Chris’s Cosmic Treadmill: Green Lantern (Vol. 2) #126

gl126cover0001Green Lantern (Vol. 2) #126 (DC Comics / 1980): “Peril Pact!” Writer: Denny O’Neil, Penciler: Joe Staton, Inker: Frank McLaughlin, Colorist: Anthony Tollin, Letterer: Milton Snappin

Never leave a portal to Qward, the antimatter universe, open or some stupid kid will go wandering in and it’ll be your responsibility to save his ass. That was the lesson Hal Jordan learned last time in Green Lantern (hear me talk about issue 125 on Mythmaking ETC episode 14). “Peril Pact!” begins with Hal closing the portal now that he and Fabian (the stupid kid) have returned to Earth. The bad news: the Weaponers of Qward have already used it to invade our universe. Before Hal can being his pursuit of these enemies, he plays the good superhero and gives Fabian a lift home to Coast City where, of course, he runs into further complications.

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The Weaponers of Qward appeared in the second issue of Green Lantern back in 1960 and in Coast City Hal encounters another villain from his early years: The Shark. As a part of his concerted effort to bring back the science fiction to the title after years of earthbound stories with co-headliner Green Arrow, writer Denny O’Neil again utilizes a character with its origin in the 1960s (The Shark first appeared in issue #24 of Green Lantern in 1963). The Shark shows his roots a bit more than the Weaponers. In other words: he’s a bit more ridiculous. Given the era of his creation, atomic radiation was, of course, the cause of the mutation of a normal tiger shark into an anthropomorphic being with mental powers. While Geoff Johns would later attempt to make the character fearsome again, O’Neil instead plays off the amusing aspects of the character and makes him a lackey of the Weaponers. Furthermore, he’s not too successful at his assigned task (destroy Green Lantern, of course) and is easily betrayed by his employers.

The Weaponers, on the other hand, are a genuine threat. Given that both of Hal’s foes are characters created in the same era, O’Neil’s treatment of The Shark throws into relief his portrayal of the Qwardians. True to their name, they are singularly obsessed with the machines of war and ever in search of greater firepower. Their plot here involves Hal’s bosses, the Guardians, and by the issue’s end, Earth’s Green Lantern finds himself far from home and victim to the same trap that has befallen the little blue men of Oa.

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Since O’Neil was responsible for the “hard-travellin’ heroes” era of Green Lantern, it’s impressive that he can also present a back-to-the-basics, science fiction take on the character. Essentially, he’s returning Hal to his roots, while showing that time has passed: old nemeses return, albeit somewhat changed; Thomas Kalmaku and Carol Ferris show up again but the former won’t stand for old nicknames and the latter insists on a relationship that remains quite strictly professional. Throughout, Joe Staton manages to depict both the mundane and the fantastic with an equal level of competency which lends the more imaginative aspects of the story credibility as they seem no less real. In fact, Staton’s consistency will anchor the book in the near future as O’Neil departs and several guest writers offer scripts until Marv Wolfman finally arrives to stay for a bit.

As with the other issues since Green Arrow’s departure, “Peril Pact!” fully embraces the new direction for the title. The secret of its success? The “new” direction has a lot in common with the old. BeforeGreen Lantern would see the focus of the book expand to include many more ring wielders, O’Neil gave us a late bronze age take on the elements that made Hal Jordan a success in the silver age and the result feels very classic.

You can check out more from Chris at Critical Masses and you can hear him on Geek Brunch Retro-cast.
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