Retro Review: Green Lantern #7 (July/August 1961)

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Thaal Sinestro is a big deal these days, even temporarily headlining the main Green Lantern title during the New 52 relaunch, but have you ever wondered how he started out?  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review of Green Lantern #7 awaits!

GreenLantern7CoverGREEN LANTERN #7
Writer: John Broome
Artist: Gil Kane
Inker: Joe Giella
Colorist: Jack Adler/Tommy Nicolosi
Letterer: Ira Schnapp/Gaspar Saladino
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $800.00

Previously in Green Lantern: Hal Jordan was chosen by the ring of a dying Green Lantern to replace him in the Corps, being entirely fearless and honest.  At first, he used his abilities as a standard-issue superhero, but eventually discovered that he was a member of a galaxy-spanned Corps of space policemen, led by the Guardians Of The Universe.  As such, there are literally thousands of other Lanterns spread across the galaxy, each one covering their own sector of galactic space…  but not ALL of them are quite as much the straight-arrow as our man Mr. Jordan.  Our story opens with the beginnings of a mystery…

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The disappearance of an entire town, naturally, gains some attention, causing Green Lantern to fly in and investigate, but his ring cannot find even a trace of the power that might have caused such a terrifying phenomenon.  Returning home, GL muses to his young pal, Pieface (more on that in a moment), that he was supposed to BE in Valdale that morning, right around the time that everyone disappeared, but coincidentally couldn’t make it.  Before he can finish wondering what it all means, he finds his “astral form” summoned to a meeting with his bosses, the Guardians of the Universe!

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It’s interesting to compare this story to the modern interpretations of Green Lantern and the Guardians, with stodgy 60s square-jawed guy Jordan working for a group of Guardians who not only are looking out for him, but seem to CARE about his well-being.  The last 25 or so years of GL tales have cast the Guardians as inherently corrupt and deeply flawed, using their Lanterns as little more than pawns in a war of attrition against cosmic forces that really aren’t any more or less evil than the blue dwarves themselves.  As for Jordan, his current wild-card jerkass persona is, admittedly, more interesting than the blank heroic slate of years past.  As for the threat itself, the Guardians inform the Green Lantern of Earth of one of his predecessors, a man ominously named Sinestro…

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I love this part of the story, by the way, wherein the Guardians note that the man is actually NAMED Sinestro, that he has a genetic predisposition for evil that serves as a fatal character flaw, but they figured he’s just the man to protect Sector 1417.  Either they’re completely unaware of the concept of situational irony, or 1417 is a crapsack backwater that didn’t have any better options.  “Yeah, it’s either this Sinestro fellow, a man named Evil MacMurderington or the lady wearing a skull for a hat and gnawing on fresh human bones…”

Naturally, they chose to go with ol’ Gourd-Head.  But after seeing their charge forcibly take over his home planet, the Guardians revoked his O.A. privileges and fired him off into the anti-matter universe of Qward as punishment.  Of course, he quickly teamed up with the already-evil natives, and created a plan to get even.  The Guardians reveal to Jordan that the disappearing city was, as he suspected, an attempt to capture Jordan himself, which leads our hero to get sneaky…

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While perhaps not the smartest plan ever, it’s still a gutsy gamble by Green Lantern, one which leads to his capture by his evil counterpart.  Unfortunately, Sinestro is not just a clever name, and the villain informs GL that, unless the hero submits to his demands, Sinestro will murder the 100,000 residents of Valdale in cold blood!

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Interestingly, though Sinestro uses his trademark yellow energy here, there is no sign of the yellow power ring that would later become his trademark weapon (and allow him to “inspire” an entire yellow Corps of murderous jackwagons to boot).  That doesn’t make the yellow force bubble any less dangerous for Hal, though, and our hero hangs helpless, heralding horrible heavy…  consequences.  (Sorry, to trapped in an alliterative loop, there.)  For Earth’s Green Lantern, the sands through the hourglass are more than the days of his lives, they are his doom…

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POW!  GIL KANE BACKWARDS PUNCH SHOT!  I love that bit of Kane wizardry, even as I realize that any strike powerful enough to catapult a body like that could also lead to decapitation.  It’s just too neat of an image to get caught up in realistic physics.  Speaking of ignoring the laws of the universe, I bet you’re wondering how Hal escaped Sinestro’s deathtrap…

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Atomic carbon dioxide strike go!  Or something…  Either way, it makes no less sense than anything else in this loopy story, especially the moment immediately following, where Green Lantern summons a massive emerald tidal wave to sweep all the Qwardians away (!!), leaving him alone with the renegade Lantern.  Sinestro, for his part, isn’t particularly worried about staring down the barrel of the universe’s most powerful weapon, because he knows it’s attached to the fist of a hapless do-gooder schmendrik…

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Whoa.  Jordan, that’s pretty hardcore!  Leaving his rival suspended without food, water or any hope of rescue, Green Lantern quickly zips back to Earth to charge up his power ring, wrapping up the story by finally keeping his appointment at the Valdale Home for Wayward Boys.  “When right is on your side,” he tells the lads confidently, “you will always overcome evil wherever you find it!”  Especially if you’re willing to smash down a crowd with the bone-shattering force of a typhoon, then leave your villains to starve and/or suffocate to death in an inescapable prison.

Then, in the backup story, Hal Jordan has a nightmare and inadvertently transmogrifies his best friend into a bird.

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“WHAT GOES ON HERE???”  Heh.  That cracks me up for some reason.  Now, remember when I said to put a pin in Hal’s pal, Pieface?  It’s time to come back around and talk about the elephant in the room.  Tom Kalmaku is of Eskimo descent, you see, and the fact that our upstanding young hero calls him “Pieface” is either a riff on the frozen treat called the Eskimo Pie or dated slang for  a person with a round face and a blank expression, leaving us with the impression that Hal Jordan is either pretty racist or really insulting to his friends.  (There was a time when I occasionally called a friend “Skillet-Face”, because, in profile, his face was perfectly flat, but I now realize that was just me being an utter jerk, so I can definitely see where there’s a fine line here.)  Hal’s racism/intellectual superiority complex aside, the rest of the story consists of Gull-Tom trying to get Green Lantern’s attention, leading to the introduction of Tom’s childhood sweetheart and future wife Terga…

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The implications of this story are pretty staggering, when you think about it.  An idle remark caused Green Lantern’s subconscious mind to transform Tom into a completely different form, altering his body on what has to be the molecular level by accident WHILE ASLEEP.  Imagine if he’s been thinking about BURNING things, instead?  Or if he dreamed that Tom was in fact Sinestro, and needed to be stuck in a bubble in space until he died?  It’s pretty frightening from any angle.  This issue is a particularly valuable one in terms of early Green Lantern (though most 10 cent DC comics with high-profile characters ain’t cheap), due mostly to the first appearance of Thaal Sinestro, and it’s interesting to see how much of the initial concept has stayed with him.  Indeed, Broome managed to get a LOT of detail into the origins of the renegade Lantern in a short space, and most of what we know about him today is still informed by this story, which is an impressive feat in today’s comics marketplace.  Green Lantern #7 is a weird book with some staggeringly disturbing implications at nearly all levels, but still feels inventive, with lovely art throughout, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall.  If only modern Hal Jordan could be this pleasant once in a while…