John Stewart saves the planet from nuclear missiles launched by the Shark, then gets down to the important business of the day – revealing his secret identity to his girlfriend, Tawny Young. Next morning he wakes to find that she’s not the woman he thought she was – the very talky Tawny has gone public with his secret on her TV show.
Soon she’s become the target of another super-villain, Sonar, leading to a face-off with John, and Tawny being dumped.
And that’s ‘Betrayal’, Len Wein’s final contribution to DC’s Retroactive books, as he again shows younger writers how to craft a satisfying, stylish, single-issue tale. He gives us an untold day in the life taking place between his final issue of the Eighties GL run, #186, and Steve Englehart’s first, #188. The latter has John Stewart’s identity exposed by Tawny on TV, which seemed a bit out of the blue. Here we learn how she came by the information, and get a tweaked retelling of John’s subsequent fight with Sonar from that issue. Originally, John’s Green Lantern Corps trainer and future wife, Katma Tui, was on hand and helped defeat the villain; here it’s all John.
And I don’t mind a bit, as it allows for a greater focus on what John went through. Tawny’s betrayal makes sense given her previous pushiness towards John, whom she began seeing in his masked state – she dumped a bowl of pasta on him when he refused to tell her his origin. Wein also shows how her decision backfired, making the sudden switch of his attentions to Katma come over as less caddish.
The script is deft, handling character and action with grace and, as he did in his DC Retroactive 1970s Batman #1, Wein has fun with comic book tropes. And it’s quite remarkable for a comic created in the 21st century to feature two discrete meaty super-villain battles, but that’s just what old pro Wein supplies.
Drawing the book is Joe Staton, who worked with Englehart (and previously Marv Wolfman) but not Wein. Their storytelling sensibilities gel nicely, perfectly evoking the era. It’s great to see such a classic cartoonist – he’s currently the artist on Dick Tracy
The back-up reprint is from #172, the first story of Wein’s run, in which he teamed with Dave Gibbons for some solidly entertaining superhero soap. Hal has just come off a year’s exile by the Guardians of the Universe – they forbade him from being on Earth because he was deemed too attached to, er, his home planet. Can he persuade them to let him base himself there once more? And if he does get home, will Carol Ferris be waiting? (Click on image to enlarge.)
And that’s my last, somewhat late, DC Retroactive review. I’ve no idea how these specials sold, but despite occasionally lousy choices of reprints, and problems with the printing, I’m calling the stunt a success. Were DC to give us one of these books every quarter, or a big fat annual, I’d be a very happy camper.