A Tribute to the of
By the time this edition of the Silver Age Sage is posted to the web I'll be making final preparations for a long overdue vacation. I'll be gone 2½ glorious weeks. Now, what does that mean to you? Not much. "But Prof, you do these reviews every two weeks. Are you going on hiatus here, too?" Nope. As luck would have it, I'll be in the vicinity of the webmaster's place and I'm planning to spend some time with him, including raiding his collection and doing my review right there at the source of The Silver Lantern. Right at the power battery, as it were. So fear not, gentle reader, you shan't be left in a lurch just because I'm gone on holiday.
This time around I've decided to do something just a little different. One of the things I always preferred in the DC Universe as opposed to their Marvel-ous competition was that, in general, multiple issue stories were a rarity. I don't think I'm the only impatient guy out there, either. Sitting around, waiting for weeks for the next installment was maddening. Worse yet, there just wasn't any sense of closure if the %$#@ storyline just went on and on and on like "The Days of Our Lives." So, while DC was very good about wrapping things up in just one issue, on occasion there would be a two-issue story. Rarely they would even go beyond two. Usually it was because it was a bang-up tale that couldn't be squeezed into the allotted space. I like to think that was certainly the case for the issues spotlighted this time around as we take a look at Green Lantern #55 and 56, the September and October editions of 1967, containing a great adventure penned by John Broome with pencils and inks aptly provided by long-time GL artist the late, great Gil Kane. Rounding out the creative team is Editor Julius Schwartz. Come along with me as we crack open issue #55, cover by Gil Kane & Murphy Anderson, and find out who bears the title of "Cosmic Enemy Number One."
Things start off with a bang (or a massive emerald glow, if you will) as the tale begins with a duplication of the cover. Earth's Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, is standing before a tribunal of sorts, composed of his peers, the other members of the Green Lantern Corps from all over the galaxy and one Guardian. It appears that the Corps has been assembled as an intergalactic firing squad. Hal has allegedly committed some sort of unforgivable crime and is to be power-ringed to death. After his prone figure is examined and found to be dead we discover it was merely the filming of a television feature about the Green Lantern Corps, but the actor in the guise of Green Lantern of Earth is genuinely deceased. It isn't long until word reaches the real GL, who's watching television in a motel room in a city in the Northwest. An editor's note informs us that Mr. Jordan is no longer a test pilot in Coast City, but now works as a claims adjuster for the Evergreen Insurance Company of Washington State. (Interesting career move, but it tickled me since I was raised in Washington and miss it desperately.) After shucking his suit and charging up his power ring, Hal takes flight to the television studio to try and find out what's gone wrong. His thoughts racing, he recalls that he'd been a consultant for the show, with the permission of the Guardians and that he's personally acquainted with the actor portraying him. Arriving on the scene, Hal is shocked to see the actor, Charles Vicker, very much alive. It turns out that Vicker had been out partying the night away and missed his curtain call,necessitating his understudy filling in. Unfortunately, the man was also Charles' brother, Roger. Feeling more than a little guilty, he begs Jordan to allow him to assist in getting to the bottom of his brother's death. At that very moment, the image of a blue-skinned figure appears to Green Lantern, alerting him to an emergency. It seems simultaneous attacks have been made on the entire Green Lantern Corps and that 13 of their number did not survive. Hal decides that Roger Vicker died because he was mistaken for the genuine Green Lantern. He answers the summons of the Guardian, but first implants a magnetic signal in Charles' brain for Hal to contact Charles at a later time.
Swiftly flying past the moon, Jordan considers the unfathomable. Something has been devised that can overcome the power ring, which he'd believed automatically protected it's wearer from mortal danger. He doesn't get much more time to ponder, though, as he spots a spacecraft on the surface of the moon. A burst of energy emerges from the craft and begins to breach the green beam. Soon it's a standoff between the will- driven power ring and the strange energy. Hal managed to blast the ship to pieces (as seen in the original art for page 7), but the robot-like creature that emerges from the rubble carries a weapon that emits the same energy. Relying only on the protection of the ring from the vacuum of space, Green Lantern resorts to hand-to-hand combat and soon triumphs. Just before he can complete a mind-probe, though, the form disappears. He does manage to learn the being's name and the fact that his mission was to kill him, though he mistakenly slew the actor in the GL uniform.
Continuing his journey, Jordan later arrives at Oa, the planet (located in the central galaxy of the universe) that is home to the Guardians of the Universe. There he enjoys a rendezvous with his fellow survivors as they meet in the Hall of the Guardians. Soon they are addressed by one of their leadership who begins to explain the unsavory events that have befallen them and the cosmos at large. Apparently the Guardians had taken it upon themselves to incarcerate the worst criminals of each world and to place them upon a faraway world, but in different time eras, thus precluding any sort of alliance or even any knowledge of their fellow prisoners. In a nifty flashback, Abin Sur, predecessor to Hal Jordan, was dispatched to pick up the notorious racketeer and gangster, Al Magone (blame Broome for this one) from Earth, circa 1928. It turns out he is the one dubbed Cosmic Enemy Number One by the Guardians. Magone begins a systematic search of his new surroundings and eventually discovers a crashed space probe. As he messes around with some wiring on the craft, he causes a small-scale explosion that leaves him unharmed, but also released mini-nucleo energy, which allowed all the prisoners to exist in the same time and place. Using his organizational and leadership skills, "Big Al" soon takes over and directs his fellow inmates to begin developing the tools of vengeance against the Green Lantern Corps, to include a refined means of using the deadly mini-nucleo energy that Hal experienced on the Moon and a fleet of spacecraft. Following the briefing, the Green Lantern Corps, as one, gather at the giant power battery and recharge their rings, then fly off to engage the enemy. It isn't long before they find them and the battle begins. The two forces are nearly at a deadlock. So long as each Green Lantern is conscious and exerting his or her willpower, they can battle the mini-nucleo devices to a standstill with ring power, leaving them to go hand-to-hand with each member of Magone's "gang." Many are successful. Some are not. Hal finds himself battling one particularly formidable foe who has killed off three of his peers. Ashez of Jubelo kinda looks like a magenta colored Ben "The Thing" Grimm and he seems to be every bit as strong. After a staggering blow from the creature, Jordan backs off to regroup and inadvertently seals himself into a spaceship that, as luck would have it, is completely yellow on it's interior. Unable to free himself, he remembers the magnetic signal he left with Charles Vicker and with a massive effort of concentration, manages to teleport him to the ship so that he can free him. Hal is about to transport him back when Charles begs to be allowed to help him. Jordan decides to deputize him and loan him a power ring from a fallen comrade. They take flight to the battle at hand and issue #55 comes to an end.
Issue #56, [Cover by Gil Kane & Murphy Anderson.] entitled "The Green Lantern's Fight for Survival" takes right up from there after a brief recap on the splash page. Charley seeks an opponent while Hal peels off to re-engage Ashez. As blows are traded, Hal is slammed with great force against a tree, damaging his optic nerve. He is now literally fighting blind against the giant from Jubelo, who is intent upon his destruction. Relying on his wits and his hearing, Jordan at last manages to deliver a knockout blow. Using his ring, he repairs his optic nerve and then discovers a pathway of pink energy that is unaffected by his power beam, he then decides to trace the mysterious energy to its source. Our story fades for a few pages over to the honorary Green Lantern in the form of Charles Vicker, who is duking it out with the very being who killed his brother. After beating his opponent into submission, he neutralizes the nucleo weapon and then also follows the energy path.
Soon, both Earthmen are joined by another familiar Green Lantern to long-time readers, the bird-like Tomar-Re of the planet Xudar. The trio is led to a structure that has been emanating the energy. As they draw closer, the power in their rings dwindle until they can no longer fly. Smashing their way in with a battering ram and overcoming the guards, they finally come upon none other than Magone, accompanied by a large, alien bodyguard. This bodyguard, by the way, is the second character in this story who looks like a Marvel refugee. This critter is a good 10 feet tall, is "Thing" orange and has a face that looks exactly like Spider-Man sans webbing details (Gil Kane later went on to illustrate many adventures of the wall-crawler). Using some decidedly primitive methods, Al unceremoniously guns the Green Lantern's down with a Tommy gun, but after he and Dalbo, the bodyguard, leave, they begin to revive, except for Tomar-Re who must have taken a worse whallop, thanks to the life-saving properties of their power rings. Hal and Vicker decide to take up the chase and after catching up with Magone and Dalbo, the fists begin to fly. Following a terrific battle, GL reduces Dalbo to a pile of rubble. It turns out he's a robot and is the source of the deadly nucleo energy. With their power source gone, the rest of the criminals are easily subdued by the Green Lantern Corps.
In the final panels, after bidding their fallen comrades farewell in a ceremony on Oa, Charley Vicker is inducted as a full-fledged member of the Corps and is issued his own power battery and uniform, becoming one of the elite 3600 members throughout the cosmos.
My summary? This was a great story, filled with excitement, enough mystery to keep the reader wondering and it held a favorite component of mine, which is a team-up. In this case it was the entire Green Lantern Corps and you got to see why they're such an elite unit. Even stripped of their greatest tool, the power ring, they functioned fully as a team and called upon their combat skills to subdue, but not kill their adversaries. Great, great stuff and I gleefully give this double issue my maximum 10 rating. The DC Silver Age just didn't get much better than this and I heartily recommend it.
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