Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Green Lantern 24, originally released October 2nd, 2013.
Shelby: What does it mean to lose the will to fight? To be willful is generally not a compliment; usually it means someone who does what they want, when they want without any consideration of the consequences, but on it’s own will is drive and motivation. That’s why I’ve always been so pleased with the way Blue Lanterns (Rest in Peace) need a Green Lantern to mount an offense: hope is fine and all, but hope without the will to do something about it is merely inaction. Robert Venditti kicks off the Green Lantern Lights Out event with a bang, both literally and figuratively, as Relic descends upon Oa and we contemplate the consequences of truly losing the will to do anything.
Hal is back on Oa, where Salaak, Jon, and Kilowog are trying to figure out what happened to the central power battery. Hal needs to talk to Carol and Kyle now, but before he can go find them, they appear with Relic hot on their heels. Kyle explains that Relic believes the universe contains a finite reservoir of emotional energy, and once that energy runs out the universe will end. Every time any member of any lantern corps used their ring, they were bringing about the destruction of everything that much quicker. Relic shows up and deploys his little bug army to drain every power source on Oa. Hal, showing a surprising amount of leadership skills, dispatches everyone to fight the bugs and power up lanterns to reserve as much will-power they can. Of course, it doesn’t work; Relic sucks the battery dry and blows it up for good measure. It’s at that point Salaak reveals the infrastructure of the central battery reached to the very core of the planet. Without the central power battery, Oa will die.
Again, I ask: what exactly does it mean to no longer have any will? Or, more broadly, to lose the power of emotion all together? This issue calls to question the very mechanics of DC’s spectrum of emotion. I’ve always believed that, ultimately, the Lanterns are helping create the very power they draw upon with their rings. The Green Lantern central power battery distills the raw willpower of the universe into will-power, something that can be used by the very beings whose willfullness sustains it. If that dubious, circular science were true, Relic would have been unable to make a dent in the battery on Oa, simply because the Green Lantern Corps was too stubborn stupid to give up.
Maybe Relic is right, and there is a finite amount of power for the various corps to draw upon. Does that mean that, once a central power battery is empty, that emotion is just gone? I mean, we saw in New Guardians that Kyle couldn’t heal Saint Walker because there was no blue light left; there was no hope to be had.
Personally, I think both theories are kind of true. I don’t think the power of the emotional spectrum is finite; as long as there exist entities in the universe to feel rage, avarice, fear, will, hope, compassion, and love, there will exist a spark of that power. Seeing the blue power battery destroyed would make one feel pretty darn hopeless; perhaps the power of hope is diminished because it is believed to be diminished. It’s just a self-fulfilling prophecy, and from there, it’s a trickle-down effect to the rest of the corps. Without the hope for something better, what point is there in having the drive to accomplish anything? Without the will to act, how can one inspire fear? Without the fear of losing something so very dear to you, what is there to love? Without the love of those around you, what is there to fuel your rage when it’s taken away?
Venditti has really opened up the Green Lantern universe with this. Other lantern corps stories (specifically the dismal run of Red Lanterns before Charles Soule took over) have led us to ponder the limited story-telling capacity of the various corps. Creatures fueled only by rage are boring to read. The room for growth is virtually non-existent; can someone still be a Red Lantern if they learn a more healthy way than vomiting burning plasma to express their anger? And again, a story of people who feel just one thing is not fun to read. Green Lanterns get a pass because, as we’ve discussed before, “will” is not actually an emotion; the Green Lanterns are not defined by an emotion, but by the way they can be inconsiderate assholes when it comes to getting what they want. But I wouldn’t want to read a Violet Lantern Corps book; it would just turn into Young Romance in space. Venditti is (potentially) showing us that that is exactly right; as no person can feel only one emotion, so too are the Corps of the emotional spectrum connected. Whether there is actually a finite amount of emotional power to be had remains to be seen, but I suspect we are going to learn the corps cannot exist without each other. With that, I turn things over to my fellow emotional spectrum fan Patrick. Patrick, do you have a theory as to how the various central batteries actually work? What exactly do you think Salaak meant when he said, “Oa is going to die.”?Patrick: Oh, I’m willing to bet that neither Relic nor the GLC totally understand what’s going on. It’s frustrating how much time they spend yelling as much to each other. Then again, that does echo the real-life argument about conservationism pretty well: “you’re wasting natural resources” “wasting, schmwasting – there’s always more!” Even the consequences seems totally in line with the climate change debate: the end of the world.
The thing that makes me nervous about comparing Relic to modern climate scientists is that I’m pretty sure Relic’s wrong. Like, not 100% sure, but there are a couple times throughout the issue where he reveals his own knowledge of the emotional spectrum to be based on some old-ass science.
He’s making a lot of assumptions there, right? He lists like four things that are different between the Lightsmiths and the Ring Slingers, but refuses to acknowledge that maybe this means the source of their power is fundamentally different. Look at that unsure pause before the word “tinier.” I haven’t cross-referenced with every other appearance of Relic, but this is the only time in this issue that Venditti uses ellipsis in any of Relic’s speech. That makes perfect sense: why would this character ever have need to express any doubt? His whole villainous intent is based on his absolute certainty. Still, he is less than certain why everyone in this universe is so much smaller than he is.
Plus, there’s the cold hard fact that the universe cannot be on the verge of collapse due to Lanterns mining the emotional spectrum dry. Neither the Universe nor the Emotional Spectrum can be destroyed – too much business relies too heavily on there being a DC Universe. That’s a shitty dramatic irony for us to have to deal with, but it’s there nonetheless. So the icky, inevitable truth behind the conservationist allegory is “conservationists are wrong?” Barf. Maybe we should just talk about comicy stuff.
It’s sorta neat to see Venditti attempting to mimic Johns in miniature. We’ve all joked about the ads for Lights Out: “Everything Changes… five issues after the last time everything changed…” Promising that things will never be the same doesn’t carry much weight when “same” is a state of constant change, right? Each of the Green Lantern books quickly found its own identity and tone, even if there is some thematic overlap (seriously both Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps deal with n00bs in the corps), but it didn’t take long for those Red Sky-esque events to announce connective tissue between the series. We even got a mini-Secret History in the form of Green Lantern 23.1: Relic, and now here we are at full-blown crossover. That’s like seven years of Johns-plotting distilled down into five months.
But without a multitude of intermittent adventuring, many of the epic beats that Venditti and artist Billy Tan stage lack the heft they ‘re trying to cash in on. Take Kyle, Carol, Saint Walker and the Guardians’ return to Oa. Tan dutifully renders this return with dramatic lighting and startled poses from the Green Lanterns.
That’d be cool if it had been a while since these characters were last together, but you can’t fool me. I remember Hal and Carol talking face-to-face about their relationship at the beginning of the summer.
Mercifully, this shrunken timeline means that we’re done and checking out of this event in just a few weeks anyway. Shelby, to answer one of your questions more directly: I have no idea what it means that Oa would die, but it’s also only been like twenty minutes since the last time it was decimated, so I also don’t care that much.
I know that we have a few Green Lantern super-fans around here, and I’d love to know how you guys are responding to this material. Are you seeing an exciting fireworks display or something so crass as rote spectacle?
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?