What Happened To My Ash?!

What Happened To My Ash?! (Editor's Note: Our latest column to hit Cosmic Book News comes from Chris "DOC" Bushley who will be taking a look at the less "cosmic" characters in comic books, and sometimes some of the more obscure, with his "Just What The Doc Ordered" column!) By Chris “Doc” Bushley ASH Way back in 1993, I was perusing the local comic shop for something to satiate my hunger for something different. I had already picked up my DC Vertigo titles because, at 17, reading Neil Gaiman was like shaking hands with God -- and still is! But I still wanted something super-heroic, some cotton candy to go with my escargot, if you will. Stacks of brightly colored heroes in tights laid everywhere, but nothing seemed cool enough for someone on the cusp of college life. Ready to give up, I found it, the book that mixed the high sensibilities of Vertigo with the popcorn fun of DC. It was a Tony Harris painted cover, all dark and Gothic, a single character adorned the cover; tattooed, nose ring, smoking-- yet wielding a Green Lantern ring! My "grunge" fueled teenage conscience could not pass it by. It quickly it found its way to the top of my pile and became the first Green Lantern Corps Quarterly purchase I had ever made. I was not disappointed! Green Lantern Corps Quarterly #7 was a culmination of some of DC comics top talents: James Robinson, Mark Tenney, John Skipp, Craig Spector, Matthew Jorgensen, Kirk Van Wormer, Tim Vigil and of course the outstanding Tony Harris. "Unlock the Door to Fear" was the book's tag line, and the stories within encompassed horror and chaos inspired tales that were book-ended by a story done by the amazing Ron Marz. His story, which perfectly fits into the current storyline --"The Dark Things" -- running through the JLA and JSA , revolved around the Starheart's instability and the damage it was doing to the universe. Green Lantern Torquemada descends upon the home of a newly youthful Alan Scott, whom was being visited by Jade and Obsidian on Halloween, to enlist the original Green Lantern in a battle against the Starheart itself. On the way, he tells Alan Scott three tales of pain the Starheart has caused throughout the universe. The first is where we meet our man of the hour -- Lantern Ash! "Ashes to Ashes," written by Ron Marz and rendered by Tony Harris, is the tale of a farmer that witnesses the brutal death of his beloved wife, Tasha, at the hands of a vampire. He is given a Lantern ring, it is never fully explained as to how, and vows vengeance against the "long-teeth" that have steadily overrun his planet. Thus, from the blood of innocents lost, rises Lantern Ash of Sector 650! His tale is short, only thirteen pages long, but it is one that struck a cord with me. Around the CBN offices, I'm known as the "vampire" guy; I always love a good horror story, and this one was great on every page. Characters, whether hero or villain, that have gone through some tragedy always make for a more believable character and we can sympathize and justify their actions. Marz gives us just enough background and plenty of action in this small story for readers to embrace Ash for not only being the grieving, battle weary widow but also as the cool-as-ice, bad-ass ring wielder.  While saving a poor girl that decided to venture out at night alone, Ash finds the vamp that took away his wife, his world. While disposing of the vamp’s companions via stake-style constructs, Ash gets the girl out of harm’s way but not before the lead vampire recognizes who Ash is. Though tattooed, smoking and hardened by years of weary searching for his adversary, his is still taunted as being the poor farm boy that could not save his beloved. Enraged and reeling from dredged-up emotions, Ash dives into battle and losses three fingers, including his ring finger, when his opponent unleashes a blade across his hand. Now refocused, and a few digits less, Ash fights off the mocking beast and reaches his ring just in time to destroy the being that took away his life years before. With the bane of his existence finally disposed of, Ash tells his deceased love that she can rest now, she has been avenged and he can finally stop his crusade. But from the shadows emerges the girl Ash so valiantly saved, she tells him that without his defense against the dark, their planet will succumb to the whims of monsters -- and there are monsters everywhere!   Lantern Ash would only be used sparingly after his initial debut, only 13 times in 17 years, and it would take until the year 2000 until he would be used in a book where, believe me, there were most certainly "monsters everywhere!"  Ron Marz would return to his creation but in a story that most readers take as "outside" the DC proper; as it contains not only huge discrepancies in timelines but the inclusion of Dark Horse's Aliens. Green Lantern Vs. Aliens #1-#4 were the books that "killed" Ash, quite literally, as his body is shown torn open by a “chest-burster.” But we all know how death has a funny way of reneging her deals with characters in comics!  Most recently, Lantern Ash was brought back into the Green Lantern fold by DC's top writers, Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi. Having cameos in both Green Lantern Corps and the regular Green Lantern series, Ash was sent on a mission to find the Anti-Monitor's dead body by the Judas Guardian Scar; a mission that would be the catalyst for the events of Blackest Night. While searching Sector 666, Ash meets up with Green Lantern Saarek and they discover that they are both on the same mission and eventually are attacked by giant dead hands after discovering the Anti-Monitor's corpse. The last time we see both Lanterns, they are on Ryut flanking Scar as Black Lanterns. So, what happened to my Ash? We are never truly told if he and Sarrek "died" while being encompassed within the black hands at the Black Lantern battery or not. Did they just become Black Lanterns like Superman and Green Arrow did? Both Ash and Sarrek "died" during the Green Lantern Vs. Aliens crossover so it's a possibility. We never see Black Lantern Ash fight during Blackest Night so we do not know if he was destroyed, saved or finally able to join his sweet Tasha in everlasting peace. What happened?!! Maybe we don't have to wait too long for answers. It is a possibility (and this is only my speculation and most desired hope!) that we may see our hero again. With Peter Tomasi's new series, Emerald Warriors, we know that Ganthet and Guy Gardner have received permission from the every enigmatic Guardians to venture into the deepest, darkest corners of the universe to map out any potential threats that may bring harm to the sectors. Could Ash be waiting somewhere out there to be reunited with the Corps or is he now wielding a black ring and become the very threat that he fought so hard to overcome? This character that has suffered from "Boba Fett syndrome" -- i.e., the coolest looking, bad-ass character that has been given far too little story, but yet in turn is a fan favorite -- deserves a chance to be brought to the forefront of the Green Lantern Corps. Writers, readers and fans of Lantern books, we need to make a stand to bring this character back and not just as cameo appearances, there is no reason Lantern Ash should not be fighting the good fight alongside John Stewart and Kyle Rayner! He is a great character with a good back story and their is so much potential for great stories that can revolve around a hero that has become one with his ring because he has nothing else to live for.  With the world media becoming so engrossed in all manner of things that go bump in the night (vampires, zombies, etc. ), we need Lantern Ash now more that ever, for as the girl Ash saved so long ago once said, "There are monsters everywhere!" « Hitting The Mark On Green Arrow