Grant Morrison has taken the Green Lantern franchise and made it his own. Thus far Morrison has not shied away from exploring the dark corners of the DC Universe with Hal Jordan. As we’ve seen thus far Hal has gotten himself involved in the plot that the Blackstars have been building to gain control of the universe. That has led Hal to make some questionable decisions which forced the Guardians of the Universe to sideline him while under investigation for his actions. With Hal not allowed to be a Green Lantern for the time being how will he involve himself in what the Blackstars are doing? Let’s find out with The Green Lantern #5.
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Count Belzebeth welcomes Hal Jordan to Vorr, the planet of vampires. Count Belzebeth reveals she brought Hal there to endure terror since he wishes to become a Blackstar.
Count Belzebeth then takes Hal to the Sunken Quarter where he will undergo a test to prove himself. She goes on to say he must make it to the Church of Blood before the thirteen chimes of the bells of Saint Yorga are done. She then states that at the three checkpoints along the way Hal must locate a new section of his Blackstar mantle if he hopes to survive.
Hal says he is up for it but asks to have his restraints taken off. Count Belzebeth tells Hal to think of it as part of his test.
The bells start to sound and Count Belzebeth tells Hal to run to pass his test.
Hal makes his way through a blood-like lake that reeks of miasma as Count Belzebeth explains over their communication that he should not disturb the locals.
As Hal reaches the first checkpoint Count Belzebeth can sense that his willpower is fading due to miasma. Hal heads inside the building as he states he has been through a lot in his life, runs down the list of what he has done, and states that the miasma has no effect on him. He eventually his first piece of his mantle, the helmet, and fights his way out of the building with a shovel.
Count Belzebeth tells Hal that he must gain the other parts of his Blackstar mantle if he thinks he can survive this test. Hal states that fear is something one overcomes, which he saw Green Arrow do when he killed Count Belzebeth’s father. Count Belzebeth says that is one of the reasons she wanted to meet Hal since she hated her father anyways.
Hal is suddenly attacked by other creatures. Before they eat him Hal finds the Blackstar gauntlets and uses them to defeat the creatures.
Even with this accomplished Count Belzebeth continues to try to play with Hal’s head, stating that he is already poisoned and dying. Hal states that he has been dead before and asks how long he has left. He does not get an answer so he heads to the location of the final bell.
As he makes his way there Hal comes across the locals of the city who immediately attack him. While Hal fights the locals Count Belzebeth talks about how the Blackstars are a collective that fight as one.
Suddenly a giant watch-maggot appears and Hal immediately goes towards higher ground. As that goes on Count Belzebeth continues to mock Hal on what he will do now. Hal admits he can’t do this on his own. Count Belzebeth suddenly attacks the watch-maggot and says that he has the support of his Blackstar comrades. Hal demands the antidote to the poison since he passed.
Flashing back to one week earlier the Guardian reveals to Hal that they already know who the traitor within their ranks will be. He goes on to state the traitor will be Hal in order to expose the Blackstar double agent within their ranks. The Guardian states that from that point forward Hal will feign increased dissatisfaction with the Guardians of the Universe methods, including their no kill rule. From there Hal is told to infiltrate the Blackstars with the objective of sabotaging their exotic weapons program.
Hal asks what will happen if he is caught. The Guardian states they will disown him. He then asks Hal if he understands that this means he will do things by any means necessary.
Back in the present, on Planet Rann Hal has been outfitted with his Blackstar gear. Count Belzebeth asks Hal to choose his new name since Hal Jordan died on Vorr. Hal tells the others to call him Blackstar Parallax.
Later, in an elevator Hal asks about the ultimate weapon Mu is assembling. Count Belzebeth states that Rann is a interstellar trade hub with its own self-styled super policeman: Adam Strange. She goes on to state that the past must be cleared to make way for a clear future. Count Belzebeth reveals Hal must go through one last test.
They enter a room where Adam Strange is being held captive. Count Belzebeth tells Hal he must kill Adam Strange to prove his loyalty to the Blackstars. End of issue.
The Good: The Green Lantern #5 is a strong culmination to what Grant Morrison has been building towards up to this point in this series. Everything that has been going on thus far has been about placing the building blocks for the future of Morrison’s plans for his run. Now that we are finally seeing some of the payoff for that development.
One of the things that I’ve always been impressed with is how Morrison is not afraid to write characters as being full of experience. That is what we get throughout The Green Lantern #5 with how Morrison writes Hal Jordan. At no point does Hal make some mistake that leaves you scratching your head. Everything Hal does and says shows us someone that has been through it all. And because of that it takes a lot to actually get to Hal on a personal level.
That is where how Morrison wrote Hal compared to Count Belzebeth made for a great dynamic between the two. The constant taunting from Count Belzebeth properly put over what drives her as a person. Even if we aren’t given all the details of her backstory Morrison gives us enough to understand why she talks the way she does and how that has shaped her outlook at life. In doing Morrison gives the reader enough room to imagine what Count Belzebeth’s backstory is without making it feel like we are doing the heavy lifting.
Morrison inserting the fact that Green Arrow killed Count Belzebeth father back in the day was a good way to give her a little bit more backstory. In attempting to get into her head Hal learned that Count Belzebeth isn’t someone that can be easily manipulated. It was a quick dialogue sequence but it did its job of putting over the type mentality Count Belzebeth has.
Through all of this Morrison was able to test Hal Jordan and show us what he can do without his power ring. Not having his powers available to him forced Hal to have to think on the spot while not letting the area he is in deter his motivation. It once again spotlighted how Hal is one of the most experienced superheroes around, having been around just as long as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and others. This type of trial, while challenging, is not any harder than what he has had to overcome in the past.
This is where the big reveal that Hal becoming a Blackstar was all part of the Guardians of the Universe’s plans to learn everything they can about Blackstars made the story even better. The reveal works in perfectly with what we know about how the Guardians normally operate. Its a move that shows us the Guardians are willing to do dark stuff like risking one of their best Green Lanterns to protect the universe.
On his end of this, Hal jumping at this chance does put into question where his character arc will go now that he is a Blackstar. Morrison having Hal adopt the name of Parallax does point to this story arc around the Blackstars getting darker as it continues. Bringing in Adam Strange as Hal’s final test to complete his “evolution” to becoming Blackstar Parallax creates an interesting hook as to how Hal can stay within his mission.
Speaking of Adam Strange, his involvement in this story was a nice surprise. Having him in position as what is viewed as the old guard by the Blackstars sets Adam Strange to have his own sub-character arc during this story. And as an underutilized character, this can build a bigger role for him in the future if he survives all of this.
Liam Sharp continues to amaze me with how he brings Morrison’s story to life with his artwork. His work on The Green Lantern #5 was no different. Sharp did a stellar job making Vorr feel like a living, breathing planet with plenty for us to learn about that we have no seen. The underground city that housed the Church of Blood was even better. There was an uneasy feeling the permeate the entire time Hal spent there for his trials. It felt as though at any moment Hal would be attacked without warning. That sense of tension made the final moments of Hal’s trial even better as Count Belzebeth revealed the truth about who the Blackstars are as a group.
The Bad: Nothing.
Overall: Grant Morrison used all of the building blocks he has placed throughout the early parts of his run to make The Green Lantern #5 a satisfying reading experience. Morrison did a fantastic job building up the tension around what Hal Jordan’s latest mission is. Now that he has become directly involved with the Blackstars and adopted the name of Parallax what happens next is anyone’s guess. Knowing Morrison’s past work, the future for The Green Lantern will be an exciting one.
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