Plenty of plot strings come to a fruition point, while Geoff Johns finally picks up on the “Third Army” he’s been teasing for what seems like many months now. There’s no doubt about it, there’s a lot going on in the “Green Lantern” line and “everything changes” is not just comic book marketing jargon this time around.
Written by Geoff Johns
Illustrated by Ethan Van Sciver
– The conclusion of “The Revenge of Black Hand”!
– Everything changes here! EVERYTHING!
Since the beginning of Johns’ run on “Green Lantern” (my word, it’s been almost 8 years?), there has been one big theme that has been driving a lot of the conflict: the Guardians as dissatisfied meddlers. Despite saving the universe countless times, the Lanterns are constantly under the scrutiny of the Guardians, who punish and interfere with them at every turn of events. The annual picks up with the Guardians finally deciding that enough is enough and that the free will of the Green Lantern Corps has undermined their oversight one too many times. Meanwhile, Hal and Sinestro literally dig themselves out of their own graves in a battle with the Lantern of Death, Black Hand. A major storyline is coming to a conclusion, making this as good a starting point as any. The opening sequence puts the last arc to bed in a quick and well-paced fashion and Johns spends the rest of the time inserting fascinating new mythology into the series.
Whether the storytelling works or not from that point forward will not depend much on your knowledge of “Green Lantern” lore, because Johns is building into a new, unseen corner of the universe. That said, new and old “Green Lantern” fans will be just as confused about how Johns arrived at some of this stuff. A de-powered Hal and Sinestro work to escape Black Hand’s clutches against impossible odds through means that are somehow only clear to them. The characters speak as though they know exactly what they have to do, while even longtime readers know nothing of the “rules” of the mythology. It’s a science fiction story, sure, but Johns is still asking the reader to accept a lot without explaining much of it beyond “hey, it’s magic.” It feels like he’s making it up as he goes along.
If you’re content to take the fiction at face value, there are a lot of compelling struggles taking place here. Black Hand dangles temptations in front of his captives that pack an emotional punch. Hal weighs his own desires and feelings against the potential consequences he sees for the world. Meanwhile, the Guardians clash with a hidden group of old Guardians meant to protect and conceal the power of the “First Lantern” – another intriguing concept that Johns has been teasing for a while. Without spoiling anything, by the time this annual is over, the entire scope of this particular “Green Lantern” title has completely changed in some drastic ways. The damage will certainly be undone down the road in some way, but for the foreseeable future, things are going to be very different in this book and that’s a refreshing thought.
It’s a bit worrisome that the “Third Army” Johns has built is a little too close to the villains that have been antagonizing the Lanterns for the last couple years. They feel like an extension of the Alpha Lanterns, in so much as they have been created for doing the bidding of the Guardians. They also feel like the Black Lanterns, in so much as they seem to spread like a mindless plague. Aside from feeling redundant, there is no doubt that they’re a legitimate threat to the very fabric of the Green Lantern Corps.
In any book he writes, Johns is not afraid to revel in violence and horror. This issue is no exception, but it never feels out of place when Black Hand is involved — even more so because Ethan Van Sciver is providing most of the art in this issue. Van Sciver is known for being able to dial up the depravity and being incredibly detailed in his work, and it’s clear that he took his time with this one. As the fight with Black Hand goes on things get repulsive, and the effects are even greater upon inspection of the detail put into each panel. Though he hasn’t been a regular artist in the “Green Lantern” world in years, there’s a reason that Van Sciver is still considered a definitive modern “Green Lantern” artist. He’s perfect for this corner of the DC Universe.
In addition to that, Pete Woods is asked to pick up art duties in the epilogue and gives us our first full look at the members of the Third Army. His designs for the new villains are eye-catching and sleek. Half the battle in creating compelling creatures is to make them fun to look at and Pete Woods delivers.
Storytelling problems aside, this is an essential issue for fans of what Johns has been doing with “Green Lantern” and the perfect place for curious beginners to start. Best of all, it’s another New 52 Annual that commits itself to giving the reader the extra bang for that $4.99, twice the size of a regular $2.99 DC comic book and absolutely no skimping on the talent or content. It may not fully succeed in its storytelling, but it’s hard to argue against the value.
Final Verdict: 7.5 – Soft recommendation to buy. Worth trying to jump on if you’re new & essential if you’re already into Green Lantern.