By: Geoff Johns (story), Doug Mahnke (pencils), Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Tom Nguyen, Mark Irwin (inks), Tony Avina (colors)

The Story: Hand’s going to have a pleasant family dinner even if it kills them.

The Review: Hope has become something of a joke nowadays, hasn’t it?  In our hardened, skeptical world, the notion of hope is cheesy, abstract, naïve, ethereal, and even, to some degree, weak.  The tenuous, vulnerable nature of hope makes a lot of people scoff when others rely on it for strength.  So no, you wouldn’t expect a brash, aggressive daredevil like Hal Jordan to have much in the way of hopefulness.

But don’t forget how sometime back, Hal was among the first candidates to be part of Ganthet’s Blue Lantern Corps.  Somewhere in the heart of this outspoken man is a person who believes in the best in people.  You don’t see it too often, but in these last couple issues, where the question of redemption keeps coming up, Hal displays much greater optimism than you’re used to.  He’s already expressed his belief, however reserved, that Sinestro can become a force for good again (though Sinestro cynically misinterprets Hal’s actions as a ploy to use his wealth of knowledge).

Hal even professes a certain degree of faith in regards to the Guardians, the very folks who’ve betrayed and targeted him time and again.  This is where his hopes get a little dicier.  He cites Ganthet as a “shining example of the potential the Guardians have,” not aware that the formerly ponytailed dwarf has returned (read: ruthlessly forced) to his manipulative brethren.  Assuming Ganthet can ever return to his former personality, you tend to doubt whether his peers can do the same.  Besides, it’s just weird to think of a whole band of touchy-feely Guardians.

And even Hal can’t convince himself entirely that there’s good to be found in someone like Black Hand.  More relativism aside, there seems to be a big difference between a child killer (emphasis on “child,” as in just the one), as Indigo-1 describes herself, and a mass murderer (whose list of victims includes presumably both grown-ups and children).  If redemption is even possible, it will be a long ways in coming for ol’ Bill Hand.

Johns doesn’t exactly make the case that Hand will be redeemed, or even should be redeemed, but he does make quite some effort to give Hand at least a speck of sympathy.  The villain makes no pretense about his sadistic nature; he admits candidly that he plans to “murder as many people as I can in as many ways as I can.”  But he then concludes that “Everyone will be like me.  And the world can be one happy family.”  So his desire, twisted as it sounds, is really to create a community for himself, a simple desire for a uniquely disturbed man to find others to relate with—and if they can’t be found, to bring them into existence.

Mahnke draws the dead in the classically horrifying way, with no deforming bells and whistles, but with a starkly pure, skeletal degradation which reminds you of your own inevitable mortality.  The scene of Hand having dinner and talking pleasantly to a table of his own exhumed family is one of the more hair-raising scenes of the series thus far, particularly in the broad, clenched grins on their cadavers’ faces, a sordid illusion of acceptance and gladness.

Conclusion: A nice balance of character and set-up, prepping us for some major villain showdown in the near future, and all-out warfare in the far.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Oh, man—Sinestro is totally the outer space Batman!  And I’m so dumb I didn’t even realize it until Hal joked about his secret hideout, “So this is your Batcave?”  The meticulous attention to detail, the quest for perfection, the violent means to order…it all makes sense.