Berkough’s Bargain Bin – Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn

A calamity of factors that echo back through the sordid history of comicbooks led directly to the nineteen eighties, and those factors forced the major two publishers to take their books in new and exciting directions.  Not only were there new and younger readers getting into the hobby, but the attention of this growing audience was being challenged by an independent market of privateers that weren’t beholden to the Comics Code Authority.  One of the solutions available was to re-invent and reboot the continuity of their collective universes.  Event books and crossovers were a nice way to not only bolster sales and incentivize readers to buy more books across multiple titles, and buy titles of characters that readers may or may not have been privy to (a strategy employed even today), but events and crossovers were also an opportunity to make sweeping company wide changes. Approximately a year after Marvel’s Secret Wars, DC responded to the market with Crisis on Infinite Earths. 

In an effort to better acquaint myself with more DC titles, continuity, and lore, I’ve made an extra effort to purchase both old and new DC books to add to my collection. Recently I was able to pick up a set of the Emerald Dawn six issue mini series, and did so for only $12! This is a great pick up for people just getting into the hobby of collecting, not only is it an origin story, it’s an easy set to come by, and issue by issue it is going to be cheaper than most modern books on the shelf today–I’ve routinely seen this particular set go for $10 for very fine to near mint copies (if anyone is interested, I can always write an article in the future regarding comic book grading scales.)

Emerald Dawn was published in the wake of Crisis as a way to introduce new readers to the origin story of Hal Jordan as the Green Lantern. Being primarily a Marvel guy, I’ve always liked Green Lantern, because my introduction to the character was the 1989 re-invention that is portrayed in this origin. The early nineties Hal Jordan is an example of a beautifully flawed character. It would only be about 4 years before this version of the character would cease to be the main Green Lantern of the DC universe with the conclusion of the Emerald Twilight story arc, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Emerald Dawn tells the story of a traumatized young Hal as he witnesses his father die in a brutal plane crash. And also tells the tale of an adult Hal who has had too much to drink, but decides to drive anyway, and wrecks his car. He even hijacks an experimental plane without authorization out of frustration of not being treated as a real pilot.

In both the original origin story of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, and in Emerald Dawn, the character comes into contact with Abin Sur; in the original Hal is the typical selfless hero, in Emerald Dawn, Hal is a bit more self-interested.  This was a huge thematic shift for DC.

The original origin story.
Hal meeting Abin Sur in Emerald Dawn.

The seeds of a fully fleshed-out character were sowed, and Hal would be beautifully flawed and reluctant in the first issue, but by the end of the sixth he is transformed into the hero we know that he has the potential to be. We see Hal process his emotion and inadequacies in ways that are not usual for the traditional DC hero, or at least not one who is a member of the Justice League.  Traditionally… At least in my experience, DC characters tend to already be Heros (with a capital “H”) before they face any trials or tribulations. But Emerald Dawn is an exploration in the rejection of “Hero,” and it does a great job of showing Hal becoming acclimated to his new found powers.

The “hero” gives up.

From a strictly reading standpoint, this miniseries feels a bit like a Dragonball Z episode, the battle with the main antagonist and villain Legion, starts at around the end of issue two and goes all the way until issue six, but these issues are filled with a wealth of beautiful artwork that has great movement to it, and the whole work is compositionally thoughtful. It also does what Green Lantern books tend to do well, and that is to show the reader space that feels vast and wonderous, and also gives us a great other-worldly setting with Oa. So while it may seem like it takes a really long time to get to the point where Hal accepts that he’s a Hero, the journey is worth it.

Conquering fear, the HERO is born.