Green Lantern 17

green lantern 17 wrath

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Green Lantern 17, originally released February 20th, 2013. This issue is part of the Wrath of the First Lantern crossover event. Click here for our First Lantern coverage. 

Patrick: The end of an era is nigh: Geoff Johns and crew are stepping down as shepherds of the Green Lanterns. Wrath of the First Lantern is the grand finale, but it’s already showing signs that it’s really more of a victory lap. With concepts as grandiose as the creation of the universe and altering the past in play, the entire Green Lantern Universe — past, present and future — is exposed and vulnerable. I haven’t been this excited about Green Lantern in years.

Turns out, opening the Book of the Black teleported Simon Baz and B’dg (which, in contrast to what we presented in our video earlier this week, is pronounced like “badge,” only with fewer vowels) to Black Hand’s side. Black Hand is still locked away in the Guardian’s uber-prison, and he doesn’t much like running into yet another Green Damn Lantern. Seemingly the only defense Black Hand knows anymore, he blasts Baz into that same after-life-y nether realm he sent Hal and Sinestro.

Meanwhile, Volthoom has taken the Guardians to his home on the planet Maltus. It’s a nice place and all, but he’s holding them against their will. Volthoom reaches into Ganthet’s past to discover — and attempt to alter  — the moment in history the Guardian’s severed their ties to their emotions. But the change doesn’t stick: apparently, Volthoom is too weak from powering the Third Army. So, the First Lantern concocts a plan to sap the emotional energy of basically everyone wearing a power ring.

The most intriguing little detail here is that Volthoom succeeds in altering the past, but just for a second. Right in the middle of their confrontation, Black Hand and Baz are replaced by non-Black-Lantern William Hand and Abin Sur as one time-line temporarily (whatever that could possibly mean in this context) trumps the other. It’s totally unclear what’s happening here, and who remembers what between realities. Notice how William Hand is confused about his location while Abin Sur is pushy, but otherwise accepting of his reality. When the reality corrects itself, it appears that Black Hand hasn’t noticed a thing, but Baz HAS QUESTIONS.

Simon Baz and Black Hand or William Hand and Sinestro - Green Lanterns for sure

It’s hard not to be reminded of the H’el on Earth event happening in the Super-family books (on sale now!)* — the vague outline is essentially the same: an impossibly powerful character attempts to change the past, effectively ruining the lives of every character we know. However, Johns seems to know what Scott Lobdell does not, that the identity of the villain is not arbitrary. Who is H’el? What’s actually motivating him? We were over halfway through the event before I gleaned his first substantive character moment, which comes about in the form of a lie  he tells about his past in Supergirl 16. Volthoom, by contrast has expressly noble goals that I understand — and empathize with — in this first issue. He wants to change the history of terrible, misguided justice the Guardians have inflicted on the universe. Great. Do that. The Green Lantern rallying cry of “fuck the Guardians” has been growing louder since before the relaunch, and in recent memory, we’ve even called them “too explicitly evil” on this site.

But what’s most fascinating to me is what Volthoom is really threatening here. Instead of putting the Earth in danger, or All Life in the Universe or whatever, Volthoom is threatening to wipe out the past. That’s right, Volthoom is gunning for the one thing Green Lantern fans love more than anything — the continuity. There’s a prologue at the beginning of this issue that treats us to that heretical moment Krona traveled to the beginning of time to witness the creation of the universe. What should Krona see, but the  enormous hand of The Creator, which also happens to have a Green Lantern ring on its finger. Then Volthoom appears, kind of human-y and wearing a spacesuit, White Lantern in tow. The natural question is: whose hand was that? Volthoom? Volthoom from the future? Insert crazy theory about that being Hal Jordan because why not? My favorite theory is that Volthoom himself is the creator, meaning that his ability to create, revise and obliterate the past of the Green Lantern universe makes him a member of DC Editorial – and we can even be as specific as to draw the connection to Geoff Johns. Volthoom is Johns’ Prospero.

Volthoom is great for another reason — that design in positively electric. He’s got this structure make up of tubes and strings of color and light, which immediately call to mind the human nervous system but is also so totally alien. And when he uses his powers? You better get our your Pocket Guide to the History of the Green Lantern Universe, artist Doug Mahnke shows us the past just as Volthoom tries to erase it. Special credit to colorist Alex Sinclair, who makes this sequence just jump off the page.

Volthoom explores Ganthet's past

Look how the memory is bathed in blue (hope) as Ganthet first crafts the manhunters. Then in green (will) as he forges a ring and meets Hal. Fighting off a parallaxed Hal, and witnessing the destruction of the Corps, the memory is in red (rage). And then, finally he’s been filled with the fear (yellow… and yes, I realize I reversed by pattern) as the Sinestro Corps War rages and he breaks off to start the Blue Lanterns.

If there’s one thing that I find frustrating about this issue, it’s the revelation that the Third Army was basically an event-sized red herring. We were saying at the time that it didn’t seem like the tale of those body-snatching monsters were the most important story being told in any of those series. Volthoom more or less agrees with us by out-right stating that the Third Army “didn’t matter.”

Third Army Didn't Matter

If I didn’t totally agree with him (and find it kind of funny too), I might be a little disappointed to have our time wasted like that. But then again, we did get Simon Baz, White Lantern Kyle Rayner and the return of Mogo — who the fuck am I to complain?

Drew, I’m coming at this from a long-time fan perspective. I cannot wait to see what Volthoom uncovers and unravels when he targets all my favorite Lanterns (and Sapphires and Agents), but I suspect this might start to make you feel like you’re out in the deep-end with all your clothes on. They ever make you do that in swim class — jump in the pool with your clothes on? It sucks, and it’s hard to swim. Okay I’ll stop explaining my metaphors. Drew, GO!

*I’m never going to get sick of the sarcastic “on sale now” jokes. Even if I’m the only done doing them…

Drew: Oh, man do I love the Geoff Johns as creator of the universe read. Who else would figure the ability to alter the DC timeline to be ultimate power in the universe? Or is it the ultimate evil? Comics writers must always balance their love for past stories with their need to do something new, but Johns is in the very unique position to make anything he desires CANON (future retcons notwithstanding). I freaking love that Volthoom’s entire power seems to stem from tweaking our emotions, and that it’s treated as the most powerful thing ever.

I also love the way the relaunch recontexualizes Krona’s crime. Ganthet’s pleading with Krona seems to echo the for-the-love-of-god-don’t-show-us-the-start-of-the-universe New 52 naysayers, to whom changing a single thing about the continuity might actually represent the ultimate evil.

Krona is evil because he loves relaunches

It’s fascinating to me, then, the way Johns draws our attention to Ganthet’s eventual loss of emotion. Could Johns be frustrated with the continuity-philes who might be losing the forest for the trees? That emotions are important has long been an explicit message in the narrative, but this strikes me as an impassioned argument that emotions are also important for enjoying a narrative. It’s art about art, which you know I’ve got a soft spot for.

Where things get really whacky is with the notion that changing things in Ganthet’s memories actually changes things everywhere else. This week’s Green Lantern Corps (on sale now!)** plays things a little closer to the chest, which seems like the stronger case for allowing Johns to change whatever he wants. Ultimately, I think Johns is making the case that changes in the universe are changes in the mind (a variation on Moore’s “imaginary stories” idea), but suggesting that they’re destructive — that they can somehow “undo” things that fans remember fondly — seems unnecessarily combative. But maybe I’m jumping the gun here. There’s still plenty of time to reveal that Volthoom’s changes are actually nondestructive (like photoshop — on sale now!***), which seems like the perfect olive branch to offer fans peeved at the continuity-tinkering of the relaunch (who very well may have stuck around for Johns’ largely unaffected Green Lantern work).

Then again, Johns may simply not care about those critics. Comics fans are notorious for overreacting, and I can’t help but see Hal’s many literal deaths and resurrections as a kind of tongue-in-cheek response to the figurative deaths fans seem all to ready to declare at a moment’s notice. Rest assured, he will be resurrected yet again, and this seems like a very fitting first chapter to that story. I hadn’t really been sold on Johns since the relaunch, but this issue finds him living up to his reputation as a world-class writer, with a firm handle on everything from the subtext to the metatext. Consider me pumped for this crossover.

**We’ll make this a thing, if we have to, Patrick.

***Seriously, I could do this all day.

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?

28 comments on “Green Lantern 17

  1. In many ways, the Volthoom/Johns connection is MUCH more explicit than the Prospero/Shakespeare connection. Like, Volthoom may or may not have been there when the universe was created, but he was there the first time it was seen, that is, the first time its story was told. Moreover, Volthoom’s powers seem to be specifically to alter events and manipulate emotions. If those aren’t the most important parts of a narrative, they’re at least the ones Johns cares most about.

    • Johns loves to alter timelines and I love to watch him do it! When he altered events in the Pre-52, it was usually to get a character back to their essential baseline. I would imagine that one of his goals with Valthoom’s history altering powers would be to set something else right that once went wrong. Maybe (HOPEFULLY!) fixing Ganthet? But probably something even bigger than that. I don’t know, but I’m so damned excited!

  2. Not much in story telling excites me more than a temporary alteration of a timeline. I’m not kidding when I say I shivered a bit when I read that scene with Abin Sur. The implications of that alternate timeline alone were worth the price of admission for this issue.

    Guardians with emotions could mean that they never created the Manhunters which means that Sector 666 remained intact which means that Abin Sur was never told the prophesy that lead to his death and/or that their was never a War of Light at all.

    Or it could mean something else entirely! It’s so much fun to think of all the possible scenarios.

    • It is a little weird, though, that Hand turns into himself without a ring, while Baz turns into Abin Sur. I get that, had Abin Sur survived, he would still be the Green Lantern of sector 2814, but wouldn’t Baz still exist? Like, Hand wasn’t replaced by who would be in that prison had things been different, he just turned into a normal (albeit, probably still super creepy) person. Shouldn’t the same have happened to Baz?

      • I think you are completely right about that from a time-space perspective. From a story telling perspective though, I think that Johns is trying to deliver the message that humans never became GL’s in this timeline, and having Abin there has more impact and is a more shocking way of saying that. OR maybe we just aren’t think fourth dimensionally enough? I’m sorry, but I had to go there. 🙂

        • Oh, you’re absolutely right about how important it is to show us Abin Sur there. I’d rather that they should have turned Hand into something equally different. They wouldn’t really need to explain it, but it really could have been anyone.

        • Yeah, I completely see your point. I mean, how exactly did a non-powered Hand find himself there in this version of events? It’s all a bit timey-wimey (Any Doctor Who fans in the house? lol). Seriously though, maybe Johns just thought it would be too confusing to change too much?

        • As much as I like the idea of keeping it totally clear and totally logical, the scene is sorta fun by how fucking random it is. I mean, if this is how history is altered, why doesn’t Hand know what’s going on at all? And also, maybe Abin Sur should be maybe kinda indigo-y if he was still alive?

        • Oh! I think I’ve come up with something. Abin is about to ask his ring how they got to their location before things revert back to normal implying that before that moment, they were both somewhere else. So maybe Volthoom just ‘ported them there for funsies? I don’t know, but he can alter time so why not that too?

          As for Abin, was he supposed to be Indigo? I thought he just created them, was he supposed to be one of them too? I can’t remember.

        • He was working on the Indigo tribe when we died. But I guess it’s unclear that he would have been building that army if the Guardians would have been feeling the whole time.

  3. At first, DC announced the new creative teams for the Green Lantern themed series, but they didn’t specify which series each creative team would have picked. When I heard that Giffen was involved, I wrote this comment:
    “Giffen could be a good replacement for Johns. He wrote a lot of good things, he has a long experience in the industry, he is familiar with cosmic comic books… yes, if I were DiDio I would give the job to Giffen.
    I never read a comic book written by Fialkov, but his I,Vampire was a very popular series, so he could be a good choice too.
    You may think “If I,Vampire was so popular, then why did DC decide to close it?” Well, let’s say that it had a very passionate fan base, but that fan base wasn’t large enough to prevent the cancellation of the series.”
    That’s why I was very surprised, when I knew that neither Giffen nor Fialkov got the job for Green Lantern’s main title. I was so surprised also because they had been beaten by Venditti, whose only experience in the New 52 line is a very poorly selling title like Demon Knights.
    Another change on the writing duties that surprised me very much was the choice to replace Snyder with Soule on Swamp Thing. I mean, that guy wrote only 10 comics in his whole life. I don’t mean to say that he wrote 10 series: I mean to say that HE WROTE ONLY TEN ISSUES! At least that’s what Comicvine says about him. Replacing Snyder with a writer having such a short experience is a very risky move, in my opinion.
    I try to think “Hey, they got the job they got because they know what they are doing”, but then I tell myself “Hey, don’t forget that they are the same guys who fired miss Simone BY E-MAIL!!!” I hope DC’s choices about the Green Lantern franchise and Swampy will be proved right. I tend to be optimistic and trustful.

    • It’s tough to judge a writer’s quality based on the popularity of their titles (at least, it’s tough to do so based exclusively on popularity). By many accounts, Venditti’s Demon Knights was fantastic, but fans just never found it — likely because it’s very unlike anything else in the New 52. I’ve also heard a lot of great things about his XO Manowar series over at Valiant. DC’s had a lot of success poaching talent from smaller publishers recently (Snyder and Lemire among them), and it makes sense to me that they might put their faith in that working again. I think they’re banking on the quality being quite good, even if Venditti doesn’t have the star power. I think DC understands how big the Green Lantern audience is, and I trust that they’ll do everything they can not to jeopardize that.

      • I didn’t mean to say “Venditti doesn’t sell, so he’s not a good writer”: I meant to say “Venditti doesn’t sell, so putting him on a title that needs to make huge numbers each month is a risky move.” I agree with you that people who say “This thing sells, so it must be good”, or “This thing doesn’t sell, so it must be bad” are very peeving. Adam Sandler is a successful comedian, but this doesn’t make him an Oscar deserving actor. McDonalds is very popular all over the world, but this doesn’t mean that they produce high quality food. “Two Lovers” wasn’t very successful, but it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.
        I’m a big fan of indie comic books (I routinely read and reread authors like Charles Burns, Adrian Tomine and Thomas Ott), so I like the fact that DC is giving the New 52 line an indie oriented touch, hiring some of the most acclaimed indie authors. Some of them, like the ones you mentioned (Snyder and Lemire), went on meeting critical acclaim even with their New 52 series; some others, like Edmonson, weren’t that lucky. Which is a shame, because Edmonson’s Grifter was fantastic. Thank you for your reply! : )

        • Haha. Sorry, I think I agreed with you so hard I disagreed with you, but I think we’re on the same page. I hope this risk works out for DC, in hopes that it will encourage them to try out similar things in the future. Your point about Edmonson is well taken, which might make DC (and fans) wary of taking similar risks, so I’m really happy they’re still willing to give someone like Venditti a shot.

      • Plus, Venditti may not have the star power yet, but I think he’s been a rising star for a while now. His comic The Surrogates (which was fantastic sci-fi) was adapted for the big screen a few years back. Even if the film wasn’t a hit (or even that good I’ve heard), Venditti probably got some juice out of it which is probably part of the reason he got GL.

        Drew, should I catch up on Demon Knights? I stopped reading but I can’t quite remember why. I know it’s being canceled but is it worth a read?

        • As I wrote in my reply to Drew, I didn’t mean to question Venditti’s quality as a writer. I can’t do it, because I’ve never read a comic book written by him. Thank you for recommending The Surrogates: a big part of the pleasure I find in conversations about comics is the fact that I discover a lot of comics I would never hear about otherwise. : )

        • wwayne, I would HIGHLY suggest Venditti’s X-O Manowar at Valiant, as well. The upcoming arc Planet Death has me pumped to no end. It’s a really great book – I probably like it even more than the original Bob Layton X-O Manowar series (which I loved), particularly when Cary Nord is on art

        • Oops — I didn’t mean to suggest I had read Demon Knights! Aside from the zero issue (which was intriguingly off-the-wall) I actually never read any of the series, but I’ve heard a lot of good things.

        • Mikyzptlk, you should totally catch up with Demon Knights. It’s one of my favorite books every month, no joke. Paul Cornell’s run was this awesome little gem, and two issues in it already seems that Venditti hasn’t missed a beat; he’s captured whatever it was that makes the book feel special

  4. Reading all the Green Lantern books this month rocketed me back in time to the eyes-wide, hold-your-breath reading I found in Blackest Night. I agree completely with Patrick; the whole Third Army thing was all just to move the players into place, but SHUT UP, I DON’T CARE, VOLTHOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

    • As someone who wasn’t along for that ride, I can say that this is the first time I’ve really understood your guys’ excitement for Green Lantern. This issue was GOOD.

  5. AW SHIT MAN! I just realized that with Volthoom’s power set, well, it’s not impossible that Geoff Johns could be using this last story to REBOOT THE GREEN LANTERN BOOKS by ALTERING TIME. He couldn’t allow for a hard reboot with the rest of the New 52 because he was 9/10ths of the way finished in his superlong run. Maybe he told them “tell you what, give me a year or two to finish my GL stories and after that I will write an in-narrative hard reboot to reset Green Lantern with the rest of the books.”

    Or DC just decided it was doing very well and didn’t need a reboot (ie. Batman) – but the fact that the prospect of resetting the GL timeline is there in the plot actually makes me feel like there are legitimate stakes towards that possibility and even possible motive from editorial and Johns to do so

    • Also, supporting this theory? Krona witnessing a giant, guiding hand during the creation of the universe is a direct reference to/play on the original Crisis event

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