Wednesday, September 1, 1999

Green Lantern #100-112 & Green Lantern Secret Files #2

What a waste. That's all I can say after reading this. What a waste. A waste of paper. A waste of time. A waste of space. A waste of opportunities.

It occurs to me that Ron Marz's greatest strength as a writer is that he is a great ideas man. It reminds me of a friend, we'll call him David, who was one of the bigger comics fans I've ever known. David had this gift for knowing comics trivia and history and he had ideas for everything… how to bring Firestorm back as a major player, how to make Donna Troy's past make sense and an idea for a great Elseworlds where Darkseid takes over the Earth and a new JLA, led by the new Batman (Tim Drake) rise up to save the world. The thing was, while David could come up with many a premise, when he actually tried to write a story out of it, it would start out great but ultimately fizzle out with a flat ending. Such has it been with the last year's worth of Green Lantern.

Emerald Knights started out with the great idea everyone wanted to see: A Hal/Kyle team up. And while the plot was stretched a bit (did we really need a Hal/Connor Hawke team up?), the series ended reasonably well with one change: Hal gave Kyle a duplicate of his ring. Now this created a whole stew of subplots that each, in one way or another, could have been interesting. It gave Jade, who has been powerless ever since the "Heart of Darkness" miniseries, another chance to be a hero and a chance for newer readers to see Jenny in a new light (no pun intended). This would also please her fans from Infinity Inc., who were upset to see Jenny trapped in the "Mary Jane Watson" role of Kyle's love life. And of course, there's the whole idea of Kyle going into space and restarting the Green Lantern Corps. So much potential…

…And so much of it wasted. The brief run of Jade solo stories was, to be frank, a bit dry. Issue #108 put Jade in a decent, but average team-up story with Wonder Woman. Issue #109 had Jade trying to deal with a man who tried to molest her while she was in the orphanage. I'd go into more detail, but this issue provides a whole article by itself. Apparently back in the Infinity Inc. days, it was said that Jade and Obsidian were adopted as babies, making any stories about Jade in an orphanage… well.. impossible. Issue #110 was a rather pointless GL/GA team-up whose only purpose was to set up another subplot where Alan Scott was de-aged and took up his old, purple caped costume. And issues #111-#112 all but undid EVERY subplot done in the last 30 issues, including a subplot with former GL John Stewart. Back around "Final Night", Parallax used the emerald energy to heal a crippled John Stewart and let him walk again. Later, Jon was able to manifest the green energy without a ring, like Parallax, to protect Kyle from an attack by new villain Fatality. He duplicated this feat protecting Jade from a returned Fatality in #111 but was unable to make a shield around himself. As Fatality noted, "You can save another, but not yourself". Now, this is a great idea! A hero who has a power that he can use to save others, but not himself. Someone who in effect puts himself into danger with no fail safes whatsoever. But it doesn't matter, because by the end of the arc the ring is lost, Jade is powerless (again) and John is back in a wheelchair after having used all his energy to fight Fatality.

That catches us up with Green Lantern Secret Files #2. Much like the first one, this GL Secret Files sets up a lot of plot lines (It was the first GL SF where we first saw new villain Effigy and the first signs of Kyle and Jade's romance) but doesn't tell many good stories. In fact, it winds up spoiling a few upcoming GL plotlines both directly and indirectly.

The first story is actually pretty good, if you can ignore the rather coincidental premise. It's difficult to talk about the story without revealing the dramatic revelation this story makes. Then again, it's fairly easy to figure out the surprise long before it is revealed. That said, I will sum up the non-vital information. An FBI agent named Ray White shows up at Ferris Aircraft investigating a UFO crash the day after Hal got his ring from Abin Sur. He asks for Hal to show him around the area, figuring a pilot would know the terrain pretty well. They find the crashed UFO and are attacked by a Russian armor suit, which was also sent to find the UFO. Hal becomes Green Lantern to fight the robot and save a wounded Ray. Ray in turn kills the suit's pilot in order to protect Hal's secret. He tells Hal it would be best to let him die so that his secret identity will be safe. Hal refuses and uses the ring to save Ray's life. Ray thanks him, and in exchange for saving his life and telling him how he found the UFO, he promises to keep Hal's secret and tells him his real name (Ray White being an alias).

The character profiles are interesting, being updates of the character profiles from the first Secret Files. The standard SF interview with Sentinel is one of the best of these interviews I've read in any Secret Files being both funny (Alan has a few sharp words for the interviewer when he starts talking about Jade being a major babe) and informative (we find out Jade's relationship to the old Green Lantern is not public knowledge).

Then we get the first of the three gems of this issue: a series of "Secret File Candy Bars", parodying the classic line of ads where superheroes would battle evil with the magic power of "Hostess Fruit Pies" or something. Each story stars the Green Lantern and the Flash, being the Golden Age, Silver Age or Modern Age variant. The first story has Alan Scott and Jay Garrick fighting food-hoarding Nazi's who are hoarding a stash of Secret File Candy Bars. Upon defeating the Nazis with his magic ring, Alan asks the science minded Jay if he believes in magic now. Jay responds with a wink to the reader and says "Nope… But I DO believe in the magical taste of Secret File Candy Bars."

Here is where the issue begins to take a dip into the territory of things that are pointless and just plain bad. The very next page after the first Candy Bar add, we get to see a menu for Radu's. Great! A menu for a make believe coffee joint! Just what I want in a $4.95 comic book! Then we get a family tree that helps keep track of all the Green Lantern family relationships.. from Jade all the way up to the Guardians, the Oans and even up to the Maltusians (who gave birth to the Oans and Zamarons). Useful, but not very fun. Then we get to see several strips of a comic called "Big Shoes". Big Shoes, is Kyle's attempt to start a comic strip that is vaguely based on his own life. It's about a young man who wakes up to find that he must be a clown. He is told this by the short, blue-skinned Colonel Guardino who laments that all his other clowns were killed after the suicidally depressed star clown went nuts and drove the clown car off a cliff. And that now this kid they found asleep on a park bench must become their new clown. Aside from not being funny, this is presented in so casual a manner as to be offensive: both in the obvious disrespect to the tragedy of the Green Lantern Corps demise and the idea that Kyle would ever act in such a sick manner.

The issue hits a low point with a short Jade solo story called "Hidden Thorns". I had high hopes for this one, having picked up a fondness for Jenny-Lynn (or is it Jennie Lynn? Does anyone remember?) but this issue disappoints in two ways. First, it gives away the ending of a long subplot that has been developing for nearly a year in the pages of Green Lantern, Titans, Wonder Woman AND the JLA/Titans Crossover regarding a love triangle between Jade, Kyle and Donna Troy. This issue was supposed to be settled three months after this Secret Files came out, but this story completely spoils the surprise of who Kyle ultimately chooses. The second disappointment regards Jade's receiving new powers, similar in nature to those of her mother, Thorn. Actually, I like the idea of giving Jade powers again but turning her into a plant elemental just seems… a bit of an insult for a former Green Lantern.

We then get the second of the three "Secret Files Candy Bar" ads, this time with Hal and Barry. Hal and Barry team up to investigate a crashed UFO which belongs to a group of K'rldars… the Andromedan police. They say they crashed after some inmates tried to escape, but they have the inmates under control. Hal suggests they celebrate with a Secret Files bar which the aliens agree to. Barry and Hal then knock the cops out and jail them, Hal explaining that he knows the K'rldar's take in nutrients through sunlight and thus wouldn't eat a candy bar. Very true to the Silver Age in writing (by Mark Waid) and art (by Gil Kane).

We then get a passable Hal Jordan/Spectre story where Spectre goes after Parallax shortly after Zero Hour #0. Spectre examines Hal's soul and picks up a memory of when Hal, as Green Lantern, stopped Spectre from taking away Evil Star, a man who was driven insane and became a villain after the weapon he invented to protect his people killed his family. He asks the Spectre what is the point of punishing the man if he has a chance to be made sane and redeem himself. Spectre withdraws from Hal, saying he will only come to claim justice for Hal's crime "until I can no longer see the man who was and hopefully one day will be again Hal Jordan…"

We then get two more character profiles. One for "The Corps", a new galactic peacekeeping force made of the remnants of the New GL Corps Kyle tried forming back in that atrocious and best forgotten miniseries. The other is for "The Dragon", an assassin who has some kind of connection to Kyle's landlord Radu. While it's nice to know that we may soon get a story with Kyle's supporting cast, who have been totally ignored since Emerald Knights, the idea of seeing anything more with the "built by editorial mandate" Corps is a bit worrying.

The book ends on a high note with a Kyle/Mystery Flash team up in the last of the "Secret Files Candy" ads. This one starts with Kyle and the new Black Flash fighting a mad bomber named Payload. Payload says he will blow up New York unless he gets power. Kyle yells "Fine! You want power? Try the Secret Files Powerbar! It's… it's… CUT!" A director walks out of nowhere and Kyle complains about the lousy writing and unbelievable premise of the commercial he and Flash are helping make. "We defeat the bad guy by giving him food? And why is he standing at Ground Zero of his own blast site to begin with?!?!" Flash also notes "Sugar? The Magic Mystery Ingredient is Sugar?" The ad ends with Kyle and Flash storming off the set and the director asking for someone to call Hawkman. (This ad is doubly funny if you remember the Baby Ruth commercials out recently featuring Hawkman.)

All in all, this Secret Files seems somewhat hastily thrown together, and except for the first story and the Waid-written candy bar joke ads, is fairly mediocre. Some bits like "Big Shoes" and the Jade story are downright horrible. I think the book can best be summed up by describing the Table of Contents. The Table is printed in white text on a green and white photo-negative style rendering of the Mike Grell artwork on the cover. The art is very good but it's kind of hard to read white text that is printed over art that is mostly white. In fact, it is impossible to read some parts of the table of contents. Why not do yourself a favor and not bother reading any of this at all?

My vote: 3 out of 10

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