Green Lantern #20
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Doug Mahnke, with Patrick Gleason, Cully Hamner, Aaron Kuder, Jerry Ordway, Ivan Reis & Ethan Van Sciver
Inks: Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Marc Deering, Mark Irwin, Wade Von Grawbadger, Tom Nguyen, Doug Mahnke, Oclair Albert & Joe Prado
Colors: Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artist: Doug Mahnke
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $7.99 US
I haven’t written in a few weeks, but this oversized (and expensive!) issue, concluding writer Geoff Johns’s highly successful run on the title character, sparked me to jot down some thoughts. I was a big fan of Johns’s additions to the GL mythos — specifically, the Corps of Many Colors. It was such a simple idea that breathed new life and legend into the super-hero/space-cop adventures of a classic Silver Age concept. I enjoyed the gradual introduction of the various corps, I enjoyed Blackest Night and I enjoyed the notion of returning arch-nemesis Sinestro to his status as a Green Lantern. All made for entertaining stories, but unfortunately, Johns isn’t going out on a high note. More recent storylines — the introduction of Simon Baz, “The Rise of the Third Army” and now “Wrath of the First Lantern” — haven’t boasted the same strength of simple sense of fun. After nine years, his Green Lantern stories certainly aren’t accessible, as is evident by this last salvo. Nevertheless, this last hurrah boasts some satisfying moments, mostly in the denouement of the First Lantern’s story, and I did appreciate the inclusion of contributions from so many past GL artists from Johns’s tenure on the property.
Volthoom, the First Lantern, is fully empowered by the entire spectrum of emotion and power in the universe, and he’s ready to bend reality to his whim. Despite the combined forces of some of the most powerful warriors in the cosmos, it seems nothing can stop him. Salvation lies in two unlikely sources: the villainous Sinestro, no longer a Green Lantern, taps a different kind of power to get vengeance for Volthoom’s destruction of his homeworld. And it’s hoped Green Lantern Hal Jordan can save the day. There’s just one problem: he’s dead. Ironically, a Black Lantern ring of the dead might hold the key to saving all life in the universe.
Every plot element revolving around Volthoom is one in which I had completely no interest. The character’s name, look and undefined omnipotence seemed rather ludicrous to me, and of course, the threat he poses offers no dramatic tension. The reader knows he won’t succeed. Of course, it didn’t help that as someone who’s been reading only this title and not the other members of the Lantern family of comics, I really had little idea what was going on. Chapters of the “First Lantern” crossover/story arc were missing, as far as I was concerned, so I always felt disconnected from the story and therefore not invested in it.
The story continues beyond the battle with Volthoom, though, and therein lies some stronger subject matter. Johns tries to make the case that his entire run on the GL titles has been about the relationship between Hal Jordan and Thaal Sinestro, and speaking as someone who’s read the bulk of that run, the idea’s more than a little forced. Nevertheless, I did enjoy Sinestro’s role in the story and I was pleasantly surprised to find he achieves his violent goals in the end (even if the effect is meaningless, given the arrival of the “Templar Guardians”). Furthermore, setting the framing sequence in the future and giving all of the heroes — Hal, Guy Gardner, John Stewart and Kyle Rayner — happy endings felt unexpectedly satisfying, even if I doubt they’re meant to be canon to limit future GL writers’ ideas.
Mahnke does the lion’s share of the pencilling work on this large issue, and he performs well through. He’s always brought a dark, weird edge to the universe of Green Lantern characters, and he maintains that tone here. The scope of the story is immense, and Mahnke manages to capture it in the artwork as well. The fine detail in the alien backdrops is as impressive as his ability to incorporate and balance so many characters throughout the issue. The decision to confine the others artists’ contributions to the book mainly to flashes of other times and places was a smart one, as it keeps the shifts in style from being jarring.
The fanfare with which DC is approaching Johns’s exodus from the title is a little over the top, to say the least. The interspersed pages of kudos from colleagues and other-media executives and creative types serve more as an acknowledgement of Johns’s contributions to the strengthening of the DC brand rather than his storytelling, I suppose, but they pose a real problem: they interrupt and distract from the story in this particular comic book. The congratulatory pages are well designed, as they draw the eye and hold it. It’s too bad they weren’t relegated to the back of the issue. Of course, it also felt like the reader was being asked to pay for this “bonus material” with the $8 price tag. Sure, there was plenty of story to be had here, more than the typical issue’s worth, but it felt more like a $4.99 comic than a $7.99 one. With Amazing Spider-Man #700, Detective Comics #19 (the de facto 900th issue) and now this comic book, Marvel and DC is pushing the limits of what their readers will pay for — and they’re pushing their luck as well. 5/10
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.