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.
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.
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.”
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.
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?