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Thursday, March 2, 2017

“Prize Fight” - A review of 1992's Green Lantern v3 #25

Here's welcoming our new contributor, Deron Murphree. We know you'll enjoy! (Because, really, who doesn't enjoy reading about Guy Gardner?)

cover art: M.D. Bright

The spring of 1992 marked a transitional period in the Green Lantern mythos. Guy Gardner had been Earth's residential Green Lantern for quite some time. But for whatever reason, DC felt the book needed a shot in the arm to boost sales. The way you do that is you dust off old Hal Jordan and you thrust him once again upon the readership and back into the spotlight. Hal has, after all, been the poster boy for all things Green Lantern.

When we begin with issue number 25. Written by Gerard Jones and edited by Kevin Dooley, Hal Jordan is returning to Earth after a long absence. He's been sent by the Guardians to reclaim Sector 2814. To be fair, the Guardian are not exactly clear as to how to go about doing this, but we do know early on that Hal expects Guy to just hand it over to him. Hal claims that Guy’s made a mess of things on Earth and that the members of the Justice League want Guy Gardner to step down. We find out that not everybody wants to see Guy Gardner leave the Justice League of America. Although Ice understands her fellow teammates' frustrations, she still chooses to support her man.

Fire and Ice are carrying some snacks when Hal Jordan shows up to inquire the whereabouts of the team's Green Lantern. Moments later, Hal Jordan arrives at Guy Gardner’s apartment in an attempt to convince Guy that his time's up as the Green Lantern of Sector 2814. This does not bode well for the tensions escalating between them. Hal argues that Guy has really botched up things here on Earth and that it’s his right to be the Green Lantern of Earth. Guy responds by reminding him that Hal left Earth to find his smile. I chuckled when reading this because it reminds me of Bret Hart telling Shawn Michaels the same thing in a WWE storyline years ago. If you've followed the WWE product over the years, then you know what I am referring to in terms of parallels.

Speaking of WWE shenanigans, Guy Gardner does an excellent job of getting under Hal Jordan's skin. If I didn’t know better, it would appear that Guy knows how to push Hal’s buttons. Guy eggs Hal on to the point that the two agree to a one on one confrontation. The loser leaves not just the JLA but the Green Lantern Corps as well. Again, this feels like a pro wrestling storyline. A "Loser Leaves The Corps" fight spells out to me like a "Loser Leaves Town" match. It’s the same kind of concept with a similar result.

panel from Green Lantern v3 #25 - pencilled by Joe Staton and inked by Romeo Tanghal

At first, the two of them are duking it out ring for ring until the damage to the city starts to become apparent. Superman and the rest of the JLA try to intervene only to be dissuaded by the Green Lantern Corps. John Stewart gets in between Guy and Hal and notifies them of the subsequent damage surrounding them. This prompts Guy Gardner to convince Hal Jordan that they must finish their battle with some good old fashioned fisticuffs. As chapter three began, you could feel the action reach a crescendo. All you needed to do was cue the "Rocky" music.

While I do believe that Guy Gardner gets a raw deal here, he does have a few shining moments here in this issue. Guy proves that he’s one of the toughest to ever don a Green Lantern ring. He pushes Hal Jordan to his physical limits. Hal wins by employing Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope strategy in that he allows Guy Gardner to punch himself out. At one point, Guy Gardner keeps fighting on despite having suffered a broken hand. During the issue Hal begins to doubt his abilities when he’s absolutely floored at the depth of Guy Gardner’s rage. Guy may be a little clumsy but he hits hard enough to rattle your rib cage to its breaking point.

panel from Green Lantern v3 #25 - pencilled by M.D. Bright and inked by Romeo Tanghal

In the end, Guy Gardner is a man of his word even in defeat. Though reluctantly, Guy does surrender his ring to Hal Jordan. This is something that is difficult for Guy Gardner to deal with in that he probably feels like he is losing a large chunk of his identity. Hal Jordan freely admits that he needs to be a Green Lantern. It wouldn’t be too long after all this that Hal would lose his mind and become Parallax. Hal’s legacy would be forever tainted by this and he would betray the Green Lantern Corps.

This is something that is difficult for Guy Gardner to deal with in that he probably feels like he is losing a large chunk of his identity. I get that Guy Gardner is a character that is difficult to like, but he does have some great qualities that are often overlooked by some comic book fans. Guy Gardner is the loyal, rough and tumble backbone of the Green Lantern Corps. He has endured nasty comments from Hal Jordan, John Stewart, and even the Guardians about his rough around the edges demeanor. As evidenced in this issue, there were members of the JLA like Blue Beetle who were quite outspoken in regards to their disdain of the team’s Green Lantern. Guy Gardner’s had a history of abuse from his father and is accustomed to being laughed at and humiliated by others. He has been conditioned to bully others as a way to deal with the abuse from his childhood. This sensitive subject matter only gets seemingly glossed over during the New 52. The only one who supported Guy through all of this was his girlfriend, Ice. It takes a certain kind of commitment to wear those over-sized boots, the over the top white belt, and let’s not forget about that iconic bowl-shaped haircut.

I don’t think the writers and editors at DC during that time were exactly sure of what to do with Guy Gardner. There was a large percentage of readers who despised him and the way Guy was handled in terms of writing made it seem that the creative team did't care too much for him either. Either way, creatively speaking, Guy Gardner got a raw deal. Guy Gardner would eventually go on and achieve his own kind of underrated success in the form of Guy Gardner: Warrior.

This issue was chalked full of eighties references. All you had to do was look around Guy Gardner's apartment in the panels. He had a poster of Sylvester Stallone’s "Rocky" franchise on his wall as well as VHS tapes of Rambo: First Blood. The issue reflected the times and dated itself by the pacing of the story. The artwork was decent in some areas but proved to be a little disjointed when multiple artists were added. Some of the panels were jarring in Chapter One and took me out of the moment.

panel from Green Lantern v3 #25 - pencilled by Tim Hamilton and inked by Gary Yap
If you are a fan of 1980's action films like Rocky 3, then you will enjoy this issue for its 80’s feel. The whole fight sequence made me think of the second fight between Rocky Balboa and Clubber Lang.

-Deron Murphree

Deron Murphree is a sucker for the more forgotten heroes and villains of DC Comics. He is an advocate for Jason Todd and Earth's True Green Lantern, Guy Gardner. Deron's new website is currently still under construction but you can follow him on Twitter @DeronMurphree or you can message him care of this website.

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