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Hard Light Binding Meets Hardcore Grinding

Has it really been four days since the last entry?  It feels more like two.  I was just recovering with the aid of antibiotics when I caught an annoying, rather garden-variety cold.  I still had a few work appointments I wanted to make so I spent a lot of time doped up on Dayquil generics in order to keep the cold symptoms to a minimum.  I suppose it's really no wonder that I lost track of time: suffering a cold alone would have done it, the decongestants just sealed the deal.

The last few weeks played out with the frequent disruptions of free time suitable to responsible adult, but this upcoming week is looking like it may be more like an irresponsible student's spring vacation.  Considering these pesky bugs I've been suffering, this time off may prove useful to fully recover.

So far, my free time over the past couple days mostly involved browsing forums and watching the Angry Video Game Nerd.  That was fun, he even had a few new ones, but I should really get back to what I was trying to do in the last entry: play DC Universe Online.

Recently, I have decided that perhaps the best way to solve my inability to decide on a single hero in that game is to get immersed in the lore.   Despite how much I liked City of Heroes, I am not really an avid comic book reader, but it stands to reason that, if I was a big DC comics fan, I would be that much more excited about playing DC Universe.  Also, based on my reasoning that the main problem I was having with DC Universe Online was that the power sets were so iconic you would end up having to emulate a hero from the DC Universe whether you like it or not, it stands to reason that deciding on a character in DC Universe Online has a lot to do with deciding on which DC Universe hero to emulate.

I think the DC Universe hero I know the most is probably Batman, thanks primarily to Batman: Arkham Asylum, several Batman movies, and the Batman animated series.  Unfortunately, I have already played a Batman-like hero to level 30 in the beta and I was craving a new experience, which made it really hard to stick to a Gadgets/Martial Arts/Acrobatics hero like I did in the beta.

As it turns out, I have already unlocked the Green Lantern-based Light super power set from the "Fight For The Light" DLC for DC Universe Online, I just needed to feel comfortable enough to play it.  So I checked out a few Green Lantern comics from the library.  The first was War Of The Green Lanterns: Aftermath, and the second was The Green Lantern Chronicles: Volume One.  You might wonder why I picked these two?  Because they were the only Green Lantern books that were not silly kids books that I could find at the libraries I happened to be visiting at the time.  Given a choice, or patience to put some books on hold, I would have preferred to have picked a good slew of more recent Green Lantern Corps comics.

Predictably, what I ended up reading was a massive comparison between then and now.  
The Green Lantern Chronicles is basically a compilation of old Green Lantern comics, and volume one starts way back at the hero's first appearance in 1959 in "Showcase Number 22."  So, naturally, you have all the corniness to be expected of a golden age superhero, right down to his constant obsession with dating the bosses' daughter (technically, his new boss) Carol.  That's no exaggeration: nearly all of Green Lantern's early heroics seem to be centered on whether or not he can get to first base with Carol; he seems to care more about that than being a hero.

This was back when there was only one green lantern, Hal Jordan, but he was still called Hal more often than he was called Green Lantern.  He still had yet to meet the Lantern Corps little blue bosses, the Guardians of the Universe, but even as early as "Showcase Number 23," the very next comic, they make an appearance by interviewing a copy of Hal they made out of energy.  This was a rather ingenious plot device in that it allowed the Guardians to meet Hal and see how he would interact with them without Hal actually having met them or learning of their existence.  I could tell Green Lantern was ahead of his time: he had sleek enough of a general costume design that it did not require much updating between that and today's iteration, and a relatively (by comic book standards) hard Sci-Fi backstory that was good enough to hold together even now.

Speaking of now, War Of The Green Lanterns: Aftermath is pretty much cutting edge Green Lantern, released January 2012, just one year ago instead of nearly fifty-five!  This hardbound book is actually a compilation of the individual comic book issues of "War Of The Green Lanterns Aftermath 1-2," "Green Lanterns Corps 61-63," and "Green Lantern Emerald Warriors: 11-13."

Immediately, at the very start of the book, we learn that Hal Jordan has been stripped of his powers by the Guardians of the Universe after killing one of them gone bad, presumably the conclusion of War Of The Green Lanterns, and Hal is pretty much out of the picture for the rest of the issue compilation.  However, his omission hardly makes a difference: five decades is a long time to churn out comics, and the Green Lantern canon now includes at least three other human Green Lanterns, quite well fleshed out to the point of even having had their own retcons in the past: Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and Kyle Rayner.   (Not to mention thousands more non-human Green Lanterns that make up the rest of the Green Lantern Corps... you know, this setup really is quite suitable to an MMORPG; the Green Lantern Corps and Sinestro Corps may well be the only ones that hardly needed exobytes to explain why there's hundreds of them running around.)

As the "aftermath" arc completes in two issues, the rest of War Of The Green Lanterns: Aftermath is pretty much centered on adventures from the remaining three human green lanterns' perspectives.  John mentors an accidental alien Green Lantern on diplomacy; John Stewart is a real moral paragon, practically an edgier Jesus with a power ring.  Kyle seems the most laid back, and mostly dwells on a romance arc with Sinestro's daughter, Soranik Natu, but apparently drops the ball by revealing he is more infatuated with Hal Jordan's old flame, Carol Ferris, who is dead now... apparently quite a few things happened since Hal was hitting on her in the 1950s!  Guy, being a bit of a macho badass, mostly just kicks ass, and has the most comics in the compilation to show for it; in the last one, he even collaborates with Batman to save a space station.

It's really sort of fascinating how The Green Lantern has evolved, and I am not just talking about how the weakness to yellow eventually became moot.   The Green Lantern started out a prime example of a Golden Age super hero, but now the Green Lantern has turned into a story about an intergalactic peace keeping force.  It's almost like you're reading a crime drama in space with a twist of Star Trek.  The perps are all sorts of spacefaring criminals.  There's the occasional universe-threatening McGuffin like slumbering hideous giant monsters that the Green Lantern Corps has to be called in to help out with.  There are even frequent interpersonal conflicts between the various members of the Green Lantern Corps - trouble at the head office, officers?   Green Lantern has gone from being a simple, if well-designed, superhero to a pulp Sci-Fi space opera, and that's awesome enough that they may actually have managed to get themselves a new fan in me.
Having done a bit of Green Lantern research, do I feel like I could be immersed in playing a Green Lantern in DC Universe Online now?

I think the main sticking point I had when it came to the Green Lanterns is that the way they use hard light constructs is just a bit silly.  In DC Universe Online, the Light power set (which is modeled after the Green Lanterns) basically involves creating hard light constructs of various things which perform attacks.  For example, one attack creates a helicopter that fires missiles... really?!

It's certainly flashy - Light is a great power set to play in DC Universe Online if you want to be noticed - but it seems incredibly impractical.  Think about this: if your superpower is just to solidify a hard light construct of whatever you want wherever in the general vicinity, why would you do something so circuitous as to create a solid hologram of a helicopter, that then launches holograms of missiles, that then creates holograms of explosions, to harm an enemy?   You could just stab the sucker through the heart with a simple geometric shape!

Funny enough, this is how it works in the comics, too.  Whether its 1950s Hal Jordan creating a giant net out of hard light to stop a missile from impacting a city in Showcase #22 or 2011s' Guy Gardner summoning a giant slingshot to fling a falling space station back up out of the atmosphere in Green Lantern Emerald Warriors #13, that kind of unnecessary busywork seems to be how the Green Lanterns use their powers.  I guess it is a lot more entertaining to have power rings work like that instead of a far less imaginative (if simpler and more practical) solution, and the only excuse we get is that the rings allow their users to flex their imagination, so: suspension of disbelief, do your stuff.

I am willing to overlook that sticking point now because I was really encouraged by what I saw in War Of The Green Lanterns: Aftermath.  The thing is, being a superpowered Intergalactic Peace Keeper really appeals to my sense of imagination. The Green Lanterns, particularly the "corps" line of comics, is basically outlining a tale of cops, in space, with superpowers.  Considering their relatively hard sci-fi background, the Green Lanterns can actually be seen as reasonably opposing just about every enemy in the game, whether it be an aggressive alien or a malignant magic user.  (Magic is a bit of a weird wildcard in the DC Universe: even Superman is no more resistant to it than the average joe.)  It makes perfect sense they Green Lanterns are the game and would want to be there, so it's actually quite easy to feel immersed when playing one.


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