Hmm. Here's Geoff Johns, discussing the future of the Green Lantern book with Vaneta Rogers at Newsarama:
Nrama: Going back and looking at the relaunch, I know everyone talked about it being a "soft" reboot and pointed quite often to Green Lantern and Batman as the places where not a lot of changes took place, but it's obvious this Hal Jordan is a little different. You're playing him a lot younger and a little more brash, especially in the Justice League title. But I think a lot of readers were surprised that Hal Jordan killed a Sinestro Corps member in a way that appeared light-hearted, as he made a funny comment. Did you want to show that he was a little different now?
Johns: Yeah, because Dan [DiDio] and Jim [Lee] wanted the timeline rolled back to five years, there are differences with Green Lantern. He's a little bit younger, but also, all the stuff he's been through, I think he's a lot more sure of himself. I think he's a little less patient with the stuff he goes up against.
With that Sinestro Corps member he killed, when Hal goes up against one of those guys, he's going to take him out if lives are at stake.
There are certain heroes that kill. Among those are Green Lantern, who definitely has to, although he doesn't do it very often. But he does it when he has to. Aquaman sure does. And we've seen Wonder Woman do it too.
So there are heroes that, when they need to cross that line, they do it.
Does this herald a mjaor shift toward "heroic killing" in the DCU? The rest of the Marvel community tolerates the Punisher--and welcomes Wolverine onto every team--with little controversy (usually from Captain America), but I've always thought the DC heroes were more firmly against killing (hence the reaction to every iteration of the Vigilante that pops up). Of course, there have been exceptions, but they were always treated as such, like Superman's killing of the Kryptonian criminals that led to his "Exile," Wonder Woman's breaking Max Lord's neck during "Sacrifice," and most recently the Guardians' enabling the Green Lantern rings to kill members of Sinestro Corps during "The Sinestro Corps War."
I'm no absolutist when it comes to moral prohibitions, but Johns' attitude strikes me as disturbingly lacksadaisical. Green Lantern "definitely has to, although he doesn't do it very often. But he does it when he has to"? Why does he "definitely" have to and not other heroes? And what defines when he "has to"? One has to presume some consequentialist calculation (the one life taken versus the many saved or perhaps threshold deontology (where the hero refuses to kill unless the cost becomes "too" high), but why does this apply to some heroes and not others? Is it a difference in ethical codes, character traits, or situations?
These are interesting questions, to be sure, but Johns seems too glib about it all for my tastes, simply saying that "there are heroes that, when they need to cross that line, they do it." Let's just hope that when they consider crossing that line, we see them struggle with it--if they feel they "have to," at least let the readers know why, and let them judge if they agree or not.
(As for Johns' statement about "all the stuff he's been through"--in his short five years, of course--and how this supposedly informs his character, see my recent post on history and character.)