Friday, May 14, 2010

Green Lantern: Legacy, The Last Will and Testament of Hal Jordan

From Hal Jordan's time as the Spectre comes the story Legacy: The Last Will and Testament of Hal Jordan. Written by Joe Kelly and beautifully illustrated by Brent Anderson and Bill Sienkiewicz, it was first released in trade form in 2002 and has remained in print ever since. Most Hal Jordan/Spectre stories are unusual, but this one is probably the most unusual in that it's a very emotional tale (for a Green Lantern story), and it focuses on one of the most controversial figures in Green Lantern history.

Despite its title, Legacy: The Last Will and Testament of Hal Jordan isn’t really about Hal Jordan. Rather, it’s about Hal’s long-suffering friend, mechanic, and almost-sidekick, Tom Kalmaku.

Through no fault of his own, Tom Kalmaku is one of the most controversial characters in Green Lantern lore, primarily because he has the misfortune of being a member of that large crowd of “ethnic sidekicks" oft assigned to white male heroes during the Golden and Silver ages of comic books. Though the treatment of Tom in the old Green Lantern stories is downright respectful compared to other ethnic sidekicks of the time, there were still some racial slurs and stereotypes associated with the character. Tom being Eskimo, he was subjected to the nickname “Pieface” (a take on “Eskimo Pie”) and was given dialog punctuated with exclamations like, “Great fishhooks!” It doesn’t exactly make for comfortable reading these days. (Note: Some people have stated Tom is Inuit, but this is only half correct -- "Eskimo" is "Inuit", but "Inuit" isn't necessarily "Eskimo".)

In addition to being Hal's almost-sidekick, for a long time, Tom was the only person in the comics who knew that Hal Jordan and Green Lantern were the same person (though Dorine Clay/Onu Murtu figured it out without any trouble, and Carol Ferris has long been suspected of knowing all along that Hal was Green Lantern). Tom also hero-worshipped Hal, and for a time he kept a journal in which he documented all of Hal's adventures (or at least the ones he knew about). Tom's journal figures prominently in the tale discussed here.

The story opens with a bit of a montage showing Hal’s origin story, the destruction of Coast City, and Hal’s transformation into the villain Parallax. Then the scene shifts to Hal’s funeral, where Tom Kalmaku stands at the podium to deliver a eulogy. He begs the congregation to remember Hal as a hero rather than as a villain …

… and then he abruptly changes his tone:

As it turns out, Tom is actually in a bar (the “Roarin’ Borealis”) and telling his drinking buddies about the funeral. His buddies, however, don’t quite believe that he really said bad things about Hal at the funeral. (Tom's actual eulogy was actually quite nice, according to Kyle Rayner.) Tom (who is VERY drunk) insists that he DID slam Hal at the funeral, and he continues to say even worse things about Hal. Unfortunately for Tom, Hal has a fan in the bar who doesn’t much appreciate Tom’s behavior -- and lets Tom know it.

Tom wakes up in a taxi cab that's driving him back to his apartment -- not really back home. It seems that, due to his recent bouts of alcoholism and self-destructive behavior, Tom is estranged from his wife, Terga, and is living away from her and their two children. The cab driver asks Tom, “Did you really know him? Green Lantern?” Tom claims that if he really knew Green Lantern, he never would have believed in him. Tom falls asleep in the cab, and readers are then shown the cab driver’s true identity:

Ah-HA! The cab driver is really Hal Jordan as the Spectre! Uh, oh …

While passed out, Tom has a dream about a time when he rescued Hal from one of Hal’s more bone-headed incidents, when he was caught by a big, yellow Qwardian spider -- an event that Tom recorded in his Green Lantern journal. In the dream, Hal thanks Tom profusely for saving him and refers to Tom as his best friend.

Later, after losing his job, Tom's alone in his apartment AND he’s even MORE ticked off than usual because it just happens to be Hal’s birthday. To celebrate, Tom decides to set his journal about Hal on fire:

Before the entire stack of journals can go up in smoke, someone knocks on the front door.

(You readers DID spot the Spectre image in the smoke, right?)

At the door is a gentlemen who looks remarkably like Michael Caine with a mustache. “What are YOU supposed to be?” Tom snarls at him.

Tom slams the door in the man’s face, but the man is undeterred. Announcing himself as the executor of Hal Jordan’s will, he forces his way into Tom’s apartment and presents the reluctant Tom with paperwork that names him Hal’s inheritor.

Just at that moment, a little boy shows up in the doorway and says, “I don’t think I want to stay here … It’s cold.” The executor then informs Tom that the little boy is Hal’s son, Martin Jordan (named after Hal’s father), and that, per Hal’s will, Tom is now in charge of him: “Congratulations. You’re a foster father, Mister Kalmaku.”

The executor then leaves Marty with Tom, along with a stack of paper and a note from Hal that says, “Tom -- Fix it. -- Hal.”

Little Marty Jordan does look remarkably like Hal, complete with a curly lock of hair on his forehead and one “Parallax” streak of white hair along the left side of his head. While Tom goes through the paperwork, at a loss over what to do, Marty innocently asks him, “Do I call you ‘Pieface’ or ‘Uncle Tom’? ‘Uncle Pieface’?”

(Oooooooh, OUCH.)

The scene shifts to Carol Ferris’s mansion, where Carol is feeling depressed over Hal’s birthday and trying to keep herself from “impulse buying small companies to keep from crying.” To her surprise, Tom Kalmaku shows up on her doorstep with little Marty in tow. While Marty explores Carol’s mansion, Tom tries to foist the poor kid onto Carol -- while Carol tries to figure out when (and probably to whom) Marty was born: “Seven years ago, we were just getting back together after he left Ferris …”

Carol then expresses concern over Tom’s self-destructiveness and abandonment of his family. She asks, “What happened to you, Tom?”

“Hal Jordan happened!” Tom replies. As he walks away and helps himself to Carol’s liquor cabinet, Marty approaches Carol.

“Are you mad at me?” Marty asks her nervously.

“Me?” says Carol, kneeling down so she’s eye-to-eye with Marty. “No … I … I don’t even know you. How could I be mad?”

Relieved by her answer, Marty grins and extends a hand to Carol:

Awwwww, the cute little kid is as charming as his old man.

Suddenly, Carol's mansion is under attack: "CHOOM!" A mysterious figure drops down from the sky ...

... and it seems intent on killing Marty. He may be drunk, but Tom reacts VERY quickly. He grabs Marty and pulls Carol further into the house to get both of them away from the monster. As the monster chases after them, Marty holds out something to Tom and asks, "Will this help?"

Suddenly, Tom is seemingly plunged into a memory, but it's not his. It's a memory of Hal's fight with the villain Mongul, right after the destruction of Coast City and just prior to Hal becoming Parallax.

In the original fight, Hal was pretty badly beaten up by Mongul, but Hal managed to generate some armor and subdue Mongul with Steel's hammer. In Tom's "memory," though, Hal doesn't stop there. He continues to pound Mongul with his armored fists until Mongul is reduced to a bloody pulp.

Tom then "wakes up" from the memory. The monster is gone, half of Carol's mansion is completely destroyed, and Tom, Marty, and Carol are all perfectly fine. Marty tells Tom that Tom scared the monster away.

Tom grabs Marty and yells, "What did you do to me?!"

"I didn't do nothing!" Marty replies. "It was THIS."

Marty holds out a Green Lantern power ring. "Did I do something bad?" he asks.

The scene shifts to the Justice League watchtower on the moon. Tom and Marty are there, being grilled by Justice League members -- especially by a VERY worried Superman:

Both Tom and Marty refuse to allow the Justice League to take Marty's ring. When Superman and Batman try to play "good cop/bad cop," Tom hurls accusations at them: "It's about YOU people -- YOUR kind -- and one of YOUR mistakes. Funny how you didn't show until the ring popped up, isn't it?" He stomps out of the room, leaving Marty behind.

In the next room is a trophy case containing one of Hal's old uniforms. Tom stares at it and remembers another incident recorded in his journal:

"Hal," Tom asks him, "Will I ever be a Green Lantern? Could I ever join the Corps?"

Tom's thoughts are interrupted by Kyle Rayner, who's followed him. "You have one hell of a nerve!" Kyle yells at him:

"-- Like his therapy bills aren't going to be high enough."

Tom and Kyle then get in an argument about Tom's behavior. "He [Hal] didn't even LOOK for me!" Tom yells. "With that ring, he could have--!"

"What?" Kyle asks, completely confused, "What did you want him to do?"

Meanwhile, poor little Marty is still with the other Justice Leaguers. He looks up at them and says, "I just want to get away from you people." Then, abruptly, both Marty and Tom are teleported to a different part of the base, away from everyone else.

"Jeez--what'd you DO?" Tom yells at him. "Gonna be SICK -- Should WARN a guy before you teleport his hung-over butt across -- Hey, where are your other 'uncles'?"

Marty informs Tom that he's leaving, but before he can go, Tom shows him Hal's "fix it" note. Tom then makes a promise to Marty to figure out what Hal meant by "fix it." They both teleport away from the Justice League watchtower -- just in time to avoid the Justice League rushing in on them, AND just in time to avoid the reappearance of the monster that confronted them earlier.

Next stop for Tom and Marty: Warrior's Bar, where they meet up with those old Green Lantern veterans Alan Scott, John Stewart and, of course, Guy Gardner. Guy is just a little flabbergasted to find out about little Marty: "You ... This ... Jordan, you never stop ..."

Tom asks the guys what he should do about Marty, and what they think Hal's note means. Alan and John are both of the opinion that Hal just wanted Tom to make sure Marty grows up to be a good man. Tom thinks there's more to it than that, but Guy doesn't agree:

"Hell," Guy continues, "I forgot you even existed until you walked in the door!" Guy then tells Tom to leave Marty with the Justice League before anyone gets hurt. Right when Guy says this, however, the scythe-wielding monster bursts into Warriors and starts trashing the place. As Guy (as Warrior) and Alan fight the monster (John isn't yet a Green Lantern again), Tom grabs Marty and makes a run for it -- and blacks out into another memory recorded in his journal.

This time, the memory involves a trip to Oa, where Hal has brought Tom to witness a training session with Kilowog. After the session, Hal removes his ring and hands it to Tom. "Want to take it for a spin?" Hal asks him.

Well, OF COURSE Tom wants to use Hal's power ring! He wants to very much! But for some reason, he chickens out. He hands the ring back to Hal, and also hands Hal an unintentional insult:

Tom then wakes up from the memory to find that he and Marty have teleported away from Warriors. Marty is yelling at him that they shouldn't have left the guys at Warriors in a bind, that they should have tried to help. "My father wouldn't have run!" Marty yells. "He'd be ashamed of you!"

Tom yells right back: "Let me tell you about your 'brave and brilliant' father ... the TRAITOR, the MURDERER." Tom then tells Marty EVERYTHING about Hal. EVERYTHING -- much to Marty's shock.

When Tom finishes, Marty doesn't say a word. He just kneels on the ground, looking subdued. It's only then that Tom notices their surroundings. It's night, and they're in front of a house. Standing outside of the house, staring at them, are two little kids. TOM's kids. Tom grabs Marty and asks him to use the power ring to teleport them away. Marty does so, just as Tom's daughter recognizes him: "Daddy?"

Tom is then plunged into yet another memory:

Coast City is on fire due to inner-city rioting that's gotten out of hand. Hal is working on rescuing the city's inhabitants, but he's angry because the rioters are apparently less than grateful for his help. He ends up getting in a fight with Ollie (Green Arrow), who's accusing him of trying to save only the "nice section" of town.

Hal pauses at Tom's words, and then he sets about putting out all the fires in Coast City. "Coast City WILL be saved today," he vows. "ALL of it."

When Tom wakes up, he and Marty are sitting on a hill overlooking the valley that used to be Coast City. Tom says they'll need to move again soon, before the monster that's been chasing them finds them again. He has an idea of what Hal's "fix it" note means. "It's possible that we're supposed to fix something OUT THERE," he says -- meaning something that isn't on Earth. So, using the ring, Tom and Marty head off into space.

First stop: Xudar, home planet of Tomar Re and Tomar Tu. There, Tom and Marty find a monument devoted to Tomar Tu, who is presumed dead because of Hal. The monument has the inscription, "Tomar Tu: GL2813 -- Killed by Universal Scourge Hal Jordan." Standing around the moment is a group of former members of the Green Lantern Corps, calling themselves the Brotherhood of the Flame. Among the group members (surprise, surprise) is none other than Boodika.

(Yes, yes -- we all know Boodika was scooped up by Hank Henshaw and the Manhunter robots and held captive with the other Green Lanterns Hal directly attacked. Hey, who's to say they didn't catch Boodikka until AFTER this story?)

Boodikka, of course, is VERY angry that Hal chopped off her hand and destroyed the Corps, and she's even less happy to find out Hal has a son. She completely rebuffs Marty's offer to help her.

Other members of the Brotherhood, though, aren't as dismissive. They insist on letting Marty try to help the people of Xudar. However, there's something suspicious about their intentions, as Boodikka accuses them of doing something she didn't agree to. She issues a stern warning to Tom to abandon Marty, and then she stalks off.

Determined to take their chances, Tom and Marty set about using the ring to "fix things" on Xudar. They're so focused on their task that they notice too late that the monster that was chasing them on Earth has arrived. Before Tom can do anything, the monster hits Marty with its scythe -- a fatal blow.

The monster, as it turns out, is none other than a mindless, undead Kilowog, transformed via black magic into a tool of vengeance for the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood want all traces of Hal Jordan eliminated from the universe -- and they also want Marty's ring. The ring, however, doesn't cooperate. It blasts Kilowog and the Brotherhood away from Marty's body, allowing Tom to gather Marty in his arms. Then Tom, Marty, and the ring all fade away.

The rings transports Tom back to Earth, back to the spot where he and Marty had been looking over the former location of Coast City. Grief-stricken, Tom lays Marty's body on the ground and then starts screaming and crying: "Damn you, Hal ... your son. Your own son. You knew I couldn't do this! You knew I couldn't!"

Suddenly, behind him, Marty starts to sit up, very shakily. "They hate me so much," he says. "Even you ... I remember now. I remember all the pain I caused. I know why all of you hate me ..."

"Pain YOU caused?" Tom gasps. "Oh, my God. H-Hal?"

Noooo, it's not HAL ...

He's not Hal, and not even Hal's son, at least in the literal sense. Marty is actually the ring -- or, rather, ring power that was left behind when Hal died reigniting the sun. Lacking direction, the power reformed as a semi-sentient being based on information and images in Hal's mind. (If Hal were to actually have a son, OF COURSE he'd name him Martin Jordan, after his father.) It then went seeking Tom Kalmaku for help -- but Tom doesn't exactly know why it singled him out. At least, not yet.

At that moment, the Justice League shows up, trying to get Marty away from Tom. Tom isn't having any of it, and he deliberately works on remembering a conversation he once had with Hal. The conversation topic: COULD Hal beat the JLA, ALONE?

In a remarkable series of panels displaying the parallels between Hal's and Tom's conversation, and Tom's confrontation with the Justice League, readers are shown just how one power ring can take out the entire Justice League, including Superman. (Whole pages from the sequence can be seen here and here.)

After the Justice League is defeated, Tom remembers one more, important thing from his conversation with Hal: Hal telling Tom that he hoped someone would stop Hal "by any means necessary" before Hal "ever went down a dark road."

Tom grabs Marty and orders Marty to take them into space -- to a certain TIME in space, so Tom can do "What I should have done from the beginning ..."

When Tom and Marty reach their destination, Tom finds himself face-to-face with Parallax.

"Pieface," Parallax sneers. "Right."

Tom HADN'T been looking for Parallax. He'd been looking for Hal, just after the destruction of Coast City, hoping to intercept him at the beginning of his rampage, before he could destroy the Green Lantern Corps and become Parallax.

Parallax yells at Tom, pointing out all of his failings, and then offers a deal -- Tom can hand over Marty/the ring power in exchange for Tom's life. All the while, Marty is protesting: "No ... he chose YOU, Tom ... he chose ... YOU ..."

Tom is just about to hand Marty over to Parallax when he suddenly asks, "Why didn't you come looking for me after Coast City? Before all of THIS?"

Parallax stops and gives Tom a very odd look. Just at that moment, Parallax comes under attack:

Kilowog has caught up with them. While Parallax and Kilowog engage in battle, Marty uses his power to show Tom exactly what happened when Hal began his rampage:

"And it was decided we would go to Oa. We would MAKE the Guardians listen to us. We would MAKE THEM resurrect Coast City and bring back the dead. And if they would not, we would take the power to do something about ut. It was decided ..."

"... TOM. I wonder if TOM is still alive."

Hal, as it turns out, HAD gone to see Tom before starting his rampage. He found Tom and his family huddled around their TV, watching the news coverage about Coast City. Hal, though, hid behind them and didn't let them know he was there.

"We were there," says Marty. "We were there, but we didn't speak."

"Say something!" Tom yells at Marty's image of Hal. "Tell me you're there! Talk to me!"

"He can't ..." says Marty.

"You were supposed to be the next, you know," Marty tells Tom. "The next Green Lantern. The Guardians chose Guy ... I chose John. But Hal ... Hal was going to choose YOU."

Ah-HA. Now we know why "Marty" went looking for Tom.

Meanwhile, the battle between Parallax and Kilowog rages on. Tom uses Marty's power to put the fight to a halt -- by causing Kilowog to remember who he is, and by forcing Parallax to transform into Hal as a Green Lantern. Tom then confronts Hal, confessing that no matter how much he hates Hal for what he did, he still honors the dream. He says good-bye to Hal and says he's going to "fix things" the way Hal (and Marty) wanted.

Parallax/Hal is taken aback for a moment, then he yells, "You'll fail! You can't change what happened!"

"I know ..." Tom replies, "so I'm not going to try ..." Tom, Kilowog, and Marty all vanish.

They reappear at the center of the universe, filled with the bits and pieces that were once the planet Oa. Oa had been destroyed not long after Hal became Parallax, in a huge fight between Hal and Kyle Rayner.

Kilowog is still a bit unbalanced. "I ... I'm supposed to ... KILL you ..." he says.

"Tell you what, Kilowog," says Tom. "Let me do this one thing, and if it doesn't work, shishkebab the both of us."

"There's nothing you can do, kid ..." Kilowog replies. "The power, it's corrupted ... it's -- What ARE you going to do ...?"

"I'm just going to try not to mess this up," says Tom.

Marty hands Tom a power ring ...

... and Tom recites the Green Lantern oath: "In brightest day, in blackest night ...!"

Ta-da! Oa is reformed -- complete with buildings and a big, new power battery held aloft by a giant statue of Hal standing on a base that says, "Light Never Dies."

Kilowog is THRILLED: "HA! HA! Bring it on, ya poozers! BRING IT ON!"

Marty tells Tom that Tom did "real good," and then Tom vanishes. He reappears on Earth, standing just outside his family's house.

"And I thought I was scared of the BATMAN ..." Tom mutters. He then turns and says to someone behind him, "You sure there's not a planet you want me to reconstruct? You know ... something a little easier?"

The person standing behind Tom turns out to be HAL.

Tom and Hal say good-bye to each other, then Hal transforms into the Spectre and disappears.

Tom then enters his house to join his family. "Don't worry ..." one of his kids yells, "DADDY can fix that."