Green Lantern: The Silver Age volume 4

By Gardner Fox, John Broome, Gil Kane, Sid Greene & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9435-9 (TPB)

After a hugely successful revival and reworking of Golden Age Great The Flash, DC (National Periodical Publications as they were then) were keen to build on a resurgent superhero trend. Showcase #22 hit newsstands at the same time as the fourth issue of the new Flash comicbook – #108 – and once again the guiding lights were Editor Julie Schwartz and writer John Broome. Assigned as illustrator was action ace Gil Kane, generally inked by Joe Giella.

Hal Jordan was a brash young test pilot in California when an alien policeman crashed his spaceship on Earth. Mortally wounded, Abin Sur commanded his ring – a device which could materialise thoughts – to seek out a replacement officer: one both honest and without fear.

Scanning the planet, the wonder weapon selected Jordan and whisked him to the crash-site. The dying alien bequeathed his ring, the lantern-shaped Battery of Power and his profession to the astonished Earthman.

In 6 pages ‘S.O.S Green Lantern’ established characters, scenario and narrative thrust of a series that would increasingly become the spine of DC continuity. Now that the concept of the superhero was swiftly being re-established among the buying public, there was no shortage of gaudily clad competition. The better books thrived by having something a little “extra”.

With Green Lantern that was primarily the superb scripts of John Broome and Gardner Fox and the astounding drawing of Gil Kane (ably abetted in this collection by primary inker Sic Greene) whose dynamic anatomy and dramatic action scenes were maturing with every page he drew. Happily, the concept itself was also a provider of boundless opportunity.

Other heroes had extraterrestrial, other-dimensional and even trans-temporal adventures, but the valiant champion of this series was also a cop: a lawman working for the biggest police force in the entire universe.

This fabulous fourth paperback and eBook compilation gathers Green Lantern #36-48 (April 1965 to October 1966) and, with Hal Jordan firmly established as a major star of the company firmament, increasingly became the series to provide conceptual highpoints and “big picture” foundations. These, successive creators would use to build the tight-knit history and continuity of the DC universe. At this time there was also a turning away from the simple imaginative wonder of a ring that could do anything in favour of a hero who increasingly ignored easy solutions in preference to employing his mighty fists.

What a happy coincidence then, that at this time artist Gil Kane was reaching an artistic peak, his dynamic full-body anatomical triumphs bursting with energy and crashing out of every page…

Scripted by Gardner Fox Green Lantern #36 cover-featured captivatingly bizarre mystery ‘Secret of the Power-Ringed Robot!’ (how can you resist a tale that is tag-lined “I’ve been turned into a robot… and didn’t even know it!”?) and followed that all-action conundrum with the incredible tale of Dorine Clay; a young lady who was the last hope of her race against the machinations of the dread alien Headmen in John Broome’s ‘Green Lantern’s Explosive Week-End!’

As previously stated, physical combat had been steadily overtaking ring magic in the pages of the series and all-Fox #37’s‘The Spies Who “Owned” Green Lantern!’ – despite being a twist-heavy drama of espionage and intrigue – was no exception, whilst second story ‘The Plot to Conquer the Universe!’ pitted the Emerald Crusader against Evil Star, an alien foe both immortal and invulnerable, who gave the hero plenty of reasons to lash out in spectacular, eye-popping manner.

For #38 (another all-Fox scripted affair), Jordan re-teamed with fellow Green Lantern Tomar Re to battle ‘The Menace of the Atomic Changeling!’ in a brilliant alien menace escapade counterpointed by ‘The Elixir of Immortality!’ wherein criminal mastermind Keith Kenyon absorbs a gold-based serum to become a veritable superman. He might be immune to Ring Energy (which can’t affect anything yellow, as eny old Fule kno) but eventually our hero’s flashing fists bring him low – a fact he will never forget on the many occasions he returns as merciless master criminal Goldface

Green Lantern #39 (September 1965) featured two tales by world-traveller John Broome, Kane & master inker Sid Green: opening with a return engagement for Black Hand, the Cliché Criminal entitled ‘Practice Makes the Perfect Crime!’ and ending in a bombastic slugfest with an alien prize fighter named Bru Tusfors in ‘The Fight for the Championship of the Universe!’ They were mere warm-ups for the next issue.

‘The Secret Origin of the Guardians!’ was a landmark second only to ‘Flash of Two Worlds’ (see Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team-Ups) as Broome teamed the Emerald Gladiator with his Earth-2 counterpart Alan Scott to stop Krona, an obsessed Oan scientist whose misguided attempts to discover the origins of the universe had first introduced evil into our pristine reality billions of years ago. His actions forced his immortal brethren to become protectors of life and civilisation in an unending act of group contrition – the Guardians of the Universe.

Simultaneously high concept and action packed, this tale became the keystone of DC cosmology and a springboard for all those mega-apocalyptic publishing events such as Crisis on Infinite Earths. It has seldom been equalled and never bettered…

Gardner Fox tackled issue #41 spotlighting twisted romance in ‘The Double Life of Star Sapphire!’ as an alien power-gem once more compelled Jordan’s boss and true love Carol Ferris to subjugate and marry her sometime paramour Green Lantern, and wrote another cracking magical mystery to end the issue as extraterrestrial wizard Myrwhydden posed ‘The Challenge of the Coin Creatures!’

The next release was ‘The Other Side of the World!’ wherein Fox continued a long-running experiment in continuity with a superb tale of time-lost civilisations and an extra-dimensional invasion by the Warlock of Ys co-starring the peripatetic quester Zatanna the Magician.

At that time the top-hatted, fish-netted young sorceress appeared in a number of Julie Schwartz-edited titles, hunting her long-missing father Zatarra: a magician-hero in the Mandrake mould who had fought evil in the pages of Action Comics for over a decade beginning with the very first issue.

In true Silver Age “refit” style, Fox concocted a young and equally empowered daughter, popularising her by guest-teaming her with a selection of superheroes he was currently scripting. If you’re counting, these tales appeared in Hawkman #4, Atom #19, Green Lantern #42, and an Elongated Man back-up strip in Detective Comics #355 as well as a very slick piece of back writing to include the high-profile Caped Crusader via Detective #336 before concluding after this GL segment in Justice League of America #51. You can enjoy the entire early epic by tracking down Justice League of America: Zatanna’s Search

The much-mentioned Flash guest-starred in #43: sharing a high-powered tussle with a new tectonically terrifying nemesis in Fox’s ‘Catastrophic Crimes of Major Disaster!’ and the next issue provide two tales – an increasing rarity as book-length epics became the action-packed norm.

Oddly, second-class postage discounts had for years dictated the format of comic-books: to qualify for cheaper rates periodicals had to contain more than one feature, but when the rules were revised single, complete tales not divided into “chapters” soon proliferated. Here though are two reasons to bemoan the switch; Fox’s ‘Evil Star’s Death-Duel Summons’and Broome’s Jordan Brothers adventure ‘Saga of the Millionaire Schemer!’, offering high-intensity super-villain action and a heady, witty comedy-of-errors mystery as Hal visits his family and is embroiled in new sister-in-law Sue’s hare-brained scheme to prove her husband Jim Jordan is Green Lantern… .

Earth-2’s Green Lantern returned for another team-up in #45’s fantasy romance romp ‘Prince Peril’s Power Play’, scripted by Broome, who raised the dramatic stakes with the hero’s first continued adventure in the following issue. Preceded by a spectacular Kane pin-up, Green Lantern #46 opens with Fox’s delightfully grounded crime-thriller ‘The Jailing of Hal Jordan’, before ‘The End of a Gladiator!’ details the murder of the Earth-1 GL by old foe Dr. Polaris, concluding with his honour-laden funeral on Oa, home of the Guardians!

Broome was on fire at this time: the following issue and concluding chapter sees the hero’s corpse snatched to the 58thcentury and revived in time to save his occasional future home from a biological infection of pure evil in the spectacular triumph ‘Green Lantern Lives Again!’

Bizarrely garbed goodies and baddies were common currency at this time of incipient TV-generated “Batmania” so when gold-plated mad scientist Keith Kenyon returned it was as a dyed-in-the-wool costumed crazy for Fox’s ‘Goldface’s Grudge Fight Against Green Lantern!’, a brutal clash of opposites and perfect place to pause for the moment.

These costumed drama romps are in themselves a great read for most ages, but when also considered as the building blocks of all DC continuity they become vital fare for any fan keen to make sense of the modern superhero experience. This blockbusting book showcases the imaginative and creative peak of Broome, Fox and Kane: a plot driven plethora of adventure sagas and masterful thrillers that literally reshaped the DC Universe. Action lovers and fans of fantasy fiction couldn’t find a better example of everything that defines superhero comics.
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