Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Green Lantern Annual #4 (1995): "Shared Lives"

Poor Kyle Rayner. He never asked to be a Green Lantern. To his credit, though, once he was stuck with the job, he rose to the challenge and turned out to be a darned good Green Lantern -- all despite the fact that within a few short days of becoming Green Lantern, Kyle's girlfriend, Alex, was murdered and stuffed into a refrigerator, and then Kyle was roped into a cosmic-scale battle with his insane and much more powerful predecessor, Hal (Parallax) Jordan. Yep, Kyle took everything in stride and took on the responsibility of a Green Lantern -- and the responsibility of being Hal Jordan's cosmic janitor. Hal certainly didn't make things easy for Kyle, and was never more of a trial for Kyle than in the story "Shared Lives," in Green Lantern Annual #4 (written by Ron Marz and Kevin Ferrera, drawn by Tom Grindberg and Joe Phillips).

The story opens in the home of the Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott, where Hal Jordan (possessed by Parallax) has suddenly appeared. Alan, alas, does not show up in time to stop Hal from stealing his Green Lantern power battery and disappearing with it.

Hal then appears at Warriors, interrupting Guy Gardner, who is in a really foul mood and lamenting the death of Kilowog. Guy's mood doesn't improve when Hal shows up and demands Guy's old Green Lantern power battery: "You don't NEED it any more ..."

Of course, Guy doesn't give up anything without a fight, but Hal brushes him aside like he was nothing, takes the battery, and vanishes.

Meanwhile, Kyle Rayner is planning a date with Donna Troy and getting ready to wrap up an art job before hitting the hay for the evening. Kyle has no idea that something really weird is about to happen ...!

The scene shifts to the abandoned Ferris Aircraft. Hal has brought the stolen power batteries to an old hanger and set them up so he can reach Alan's with his left hand and Guy's with his right. Hal then sticks his fists into the power batteries, in an apparent attempt to charge up with both of them.

At the same time, Kyle changes to Green Lantern to get some air by taking a flight around the city. He goes to charge his power ring, and ZAP!

Suddenly, Kyle is outdoors in broad daylight, hovering over open sea, and dressed in Hal Jordan's old, original Green Lantern uniform. He's also engaged in a classic Cold War-era Hal Jordan-type activity:


To Kyle's relief, he seems to be handling the explosion okay. Things really start getting weird for him, though, when he's suddenly confronted by a VERY old enemy of Hal's:

It's the Invisible Destroyer!

Kyle is still very confused, but he doesn't have any trouble at all in removing the threat of the nuclear explosion, and catching and confining the Invisible Destroyer. The job done, he flies off to figure out what the heck has happened to him.

"All right," says Kyle, "I'm in Hal's old costume, in Hal's old city, wearing his old ring, fighting an old enemy of his too, I imagine. I don't like where this is leading. Could I actually be stuck in Hal's life? And if I am ... what's happening to mine?"

What's happening to your life, Kyle? Well, as it happens, Hal Jordan, in Kyle's uniform, has suddenly appeared at a moment in Kyle's history when girlfriend Alex is still alive. VERY much alive:


Hal may be in the company of a gorgeous babe, but he's VERY confused. Things have NOT gone the way he planned. Charging up with Alan's and Guy's power batteries was supposed to give him more power, and he can't imagine what went wrong. At any rate, he's too distracted by what's happened to really appreciate Alex trying to cheer him up:

Alex leaves the room, giving Hal a chance to mull over the situation. "This isn't my costume, obviously. This isn't even my ring," Hal mutters to himself. "They both belong to that kid who replaced me. Kyle. And that woman. She's Kyle's girlfriend. Her name is ... Alex, I think. But he told me she was killed."

Alex comes back into the room, AND:

Whoa!

Wow. Now, you KNOW Hal isn't in his right mind when he rebuffs the advances of a scantily-clad babe (a babe that isn't a Star Sapphire, that is)! But he really does duck out of the apartment with a hasty apology to Alex, and he takes off to sort out his situation:

Meanwhile, Kyle is trying to figure out what's happened to him, and how he can get out of this mess and back to his own life. He reckons that since this all happened when he was charging his ring, he needs to find another power battery in order to put things back the way they were. He spots the very busy and definitely not abandoned Ferris Aircraft and heads toward it -- and it quickly becomes apparent that he's NOT used to being around an airfield:

"That thing almost killed me!" he sputters as he lands and switches to civilian garb. "This place is dangerous."

Kyle goes wandering into a hanger, where he runs into Hal's old buddy and mechanic, Tom Kalmaku:


Kyle then runs into the gorgeous and formidable head of Ferris Aircraft (and Hal Jordan's former boss and girlfriend), Carol Ferris. In true Carol Ferris form, she immediately starts giving him hell:

"Test pilot? Me?" says Kyle. "Oh no, don't think so. Too dangerous for me, thanks."

Carol threatens him one more time and then storms off. Kyle goes in search of a logical place for a power battery -- and the most logical place, of course, is the pilot locker room, where Kyle finds a locker with his name on it. He opens the locker and -- yay -- there's a power battery! (AND there's a calender pinup of a hot babe. But what else would you expect to see in Hal Jordan's locker?)

Meanwhile, Hal is coming to a decision about the predicament he's in. Sure, it isn't what he planned, and he feels he doesn't belong there, but "just the same, it FEELs right. Alex. The apartment. This ring. Being a HERO again ... I just have to figure out what to do about Alex."

Hal flies back to the apartment ...

... and ...

OMG, it's the villain Major Force! He's about to murder Alex and stuff her into the refrigerator!

Poor bastard doesn't stand a chance:



The villain thus dispatched, the hero rushes to the fair damsel's side:




A battery! Hal now has the entire Green Lantern ensemble. Goody, goody!

Speaking of batteries, Kyle changes back into uniform and looks over the battery that he's found in the pilot locker ("Not exactly the latest model."). Suddenly, a hologram of one of the perpetually powerful and perpetually clueless Guardians of the Universe appears.

"Kyle Rayner, Green Lantern of Sector 2814--" the Guardian bellows, "--there now exists a situation of grave and universal import toward which you must turn your immediate attention. As you know, the Dulong Bio-Physics Company has an experimental station in Coast City."

"I know that?" Kyle mutters.

"Early this morning," the Guardian continues, "their scientists bombarded a selection of rare compounds with cosmic rays. One compound contained a micro-organism. The cosmic rays caused the organism to evolve at an astronomical rate--" Blah, blah, blah ...

(NOTE: What the Guardian is actually describing here is The Creature That Couldn't Die, one of Gil Kane's most memorable monster designs from way back in Showcase #24, 1960.)

Finally, the Guardian caps off his speech with the directive, "GO!" Kyle appears more than a little amused by the whole thing.

Essentially, Kyle blows off the Guardian and flies out of the hanger -- and gives Carol Ferris an opportunity to admire his backside:

"I've got more important things to do right now," says Kyle, "like getting the heck out of Hal's life ... and back into my own."

At the same time, Hal and Alex are back in the apartment examining their predicament and trying to determine what to do about it (with Major Force still trussed up like a turkey in the background). Hal is still undecided about what he should do about being stuck in Kyle's life, and Alex is completely confused by Hal's confusion. At one point, she even asks Hal if he wants to see other women ...! ("No. NO! That's not what I'm saying!")

Then Alex gives Hal a big ol' kiss ...

... and asks if he'll stay with her. A very guilty-looking Hal thinks it over for a moment and then says, "Yes."

Just at that moment, Kyle begins charging his ring. And right when Hal decides that, hell yeah, he really likes Alex and wants to remain Green Lantern in Kyle's reality after all, he charges HIS ring:

ZAP!


When next we see our two boys, everything is back the way it was, and both of them are standing at Alex's grave. Kyle, who apparently has been filled in on everything that happened, is VERY angry, and very much in denial about the experience that Hal had with Alex. And Hal apparently can't resist rubbing salt in the wounds.

Then the two essentially grind their teeth at each other and fly away, in separate directions, leaving a green, ring-generated rose on Alex's grave. Ah, but exactly which one of them left the rose? Hmmmmm ...

You know, it really is amazing that Kyle and Hal now get along as well as they do.

I assume Kyle also found and returned Alan's and Guy's power batteries.

Next tale: Kyle cleans up after Hal Jordan AND Alan Scott!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Green Lantern versus Silver Surfer!

Admittedly, the real title of the comic book described here is NOT Green Lantern versus Silver Surfer, but it might as well be. Green Lantern, Silver Surfer, published in 1995 in a single-issue "prestige" format, was written by Ron Marz and drawn by Darryl Banks. It definitely follows the grand old tradition of pitting a DC Comics hero against a Marvel Comics hero, promising a huge fight that ultimately leads nowhere -- because either circumstances prevent the protagonists from being at their full, true powers against each other, or circumstances demand that they put aside their differences and team up against a more immediate threat. In this particular story, however, there are definitely some "versus" involved. Don't get whiplash trying to follow THIS plotline, folks:

The story opens with the Silver Surfer cruising through space (in the Marvel universe) and being all melancholy, as usual. He comes across a horrific scene -- a planet has been destroyed, and the remains of its inhabitants are floating in space. In the midst of all of the carnage is the one responsible -- the decidedly NON-Marvel Universe baddie Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman.

The Surfer is more than a little put out, because the planet in question was one he'd managed to save from planet-eater Galactus way back when the Surfer was Galactus' herald. The Surfer confronts Henshaw, who isn't impressed -- and, after all, it wasn't HIS fault that the planet was too wussy to endure his attempts to turn it into a WarWorld. The Surfer, of course, feels obligated to deal with this planet destroyer. He and Henshaw quickly go head-to-head and start pounding the bejeezus out of each other.

The scene shifts to Earth (in the DC universe), where Kyle Rayner is working on a new logo for Radu in an attempt to shave down the cost of his monthly rent. Suddenly, from outside comes a huge explosion, strong enough to blow out all the windows in Kyle's apartment. Kyle immediately changes to Green Lantern and flies outside to see what the heck is going on.

Standing in the middle of Washington Square Park is Terrax, another former herald of Galactus and a total stranger to the DC universe. Kyle doesn't know who the heck Terrax is, but weirdly enough, Terrax knows about Green Lanterns. Terrax apparently thinks "Green Lantern" is his "only obstacle in the way of" his "conquest of the universe."

So, Kyle and Terrax quickly go head-to-head and start pounding the bejeezus out of each other.

Meanwhile, back in the Marvel Universe, Hank Henshaw and Silver Surfer are still hard at work trying to fry each other ...

... when, suddenly, a new player enters the fray:

Surprise! It's Hal Jordan, possessed by Parallax, nutty as a fruitcake, and engaged in his favorite pastime of chasing Hank Henshaw across the cosmos. Ooooh, if you thought you had problems before, Surfer ...!

Back on Earth (DC), Terrax has seemingly gotten the drop on Kyle ...

... but then Terrax is suddenly blasted off his feet as a new protagonist shows up:

Eek! It's Thanos! Big, nasty Marvel bad guy obsessed with Death! Run, Kyle! Run!

But let us return now to the Marvel universe, where Silver Surfer is on the verge of becoming VERY confused:

Ooooh, don't call him Green Lantern, Henshaw! "I've taken the name Parallax," says Hal in response. So there. Nya, nya.



'Cause Hal ain't from your neck of the woods, Surfer -- and Hal tells him so. Hal explains that Hank Henshaw is also from DC Land and that Hal's been chasing him from universe to universe to punish him for destroying Coast City.

"You sought out this villain in order that justice might be served?" Surfer asks Hal. "You are a hero, then?"

Hal then gives a very sketchy description of how Coast City's destruction changed him from Green Lantern to Parallax (leaving out all the juicy bits about how he, oh, murdered the Guardians of the Universe, destroyed the Green Lantern Corps, and tried to remake the entire universe in his own image. You know -- little things like that).

"All I ever wanted ... was for everything to be right again," says Hal. "You can understand that, can't you?"

Silver Surfer starts thinking that he and Hal have a LOT in common. Uh-oh ...

About this time, back on Earth (DC), Terrax is getting a major dusting up by Thanos. Kyle is impressed that Thanos is even uglier than Terrax and a hell of a lot more powerful.

Once Thanos has defeated Terrax and bleeped him out of the vicinity, he formally introduces himself to Kyle:

Meanwhile, back in Marvel space, Silver Surfer is spilling his guts to Hal, telling Hal all about leaving his planet, Zenn-La, and losing the woman he loved in order to serve Galactus, wah, wah, wah ... Hal, of course, expresses sympathy and tells the Surfer about how he always tried to make things right again, but lacked the power to do so. But ... but ... hey, maybe if he and the Surfer teamed up, they could FIX everything!

Switch back to the DC universe now, where Thanos is telling Kyle about stopping a huge threat to both of their universes. Kyle isn't exactly buying Thanos' story (Thanos doesn't a have a very honest face, after all) until Thanos mentions a particular individual:


Yep, that's right, Kyle. Time to go clean up after Hal again. (Of course, the entire time Hal was Parallax, Kyle had to clean up after him quite a bit.)

Hal continues to work on the Surfer, to convince the Surfer to loan him some extra power. Thanos continues to work on Kyle, saying that he's constructed a weapon that can stop Hal, but only through the use of Kyle's ring.

Oh, but Kyle is smart enough to not fall for Thanos' guff, isn't he?

Don't do it, Kyle! Don't do it!

Dumbass.

Maybe the Silver Surfer will do a better job of resisting the hard sell HE's receiving. Surfer?

Don't do it, Surfer! Don't do it!

Dumbass.

So, a Marvel guy has been duped by a DC guy, and a DC guy has been duped by a Marvel guy. What IS the multiverse coming to?

Anyway, back to the story: The Surfer passes most of his "power cosmic" on to Hal. Mmmmm, BOY, what a rush!

Then the Surfer looks up, and lo and behold, the planet destroyed by Hank Henshaw is whole again! And all the people are alive! Hot diggity dog!


The Surfer is thrilled. So is Hal -- perhaps a little too thrilled: "This time they can't stop me!" Uh-oh ...

At the same time, Kyle has followed Thanos to the location where the DC and Marvel universes supposedly meet -- and it's right where the planet OA (former headquarters of the Green Lantern Corps) used to be!

"OH," says Kyle.

"No. OA," says Thanos.

Oa got blowed up real good in a big fight between Hal and Kyle a while back, when Hal first became Parallax. Kyle is very surprised to see that in place of Oa is a huge, yellow orb that doesn't look entirely stable.

Thanos asks Kyle to have a seat in a big ol' machine of his. When Kyle does so, Thanos throws a switch, and --

Back in the Marvel universe, Hal is suddenly struck with a major migraine: "Someone is tampering with the structure of the universe. BOTH universes."

Silver Surfer senses it, too. The two of them hop onto Surfer's board and head toward the center of the universe -- where Thanos is monologuing in spades, and Kyle is finally learning exactly what's going on.

Yes, it was THANOS who sent Cyborg Superman through the rift between the universes, to make sure the rift was legitimate. Then Thanos sent Terrax after Kyle to see how tough Kyle was. Turns out Thanos was never after Hal. Rather, Thanos was working for a way to "accomplish universal annihilation" -- and a way to do that was to use Kyle's ring to harness the leftover power of OA and channel it through Thanos' machine for the big kaboom! Mwaaa, ha, ha, ha, haaaaaa!

Seriously, though -- Thanos doesn't like Hal, anyway, because as Parallax, Hal has a tendency to go around recreating things and trying to bring people back to life. Definitely at odds with Thanos' agenda!

Suddenly, Silver Surfer and Parallax show up:


Kyle ends up head-to-head with the Silver Surfer, whether he likes it or not:


Their fight, however, is NOTHING compared to the fight between Hal and Thanos:

It doesn't take long for Hal and Thanos to engage in a spectacular cosmic battle of destruction and renewal. With the power he's taken from the Silver Surfer, Hal recreates OA -- and Thanos promptly blows it up. Then Hal resurrects Coast City, and Thanos blows it up. On and on, and on, and on ... Planets and cities are being created and blown up all over the place!

Kyle and the Surfer notice what's going on and stop fighting each other. The Surfer finally realizes that he's made a HUGE mistake, but there's not much he can do because Hal has most of his power. He gets an idea, though.

"Your ring must strip them of their energies they wield," he tells Kyle.

"I ... I've never used it that way before," Kyle stammers.

"You don't have a choice," says the Surfer.

Settling on their plan, the two then tackle Thanos and Hal, to separate them:

Then Kyle uses his ring to siphon off all the stolen power:

The power is a bit too much for Kyle, though -- but not too much for the Surfer. The Surfer tells Kyle to give all the power to him since his body acts as a cosmic battery, anyway:

The Surfer absorbs and controls all the energy and feels a WHOLE lot better. Thanos and Hal, meanwhile, appear to be unconscious and floating in space. With all the power back where it belongs, the rift between the universes begins to close -- Thanos is tossed back into the Marvel universe, and Hal is "thrown deeper into THIS one!"

His task completed, the Surfer takes off ...



... and Kyle is left to mop up, as usual.


Next post: "Hey, that's MY dead girlfriend!"