Today for the second time in a year, I reconsidered buying Green Lantern when I saw it in my pile. You must understand that, in addition to being reasonably fond of Kyle Rayner, I have been a huge Hal Jordan fan since I was a teenager. Since "Rebirth," I've been utterly obsessed with this franchise. I buy everything "Green Lantern" that DC puts out. I went through ten of the little mystery box figurines to find the Hal Jordan/Abin Sur statue. I bought every Green Lantern back issue in the Oklahoma City area, and then raided Tulsa. I read every issue that comes out and features a Green Lantern character. I feel more affection for the writers of the two spinoffs than I do for several blood relatives. I should not think twice about buying an issue of the main title. I should not even have to think about buying an issue of the main title. It should be automatic. Like breathing. I should be paying direct deposit to the comic book store, and I should be reading it in the car before I leave the parking lot in order to gain exposure to that sweet, sweet superhero space drama.
Before I get in exactly why, let's look at the character you're writing.
Hal Jordan. He has spent maybe five years (in continuity, maybe one?) as the Spectre. Prior to that, he spent maybe six years (no idea how much that is in continuity right now) as an insane cosmic crossover supervillain. During the 70s and the 80s, he was the Poster Boy for White Liberal Guilt. He has, since conception as a character, been utterly incapable of sustaining a meaningful relationship with a member of the opposite sex. His first serious girlfriend, the love of his life, had her brain taken over by aliens and he was forced to fight her. She is now married to someone else. Another major girlfriend was transported to an alien world along with her entire town because Hal visited there. He is a character who has been shown, in your own series, to believe that being married with children is an ideal existence for his best friend, but engages in an endless series of one night stands; the combination of which indicates emotional instability and denial as opposed to the healthy unfettered expression of sexuality displayed by, say, Queen Hippolyta. His parents are dead, he watched his father die in front of his eyes flying a jet -- the very career field Hal entered. His older brother and his older brother's family are dead. Since you've gotten your hands on him, the insanity became ten years of intense mind control (a convenient way to remove culpability while retaining an emotional illusion of responsibility), his mother's death occurred while she was angry at him, only six people in the Green Lantern Corps trust him, everyone on Earth thinks he is a criminal, and the Guardians are using him as a "how not to behave" example.
Somehow, this was not enough misery for you to play with, so you added the POW storyline.
I am certainly not saying that there is no place for such a situation in the entire franchise. I initially, and mistakenly, thought my gut reaction was an objection to all instances of grafting historical horrors into the background of a fictional character as a sign of disrespect for the subject matter. This simply isn't true. I watched Hogan's Heroes for years and laughed my ass off. Maus was fucking brilliant and threw mice into concentration camps. I've watched that movie with Owen Wilson in Bosnia repeatedly. I've roleplayed with this in the character backstory.
No, the problem isn't the idea itself. The problem is in the execution. After five issues this does not strike me as a well-crafted way to weave real-life political themes into the overall theme of a speculative fiction storyline, and use the outer limits of the imagination to comment on the reality of the human situation. It strikes me as a quick and easy way to tug at heartstrings of your audience and create sympathy for a character that should already have the audience's sympathy. It strikes me as a way to use current events as shorthand to the very real anxieties and concerns of the very real people reading the book. You're showing flashbacks and buddies suggesting they get therapy. You quoted John McCain and set it in the real war-torn region Chechnya instead of a fictional DC construct. You used this setting to introduce a damsel in distress and drive the higher plot. It's a way to skip the work of presenting an carefully plotted, well-crafted sympathetic tragedy, the fallout of the tragedy, and the internal and external conflict involved by playing on preset reactions to the trappings of a real-life situation that most of your readers are familiar with. This way, you can introduce the subject with a few flashbacks, quotes, and angsty narrative captions to milk the emotional resonance for all its worth as you complicate the hero's life.
It's basically a cheap shock tactic, the same problem most writers have when using rape. It's dramatic shorthand and not an explorable drama on its own. A throwaway theme. It's all about Angst.
Now let me tell you, as a former teenage Goth I know a thing or two about Angst. From years of experience brooding in the back of the classroom, wearing black, playing Vampire: The Masquerade and writing gawd-awful poetry I can attest that you do not need to flirt with Reality to achieve Angst. This infatuation with real life, realism and Reality that has infected you and your peers is worrying to say the least. I know Reality is attractive, but beneath that sly smile beats the heart of a predator. I would think that anyone who reads comics would know that the true nature of Reality is that of a ravenous beast which devours the creative and idealistic soul. I can't imagine what would entice you to bring such a creature into a comic book. Is it drugs? Do you need some?
As a matter of necessity, I would advise avoiding Reality at all costs. Reality is no good for you. Reality plies you with alcohol. Reality makes you pick up the check. Reality does not pay for gas or the hotel room. Reality does not call back the next morning. Reality is cruel. Reality is vindictive. Reality is jealous and clingy, but expects to be able to run around at all hours of the night with heaven-knows-who. I know, I've flirted with Reality myself (Reality's bisexual, by the way) and it was nothing but too much trouble for not even a quality heartbreak. Surely, there's a better way to achieve Angst than by associating yourself with Reality.
But I digress (all the time, now that I think about it, and no one seems to mind). My point is that there are ways of getting a reaction out of your reader, and they define the quality of your writing. I am not the only reader paying for cheap thrills, an emotional roller-coaster to ride every month. But there are cheap thrills to make a story engaging and fun, and there are cheap shocks to get a quick gut reaction from your audience. Cheap thrills pretend to be nothing other than that. Cheap shocks feign the sort of in-depth literary writing that garners praise for creating emotion reactions when they are actually just playing on emotional reactions that the majority of readers would have. Cheap thrills can be low or high quality writing, and they can be intensely imaginative. Cheap shocks are always low quality writing, and they betray a lack of imagination. The Green Lantern franchise, with a massively long history, and a massively large, weird cosmic background is fertile ground for the imagination. The test of a writer's skill is the same as in all speculative fiction, by how they draw the reader into temporarily believing an outrageous situation. The writer can focus on applying plausibility to the basic personality of the main character, and use that plausibility as anchor to a wonderful, imaginative and insightful story, or they can fake imagination and insight by throwing a few realistic elements on the surface, leading to a regularly mediocre, often infuriating, and sometimes offensive story.
A fan who will be re-reading back issues.