Today, Drew and Peter are discussing the Green Lantern Annual, originally released August 29th, 2012. This issue is part of the Rise of the Third Army crossover event. Click here for complete Third Army coverage.
Drew: I have a confession: before the relaunch, I had never read a single comic written by Geoff Johns. Moreover, I had never read a Green Lantern story of any kind. However, all of other Retcon Punchers had read all of Johns’ work on Green Lantern, from Rebirth through Brightest Day, so his titles came with very high praise. It quickly became clear why: he’s unrivaled in developing complex mythologies. His work on Green Lantern has broadened its universe immeasurably, nesting decades of comics history into an elegant mythology that manages to make more sense than it has any business doing. At the same time, his tendency to draw out individual plot points to take up entire issues occasionally tried my patience. The Green Lantern Annual finds Johns at his best, delivering all of the insane mythology and plotting, and doing so at such a breakneck pace to please even the most impatient readers.
Oh, and GOOD GOD are there ever plot points to spoil here, so read the issue first, or proceed with caution.
This issue finds Hal and Sinister buried alive by Black Hand. Hal Kill Bill Vol. II‘s his way out of his grave, where Black Hand offers to resurrect his father. Hal doesn’t much like that idea, and brains Hand on a tombstone. They fight, but Sinestro shows up to save the day. After some quick thinking, Hal and Sinestro summon Sinestro’s lantern, charging up to lay waste to Hand and his growing undead army.
Meanwhile, the Guardians agree that the reasons the Manhunters and the Green Lanterns have failed is because willpower exists in the universe. Their solution: to stamp it out with the help of this mysterious Third Army we’ve been hearing so much about. Apparently, they need the power of the mysterious First Lantern in order to bring this Army into being, so they head to their specially designed space-prison. Inside, they find a group of Guardians sworn to keep the First Lantern from ever leaving — even if other Guardians come asking for him. They fight, but the Evil Guardians (that is, the ones we’re already duly familiar with) win, and enter the First Lantern’s rainbow prison cell.
The Guardian’s then see that Hal and Sinestro are battling Hand, and rush to the scene. They power-up Hand, allowing him to apparently kill Hal and Sinestro, their rings fusing and rushing off to find a new Lantern. The Guardians then shuffle Hand off to that same space-prison they were just visiting, and begin forming their Third Army. This is apparently done by the Guardians absorbing power from the First Lantern, then play-doughing their flesh together to form a zombie soldier thing, which we see can turn passersby into zombie soldier things, as well.
Hal and Sinestro’s death passes much too unceremoniously to feel permanent, falling oddly in the middle of the issue, but there’s a distinct sense that they’ll be out of play for quite some time. We’ve been conjecturing about this new, tattooed Green Lantern since he first showed up in the Free Comic Book Day issue, but to see his origin set in motion by a newly Lantern-less ring is kind of exciting. More importantly, the fact that his origin has been teased for this long suggests that he’s going to be around for a long time. I fully expect a triumphant return for Hal in this arc, but I don’t count on it happening any time soon.
But man, there is so much to talk about in this issue. I had kind of been assuming that the First Lantern they keep referring to was the first Green Lantern, but the details here suggest otherwise. I’ve already mentioned the rainbow colors of his prison (which becomes white later in the issue), but I was surprised to hear the warden-Guardians ask about the Manhunters.
The last they had seen of the outside world, the Guardians were about to undertake their Manhunter experiment, which means this First Lantern has been imprisoned since before the Green Lanterns were even a glimmer in the Guardians’ eyes. He isn’t a Green Lantern at all — he’s some kind of rainbow lantern (or white lantern) — which explains why his cries of “Let me out!” can be heard by lanterns of all colors. This takes us into an uncharted area of Guardian history, managing to make them seem even more evil.
I mean, honestly, you can’t get much more evil than attempting to wipe out all free will in the universe. It’s one thing to want order, but it’s quite another to want order at the expense of zombifying every sentient being in the known universe. We can all agree that the Guardians have gone too far here, passing from benevolent protectors to King of the Vampires with shocking ease. What really surprised me, though, was the realization that, for all their benevolence, they never really had any clue what they were doing in the first place. We all knew about their failed Manhunter experiment, and we also have known for a while that they feel like the Green Lanterns have failed, as well. Now we know that an earlier experiment — this First Lantern — was such a disaster that they had vowed to keep him imprisoned until the end of time. With a track record like that, you’d think they might think twice about enacting another plan to improve the universe as a whole. How many times do they have to fuck up horribly to realize they’ve done more harm than good?
I had resigned the Guardians to being incapable of such interesting questions. For as long as I’ve been reading about them, they’ve been arbitrarily and obviously evil, but it’s interesting to view even their best times in this anti-colonialist light. Who are they to say what’s best for the rest of the universe? Who appointed them? Who has oversight over their actions? I’ve been so distracted by their obvious evilness of late, I hadn’t considered if they were kind of always evil. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, Peter, but there’s so much to talk about, I’m happy to see what you have to say about any of it.
Peter: I would say that the Guardians have ‘always’ been evil. They had good intentions, but when you think about it, they appointed themselves Guardians of the Universe, the Zamarans, and the Controllers are off shoots, and they go around essentially forcing their views onto others in a ‘my way or the highway’ method, it’s pretty evil. That’s just one way of looking at it, at least. Their intentions are good, just significantly lacking in execution. I also find it interesting that the Guardians are even viewed as evil by their own brethren.
By the other Oan’s standards, the Guardians have lost perspective. Clearly something is wrong. Maybe there is an even larger force at work here. When you look at it, Guardians have a tendency to lose it and go mad. Not counting the Zamarons and the Controllers, there have been a couple instances of ‘mad’ Guardians. First, obviously is Krona. Everyone knows about him, so I’m not going to spend too much time on him. There is also Appa Ali Apsa, who is an interesting case. In an effort to reconnect with their inherent mortality, he left Oa and went to Earth and shared some adventures with Green Arrow and Hal Jordan. This eventually led him to renounce his Guardianship and travel the universe as mortal. By the time the first Crisis rolled around, however, he had gone mad, and was killed when he tried to kill the other Guardians. Really what I’m getting at here, is that between Krona, Appa, and a little bit Sayd, the Guardians don’t have a good track record for mental health. Clearly, something is wrong with the Guardians, and my bet is that they are all a little bit crazy.
What really peeved me about this issue was Hal and Sinestro’s deaths. As you said Drew, it wasn’t treated very reverently, and it just sorta happened, and the book kept moving. First of all, if that is how it actually happened, I am officially a little bit mad. BUT, because of how it happened, I don’t think that we have seen the last of Hal and Sinestro. Especially since there is that weird error message coming from their ring(s).
All and all, I am officially pumped for the Third Army. It’s been building for months and months, and up until we have speculated a ton on what is going to happen, and we now finally have concrete story to go on. It’s going to be compelling and interesting, I am excited to see how the new Green Lantern fits into it all, and am excited to see how the universe deals with these incredibly creepy looking things.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?