The time John Stewart blew up XanshiPosted: 05/06/2014
Spider-Man’s error in saving Gwen Stacy from a fall will forever haunt him the rest of his natural (then dead, then resurrected, then dead again, then resurrected again) life. After all, he made a mistake and an innocent woman died because of it.
And then we have Green Lantern John Stewart. His error killed millions. Maybe billions. If Gwen Stacy is a ghost in Peter’s closet of skeletons, the exploded planet Xanshi is Aragon’s entire ghost army from Return of the King. We’ll witness the extremely well-done heartbreaking story today in Cosmic Odyssey #1-4, written by Jim Starlin and drawn by Mike Mignola.
Allow me to try to explain the basic premise of Cosmic Odyssey. A being made of a substance called Anti-Life let loose four “aspects” of itself into the universe, each landing on a separate planet (Earth, Rann, Thanagar, and Xanshi). If any two of these four aspects gets destroyed, the universe will collapse on itself and we all wave goodbye to the universe. Eight superheroes group in teams of two to defend these planets from total destruction. We pick our story up as Team Green Lantern & Martian Manhunter approach the Anti-Life aspect’s base.
Detect Stewart’s fatal personality flaw yet? It’s total mind-numbing arrogance. He wields a weapon that essentially acts as a permanent genie with infinite wishes. And when you can do anything, why bother taking along a Martian with Superman’s powers plus shapeshifting and intangibility. Stewart knows Martian Manhunter’s green with envy, and not just because that’s his natural skin color.
Back in the day, the Green Lantern ring still bore one glaring weakness. A flaw that dwarfed Superman’s Kryptonite and other superhero weaknesses, like Aquaman being out of water for too long or Captain Marvel trying to get into an R-rated movie. Watch this brilliant tirade by Stewart (“I’m the best and nothing will ever be able to stand in my way!”) and then his immediate fall into the deepest pits of horrified despair:
The planet’s death scene lasts for seven pages. It’s wildly melodramatic, fairly poetic, and I’m going to show it to you in its entirety uninterrupted. While Green Lantern’s no longer fear the color yellow (or in Alan Scott’s case, wood), this blow to the conscience’ll last for the rest of Stewart’s life. My goodness, get ready for some emotional brutality. Oh, and remember that scene in Justice League Unlimited where Lex Luthor — possessing Flash’s body — defeats Green Lantern with a well-placed throw of banana pudding? Some superhero weakness can be really silly.
So Stewart’s going to have some trouble sleeping for a few decades, but you can rest assured that his repertoire’ll now forever include healthy doses of modesty. It’s one thing to mess up physics like Spider-Man’s tragedy, but y’know, this is Green Lantern swinging around his magic jewelry with delusional confidence like he’s Justin Bieber at a middle school. The dude did this to himself, and Martian Manhunter — whose emotional range spans from calm to relaxed — uncharacteristically and deservedly digs his furious claws into Stewart’s already flayed back.
Martian Manhunter has probably forgiven him by now. Though it could just be one of those be-friendly-because-we-work-together things where he waves hello but then sends mean telepathic thoughts about Stewart to the rest of the Justice League whenever Stewart leaves the room. We sometimes forget that for all the immense power of the Green Lantern ring, the person wielding it is still just a normal man. He may be relentless in the presence of fear, but that doesn’t help Stewart’s very much human conscience.
The one who rescues Stewart from this overwhelming guilt? Martian Manhunter, of course, because even with boiling hatred for the man, superheroes still have to do the right thing. That includes not letting accidental genocide-ers die. It’s why they’re better than us — and also because they can punch through walls.
I grew up on the Justice League cartoon, and I consider John Stewart to be “my” Green Lantern. I’m glad to report that he currently continues rocking out as the baddest, toughest dude in the Green Lantern Corps. That and he only blows up one more planet after this.