If you had cosmic-level super-powers -the kind of abilities that would put you in the same rank as the gods- what would you do with them? Occasionally this theme comes up in comics and is explored with more sensitivity than just an all-out gigantic battle between costumed characters.
One such issue was Green Lantern #61, written by Mike Friedrich. Green Lantern, you will remember, has access to a power-ring which gives him powers that are almost unlimited. He has also had several incarnations, beginning with the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, who first appeared in July 1940’s All-American Comics. Now, here’s where it gets complicated: in the DC universe at the time of Green Lantern #61, i.e. the 1960s, Alan Scott lived on a parallel Earth called ‘Earth 2’ while this world’s Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, protected our planet, ‘Earth 1’.
In the story, Alan Scott of Earth 2 grows tired of being constantly called into super-heroic action. He decides that the only way to deal with the problem of continuing evil in the world is to drain both himself and his power ring of energy by commanding the ring to rid the earth of evil completely. It’s an idea that has probably occurred to you at some point, even without a power ring.
The problem is that everyone instantly vanishes. No one is left on the planet, not even Earth-Two's Green Lantern! Hal Jordan, our Green Lantern, finds rank after rank of human beings have arrived on our planet, in some kind of suspended animation. Scott’s command has rid his world of evil by transferring everyone to another world. Fortunately, Hal Jordan saves the day and our heroes realise they have limits, even as two of the most powerful beings in the universe. The characters go through the tragic realisation they cannot save everyone and that the conquest of evil is not simple.
Gil Kane’s artwork and the powerful storyline made this a classic for me and I’m sure for many others.