“This is indeed his element, but it’s not his home!”
The late, great Len Wein wrote that line in 1984’s Green Lantern (Vol. 1) #172, a piece of narration referring to Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern of Earth, who was at a crossroads. Should he live in space, among the cosmos fulfilling his wildest dreams, or live on Earth, bound to soil but among those he loves? It’s a powerful internal conflict that happened to be the focus of an entire arc Wein wrote, with Dave Gibbons on art duties. Together, the pair brought a close to Jordan’s arc for a time, having a hero walk away from his calling — albeit briefly. As a result, they fundamentally changed Green Lantern, an effect that lasts to this day.
Let’s look back on Green Lantern’s test of faith over the course of Wein and Gibbons’ landmark nine-issue take on Hal Jordan, the Silver Age Green Lantern.
Wein and Gibbons’ arc picks up after Hal has been exiled to space for an entire year. The Guardians chose this punishment for Earth’s Green Lantern because they believed the hero was spending too much time on his home planet, ignoring the other worlds in his Space Sector, for the most part. It’s a bit meta (as it reflects previous writers’ decisions to have Hal’s exploits mostly on Earth), but presented a valid argument to explore; namely, why doesn’t Hal spend as much time on other planets as he does on Earth?
At the end of his exile, Hal decides to confront the Guardians, attempting to convince them he deserves to return to Earth to spend time with his friends and family. Apprehensively, they grant him this wish. Upon returning to Earth, Hal of course rushes to Ferris Aircraft, his longtime employer, where he intends to meet up with his former flame, Carol Ferris, only to “catch” Carol in a seemingly intimate moment with a blonde stud. Enraged, Hal goes off to blow off some steam by stopping a petty crime. Later, he confronts Carol, only to learn that the blonde hunk was, of course, just a friend. Hal had negatively projected the entire situation.
This moment can be viewed as melodramatic, unrealistic or silly on the surface, but it’s actually quite honest when you dig a little deeper. This emotional reaction Hal has is something a lot of us can relate to — that anxiety, worry that people have moved on in the wake of our absence, and the negative projection and assumptions that we make when we’re not around to assess reality for what it is.
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