For the first time since ‘Rise of the Third Army’ began 13 issues previously we finally got two books where the story lead naturally from one title to the next in a way that fans would traditionally expect of a crossover. While GL:NG continues to tell its own story with Kyle Rayner (and more of that soon here at Flodo’s Page), Green Lantern and GLC form a two part story in which our heroes begin to turn the tide on the Guardians’ mindless forces. I suspect the event was produced with the specific goal of making each book able to stand on its own so that readers weren’t put off by feeling obliged to pick all four participating titles. For me, however, this diminished the appeal. I was getting the all of books because they shared the ‘Rise…’ banner and the fact that they lacked cohesion was ultimately a factor that detracted from my overall satisfaction.
Thankfully I can put all of that bad feeling behind me now. Green Lantern #16 marks Simon Baz’s first real introduction to the Corps. Veteran Lantern B’dg has arrived on the scene looking for Hal Jordan and is surprised to find Baz wearing a power ring that had been shared by Hal and Sinestro. He is even more surprised to discover it depowered and on the finger of Earth’s newest recruit. And so begins Green Lantern ring slinging 101 – class is in session.
One of the main focuses in the issue is building Baz’s reputation and proving he is worthy to be a member of the Corps. Rather than go with FBI agent Fed to prove his innocence of the terrorist charges that have been levelled at him, he puts his GL mission first and follows B’dg in the search for Jordan. In the meantime Fed places a call to Amanda Waller. Cue introduction to JLA, the newest offering from DC Comics coming out in February.
Before he can do anything Baz needs a ring charge. Luckily squirrels from across the universe all speak the same language and the furry B’dg is able to get directions from the local wildlife to where Hal and Sinestro dropped their lantern in Green Lantern Annual #1, right before the Guardians helped Black Hand banish them to the Dead Zone. I don’t know about anyone else but I get goosebumps every time the oath appears in a GL book and now is no exception. Baz, of course, doesn’t know the oath so in a novel twist the lantern itself takes over the master class and says the sacred words for him, “Beware YOUR power, Green Lantern’s light!”
As with most geeks, I’m a bit of a stickler for accuracy in my comics so correct me in the comments for this post if you think I’ve got the next bit wrong. We see B’dg returning the lantern to the pocket dimension it was removed from. Now we know from the first arc of the current Green Lantern Corps run that GLs no longer use a pocket dimension for storing power battery (Hal kept his in his locker at Ferris Air). So does this mean that B’dg has just sent Baz’s lantern back to Sinestro’s ‘Batcave’ hideout?
In any case, he unravels the message that we saw stored in the ring in GL#12 which basically gives us a recap of what happened to Hal and Sinestro in the annual. He pockets the Book of Black and then makes the mistake of telling Simon he cannot keep the ring, that it must be returned to Hal Jordan. As you would expect of any wielder of willpower Baz takes this as a challenge and sets off on his own mission which will test the ring’s powers to the limit. Along the way he effortlessly conjures up a phone construct and calls his sister to meet him at the hospital.
Simon Baz’s plan is to do the impossible. To use the ring to wake his brother-in-law from a coma. B’dg tells him the ring can’t be used to raise the dead or cure any ill. We’re not living in the silver age any more where the Green Lantern Power ring changed at the whim of a writer from one week to the next and all things were possible. Nevertheless Simon summons up all of his determination to force the green energy it into his best friend’s motionless body. The writing and the art complement each other brilliantly here. Geoff Johns doesn’t rush the pace, giving time for Doug Mahnke to depict a true effort of will. Sparks crackle of both men and tears stream down the Lantern’s grimaced face. Just when all seems fruitless Nazir rises from his hospital bed, much to the astonishment of B’dg and the watching doctors.
Through the overused narrative device of a television newsflash the GL’s learn of Guy Gardner’s imprisonment and take to the skies out nearest window moments before police come crashing into the room. Their fate awaits them in Green Lantern Corps #16.
In the meantime Johns brings us back to the Dead Zone for the big reveal of the hooded character who has been leading Hal and Sinestro through the zone. And the mysterious figure is… (drumroll… trumpets…) Tomar-Re! In the original silver age origin Tomar-Re was the first Green Lantern Hal Jordan came into contact with after the death of Abin Sur. He met his death at the hands of long-time GL villain Goldface during the time of ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’. In all my wildest speculation it never once crossed my mind that Tomar-Re would be the man behind the hood and let me tell you now, my little fanboy heart leaped in my chest and I couldn’t possibly be happier.
The deceased hero warns that the First Lantern must be stopped before reality unravels and “changes lantern history as we know it.” The cynic in me says, “Oh, Green Lantern’s very own Flashpoint. How convenient”.
Putting all that aside I continued in my Green Lantern Day celebrations by immediately turning to Green Lantern Corps #16where the Guardians of the universe continue to show little of the emotionless balance they profess to hold so dear. Instead they submit to downright pettiness as they turn the Third Army’s attention towards Guy Gardner. The news that the recently resigned GL has been jailed on Earth is again received via the device of a corny TV newsflash, only this time it is transmitted a billion miles telepathically via the eyes of a Thirdite on the rampage in Atlanta Georgia.
If there was ever any doubt that Guy is as hard as the proverbial nails this issue quells it. He knocks out his huge cell mate with a single below without so much as raising his head from its melancholic stupor. Playing successfully off the rebooted origin featured in Green Lantern Corps #0 Guy’s brother and sister visit him in prison only to wind up standing shoulder to shoulder with him as the Third Army assimilate everyone around them. The Gardner family are made of sterner stuff than your average Joe.
The action briefly hops several sectors away to where John Stewart and Fatality have encountered a giant spaceship threatening a defenceless world. The ship’s weapon is powered by fragments of the GL fan favourite Mogo, a former sentient planet destroyed by Stewart himself. One thing I love about Green Lantern is the scale of the world they operate in. With 7,000 Corps members policing an entire universe rescuing a planet single-handedly is basically a pre-requisite for the job. And teamed with a Star Sapphire? Let’s just say those terrorists really didn’t stand a chance. Peter J. Tomasi has been teasing Mogo’s revival for several issues now we are hanging on a knife edge of ‘is he or isn’t he?”. The answer must surely be just around the corner.
Back on Earth the heroics continue as Baz and B’dg join the fray. Again, in GLC #16 the new Lantern’s portrayal is the epitome of of a comic book stalwart. He is brave and ferocious. He is self-assured but his priority is protecting the people around him from becoming victim to the Third Army. He shares many of these traits with Guy Gardner and I loved when the veteran showed his admiration saying, “Kids got a little outlaw in his eyes”. A very Guy kind of compliment.
I did wonder how the Green Lantern rings have suddenly become so effective on the Thirdites? The green energy can blast great chunks out of the creatures now whereas previously in this event they are shown to be impervious to its attack. However, I am entirely prepared to let it pass. The battle scene was tremendous. Tomasi has a knack for writing Green Lantern Corps like the very best war movies. The heroes hold their own against impossible odds and finally secure victory by containing their enemy in a construct and detonating two dozen army missiles on them. Fernando Pasarin matches the tempo with his art. Every panel is packed with action. Exploding weapons and exploding guts. Bodies flying in all directions. I have heard criticism of some comic art as visually static. Completely contrary to that description, GLC #16 is powered along by characters in constant motion.
The story ends on the moon with Guy learning Hal’s and Sinestro’s garbled message. Before that we confirm a response to the question that has persistently followed Simon Baz since DC released the first images of him last summer. Unusually for a Green Lantern he carries a gun. He has been caught out by the ring running out of charge once already and he is not about to get left without a weapon again.
Without a shadow of a doubt I can say that these were two great issues. The Green Lantern team is firing on all cylinders again. Our Emerald Crusaders show their willpower in abundance, courageously overcome fear and shed their unflinching light over evil. The conclusion of ‘Rise of the Third Army’ in Green Lantern Corps Annual #1 promises to be a hell of a showdown between the Guardians and their Corps.