing Hal was wearing his power ring THAT time while flying a plane! He hasn't always been so good about doing that.)

While Carol and Tom scramble to find out what’s happened to Hal, he flies at the submarine and confronts the baddies.

Turns out they’re Soviet KGB agents “sent to retrieve an artifact of immense power.” Surprise, surprise, the artifact in question turns out to be the boulder remnant of the creature blown up by Alan Scott during WWII.

When Hal tries to use his ring to examine the boulder, it suddenly starts siphoning power from his ring and then explodes. Hal manages to snag the KGB agents and get them to dry land before they get fried. He turns back to see what’s become of the submarine, and:

“Well ... at least it’s not yellow,” says Hal.

Hal attacks the monster, but things don’t go well:

As the monster continues to dust the ground with Hal, he's suddenly joined by other members of the Justice League of America: Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, The Flash (Barry Allen), and Aquaman. Apparently, Hal signaled them for backup while fighting the monster. The JLA members then join the battle:

Hal tries to draw the monster’s attention away from the city:

He gets the monster's attention, all right. It focuses on the JLA and BLASTS them. When the dust clears ...

... Coast City has been destroyed in a nuclear holocaust!

J’onn tells Hal not to trust or believe what he’s seeing: “... break ... free ... FIGHT ... Don’t be ... AFRAAAAAAID ...”

J’onn crumbles to dust. Hal is the last man standing, and needless to say, he's VERY ticked off.

He throws himself at the monster. “YOU did this!” he yells. “But you’re NOT going to trap me inside a nightmare!”

“You okay?” asks Barry.

“Yeah, Barry, thanks,” Hal replies. “Just a little ... shaky. Guess I got banged on the head.”

(Wow -- Hal got banged on the head. Imagine that.)

The monster appears to be gone, and Coast City and all of the JLA members are fine. Everyone assumes that the monster has been defeated.

However, sitting on the bottom of the Pacific is another boulder ...

Another shift in time and place, and another dollar. This dollar is taped to a glass display booth in the Warriors bar, along with an old bar tab (Owed: $107.56. Paid: 0).

Kyle Rayner, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and Alan Scott are all sitting around the Lantern Lounge at Warriors, drinking beer and playing cards.

(Note: This scene reflects a common gathering of these four Green Lantern veterans, who for a while tended to follow the mantra of, in the words of SallyP, “Ok ... Hal’s dead, let’s drink beer!”)

“He WAS the greatest, you know,” says Guy. “... I mean, even I admit that now ... even if he did kinda have a stick up his butt ...”

Kyle is reflecting on how great it is to be sitting with all these guys and being part of the group, while Guy is talking about how times were different when he, Alan and John were first active. Alan had to fight the Nazis, and John and Guy (and Hal) had to fight the Commies. But Kyle doesn't have to fight anything like that.

"Which is okay by me," says Kyle. "I don't need a big monster to contend with, thank you very much."

Later Kyle is back in his apartment working on an art project, but is having trouble coming up with ideas. He decides to visit the art museum for inspiration. At the museum is a guy preaching about an item in a display case that fell "from the stars long ago" and needs to be released.

What's in the glass case? You guessed it -- it's the monster-boulder that was previously at the bottom of the Pacific ocean. The thing suddenly starts drawing energy from Kyle's ring and begins to glow.

Meanwhile, the Justice League of America is gathering for a meeting. Batman is none too thrilled that Kyle is late for the meeting ...

... and, of course, Wally (the Flash) West is ragging on Kyle, as usual:

Suddenly an alarm goes off indicating there's trouble at the very art museum Kyle is visiting. The JLA pull up monitor images from the museum, and lo and behold, there's a monster in the museum! Aquaman thinks the monster looks VERY familiar.

The JLA also notice that Kyle is already hard at work fighting the monster:

Kyle also generates an image of Wally as Kid Flash to rescue the guy who had been preaching about it ("Always DID like his old costume better."):

While Aquaman and Martian Manhunter compare notes (both agreeing that the monster seems an awful lot like the one Hal defeated years ago), the monster gains enough power to break out of the museum and grow to enormous size.

Kyle does his best to attack the monster, but it gets the drop on him, filling his head with nightmare images of his own personal failings. Kyle falls, but someone catches him:

It's Alan!

Alan tells Kyle about how HE fought and defeated the monster during WWII, and how it appears to attack people based on their greatest fears. Kyle's fears apparently didn't cripple Kyle nearly as much because Kyle's fears are more personal than global. They still need to stop the monster, though ...

Alan heads off Kyle before Kyle can attack the monster, explaining that they can't afford to feed it more power or it will grow out of control. Kyle's attitude is that maybe they SHOULD give the monster all the power it wants -- then maybe it will go away! Alan nixes that idea, then tries to stop the monster from siphoning power from a radio tower:


As Kyle saves Alan from going SPLAT, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Martian Manhunter show up, saying the best way to stop the creature is to cut off all energy supplies. Again, Kyle says he wants to try giving it power instead. The others are dubious, but agree to trust him.

So, Kyle confronts the monster, and pours on the power!

When it's all over:

Well, how 'bout that -- Kyle was right! The other heroes congratulate him for a job well done as the star creature floats up and away into space.

Later, Kyle and Alan are outdoors at night, having a chat about the monster. "You were the only one who didn't see it as a monster," says Alan. "You weren't scared."

"YES I was scared," says Kyle. "I just managed to overcome my own fears. What's that thing some president said? The only thing you have to fear is fear itself. Sounds right to me ... 'cause I've only heard of one guy who was fearless."


SallyP said...

Ohh, this was a goodie. I loved the painted artwork, it was beautifully done. And as you pointed out, once again Kyle was cleaning up after Hal (and Alan)

I swear, all those guys DID was sit around and drink and come up with old Hal stories. I rather miss those issues, some of them were pretty good.

Sea_of_Green said...

Yeah, the boys did do a lot of drinking together, didn't they? Then Hal just had to come back to life and ruin the party. ;-)

I love the art in this graphic novel. It doesn't always work, but when it does it's gorgeous. I especially love the way the artist does Alan's eyes.

SallyP said...

Alan is just SO purty.

Greg said...

Damn, *everyone's* so attractive here, eh? Look at Hal in that flight suit...or Kyle in the museum...

This looks fantastic. It came out during one of my times away from comics : ( so I didn't know anything about it...thank you for sharing it here!

Sea_of_Green said...

My pleasure, Greg. :-) And, YES, the boys do look great, don't they? Of course, I would argue that Green Lanterns are the sexiest of super-heroes -- but that's just my humble opinion. :-)