Green Lantern 20

green lantern 20 wrath

Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Green Lantern 20, originally released May 22nd, 2013. This issue is part of the Wrath of the First Lantern crossover event. Click here for our First Lantern coverage. 

Patrick: Geoff Johns’ final issue of Green Lantern is framed with a narrative device I was first introduced to in the movie The Princess Bride: the old man reading the story to a young man. The flick is an adaptation of novel, and the novel proports to be a rediscovered classic, heavily annotated by the “editor,” William Goldman (who actually just wrote the whole thing). All three of these example serve to elevate the story itself – you don’t need to look to the real world to find a captive audience, there’s one right there in front of you. This issue takes the entirety of Johns’ run and gives it a reverent audience, promoting the nine years since Green Lantern: Rebirth to mythic stature. I’ve been following the entirety of that run, so I’m part of that audience, and I’m moved and affected in very real ways reading this issue. But the bright lights and decades-old mythology groan under the weight of so much self-congratulation. This is a victory lap – mileage will vary.

Volthoom has the Guardians right where he wants them – held captive in a construct-bubble on Oa. He reaches into Ganthet’s mouth and retrieves The First Ring, which was evidently how Ganthet was able to hold on to his emotions for so long. Using this new ring, Volthoom restores emotions to all the Guardians. They hate that. So the stage is set: Volthoom is superpowered by all the emotion in the universe, The First Ring and The Central Power Battery. And he’s made it so the Guardians can be afraid of him too. That’s when everyone (and I do mean everyone) strikes back against him. John Stewart, Fatality, Guy Gardner, and the rest of Green Lantern Corps charge in with Mogo at their backs; White Lantern Kyle Rayner rolls up with Blue Lantern, Green Lantern and Star Sapphire support; Atrocitus brings the rage of his entire corps; Sinestro frees his own corps from the Sciencells and leads them into battle possessed by Parallax; and Hal comes back from the dead as a Black Lantern, marching with the Indigo Tribe and the risen souls of everyone Volthoom has ever killed. Plus Nekron. That’s right: as The Greatest Black Lantern, Hal is able to command the unliving embodiment of death. Working together (ish), they are able to drain Volthoom of his power and slice him the fuck in half.

Nekron kills Volthoom The First Lantern

That ultra-compound sentence (the one littered with semicolons) plays out beautifully and excitingly – each new army showing up just in the nick of time to keep the scales from tipping in our enemy’s favor. It’s the stuff of classic conclusions, but I’m struck by how amazingly deep each of the armies is that joins the final fray. It’s like the Battle of Five Armies at the end of The Hobbit, only you know the names of every Elf, every Man of Dale, every Eagle. I can’t count the number of times character or concept reveals made me squeal with glee. Chief among those reveals were Parallax and Nekron. I may have always wanted these uber-powerful beings to become a regular parts of the storytelling, but Johns was right to squirrel them away for so long. Seeing them both in rapid succession was enough to give me a little fan-freak-out. And I absolutely love the way Sinestro speaks to Parallax:

Sinestro talks smack to Parallax

It’s like Johns going back to his tool case and pulling out that fucking awesome power drill he hasn’t been able to use for so long. Here’s where I think my opinion might diverge from someone like Drew, who’s only been reading this series since the launch of the New 52. I know exactly what Parallax is, I know all the baggage that thing carries around with it. As a short hand for “last ditch effort,” Parallax’s inclusion is positively thrilling for me. I could be wrong, but this might be the first time we’ve seen Parallax in the New 52. He’s the stuff of greater DC legend, so maybe the effect is universal. I’d be interested to see how powerful these kind of things are to new-comers.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Even without the super-hugeness of that Space Battle to End All Space Battles, Johns manages to squeeze in a plethora of solid character moments, including my favorite piece of Hal Jordan history. In all the hubbub surrounding this event, I had sort of forgotten that Volthoom didn’t have an opportunity to plumb Hal’s history, which is easily messier than anyone else he juiced for strength. There’s no time to manipulate every crucial moment from Hal’s past, so Volthoom zips through his  various superhero identities like he’s flipping though an Encyclopedia Jordanica.

Volthoom sees the many faces of Hal Jordan

But Volthoom identifies — as Johns did early on — that the formative moment of Jordan’s life was losing his father, and that’s the one fear he has to fight his entire life to overcome. It’s simple and elemental, and in the end, Volthoom’s best hope to take Hal down was the memory of that poor kid that just wanted his daddy back. No matter what enormous science fiction horror the Green Lantern has overcome, the anchor has always been compelling human. That’s why we bothered to come back for 100+ issues worth of his adventures in the first place.

This issue also touts an impressive number of guest artists (basically anyone that’s drawn a power ring in the last 10 years), but it’s the Doug Mahnke’s work that holds the whole thing together. He’s credited with over 50 pages of art for this issue, and he takes every opportunity to explode Johns’ character revelations on single, double and even gatefold spreads. Mahnke doesn’t ever really establish a solid sense of space during the battle — but when your characters are zipping at light speed between adjacent planets and/or disappearing and reappearing through portals, maybe space isn’t an issue. Whatever clarity of action is sacrificed is more than compensated for by the sheer number of poster-ready panels. It’s a spectacular, and Manhke spoils us by making grand, elemental drawings like this commonplace.

Hal Jordan vs. Sinestro

Shelby, you and I have a special little bond over Green Lantern: it’s the reason either of us started reading comics. I’m sure this issue made you feel an awful lot, but I’ve left you with a little more recapping and plot discussion to go over. I know you were pretty peeved about learning that the Guardians died in GLC 20how did you feel about the treatment of that subject matter here? Also does it seems strange to you that the epilogue to this issue gave everyone a Happily Ever After, even though we know all these series will continue? And is it sort of a slight to future (and previous) Green Lantern scribes to say that Hal’s greatest story was bookended by Rebirths (as if to imply that anything before or after isn’t as important)? And finally, the old man telling the tale in the future – totally Sinestro, right?

Shelby: Oh, sure it is. I missed it on my first read through, but you’re totally right; he went back and burned his ending out of the Book of Oa, waited long enough for everyone to forget, and hopped back into the Corps again. Even Sinestro gets a happy ending.

That was what was most disappointing to me in this issue; the happy ending epilogue (or pre-epilogue, if you prefer.) Do any of you guys watch Supernatural? It’s a drama on ye olde CW about two brothers who fight ghosts, monsters, demons, etc. I’ve only seen through season five, but let me tell you, every season was better than the last. Season five: basically perfect, and the season finale of season five would have made a perfect ending for the series. All the characters’ stories were told, it was beautiful, until the last few minutes set pieces in place for the next season. That how I felt about this issue. Every big moment in Hal’s history with Johns’ got its moment, got its beat. We had our epic battle, chock full of cameos, the bad guy was defeated, there were losses on both sides; it was both a nice look back and a strong ending to the run. But then Johns had to pass around the happy endings.

Geoff Johns The End

As our mysterious narrator tells it Guy gets to run around space the rest of his life, being an ass and punching aliens in he face; John and Yrra got married and played in politics (snooze); Kyle became a damn dirty space hippie and used his White Lantern power to heal; and Simon went back to Earth to eventually bring the first lady Earthling into the Green Lantern Corps. The rest of Kyle’s team continued to well-represent their chunk of the spectrum, and the Corps got itself a set of brand new Guardians. And of course, Hal and Carol got married, which gave us the opportunity for this very cheesy image.

carol and hal forever But of all the happy endings Johns felt the need to include, the one that did the most disservice to the characters would have to be Ganthet and Sayd. That’s right: Sayd. Sinestro had decided to keep Ganthet alive, and Larfleeze somehow reassembled all the pieces of Sayd; Sinestro reunited the lovebirds because he understood their loss. Not only is there zero explanation for how that could even happen (did Larfleeze put her back together in Threshold, or something?), their living happily ever after somewhat dulls the impact those characters and their love had. It doesn’t change the fact that Sayd sacrificed herself for Kyle and her last thoughts were of Ganthet, but it definitely cheapens it a little bit. I bitched a lot about GLC spoiling the deaths of the Guardians. I’m going to stand by that, I think the reveal of their deaths would had been even sharper had we not known. Johns was smart with his little trick; Hal rushes to save the Guardians and stops Sinestro, except that Sinestro has already been in and killed them. To know Hal, our hero, was too late is a punch in the gut; imagine how much more impactful it would have been if we didn’t know they would definitely be dead by the end of the issue? If we could have actually believed that maybe Hal really did get there just in the nick of time?

Sadly, I was disappointed in this issue. With the exception of the War of the Light stuff, I have read all of Johns’ run on this title. From Rebirth to rebirth, I have been there with Hal. As much as I love these characters and want good things for them, I think Johns went overboard and wrapped up everything too neatly and happily. I know it’s gotta be a challenge, when you want to make your characters happy because they are important to you, but I feel Johns sacrificed a lot of complexity for the sake of everyone getting what they want. I was excited about the idea of Hal Jordan as a Black Lantern for a while; if Rotworld taught me anything, it’s that death is just as important as life, and I believe Hal could make for a fair Black Lantern and a balanced emotional spectrum. Sure, it would be sad for Carol for Hal to be dead, but it would afford the reader a richer experience.

That’s not to say I’m not going to miss Johns on this title. Blackest Night is probably one of the most exciting stories I’ve read in a comic. Like Patrick said, if not for Johns (specificially The Sinestro Corps Wars) I would not be reading comic books right now. He has made an indelible mark on the Green Lantern Universe; Robert Venditi has big shoes to fill. I’m incredibly grateful for the work Johns has done. I just wished I had maybe stopped reading at “THE END.”

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?

47 comments on “Green Lantern 20

  1. I hope this doesn’t come off as an attack Shelby, as I think there are people who like happy endings, and people who don’t. Personally, I’m a fan of happy endings in my fiction since we just don’t get too many of those in real life. Regardless, the most striking thing about this ending was that it was an ending at all. These are comic book characters, and the most popular or “iconic” ones (whatever “iconic” means) NEVER get to hang up their capes. It doesn’t matter how many times they try, or how many times they die, they will ALWAYS return. Their fans will forever prevent them from resting, and I’ve always thought that was a bit sad.

    Chris Nolan gave his version of Batman the chance to rest, the chance to retire, the chance not to leave this world beaten and bloodied. However many fans thought that was cheesy, at least he got an ending. Unless it’s an Elseworlds or an alternate future, comic book Batman will NEVER have that. He will always fight for justice, pained by the loss of his parents. His happy ending will always be a distant mirage.

    Johns loves these characters and he wanted to give them the happy ending they deserved. That’s what you get to do in fiction, give your heroes what they deserve because they certainly don’t always get that in real life. Brilliantly, he was able to do this “beyond tomorrow” which allows for every story beyond Johns’ to fit right in. What’s more brilliant though, is that Johns has given us a complete Green Lantern story. If I were to read nothing but his run, I’d have a complete story from beginning to end and beyond. I think that’s cool and unique amongst these characters who have essentially been designed to last forever, devoid of any ending whatsoever.

    • Yeah, I liked the happy endings almost specifically because we never get them, and I wasn’t expecting them. They’re weird, though; do we think that future writers are going to retire John Stewart, or marry Hal and Carol, or keep Kyle a White Lantern forever? I hate to say it, but at some point in these characters’ indefinite histories, these endings are probably going to be contradicted. I’m almost thinking of these endings as belonging to the Pre-New-52 versions of the characters, leaving the rebooted characters to do what they please.

      Regardless, these endings take a little fanon to comprehend, but I thought they were worth the effort.

      • Is “fanon” a word? It perfectly captures the kind of selective memory fans need to make all of the cognitive dissonance go away, but I’ve never heard it before.

      • I thought that too. And “fanon” is a great word, which I feels works perfectly with what I’m about to say (nice one, Drew). Whatever happens in the future, writers will not be forced to work within the framework of the “beyond tomorrow” future Johns has laid out, which is as it should be. However, since I like it (For now anyway, thanks fanon!) I’ll choose to believe that this is what eventually happens to these characters.

        For example, even if they kill Kyle and never use the character again, I’ll work under the assumption, that somehow, Kyle will come back to life and fulfill the future Johns set out for him. I’ll simply choose to believe that, even if it’s never published and Kyle is never mentioned again.

        Does that make sense?

        • Yeah Mix, I can understand that; that’s definitely what fanon is.

          Drew, fanon might not be a “real” word, but I hear it all the time on Tumblr, and you caught right onto its many uses. Sometimes in media, especially comics, things don’t make sense unless we fill in some blanks for ourselves, and hey, we have our imaginations to do that for us!

        • Yyyyeah, but there’s also the fact that all of these happy endings exist in the book written and kept by Sinestro, who (in the same set of pages) is lying about what happened to himself. I think that’s sort of the point: these are the endings that Sinestro / Johns have written for these characters. Whatever will “actually” happen to them, this fiction exists as well.

  2. Hey, did you guys read this as Digital, or a hard copy? Cause the hard copy is GLORIOUS, guys. It’s so thick that they bound it like a trade paperback (It’s going right on my bookshelf), and that four-page gatefold spread was a great surprise to fold out as well.

    Anyway, for an issue chock-full of epic moments, the most epic for me was actually a small, one-panel event. How many of you have read the 1980’s “JLI” series? In it’s most famous scene, Guy Gardner is being such a tremendous douchebag that Batman snaps and punches him square in the face, knocking him out with one blow. Blue Beetle starts snapping pictures and loudly proclaiming “ONE PUNCH!”, and it’s a moment that Guy has never lived down.

    So seeing that Guy’s future involves knocking aliens out in one punch while onlookers marvel on much like Blue Beetle did back in JLI is a nice little coda to Guy’s most infamous experience.

    • I think I’ve seen those panels while looking around for more information on Guy (he confused the EVERLOVING FUCK out of me when I started reading Green Lantern comics), but I had forgotten about it. Thanks for reminding me that that’s a reference to that story. Of all the neat ‘n’ tidy endings, I like Guy’s the best – he’s a restless asshole forever, sorta respected, mostly tolerated.

      • I can’t imagine trying to look up Guy’s history helped you any. There was a while in the 90s where he was flying around with Sinestro’s ring for a few years, and then after that he was revealed to be part alien and could shapeshift into weapons and started going by the name “Warrior”, and none of this will ever help you understand Guy as a character.

        (They only made these changes to Guy so they could keep his character around despite the fact that Hal destroyed the Corps and left Kyle as the only Lantern. They just crippled John Stewart. I’m not sure which one made out worse.)

        • It was a trip for sure. But Rebirth made reference to enough of it that I was like “okay, I simply must know more.” It paled in comparison to when I encountered Prime later on in Geoff’s run. You want a weird Wikipedia rabbit hole to disappear down: Prime.

      • Plus the alien he knocks out is Bolphunga The Unrelenting, the rapscallion that set out to challenge Mogo in his first appearance “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize” by Alan Moore. This obviously pleased me 🙂

  3. I don’t have a problem with happy endings on principle, I just think in this case a harder, better story ending was sacrificed and happy endings given merely for the sake of giving happy endings. I don’t always look for the bummer storylines and conclusions; I couldn’t read Stephen King after finishing The Dark Tower because I was disappointed for the characters’ sakes in the ending. Hell, I quit reading A Song of Ice and Fire halfway through the third book because too much bad stuff was happening to characters I liked.

    That being said, I maintain that, story-wise, keeping Sayd dead and Hal as a Black Lantern would have been a more satisfying conclusion.

    • That’s fair enough, and your take is just as valid, but I guess I’m just a staunch optimist because my take on The Dark Tower was that Roland just had a second chance to do things better than he did before. I’m not sure how unrealistic that is, but that seems to be my default anyway.

      As for your take on Sayd and Hal, story-wise, you may be right, but it might also be a matter of preferences? I don’t know. The thing with Sayd could have gone either way, but I would have been flabbergasted if Hal didn’t reclaim his GL status. The story started with Hal becoming GL again and ended the same way, like the bookends Johns talked about. So with that, I think it works well.

      Since we are talking about happy vs. sad endings. Sinestro’s landed…somewhere in between. Like, he still lost everything he cared about and he just seems lonely in the future even if he is back in the Corps.

    • I mention above that the happy endings might just be part of the fiction a lying Sinestro put into the New Testament of Oa, which would excuse it a little, but I have a pretty similar reaction to the collection of happy endings here. Not because they’re happy, or even because they’re undeserved, but just the way it mechanically touches bases with everyone. If this was Hal’s story, then getting his happy ending would feel good to me, but getting EVERYONE’s sets my eyes a’rolling.

      • I just look at it differently. For one, I see that Sinestro is only lying about himself, since he’s clearly keeping his true identity a secret. Secondly, I don’t see Johns touching base with these characters as mechanical at all. He breathed life into these characters again, and I think it’s only natural that he’d want to make sure that he gave these characters a nice sendoff. This really seems like a matter of perspective (or maybe preference?) though, your take is just as valid as mine.

        • There’s actually a level of presumption about closing off everyone’s story that bothers me. It’s like an overreach. Or it felt that way to me, anyway.

          I asked Shelby if it bothered her at all that Johns more-or-less states that Hal’s greatest adventures were bookend by Rebirths – effectively saying that whatever else happens/happened to the character didn’t matter as much. I love Johns’ take and effect on these characters and this universe, but he’s clearly building off the shoulders of writers that shaped the Green Lantern universe before him. Parallax (who elicited the biggest reaction out of me) and the prophecy of Blackest Night both pre-date Rebirth. And I expect we’ll have other awesome GL stories in the future.

        • Yeah I totally see your point there, it just doesn’t bother me I guess. Johns has earned a bit of presumption in my book. He stood on the shoulders of giants and become one in his own right. So, I’m cool with it. And yeah, keep those awesome GL stories coming!

        • This is just something Johns does, and while it bugs me, you kind of have to get used to it to read his stuff. It isn’t just this story: Hal Jordan isn’t just a great Lantern, he’s the greatest Lantern who ever lived; Barry Allen isn’t just an important Flash, he’s the source of the Speed Force, the only reason any of the other speedsters have any abilities at all;, etc. etc. Johns can’t seem to write a character without making them the best ever, and while I feel like you should think that the character and story you are writing is important, or else why write it?, bringing it into canon is always a step much.

          Still, what are you gonna do?

        • I don’t mind Hal being the “greatest” GL (even though I personally reserve that for Kyle), but I HATE, HATE, HATE that Barry is the source of the Speed Force.

        • Calling any of them the greatest in canon bugs me a little. There are five Earth Lanterns and all are someone’s favorite; why play that game and divide them?

          (And of course, Kyle was the only singular Green Lantern for years and gave up omnipotence to revive the Corps from scratch; there would literally not be a Green Lantern Corps today if not for Kyle. From that point alone I’d give him the “Greatest” title if I thought ANYONE deserved it, which I don’t necessarily think they do.)

        • I’m TOTALLY OKAY with having the prototypical Green Lantern and the prototypical Flash revealed to be THE MOST IMPORTANT Flashes and Green Lanterns. But Johns isn’t the prototypical comic books writer. He’s good, but it still feels icky when he elevates his own stories to the status of MOST IMPORTANT.

        • Maybe I’m being sloppy with the word prototypical. I don’t mean originals, but the characters that set the precedent for all future characters with their powers.

          I’d argue that the Flashes and Green Lanterns that came later are all modeled of Hal and Barry, and not Alan and Jay.

        • I would agree with you, but I just like to bring them up as often as I can and, unfortunately, the New 52 has not afforded me that opportunity very often (at least in a positive light).

        • See, I actually do thing Johns is the premier comics-format writer of the past 10 years. True that his stories may draw on famous issues (Ron Marz’ Emerald Twilight, Alan Moore’s In Blackest Night, etc) but I can honestly say that while those stories were very important to the canon that I didn’t enjoy any of them to the extent that I’ve enjoyed Johns’ 9-year masterpiece. I believe his story deserves elevation based simply on quality and length of run – something likely to never be duplicated on the title and definitely something that had never come before. The quality of Alan Moore’s stuff was tremendous but, come on, he only did about 4 GL stories.

        • I like where you are going with this Mogs. There are many greats in the last 10 years of comics, and Johns is definitely one of them. However, there’s no doubt that he’s the absolute best at elevating characters by transforming their history (whether that history is good, terrible, or even stupid) into something greater than what came before.

    • We saw her swarmed by Thirdies, and we saw them start to tear at her, but then our dudes bailed, right? Actually, I’m looking at the page right now, and it certainly isn’t clear what they’re doing to her, but the ring does say “Guardian deceased.” I’m gonna have to go with magic on this one.

      • Well, this is GJ we’re talking about here. If he’s teasing it here, we don’t get a taste until 2016.

        I totally expect the Trinity War to have more Pandora/Stranger/Question stakes than Justice League stakes, but I’m also ready to be totally surprised.

        • I thought so at first, but now that we’ve got three Justice Leagues in the mix, who knows.

          Honestly, I feel a little underwhelmed by the whole thing; the only team I care about is JLD, so I just hope that group doesn’t get too badly messed up.

    • I think it’s WAY further down the line. No way they’re introducing YET ANOTHER Earth GL anytime soon. I think this was just Johns’ olive branch for there being no female GL. “Okay, guys, the next one will be a woman, I swear.”

      • Well, it is Baz that brings her into the corps, and with Johns writing JL and also still writing Baz in JLoA perhaps he actually plans to follow that part up. I’d have to agree that if he does plan to follow that up at all then it will likely be 1 to 2 years from now

  4. I liked how all the characters get happy endings. Most comics give us a dark, terrible future where everyone’s unhappy, and I generally hate it. I don’t want Batman to grow up alone. I don’t want Damian Wayne to make a deal with the devil. (Which can’t happen now, because, well, you know.) I’m happy I finally get an ending I want to see. Sure, I’m disappointed that Ice or Jade isn’t mentioned, and I’m disappointed that Kyle ends up being just a magical doctor, but all the other endings were great.

    While I do see where you’re coming from with Ganthet and Sayd, I’m not as disappointed as you are. Although I do see Sayd’s resurrection as a cop-out, if this is the last we see of Ganthet, and I think it is, than he (as well as us) deserve a happy ending.

    (I’m surprised neither of you brought up when Sinestro said the he and Hall will always be friends. I love that line and feel it was a great way to sum up their relationship to each other.)

    • That was a sweet moment between Hal and Sinestro. I sorta strains credibility, as Sinestro spends so much time trying to kill Hal, but it made me feel warm and fuzzy anyway, so I’ll let it slide.

      It’s interesting that you and Shelby both kind of blow off Kyle’s ending as him just becoming a damn dirty hippy doctor, it looked to me like he basically turned into Christ (Jesus Peace, not hippy peace).

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