Release Date: May 22, 2013
Cover Date: July 2013
Story: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Tom Nguyen, Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Marc Deering, Jeff Champagne, Doug Mahnke, and Wade von Grawbadger
Guest Artists: Jerry Ordway, Oclair Albert, Joe Prado, Ivan Reis, Ethan Van Sciver, Aaron Kuder, Patrick Gleason, and Cully Hamner
Cover: Doug Mahnke
In the far future, a newly graduated Green Lantern wishes to know the story of Hal Jordan. The keeper of the Book of Oa tells him, skimming over Hal’s early life and skipping right to the big battle with the First Lantern. Hal’s dead! But not completely, as he manages to use Black Hand’s ring to rise from the grave. Meanwhile, Sinestro’s recovered his yellow ring, and he speeds towards Oa. On the planet, Volthoom has arrived with his captive Guardians, and he plans to use the Central Power Battery to focus his power and rewrite history. But first, he has to recover the
One Ring to rule them all First Ring. Eons ago, when the Guardians dumped their emotions into a lantern-shaped battery — the true First Lantern, also known as the Great Heart — a super-powerful ring was formed, and Volthoom tried to grab it…but he could not. Instead, he became the First Lantern himself, and now he wants the ring. He rips it from inside Ganthet’s body, as that’s where it’s been hiding all of this time. Volthoom also returns emotions to the Guardians, who immediately feel horrible about everything they’ve done. Finally, the varied Lantern Corps arrive, but they are no match for Volthoom. Sinestro even hits the villain with the Sinestro Corps Central Power Battery, but it’s not enough. However, Black Lantern Hal soon appears thanks to the Indigo Tribe’s teleportation abilities, and he’s got a legion of Black Lanterns with him! Volthoom grabs Hal and uses his memory of losing his father as a kid as a focal point; somehow, that’s a spark connected to the white light of creation or some other such nonsense, and Volthoom continues with his confusing plan. However, Sinestro’s yanked Parallax out of its yellow prison, merged with the beast, but remains in full control. It’s still not enough to stop Volthoom, so Hal plays his trump card and somehow summons Nekron. Killing the First Lantern as-is will do untold damage to reality, so Hal inexplicably drains Volthoom of his powers, and Nekron ends his life. His corrupted ring is sent back to whatever universe he came from (though the ring was never from that universe to begin with). Hal gets his green ring back, which somehow brings him back to life; as he’s no longer a Black Lantern, Nekron is forced to return to the realm of the unliving. Everyone’s happy, except for the Guardians; they were mercilessly slaughtered by Sinestro. Hal’s not pleased, but Sinestro tells him that he and his newly freed Corps are going to depart for deep space, never to be seen again…and that despite their history, he and Hal were always friends. Untold years later, the young Lantern asks what happened to everyone, and the keeper speaks of their destinies. John Stewart becomes a Senator, Guy Gardner hangs out in space bars, Kyle Rayner heals people all over the galaxy (ha! Space Jesus!), while Hal marries Carol Ferris and starts a family. The other Lantern Corps continue on in their own unique ways. As for Sinestro? The new Green Lantern doesn’t know it, but Sinestro has been the keeper of the Book of Oa all this time. Furthermore, he secretly spared Ganthet’s life, and Sayd was revealed to be alive as well. As the story closes, we’re reminded that Hal was the greatest Green Lantern ever, and responsible for practically everything important in the universe.
Pardon the massive synopsis; this was a big book! And now, I’m going to piss all over it.
As we sadly expected, Green Lantern (Vol. 5) #20 was nothing but a colossal mess of retcons and inconsistencies sprinkled around fight scene after fight scene. Not only that, most of the story beats made absolutely no sense! The impressive array of guest artists could not save it, although the visuals were most impressive indeed. The book was even interspersed with fluff pieces in which various comic and media creators gush over Geoff Johns’ accomplishments; quite distracting, to be honest. They would’ve been better placed at the end, alongside Johns’ personal observations.
But let’s get back to the rotten meat inside this issue. Retcons and inconsistencies? Let’s go! The introduction depicting Hal’s transformation into Parallax clashes with what’s already been established in the “New 52;” the battery’s shattered behind him, but that never happened, so how did Parallax ever escape?
Volthoom is shown to have gotten his powers from the emotions of the Guardians, not the white light of creation. Not only that, we see him creating the physical First Lantern alongside the Guardians…but what about the white one he initially brought with him? Previously, we saw Volthoom’s hand wearing a Green Lantern ring holding the universe, but now, he couldn’t even touch it. His plan also makes no sense; why is Hal connected to the white light? That whole sequence was nonsensical. (More on the real Volthoom problems later.)
Hal’s Black Lantern Corps were made up of folks that Volthoom killed. Fair enough. But how did Hal summon Nekron, and why would he want to kill Volthoom? For swelling the ranks of the dead, you’d wager Nekron would be thanking the First Lantern! While we’re on the subject of dead folks, Kyle claims he can’t resurrect Hal with his white ring, but damn it, that’s exactly what White Lantern rings are for! (For some unexplainable reason, a green ring resurrected Hal instead.) Kyle and the other Lanterns really didn’t do shit in this issue; they were window dressing for the Hal and Sinestro show. And, let’s be fair…it was mostly Sinestro. The biggest supervillain in Green Lantern history ends up being the savior of the universe in the Lanterns’ biggest battle (to date)? That’s not clever writing. That’s rampant fanboyism.
Sayd’s still alive…but how? I know comic book deaths don’t mean jack shit, but we saw her torn apart by the Third Army. So how in the hell was Larfleeze hiding her in a burlap sack? This also conflicts with the Larfleeze story in Threshold, where the Orange Lantern confirmed that she was killed. In fact, that entire Larfleeze tale hinges on the fact that Sayd was dead!
The worst part about this book, and the whole “Wrath of the First Lantern” story in general, is that Volthoom is a completely boring and pointless villain. Aside from retconning his history again in this issue, we know nothing about him. Okay, he’s a human from another universe…but why did he come here? Why did he know so much about the Guardians? Perhaps it’s fodder for future stories, but you need some backstory that explains his drive, otherwise Volthoom is just a cookie-cutter villain. No important information whatsoever was explained to us, which makes him about as generic as can be. Certainly not worthy of over a year’s worth of preludes, crossovers, and secrecy. It gets worse when Volthoom reveals his master plan. He wants the First Ring back? Fine. But once he gets it…why does he still want to rewrite history? It made no sense, and changed from page to page.
That’s not even all of the retcons and inconsistencies found in this issue, but I haven’t gotten all week to write them all down. Ugh.
There’s one positive amongst the muck: the art throughout the book looked fantastic; no arguments there. There was massive splash pages and action sequences galore, and they all looked excellent. Aside from a grand finale, Green Lantern (Vol. 5) #20 was practically an action movie through and through, and the fine choice of artwork (and artists!) reflected that. Unfortunately, great art is not enough to save a bad story, and this issue was drowning in the latter.
And thus, the worst era of Green Lantern history finally comes to a close. You can argue with me, but you’re wrong. No other creator has done more damage to the Green Lantern mythos than Johns. Not by a long shot. Yeah, he introduced a lot of good stuff into the mix, but the bad far outweighs it. Johns’ run ended exactly the same way it began…with a host of pointless retcons, an unending parade of story threads that were never completed, and the worst Green Lantern character ever created: the giant space bug Parallax.
I don’t give a shit how popular Johns made the Green Lantern franchise. As we all know, popularity and quality almost always have nothing to do with one another. I would’ve traded consistent storytelling for less media exposure any day of the week, and I bet even many Johns diehards feel the same way by now.
He even threw later writers under the bus, so to speak. You know those futures shown for each of the Earth Lanterns and such? It’s rumored that the new creative teams on the Lantern comics will be acting as though these futures will come to pass. I don’t know if that’s necessarily an editorial mandate, but even if it’s not, I don’t like it. Johns should not have handicapped future storytelling on his way out of the door.
In the same vein, I really don’t like what Johns did with Sinestro in this issue. I’m not talking about using Parallax or killing the Guardians; I’m annoyed that the ultimate Green Lantern villain is taking off for parts unknown. That’s a thinly veiled message: no one else gets to write Sinestro except for Johns, so he’s going to remove the character from the Green Lantern mythos for the foreseeable future. I find that incredibly arrogant; sure, Johns did great work with Sinestro, but he is not his character. Sinestro is the property of DC Comics and always has been, and thus, any other writer should be free to use him as he or she sees fit. The same goes with those other Lanterns.
No personal offense meant to Mr. Johns, of course, but the end of his run on Green Lantern is best described by the classic idiom: good riddance to bad rubbish. The stain’s going to take quite some time to remove, but the sooner the better.