Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

Legend of the Green Flame

Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame

Cover date: December 2000

Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artists: Michael D. Allred, Terry Austin, Mark Buckingham, John Totleben, Matt Wagner, Eric Shanower, Arthur Adams, Jim Aparo, and Kevin Nowlan
Cover Art: Frank Miller

Reviewed by: Stephanie Hicks

Prologue - 1949: Berlin

It opens with Janos Prohaska, a Polish fighter pilot who fought on the side of the Allies against the Axis powers during World War II. Together with another pilot from the Blackhawks squadron, Weng Chan, walking into the basement of a building in ruins. The floor is covered in rats and littered with long dead bodies. We find out the two are looking for a German secret weapon Janos heard about from a mysterious 'she'. After looking around for a while with some joking fun about war and drinking the friend notices an emerald railroad lantern buried in a pile of rubbish. While the friend dismisses this, Janos appears intrigued. A faint memory of a legend surrounding a green lantern plagues Janos mind and although he is unable to recall the specific significance of the lantern, he decides to take it with him.

Legend of the Green Flame Chapter One - Present Day: Daily Planet

Clark Kent is sitting at his desk in the newsroom of the daily planet. He seems to be hard at work concentrating on typing up his next story, however in reality his attention is split in a multitude of ways, only one of which is listening to the heartbeats of the crowd in the Daily Planet office. He identifies one as his friend Hal Jordan, in the same thought notices that his pace is quicker than usual and suspects he's lost weight. After a subtle conversation about evening patrol plans Clark invites Hal over for a burger at his place. But before the two even make it to the elevator Lois Lane ambushes them with a request to drop in on a Museum Preview for a quick story. True to form Clark finds it very hard to say no to this certain intrepid reporter. And while knowingly smiling in the background, Hal presents no easy out for Clark. With Clark reluctantly agreeing, Lois gifts a "You're a sweetheart, Clark." While walking away she bumps into another Daily Planet employee, on her way to back to the 'something that came up' that preempted the museum piece. She leaves in her wake a slightly bewildered Clark and an amused Hal. The two get their coats and walk out of the building.

Turning the tables on Hal, Clark asks him about Arisa, but this backfires when Hal succinctly says, "We split." The two share a moment, Hal hangs his head, reminded of the love lost. Clark, aware of how difficult a dual life and a relationship are to manage, also knows that any words as this moment would be too thin to offer any real comfort.

After leaving the Daily Planet the two start walking through a secluded park to have a more private conversation. After a short interlude about Ollie and the 'Bird Lady', Clark asks Hal to 'Spill it.' Hal admits he's having a personal crisis stating he used to be part of the Green Lantern Corps with a purpose and a plan. But with Oa drained and the Guardians fled, all he is a man with a ring. Clark attempts to stop the conversation with a "Hal." Misinterpreting Clarks interruption Hal starts to apologizes for being 'sophomoric', when Clark interrupts again with a "Hal, I think we are being mugged."

After a short 'After you - No, after you' exchange they agree to handle the situation together, although Clark does asks for discrete expedience considering the time. Hal says, "Okay, Cee-Kay. One discretion coming up, hold the procrastination." And in a manner discreet for Hal, he constructs bird like claws to drop the 5 offenders in a giant birdcage and a giant neon sign alerting the cops to the location of the muggers. Hal praises himself for his discretion and Clark responds with nod to the sign, "Uh-huh. Except for the flashing neon sign." With false modesty Hal explains "It's a very discreet flashing neon sign, and how else are the cops going to find them?"

The rest of the trip to the museum goes without incident. We hear a representative of the museum talk about the Maltese Falcon collection and how every object has a sordid or mysterious past. In an attempt to turn this tragedy in a media blitz, they offer a sound byte to the press admitting that one of the star attractions, the Catkin Pearl, has gone missing. However when they announce that Interpol has been called in we here a stream of profanities from an attractive lady in the crowd. Hal moves in, introducing himself and asks why the displeasure. The lady responds with her name, Selina Kyle and pussy-footing around the interpool issue, expresses that her displeasure is with not being able to see the Catkin Pearl because she was fond of the name. She then makes an excuse and dashes off.

Clark returns from bar where his desire for freshly squeezed orange juice was satisfied. Hal admits to about striking out as a segue into looking around. In walking into a side display hall of museum Hal makes a side comment about the size of the crowd, Clark responds with the exact total of 832, including the staff.

At this point Hal sees the old lantern and immediately mesmerized, he reads the description: "Lantern; found in Berlin, 1949. The curious events connected with this artifact made of a metallic substance unknown to modern science are detailed in your guide book, entry 260." Hal asks the big guy to "Look at it with, you know...?" Clark attempts to examine the lantern but stops when it starts to hurt his eyes and asks, "What is that thing." Hal admits he's not sure and while he acknowledges similarities between this one and Alan Scott's Lantern, denies that this could be because he know Scott still had his until he vanished a few years back.

Taking the precautions necessary to those in their positions Hal creates a mental barrier construct to keep the museum patrons and staff out of this display hall and changes into Green Lantern. Clark questions his actions with a "Hal...? What are you doing?" Hal states that it is his duty as a Green Lantern to check out this lantern. He adds silently to himself that he knows how it'd feel if it was him who had lost his lantern. Clark again questions the whether or not he is sure this is a good idea. And in his headstrong look-before-leaping way, Hal, responds with a "Yes. Yes, I am."

Hal asks Clark if he has ever seen him take the oath, to which Clark responds "No, Never." Hal then presents his ring to the old lantern and proceeds to take the oath. Upon completion the lantern engulfs the heroes within a fiery green flame that burns off the business suit off of Clark revealing the Shield through the tattered remains of his dress shirt.

Legend of the Green Flame Chapter Two: Limbo

The two heroes wake up in a fog filled plane. Deadman sees both heroes from a distance and recognizes Superman, who is in his full super-suit, and 'that sci-fi guy, the one with the ring'. He spends some time introducing himself as Boston Brand and attempting to convince our heroes that they are dead and at the entrance of the afterlife. Superman and Boston converse for a little bit when Boston admits that the dead part is not final until one walks into the light. Hal thinks his ring might be able to send them back to their bodies. Superman lets Hal try with the infamous, "Things can't get any worse."

Strange Interlude: An Old Manor House

The Phantom Stranger paces pensively in this old manor house. His eyes keep coming to rest on the clock on the mantel when, finally, he picks up the clock and studies it. Being confident in the passage of time he places the clock back on the mantel. A resolve comes about him and decides he will not miss anything from this place. A strange voice comes out of the fireplace, asking him where he is going. The Stranger only admits to 'Away'. The voice tells him he belongs to the Lords of Order, and that he cannot leave his confinement. The Phantom admits to no membership or affiliation with any group and also denies belonging to this place or even having a home, because if he belonged then he would cease to be a stranger. He bids the voices farewell, even as their threats of wrath echo in a now empty room.

Legend of the Green Flame Chapter Three: Hell

Superman is in Hell. He is still invulnerable. There is no physical pain for him to even endure. But he can hear, he can see, smell, touch, even taste the sulfur in the air. The smell of the burning flesh, the sight of the maggots burrowing into the fetid flesh. An infinity of souls, each suffering in tortures of its own making, plague Superman who is completely unable to help, and thus in a Hell all of his own. Overwhelmed by the sensory overload, Superman goes catatonic.

Hal is clinging to Superman for fear of using the ring again and ending up even worse off. A demon bird of prey swoops in on our heroes, narrowing in on, "Two souls that reek of virtue and light." Hal, half delirious, throws questions at the bird, "What are you? Where is this place?" The bird answers in eloquent rhyme, that they are over the Pit Stygian and at the end of Hope. The demon bird then tells them it plans to feast on their flesh and dine upon their souls.

Hal refusing to believe in anything he is seeing and adamantly declares he doesn't believe in hell and that this must be a delusion or hallucination. The bird taunts its prey by offering to let them click their ruby slippers together. Below we see a demon ship of lost souls floating just above the molten lava floor.

Hal, still in deep denial about where they are, desperately tries to wake his friend first by screaming Superman then, showing his desperation, pleads to his more human side. "Clark, Darn you -- Snap out of it! Please! I don't dare try to use the Ring. I can't hold on much longer."

Legend of the Green Flame Somewhere, lost inside his head, Superman notes that one of the voices is screaming his name, but it just gets lost in the crowd.

Meanwhile on the ship, the Captain Sir Grueflutter and some of his crew, fight over who has the right to eat the eyes. Soon they get close enough and plan to use the grapple hook to grab the heroes. The demon bird, not wanting to lose his prey, gouges a bite out of Superman's left calf and causing Superman to temporarily jerk out of his catatonic state just enough to make Hal lose his grip and start plummeting to his doom.

It is here that we learn the demon bird is Rhymemaster Gintear, as those upon the ship curse him for preempting their own strike. The Captain orders his lackeys to hook the falling soul before it gets sullied by the Pit. As he sees the pit lava getting ever closer and bearing down on him, Hal apologizes to Clark and uses the ring once more. The ring whisks the heroes away again in a fiery green explosion, but before vanishing Hal is impaled by the treble hook thrown by the minions on the floating ship.

The Lord Grueflutter, annoyed at the loss of his lunch, blames Gintear not only for the meal lost but for the damage to the ship that is now plummeting into the pit as well. He demands tribute from the giant bird and says that he'll have to make do and he'd love a sonnet while he starts with Gintear's eyes.

Strange Interlude: The Museum

The Phantom Stranger walks into the museum. He is barely noticed by the staff when asked if he would like some refreshments. But he is soon forgotten when he walks right through Hal's construct that blocked the passage to the display hall.

Chapter Four: The Heart of Magic

The green flames engulfs the heroes and admits to healing both the alien and the Oan pawn who are unconscious on the floor..

Hal sits up, his flesh now whole and visible through the rip in his costume. He shakes his friend, trying to wake him. Superman finally back to his senses, stumbles around leaning on Hal for support. Superman confides in Hal that the people in that hell didn't want to be helped; that they wanted to be there and created that place themselves. Trying to shake off the experience. Superman asks, "Where are they we this time?" Hal responds that he doesn't know or care.

We can see now that the heroes are inside the lantern. The green flames that we now know to be sentient, admit that it's a pity that Hal no longer cares. The flame then apologizes for the earlier problems. Superman questions the reality of the situation and the Green Flame explains the where they are and how the Green Flame, itself, achieved sentience. Hal asks if Alan Scott owned this lantern to which the Green Flame takes offense. "One is not owned," it says. But in giving offense as good as it gets, it does admit to having had Alan Scott as a slave to the lamp. The Flame then points out to Hal how foolish it was to try and tame the wild magic flame with his base Oan ring. And that, in a manner, it did kill them both, however it was nothing which the Green Flame couldn't remedy. The Green Flame starts to overpower Hal when he objects, declaring that's it time for Hal to cast aside his inferior ring, "time to leave science and embrace magic, the true power."

Legend of the Green Flame The Phantom Stranger appears in the lamp with Hal and Superman and tells Hal he can control this Flame, not the other way around. The Green Flame gets angry and declares it knows the Phantom Stranger and then commands back the attention of Hal Jordan. The brief encounter gives Hal the idea that maybe Alan's oath was designed specifically for this Flame. Hal then recites Alan's oath, and forces the Green Flame back into obedience.

The Phantom Stranger declares "It is over," and vows to take care of the lamp until the day that the wild magic has a place in the universe. Superman questions the stranger about his identity and how they are going to get back. The stranger replies with familiar "I am a friend," and calls Superman by his given name, Kal-El. He also tells them both that, freed of the wild magic, Hal's ring will now work properly again.

Hal uses his ring and returns the two heroes back to their time and place. He and Clark make a discreet exit out the back and take a moment to revisit Hal's earlier quandary. Hal mentions he's gained perspective and feels eager to find a new direction for his life. Superman tells Hal that, even given tonight, it was good to see him, and lets Hal know he's always just a call away. The heroes then part ways.

4Story - 4: This is a great, even if slightly cliche beginning:

**(cue the dramatic music)
A dark and abandoned item is found and set on its path by an unsuspecting character.
**(Then add a thunder clap for good measure.)

This sets up the tone. Nearly the entire time this story managed to balance on the tip of edgy, gritty and slightly disturbing, while not being over-the-top dark and moody. However, be forewarned, the real action is lacking in the script. There are no fight scenes. In fact, the closest this book gets to any physical confrontation is when Lois idly shoves a coworker. This story at heart, is a character story. I love the camaraderie between Hal and Kal in this story. It's very clear that these two trust and confide in each other. Even not having read the corresponding Action Comics Weekly, the story is clear and gives you everything you need to know without force-feeding you tons of exposition. However, if you are well versed in the other books around the time this book was written, you will see lots of callbacks; Janos Prohaska, Boston Brand, Selina Kyle, with mentions of Olivier Green, Adair and Dinah, not to mention the staff at the Daily Planet. It wouldn't have surprised me if Barda had shown up, but alas no Fury in this story.

The fact that the friendship of Green Lantern and Superman is a pivotal part of the story was the main reason the story got sidelined for as long as it did. At the time it came out, the writers on various titles in the DC Universe had differing opinions about the relationship between these two characters. The introduction by Neil Gaiman and afterward by Mark Waid go on to tell the details about the benching of this story, as well as the disappearance and reappearance of the script which went on its own journey, handbasket notwithstanding.

You can really get lost in this journey to Hell and back again. And even if you step down into the metaphorical level, the fact that our heroes actually go to Alan Moore's version of Hell*, is nothing more than a coincidence. For the real journey through Hell for Superman is going to a place where everyone needs his help, but he can do nothing to save them. And as for Green Lantern, betrayed by his own ring, his failures keep mounting with the separation from his last friend until literally being as helpless as a worm on a hook, I think he's well past the high water mark.

The only thing that knocks this story down a peg in my book is the convenient ending. "Oh look! The Phantom Stranger is here, he'll save us!" Now granted, that is kinda his schtick so if anyone was going to appear out of thin air to save the day, I'd buy it from him. But even in his journey the reader walked the path with him from the beginning, so the experienced reader knew from the start that he was going to be pivotal in the climax of the story. He just keep on going, and he got them out before anyone even knew they were there.

In short, this is a great story and a must read for any Superman or Green Lantern fan. One of my personal favorites and that's saying something, I never thought I would so thoroughly enjoy a story with so little Lois in it. What can I say, somewhere must have frozen over.

4Art - 4: This story has some amazing art. Pay attention to the emotions on the character's faces, the emotion shown tell a story all their own. Hal hides a smile when Lois corners Clark, he goes sullen at the mention of Adair, and he exudes overconfidence when confronting the other lantern. All of this was told through the art alone. There are also moments of levity when Clark helps a cat out of the tree and the awesomely discrete flashing neon sign. The thing that knocks this down a peg is that the art changes every few pages. Sometimes the art change adds to the story, in particular when we are first transported to Limbo. The change of artist helps the reader identify with the radical shift our heroes have just went through. However, the art shift is quite distracting between the pages 36 & 37 where we go from realistic to almost chibi art. None of the work was bad in and of itself, but switching back and forth was enough to comment on.

2Cover Art - 2: Honestly, the best thing about this cover is the bright white letters announcing 'by Neil Gaiman & Friends.' The art on the cover is blocky, crude and looks phoned-in. Not to mention the scene depicted on the cover never actually occurs in the book.

Hal has three legs and only one foot, Superman's cape is riddled with bullet holes even with nary a shot fired. And... AND impaling the limp bodies of our heroes are the claws of who I can only assume is supposed to be Gintear. But considering he's three feet tall and perched on Superman's back in the story, his foot is way out of scale. Also, with our heroes practically eviscerated on the cover, there is nary a drop blood. What's the point of impaling someone if you're not going to have blood? I would never have picked this up off the shelf by the art alone.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic was on sale.

January 2000

February 2000 March 2000 April 2000 May 2000 June 2000 July 2000 August 2000 September 2000 October 2000 November 2000 December 2000 Annuals

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