Wein and Gibbons Built Up the Guardians' Ruthlessness that Fueled Future GL Stories
The first issue in the arc also offers a taste of the Guardians' sheer ruthlessness and lack of compassion. While they're supposed to be the "good guys," Wein and Gibbons portray a more hardened version of the protectors of the universe, delivering a more controversial take on Hal's superiors that makes the reader really question their motives and integrity. This thread would, of course, be explored deeper throughout the '00s when writer Geoff Johns took the reins of the franchise.
The next few issues deal with Hal's exploits on Earth, serving up more traditional superhero fare. What develops is Hal's connection to his home planet and eventual realization of what really matters to him: his (super)friends and relationship to Carol. By the penultimate issue of Wein and Gibbons' arc, the Silver Age Green Lantern is presented with an ultimatum by his bosses: it's either the Green Lantern Corps, or Carol. Hal can't have both -- he has to make a choice.
Naturally, he seeks out advice from his best buddies on the Justice League. In issue #179, Hal goes to Green Arrow (Oliver Queen), The Flash (Barry Allen) and Superman (Kal-El/Clark Kent) for counsel. Wein and Gibbons set aside action sequences for interpersonal superhero character development, digging deeper into each hero, and how they balance their personal lives and super-identities.
Len Wein & me in 1980s, about to plot an issue of Green Lantern. Photo by Brian Bolland pic.twitter.com/mWg6a5jEc7— Dave Gibbons (@davegibbons90) September 11, 2017
Oliver tells Hal to go after his love. Barry is too occupied with his own problems to give Hal a clear-cut answer. And Kal, of course, values the call of duty over personal gratification. This doesn't really help Hal -- on the surface -- but illustrates an important underlying truth: no one can decide your work-life balance for you. It's completely up to the individual. So, Hal makes his choice.
It's Carol. Hal decides to give up on being a Green Lantern, and in an unprecedented move, Wein and Gibbons chose to have Hal relinquish his superhero identity in favor of happiness. Novel, isn't it?
Even making his decision, Hal isn't quite sure it's the right choice. It's a nice, little (but important), touch from Wein and Gibbons. At issue #180's end he ponders his decision: "The choice was mine to make, and I know I've made the right one...haven't I?" And that's how the issue ends, with a question. How fitting. How true to life.
I initially read this arc during my first year at university, when I permanently left home. I made a choice to pursue my passions, and while Wein and Gibbons Green Lantern didn't give me any answers, it taught me that life decisions like that are unique to the individual, requiring an important balance -- which always come with consequence, and doubt.
Though Hal would return to his superhero duties, Wein and Gibbons' work left a lasting impact on Earth's Green Lantern. They questioned his commitment to the Corps. They questioned his faith in his friends and himself. They questioned what it means to balance love and passion. It's a wonderful work of art and, over thirty years later, it continues to get better with age.