The fierce debate of Kyle vs. Hal has been floating around the Internet for 4 years now, and the arguments on both sides are interesting. Some say DC did the right thing, since the sales on Green Lantern have been much higher than they were during the Hal Jordan years. Some say yes because Hal didn't have any interesting stories left in him; he was 45 or so, his relationships were rarely compelling and his career as a test pilot actually wasn't as exciting as it sounds. (Clark Kent can be covering any kind of story anywhere. Hal basically flies jets, has flame-outs and doesn't die.) Others are fiercely angry at the way a character who'd been so well-developed over the decades that they felt that they knew him as a real person was suddenly destroyed in a hasty, far-fetched marketing gimmick. And one absolute moron in rec.arts.comics.dc.universe keeps declaring that DC can do whatever it wants because they own the character, as though no one should discuss the issue.
Let's deal with the "bad sales then / good sales now" argument. The figures are, of course, true. No arguing that they're up from where they were when GL was in the 30s and 40s (that's issue numbers, not decades). However, I don't think that this is due to Hal being who he was; I think that it's due to Gerard Jones being who HE was! Writer Gerard Jones is quite good at characterization and dialogue, as can be seen in many issues of Justice League Europe and the Elongated Man mini-series, but his plots are only occasionally interesting and almost never exciting. For every truly good story or arc, there are about a half dozen issues of GL which are so boring you can't remember what happened in them. Comic readers are almost unanimous in their agreement that Gerard Jones was obviously on a downward slide as a writer. He was doing a 50/50 job on Justice League Europe (later International). Upon that title's cancelation coinciding with Zero Hour in 1994, he took over the reins of the JLA. Justice League America had been an uneven title since the Giffen/Dematteis era ended; Jones took control of the cockpit and rammed DC's anchor superteam head-on into a mountain.
Back to Green Lantern. Originally, Jones was still supposed to be the writer for GL's 50 issue anniversary, and many of his plans actually sound intriguing. Jones' plans for #48-50 would have also marked a great turning point in the Green Lantern saga. Here's a rough outline:
The Guardians of the Universe return from their long exile. That's right. The Guardians and their mates, the Zamarons, return to Oa and declare the Guardians of the first 50 issues to be imposters. The Green Lantern Corps is split as to which group to follow. The bulk of the GLC follows one faction, which is lead by a rejuvenated Sinestro. Hal, however, is convinced that the other group are the true Guardians and must take on all of the other GLs. That's right, the entire Green Lantern Corps vs. Hal Jordan! It certainly sounds exciting in rough development. Could Jones have found a way to take that plot and make it dull? Absolutely. But it's certainly intriguing.
However, Jones' plans for Hal Jordan weren't deemed drastic enough by The Powers That Be. It was decided that Jones should go and a new writer would take over to revive the lagging title. Now, this is where we go into the muddied waters of rumor and supposition. Did someone at DC decree that Hal would go bad and look for a person to write it? Were they just open to new directions and Dooley and/or Ron Marz wanted a new Green Lantern? Did it have to be Emerald Twilight? Did it have to be Ron Marz, a writer entirely new to the character of Green Lantern with no fondness for Hal Jordan, a writer who had to be given a month to research the character because he knew so little about him?
DC should have tried to lure someone with clout and talent such as John Byrne to take over GL. Byrne obviously had a fondness for the character, and his few uses of Hal Jordan in the Superman titles were exciting. Okay, Byrne's just one idea, and I'm obviously not privy to the politics of such a move; I'm only making a suggestion based on Byrne's previous works. But really, all I'm saying is that there are many good writers who could have broken new ground with Hal Jordan, especially given DC's obvious willingness to break away from the status quo.
Emerald Twilight was forced, out of character and illogical. I think most people can agree on that. Hal Jordan, distraught over the loss of the city he once protected, flies off to confront the Guardians and get the power to make things right. What Hal wants to do is mighty vague. He keeps wanting the "power to make things right" but never even approaches having a plan. He's upset at the destruction of Coast City, despite the fact that Carol Ferris and Tom Kalmaku escaped (an old fiancee, Kari Limbo, didn't, but Hal didn't know that). He's lost co-workers (Clay and that Irish lady, neither of whom he'd talked to in years) and acquaintances, but most of the friends that he's spent time with are in the Corps. The Corps!He's been with them, side-by-side, for the last several years while his Earth ties and his career suffered. Are we to believe that he was so upset at the loss of a small number of people he hadn't kept in touch with that this rational, principled man then beats up, mutilates and kills his close friends? If a few dozen people you kinda-sorta knew were killed, yes, you'd be shocked, maybe even need counseling and therapy, but would you race off and kill most of the friends you had left? And if you're Hal Jordan and you have the most powerful weapon in the universe, and Kilowog standing in front of you says he's not going to let you past him, you know what? You can get past him.
As for Kyle, he reminds me of when the modern animators dreamed up Poochie on the Simpsons show. He's intended to be fresh and hip (as opposed to the greying Hal Jordan) but comes across as very pre-packaged and flavorless. It amazes me that, given the opportunity to introduce another Green Lantern, DC simply came up with another dark-haired white guy only this time looking like a Beverly Hills 90210 refugee. I've debated people in the past about this lost opportunity to give it to a black man again, or an Hispanic woman working for slave wages or a cripple (imagine being a paraplegic who can suddenly FLY!) or a fifth-generation Asian-American or a low-level white Congressman or a etc. etc. etc.; the response is always that the readership is mostly white men and thus demographics decree that any DC cornerstone character must be a white male. I think DC could have at least gone the safe route of giving it to a white woman with extremely large gravity-defying breasts.
The choice for a new ring-bearer certainly doesn't make any sense from a story standpoint. If you were the Guardians and your three tries at recruiting humans had yielded a mentally-ill bully, a screw-up and a malicious enemy who had destroyed your entire billions-of-years-old organization, why the hell would you give the only remaining ring to another Earthman? Why not rescue one of the GLs who is about to die in the vacuum due to Hal's absorbing their back-up energies? Speaking of back-ups, if it's an Earthman, why not give it to the now-much-more-stable Guy Gardner who has just lost his yellow ring anyway?
And one last comment, this having to do with DC's attempt to save face with Hal's noble sacrifice in The Final Night and the memorial service afterwards: You're not getting off that easy. Hal didn't come to his senses and mourn his outright murder of Kilowog and the related murders of any GL's who died when their rings failed them. He merely said that he regretted some of the things he'd done. Well, isn't that special.