"Power War"

(Green Lantern, 1st series, #125-127, 129 - 1980)

Writer: Denny O'Neil. Pencils: Joe Staton. Inks: Frank McLaughlin.

It's taken me a while to write this piece, partly because -- much to even my surprise -- I seem to have included a disproportionate number of Green Lantern arcs in my "They Ain't TPBs...but should be" category, and so I felt I should cast my net elsewhere. Also because I kept meaning to pick up a few of the surrounding issues, just to get a better sense of what might -- or might not -- be included in an imaginary TPB collection.

But eventually I figured -- what the heck? And relating to what issues comprise the "official" Power War story, I'm pretty sure the title in the comic itself is only applied to #125-127 (and I've added #129 as just a kind of epilogue, tying up loose ends). I do wonder if #123-124 should be considered part of the story, as those issues -- apparently -- involved Green Lantern battling his arch foe, Sinestro, and Sinestro is a significant presence in this story arc. But they're not essential. After all, I loved the main arc...and I haven't read those issues.

So...what's Power War?

Well, it's an example of a kind of economy of storytelling that has been all but lost today. Comprised of just three 17 page issues, it tells a dramatically epic story, that takes Green (Hal Jordan) Lantern from earth, to the anti-matter universe of Qward, to the distant planet Oa, embroils GL with familiar foes like Sinestro, the Shark, and the Weaponers of Qward, provides a few small scenes for supporting players Tom Kalmaku and Carol Ferris, and involves an epic conflict involving hundreds of intergalactic Green Lanterns which apparently, at the time, was only the second such story in the comics' history to involve so many GLs -- albeit, not that they have much to do as individual characters (not like the later Tales of the GL Corps which I review here).

And the story is cleverly structured, so that each issue revolves around its own plot/conflict (and setting) even as part of the overall arc of the Weaponers of Qward attempting a full scale invasion of our universe (unlike a lot of modern epics where each issue/chapter kind of blurs into the next).

I can kind of run hot or cold on O'Neil's writing over the years, but he did seem to have a good feel for Green Lantern (for whom he'd been the principal writer, off and on, for a decade by the time) and this story seems to be him at his peak (maybe he was envisioning it as his swan song, as he would leave the comic within a couple of issues). There's some crisp dialogue, that nicely conveys character and relationships, some snappy quips and an interesting character turnabout in the climax. The portrayal of Hal at this time was, I'd argue, better, more subtle than it is today, where writers have kind of gone overboard with the cocky flyboy persona. Here Hal exudes a kind of instinctive confidence when dealing with crises -- but devoid of smug egotism. And there's an effective moodiness to some scenes -- some of it partly attributable to the visuals. GL's visit to the anti-matter universe of Qward (in #125) swathed in a snowstorm, and eerily deserted, nicely captures a sense of a lone hero in enemy territory.

And it's just surprisingly epic...considering the whole only takes up 51 pages!

And back to visuals -- Joe Staton had just recently assumed the art chores, beginning what would prove a long (on again/off again) association with the character. And you can certainly appreciate the dynamicness and storytelling skill Staton brings to the series, particularly in contrast to the previous artists like Alex Saviuk (a competent, but arguably stylistically straight forward artist) and even Mike Grell, who I always liked, but even he lacks Staton's eye for story telling here: close-ups, long shots, the right dramatic angle. Staton's style can skew a bit to the rough and cartoony, and maybe he's helped here (if you don't like that) by McLaughlin's solid, firm inks, keeping it squarely in the dramatic super hero category.

I've added #129 to the story, because the main trilogy ended with a Qwardian general escaping. So he is finally trounced two issues later -- in a story also involving Star Sapphire (at the time, perhaps not quite as over-used as she would be in later years). It's an okay tale -- not great, not terrible. As I say, more just worth getting to tie up the General Fabrikant plot (not that it's that important to the main story).