While all of us at Multiversity are fans of a wide spectrum of comics, there are a few of us that tend to self-identify as “DC guys.” We’ve cried for justice; we’ve been through the blackest nights and the brightest days. And now, we’ve been culled together for a new column to focus on some of the bigger goings on in the world of Detective Comics Comics. If you’re wondering who is going to stand up and discuss what is happening at DC – don’t worry:
Today, we are looking back on one of the most important, epic, and revered runs in modern comics, and especially at DC: the Geoff Johns era of “Green Lantern.”
Brian Salvatore: Before getting the discussion of Johns as GL-architect, let me talk a little about my personal Green Lantern secret origin. As a 12 year old in 1994, the Kyle Rayner centric, Ron Marz penned “Green Lantern” was my jam. I followed his exploits, on and off, for the entire run of his time as GL until 2002 or so when, as a junior in college, I decided I’d be better served spending money on beer and records than comics, and I took one of my longest breaks from comics.
What brought me back, though, was the hype I kept hearing about “Green Lantern: Rebirth.” I was skeptical when I got the trade from my local library since, as a Kyle guy, I didn’t want them to shit all over him in order to bring Hal back. And that is exactly what did not happen. I was relieved to find that all of the GLs still around – Kyle, Guy, John, Killowog, even Alan Scott – were all treated as important, rich characters. Even though Hal was in focus, the other guys still mattered. From that point on, I picked up all the trades to get me caught up and started a pull list for the first time in almost half a decade.
On that same note, it is interesting to think that Kyle was Green Lantern for 12 years! Looking back, it doesn’t feel that long, but Johns was coming in and, for many fans, introducing a brand new character as the star of the book. Sure, people my age and older remember Hal from “Superfriends” and older comics, but since you guys are both younger than I am, Kyle was probably the only GL you remember, at least until “Justice League” the animated series brought John into the forefront.
What were your Hal associations, pre-“Rebirth?”
Vince Ostrowski: Before I fell out of comics temporarily (due to a lack of funds in that murky area between high school and college), I was a pretty heavy Marvel-guy (gasps!). I collected Amazing Spider-Man, all of the X-Men books I could get my hands on, and some Fantastic Four here and there. With DC, I would read Superman and Batman books, but only when the covers looked interesting to me.
I was aware of Hal Jordan, but I was too young to understand how cyclical superhero comics are in the long run and probably thought that he was “the old Green Lantern who is gone and will never come back.”
I liked John Stewart from the “Justice League” cartoon and was always interested in him and his powers. I thought Green Lantern seemed like he should be more popular than he was, given how cool his costume and powers were, but I also heard a lot of lame jokes about how you could kill him with a banana, because his weakness is yellow.
Before Johns came with ‘Rebirth’, I had no real desire or “entry point” to the character, being too young to understand the frankly unwieldy history of the character and the corps. I guess the key was the promise I’d read that said that anyone could read ‘Rebirth’ and that everyone will be stunned by it.
Zach Wilkerson: I’m not sure when I really took notice of Hal. It’s hard for me to think of a time when I didn’t see him as the Green Lantern, even though I’m fairly certain I had no exposure to the character growing up. Like many 90’s kids, the Green Lanterns I knew were Kyle Rayner (in the comics) and John Stewart (in the DC animated universe). That said, Green Lantern as a concept was barely ever a blip on my radar, as my interest in super heroes was limited to the most recent film adaptation for most of my teenage years. So, Johns’ work, especially “Rebirth” and the early issues of “Green Lantern,” was essentially solely responsible for introducing me to Hal in any significant way, and for cementing my interest in the Green Lantern mythology.Continued below
Vince: ‘Rebirth’ was my gateway not just in GL, but back into comics. From what I hear and read around the net, it has been a gateway for tons of comic fans as well. It’s easy to see why. His relaunch was so simple, smooth, and easy to get into. He really went back to the basics and built a franchise in a way that so few comic creators have ever done with a major comic property. Think of how much of the mythology of the Lantern titles belongs to Geoff Johns alone. It’s staggering. Were you guys on board from the start? Let’s talk about ‘Rebirth’
Zach: Johns “Green Lantern” was also my gateway into hardcore comic-dom, although “Rebirth” wasn’t my starting point. I came back to the beginning after devouring “Sinestro Corps Wars” and a few of the early GL trades. Still, I found “Rebirth” to be a brilliant and concise condensation of existing mythology, as well as a perfect launching pad for the new worlds, characters and concepts that were about to be unleashed. “Rebirth” made Green Lantern cool, both the concept and the individual Lanterns themselves.
Of course, “Rebirth” is also known for it’ infamous use of retroactive continuity, something that comic fans would hold against Johns for years. I personally think the Parallax retcon was fantastic, what about you guys?
Brian: As for the Johns retcon business, I’m a pretty staunch supporter of what he did to the Lantern mythos. Look, retcons are going to happen all the time – the way to ensure that they’re done well is to put craft into the story, and Johns did that in spades. Parallax made a whole lot more sense, it began to lay the seeds for the various other Lantern Corps which, although I’m sure there are some detractors, is what set the Lantern books as the DC books of the last half of the aughts. If only the movie hadn’t sucked.
Vince: That movie really put a poor mark on the words “Green Lantern.” Not for comic fans, but for casual observers and readers.
As far as the multi-colored Lanterns are concerned – I can see why the backlash is occuring. I think the concept is better on paper than it has been in practice. Geoff Johns has done fun things with all the different corps, but no other writer has been able to make them endearing characters in other books, in my opinion. But Johns has introduced and improved so much of the Green Lantern mythology in a really satisfying way, and his work with new characters, corps, and villains has been nothing short of amazing. I mean, “Green Lantern” has become an icon alongside Batman and Superman, so much so that they are basically the new “trinity” – leaving Wonder Woman just outside, looking in.
Zach: Hahaha, the movie is a can worms that I for one am never keen on talking about. I agree that no other (modern) writer has been able to grasp these concepts as strongly as Johns, and I think the increasing number of people in the kitchen is what has led to the “mellowing” of Green Lantern-mania.
I think we obviously all agree that “Green Lantern: Rebirth,” was a fantastic starting point for Johns’ run, staying true to what had come before while adding depth and potential to the core mythology. Moving forward, what did you guys think of the time in between “Rebirth” and “Sinestro Corps War.” A lot of big things happened during this time; the relaunching of the Green Lantern Corps, the return of prominent villains like Cyborg Superman and Black Hand, and the first seeds of the emotional spectrum. What are some of your favorite parts of this era?
I for one loved the supporting cast Johns developed, including Cowgirl, Hal’s younger brother and his family, and even John Stewart, who played a more prominent role in those early issues. Those down to earth, human relationships formed the emotional heart for the series, and were a component that I sorely missed later on in the run.
Brian: The post-“Rebirth” – > “Sinestro Corps” is actually my favorite bit of Hal-centric GL under Johns. What was so great was that it was both a great way to catch up old fans to what Hal’s new status quo was,and it was a perfect introduction to the character.Continued below
Vince: ‘The Sinestro Corps War’ arc, for my money, is one of the most enthralling stories in any superhero comic of the modern era. Johns best work, perhaps, is with his characterization of Sinestro. He became something more than just your traditional bad guy. He became “movie villain” bad. He was charismatic and regal – full of himself, but with the walk to back up the talk. And beyond that, he was made into something of a “hero” at times throughout Johns’ run, but never lost sight of the “bastard” part being a “magnificent bastard.”
It was this era of comics that had me biting the bullet on my first tattoo: a Green Lantern symbol. Thanks, Geoff.
Brian: “Sinestro Corps War” was the moment where the world at large really took to the Green Lantern books. We’ve established that Vince thinks this is pretty much the best GL period, ever. Zach, what do you think?
Zach: “Sinestro Corps War” was my introduction into Johns’ Green Lantern mythology and the catalyst for my jump from buying trades to collecting monthly. To this day it stands as one of my favorite super hero stories of all time. The “Sinestro Corps War Special” and “Green Lantern” #25, the bookends of the arc, are among my favorite issues of Johns’ entire run. To this day I’m amazed at the sheer scale of it all, rivaling the likes of “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” Johns, as well as fellow writers Dave Gibbons and Peter Tomasi, managed to use each earth Lantern effectively, as well as utilize the greater DC universe to build on recent events like “Infinite Crisis,” as well as older stories like Alan Moore’s “Tygers.”
The best thing to come from “Sinestro Corps War” is, as Vince already mentioned, the elevation of Sinestro as a fully realized, multi-dimensional character. Johns is known for his ability to make sympathetic and well rounded villains, as seen with characters like Zoom, Captain Cold, and Black Adam, but I would argue that Sinestro is his crowning achievement.
Brian: I think I owe it to myself to re-read “Sinestro Corps War” soon because, at the time, I read it all in a marathon session and, therefore, don’t remember all that much from it beyond the big pieces.
However, I agree that Johns’s characterization of Sinestro is the biggest takeaway from his time on the book. In fact, even before donning the Green ring again around the time of “Flashpoint,” I’d argue that Sinestro had move away from being a pure villain and moved into a more morally ambiguous role.
Zach: That’s definitely true, and we really began to see that in the issues following “Sinestro Corps War” began to flesh out a more sympathetic view for Sinestro. While “Sinestro Corps War” remains my favorite “event” of Johns’ GL run, the issues that followed, marking the build-up to “Blackest Night,” is probably my favorite era in all of Johns’ run. The one-two punch of “Secret Origin” and “Rage of the Red Lanterns” is the perfect encapsulation of the Hal/Sinestro relationship, and laid the groundwork for the payoff we got in the final issue. What did you guys think about this exciting time in Lantern history, when the skittle squad started coming out of the woodwork en masse?
Brian: At first, I was against the idea – I felt it was somewhat lessening the impact that the Green Lantern Corps had on the DCU. However, as time went on, I found the story pretty compelling. As you said, the lead up to “Blackest Night” was pretty great, and I think that the Sinestro and Blue Lantern Corps introductions were absolutely brilliant. Red was very good, Orange good, and by the time the Star Sapphires and Indigo Corps came into it, it felt a bit muddled.
Perhaps that is because all the Corps were introduced within a relatively short time span. If the reveals had taken longer, each one could have been built up more. Obviously, the Star Sapphire concept is an older one, and I found it a relatively satisfactory integration into the mythos. Vince, what say you?Continued below
Vince: When Johns began introducing the new Lantern corps, I was under the impression that each corps was going to get time to stretch its legs out a bit> You’re right though, the Indigo and Star Sapphires got thrown in there at the end. The Indigo Lanterns were strung along as an intentional “mystery” corps, but I’m still not 100% sure what their deal is. I feel like I missed something along the way, except I’ve read every issue of everything “lantern” since Johns’ run started. I also thought the “War of Light” was going to play out in a way that would explore the additional more, but it kind of got overshadowed by “Blackest Night.” I think you nailed the ones that were best served by his storytelling. Larfleeze became an instant hit (who has worn a little thin for this reader, though I can see his appeal) and Atrocitus is carrying his own book. There’s interesting characters and concepts that Johns unearthed by finding an elegant way to explore what harboring certain emotions really means. He played them off of each other wonderfully at times. In that fantastical, comic booky way that you want, of course.
Having said that, I think that the concept of the various lantern corps has far more appeal and value than the actual execution, so far. Not to say that Johns hasn’t done a terrific job with characters like Larfleeze, Atrocitus, and Saint Walker – only that there is so much more they could be doing with these characters and their unique cultures than they have been as of yet. Johns’ contributions to the canon are potentially titanic.
That’s where I hope the new lantern writers absolutely take off. If they tap some more of that wellspring of potential, not only will we get a much needed break from intergalactic “war” events, but Johns’ legacy will grow in the telling of those stories. For me, all of the “Lantern” titles started to lose a little bit of steam in the aftermath of “Brightest Day”, where every arc that followed (and continued into the ‘New 52’) seemed to be an event designed to have our characters yelling and blasting colored lasers at one another. What could easily happen, if new writers aren’t careful, is that the multicolored lantern corps concept could continue to devolve into a superficial gimmick and an excuse to have a bunch of characters swap costumes or whatnot. Take some time to build each corps in, maybe use them two at a time (at most) in a sort of “team up” fashion, and you could find decades of stories to tell.
As a segue, ‘Blackest Night’ was the first real crossover with all the different lantern corps (and many other heroes and villains finding pairings with the various colors) and a major DC-event, much less a “Green Lantern” event. I remember the buzz for ‘Blackest Night’ being incredibly high. I went all-in on that event, buying every title on the tie-in checklist. What do you guys remember about ‘Blackest Night’ and did you think it was a success?
Brian: I mentioned earlier how “Rebirth” was my first toe dipped back into the comics world after a few years away, but the build up to “Blackest Night” was when my fandom reached its fever pitch. I was devouring every piece of information I could find online, picking up stray issues of other books that promised some sort of prologue/crossover (the last issue of the “Solomon Grundy” mini, anyone?). In my longboxes, I have every single “Blackest Night” tie in and, at the end, I wasn’t as disappointed with the event as many others were. However, it was a real lesson in how to or, rather, how not to purchase for an event. A friend of mine just bought “Blackest Night” proper, and was jaded and pissed that so much happened out of that main book, whereas I was reading stories that I could not possibly give less of a shit about because I wanted to be a completionist.
As for the story itself, I think it suffered from being, as you said, less of a “Green Lantern” event. While I loved the idea of Luthor as an Orange Lantern and the Flash as a Blue Lantern, overall, it felt a little overstuffed and undercooked. I think that the story would have been much more effective, in just about every way, if it was a GL event with some guest stars, rather than this line-wide mega-event.Continued below
In fact, I have a theory that “Blackest Night” is what caused the New 52 in a lot of ways. I think new fans were picking up books like “Blackest Night: Superman” and trying to figure out why the fuck Superman was fighting a different Superman and Lois Lane from some planet they never heard of – or even a longtime fan like myself picking up the “Justice League of America” tie ins and having to really scratch my head and work to try and line up transformed Black Lantern costumes and secret identity names to actual character names because it wasn’t laid out that well.
And I know that as a James Robinson fanboy and continuity whore, it is shocking that I wouldn’t have loved those issues, but I think those type of tie-ins didn’t help this event in the slightest.
Zach, what was your relationship with “Blackest Night?”
Zach: I also went all in with “Blackest Night” as well, picking up virtually every tie-in available, and I while I definitely felt some fatigue towards the end, I believe it stands as DC’s most successful event since “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” In fact, I feel “Blackest Night” worked better than “Infinite Crisis” as a true “Crisis on Infinite Earths” follow-up, with black skies in place of red, and zombies instead of shadow monsters.
However, the event definitely suffered from pacing issues. I recall the first half of the “Blackest Night” proper as being fairly tightly plotted, while the second half is essentially one protracted fight scene, one with constantly escalating stakes. Also, in an attempt to make the main “Blackest Night” book reader friendly, “Green Lantern” and “Green Lantern Corps” were largely relegated to the sidelines. “Green Lantern” was hurt the most, as it was forced to tell stories “between the panels” of “Blackest Night,” making things like the two-issue ‘Parallax Rebirth’ plot largely irrelevant to the ongoing narrative. Things like this kept the series from eclipsing the quality of “Sinestro Corps War” as a Green Lantern story.
I was very fond of the three issue miniseries model employed during “Blackest Night,” allowing most DC series to remain unaffected by the event. However, other initiatives like the resurrected titles and the more traditional ongoing series tie-ins ranged from mildly interesting to gross overkill. Still, it gave us more Robinson on “Starman,” so who can really complain?
Even with its shortcomings, I would say the “Blackest Night” era marks the apex of my enjoyment of/excitement for Johns’ “Green Lantern,” as well as DC comics in general.
Vince: Before we charge in to ‘Brightest Day’, I’d just like to talk about my feelings toward ‘Blackest Night’ for a bit. I honestly think it was one of the most sucessful events for any comic company of the 2000’s, but that in and of itself is an indication that “event” comics are rarely worth the effort, because even it had plenty of storytelling pitfalls.
The seemingly endless tie-ins were repetitive if you collected them all (like I did), but might have been pretty cool if you were just checking in on your favorite characters or only picked up a handful of them. What a slog they were to get through if you bought all of ’em though. Dead hero rises with emotional ties to living characters, the living characters must struggle to fight someone they love – lather, rinse, repeat.
The main event was, I thought, pretty cool. Every issue seemed to end with a completely game changing development. The flipside of that was that whatever new element/character/costume was added to the mix rarely ended up actually affecting the final outcome of the story. I remember thinking that “Blue Lantern Barry Allen” was the coolest, but unless I’m forgetting something, he ended up making not that much of a difference in the grand scheme.
As a month-to-month event, it succeeded in keeping my attention, which is more than I can say for any other modern event from either company with the exception of “Civil War” and “52.”
Brian: Which brings us to “Brightest Day.” I was unbelievably hyped for this series, as it featured a lot of characters I personally love: Firestorm, Deadman, Hawkman, Aquaman – hell, I was even happy to see Osiris doing something again. Plus, you’ll find no bigger “52” fanboy than me, and seeing a bi-weekly series focused on a core group of characters got me hoping this would be more “52” than “Countdown to Final Crisis.” It seemed like this was DC’s attempt to connect longtime fans with new fans in one book, and while it wasn’t expressly a Green Lantern story, the book wanted to bring those fans into the larger DCU.Continued below
Spoiler alert: the series fell on its face as a concept, as well as as a finished product.
Or am I alone in thinking this?
Vince: I’ll let Zach take on ‘Brightest Day’ first, because I have a feeling that I’ll have an opposing opinion to both of yours. Sort of.
Zach: Definitely not. While the central point of “Brightest Day” was to tell the story of the resurrected characters, I was still under the impression this bi-weekly series would be steeped in the Green Lantern mythos, something early issues seemed to indicate. When I found out that wasn’t the case, I was rather disappointed.
For all its faults, however, I enjoyed “Brightest Day.” The series brought the first hints of Johns’ Aquaman revitalization, and the “Aquawar” subplot was one of my favorites of the series. The Hawks’ story was also fun, tying in aspects of “Hawkworld” and the Star Sapphire Corps.
The elephant in the room is the odd way in which the series was used to fold Vertigo properties Swamp Thing and Constantine into the DCU. I think the “elemental warriors” idea was a pretty cool extension of the White Entity’s plan to protect the earth, but the inclusion of Alec Holland as earth’s new protector was entirely out of left field, giving the whole series and odd “Captain Planet” vibe. At the time I was extremely excited by the prospect of seeing these characters in the main DC universe, but time and experience as retroactively tempered that excitement.
Ultimately, I will remember “Brightest Day” as an odd footnote in DC history, as nearly every thread set up by the series end was twisted or squashed by the New 52. The fact that I’ll never learn what was up with Firestorm, the Anti-Monitor, Hawkgirl, and the White Lantern/Entity irks me to no end. Give me answers Geoff!
Sorry, got a bit passionate there. What’s your take on the series, Vince?
Vince: You and I might be closer on this one than I anticipated, Zach. I thought ‘Brightest Day’ was a fascinating mess of a book. You were never sure who the plot was going to focus on and what issue you’d finally get resolved plot points (if you ever got them resolved at all!)
It was actually pretty gripping to follow in the bi-weekly format, but it was more of a guilty pleasure than it was, I think, a well-told story. At times I thought it was a trainwreck, but at other times, I found the focus on a bunch of formerly dead B and C listers to be a fantastic chance to read them, without having to invest a whole solo title toward them. But with the way that the storytelling would vary wildly and seemed to be made up as it went along, I found ‘Brightest Day’ to be like a TV soap opera for comic fans. It was nuts.
I think both companies would sell a lot of books if they each did a bi-weekly event series in the vein of ‘Brightest Day’ (but hopefully more toward the quality of ’52’) and I know I would follow them just based on the format. I guess Marvel’s digital intitiative will sort of be doing this.
Brian: Which brings us to the weakest time of the Johns era, in my opinion, the ‘War of the Green Lanterns.’ This was the start of the silly ring swapping and Lantern v. Lantern storytelling that felt off even when it was happening. I was so unimpressed by this that I had slowed reading the book to such a degree that I only found out Sinestro was a GL again by seeing the solicit for “Green Lantern” #1 in the New 52.
Did either of you guys love ‘War of the Green Lanterns?’
Vince: This was a big burnout point for me, as well. “War of the Green Lanterns”, “War of the Guardians”, “War of the First Lantern”, or is it “Wrath of the First Lantern”? “Revenge of the Sith”? Who knows?
Really since right before the ‘New 52’ started, and up until now, the Green Lantern corner of DC has been stuck in a laser light show. John Stewart feels guilty, Guy Gardner cusses, Hal and Sinestro died and then they didn’t, and for some reason we got a new Earth lantern, Baz (who I actually enjoyed), and all the writers seemed to start to make up mythology as they went along. It was all just “too much” for me. Can anyone actually explain how the First Lantern did what he did and how they ended up winning in the end?Continued below
As fine a job as the old Lantern writers did for so long, I think it was time for a new perspective. I hope the new writers bring things in a little bit. Make it a little more intimate.
Zach: I think the spectrum entities are freaking cool, so I enjoyed the (somewhat scatterbrained) build-up to “War of the Green Lanterns.” This era also gave us Dex-Starr’s tragic origin and Larfleeze’s search for Santa Claus, so it’s really all aces. However, I agree with you guys, “War of the Green Lanterns” is the low point for Johns’ “Green Lantern.” I think the fact that the crossover consisted of three different lantern books, with three distinct tones, really killed the book’s momentum and kept any of the writers from developing a strong emotional through-line, as seen in “Sinestro Corps War” and “Blackest Night.”
Also, Johns bringing Krona back (out of nowhere) feels a lot like Bendis bringing back Thanos in “Avengers Assemble.”
Of course, this event led to Sinestro’s return to, and Hal’s dismissal from, the Green Lantern Corps, setting the stage for Johns’ last leg of the story in the New 52. What did you guys think of this major status quo shift?
Brian: After ‘War of the Green Lanterns,’ this was a nice change, for me. As we’ve stated in the past, Johns writes Sinestro extremely well, and his handling of the character here was a fun diversion from the normal status quo of his run. It also gave fans something we’ve never really seen – Sinestro the Green Lantern. For all the talk of him being such a great Lantern, that evidence has rarely presented itself until now. In fact, there were times that it was handled so well that I actually thought, “Are they going to keep Sinestro as a hero?”
I am going to predict that I was alone in enjoying this, but we’ll see.
Zach:I hate to derail the conversation in any way, but there’s something I forgot to mention this around the “Blackest Night”/”War of the Green Lanterns” discussion that I really need to get off my chest. Making Ganthet a Green Lantern is, in my opinion, the single dumbest part of Johns’ run. There, I said it.
Now, back to the topic at hand. Actually Brian, I also really enjoyed seeing Sinestro as a Green Lantern. By this point in the series, I was infinitely more interested in Sinestro than I was in Hal. Johns delivered on the concept, making Sinestro increasingly more sympathetic, but not at the cost of his ruthlessness. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first arc, which felt strangely unoriginal in the midst of such a dramatic new direction. However, the arcs that followed, “Indigo Tribe” and “Revenge of Black Hand,” brought a sense of momentum and energy the series had sorely lacked since the build up to “Blackest Night.”
Vince: I really enjoyed the way that Johns’ consistently had Sinestro lording his power over Hal, but with a logical tether that made it so that there was basically no alternative for him but to do things Sinestro’s way. In some ways, it showed Johns’ mastery of the character and his ability to make someone impossibly arrogant, but also ultimately correct a large percentage of the time.
On the other hand, it also felt a little bit like Johns was doing a “it’s magic – I don’t gotta explain shit!” arc with the Sinestro-generated lantern ring, which appeared to work or not work based on what Johns needed for the story.
Part of me wishes we could have gotten more time with him as a Green Lantern. I hope the next batch of writers handle him as well as Johns did.
Brian: Looking back on it now, making Sinestro a GL was clearly a sign of the run entering its final act, and I think that it ultimately produced some good, if not great, stories.
What came next, however, I think was a surprise to just about everyone: a 5th human Green Lantern. Simon Baz, a Lebanese-American character, was chosen by Sinestro’s ring under somewhat dubious circumstances, to be the new Lantern of sector 2814. I’m really interested to see how you guys felt the character was handled, and if he is a net-positive in the GL landscape.Continued below
Zach:My initial reaction to Simon Baz’s first appearance in last year’s Free Comic Book Day offering was a mix of excitement and bewilderment. As intriguing as the character seemed, I couldn’t get behind the rational for adding another human male Lantern, especially when characters like fellow minority Lantern John Stewart remain so underutilized. Brandishing a gun on his first cover appearance didn’t help my uncertainty either. However, in just 5 issues, Johns made me care more about Baz than I ever have about John Stewart.
It’s been said before, but with Baz, Johns took the Green Lantern theme of “overcoming fear,” and made it literal in a socially relevant sense. Granted, Baz’s origin and background is a little heavy handed at times, skirting closely to a few racial stereotypes, but I generally feel Johns has done a good job of developing Baz into a well rounded character over a short amount of time. Also, with Kyle and Guy seemingly trading in their green rings for the foreseeable future, there’s a bit more room for Simon. I look forward to Johns further fleshing out the character, as well as supporting characters like Sira and Agent Fed, in “Justice League of America.”
Brian: I wouldn’t say I care more about Baz than I do about Stewart, but Johns certainly did a fine job with turning him into a deep and complex character. As you said, Zach, with Guy and Kyle going off-Earth for the foreseeable future, Baz seems to have a more Earth-bound existence which, actually, is a huge relief. I long for the days when Lanterns actually patrolled the Earth, and hopefully Baz is going to be that sort of GL.
Vince, I got the impression that Baz left you a bit cold – am I wrong in that assumption?
Vince: Yes and no. Baz was a really out-of-left-field turn in Geoff Johns’ run. To me, it seemed like a bad idea at first – adding another Earth Lantern, sure to be underused in the future. It was a positive step forward in diversity, but also a potential storytelling pitfall. There was a bumpy start with a somewhat awkward “accidental terrorist” arc, but Johns navigated past a potentially sensitive topic and a rocky start. In execution, I found myself liking Simon Baz as a person and as a potential hero. And then he really didn’t get to do much of anything and the title swung back to Hal Jordan for the appropriate ending to Johns’ run.
So what do we have with Baz now? He’s a member of the JLA, but through 3 issues has he even had more than a line or two of dialogue? If you’re right, and he stays mostly Earth-bound, I think that would be terrific. But what book will feature him? Will another writer find a place for him, when they can’t even find a substantial place for John Stewart? What good is diversity if you don’t actually highlight it?
Zach: I think, throughout Johns’ run, John Stewart is the character he had the most trouble getting a grip on. He, at various times, exhibited various characteristics of the other earth lanterns (Hal’s military background, Kyle’s creativity, Guy’s hot headedness), but never stepped out of their shadows. Instead, he was defined by his failure at Xanshi, a plot point similar to Hal’s “Emerald Twilight,” but never as fully developed.
While Baz had a strong start, the spotlight inevitably had to shift back towards Hal, as you mentioned Vince. While I thoroughly enjoyed Johns’ final issue (link to review?), I think the road getting there was more than a bit rocky. Hal and Sinestro’s story slowed to a snail’s pace, while everything else felt strangely rushed. What did you guys think of the one-two punch of “Rise of the Third Army” and “Wrath of the First Lantern?”
Brian: Even though Johns knew when his run was ending, the build up to his final issue still felt rushed. It didn’t help that the Third Army/First Lantern business all felt very “been there, done that,” story wise. Don’t get me wrong, month to month, I was enjoying these issues quite a bit, and thought that the pairing of B’dg and Baz was inspired and fun (as well as something I hope Johns does in “Justice League of America,” somehow). To me, these arcs were an indication that Johns was running out of steam.Continued below
It also doesn’t help that I was not reading all of the Lantern titles during either of these arcs, which spread across 4 books, so it is possible I was only getting 1/4 of the intended story. That, in and of itself, shows how my Johns fandom has slipped: from buying every ‘Blackest Night’ tie-in I could get my hands on to skipping the other three parts of the story (although, in the interest of full disclosure, I may go back and read all the non-“Red Lanterns” installments).
I have a lot of thoughts on the finale, but first I want to hear what Vince thought of the final two arcs.
Vince: To be brutally honest about the ‘Third Army’ arc, I just didn’t see what they were trying to accomplish that wasn’t already well-tread by “Blackest Night.” It was yet another zombie book in a thin disguise. The ‘First Lantern’ arc once again did a little bit to tie some names and concepts from Lantern stories past into the modern status quo, but the First Lantern’s power and status was, to me, too nebulous and undefined. I found some novelty in seeing every major lantern character revisit their histories, including plenty of pre-New 52 events and costumes that I hoped were not long-forgotten. Beyond that, I think it quite honestly the Lantern-crossover idea dragged on for far too long through these two arcs – coming from the perspective of a guy that was reading every lantern title except for “Red Lanterns”.
In summary, no, I didn’t care much for these arcs. I took bits and pieces away that I enjoyed and they weren’t terrible comics, obviously. They just sort of put themselves into a repetition that wasn’t as interesting and varied as each of these lantern titles were on their own.
Zach: As someone who also picked up every Lantern title for the duration of the events, I agree the whole thing felt stretched out. Every GL crossover since “Sinestro Corps War” has tried to capture that perfect story flow, but as the number of ancillary titles has increased, the more diluted the line has felt. I appreciate that the other Lantern titles weren’t weren’t necessarily essential for following Johns’ story, but I think the fact that they were forced under the umbrella of what Johns was doing severely crippled the other writers’ ability to craft engaging and worthwhile stories. This lack of quality in the rest of the line, in turn, decreased my enjoyment of Johns’ overall story.
However rocky the road getting there was, I feel Johns’ nailed the landing with his finale. He brought everything full circle, reminding me why I fell in love with this run to begin with. Just Sinestro’s part in the story alone made the issue for me. What about you guys? Was the final issue of “Green Lantern” a satisfying conclusion, or were you possibly turned off by the barrage of escalating splash page reveals?
Vince: I can’t say I’ll be as kind to Geoff Johns’ final issue. I found it to be unwieldly and, out of necessity, increasingly ridiculous. Johns had done so much for the Green Lantern mythos that he really had to represent almost all of it again in his very last issue, as well as set the status quo in a place so that the next group of writers won’t have to clean up his plots. Of course, every writer wants to see their own vision through. Johns was one of luckly few that actually got to do it. He had his cake and ate it too, in issue #20, which made for a triumphant celebration of a really long, mostly great run – but I’m not sure it made for a good comic book.
It seemed like every few pages was an exercise in upping the demonstrations of power with little in the way of satisfying explanations or emotional release, at least in my opinion. I thought the final moment between Sinestro and Hal was wonderful, but alternatively, the moment between Hal and the “jedi ghost” of his dad was about as cheap and shoe-horned in as it possibly could have been.Continued below
Ultimately, I like where Johns left the story in its conclusion, but I’m not sure I enjoyed the issue.
Vince: You know, one thing I won’t discount though (and this goes into a far higher concept discussion about the things a person likes or is a “fan” of) is that I just might have had too much “Green Lantern” for too many years, you know? From “Rebirth” through “Blackest Night”, I was a bigger fan of Johns’ Green Lantern than I was of anything else in comics. When something is popular, you tend to be given more and more of it. More crossovers. More Lantern books. More guest spots. More of everything that people already proved that they wanted. And maybe it had just been too much of a good thing over a decade for me to really appreciate it.
Brian: I agree with your burnout theory, Vince. I, too, think I was just wanting something different, GL-wise, after ‘Blackest Night.’ But when I got to thinking about it, I came to this conclusion: the only large-scale GL stories I can expect anymore are Johnsian ones. The idea of four – hell, even three – Lantern books is a pretty new one, and so when I think sprawling GL stories now, that is, literally, all i can think of.
I think the final issue was as good as it could have been. We knew it was going to be overstuffed, we knew it was going to have a splashes galore – what we didn’t know was how Johns would leave things, going forward. Obviously, the G’Nort appearance got me hot and bothered, but I also enjoyed the “destinies” of all of the Lanterns, even if we all know that those will never, ever be fulfilled (like Sodam Yat’s proposed future – he seems to be the only part of the GL mythos that the New 52 wiped out). Each destiny seemed possible, probable, and a little sweet.
Personally, my least favorite part was the part everyone else seemed to love. Sinestro calling Hal a friend was cheesy and out of character, at least to me.
Zach: Now that you mention it, that moment may have been a little too saccharine for a character like Sinestro. I do think the idea behind it, that Hal and Sinestro will always share a bond and strong mutual respect, is true to what Johns has presented. Sinestro has been on the road to “redemption” for a while now, but it still didn’t quite feel deserved. But I’m also a huge sap, so I’ll take it as is.
Brian: So, there we have it. Any final words for Geoff Johns and his run on “Green Lantern?”
Vince: I just want to reaffirm my appreciation of Johns’ Green Lantern run, despite my problems with how it all ended. Geoff Johns got me back into comic books with Hal Jordan’s rebirth. I’ll be eternally grateful for that.
Zach: I’ll second Vince’s appreciation, Johns’ work on “Green Lantern” cemented my love for the character, DC, and comics in general. Congratulations to him and to all the writers, artists, editors, etc., involved over the years. I can’t wait to see what the new guys bring to the table.