Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke (and a smattering of guests)
Review: Will Dubbeld
Well, here it is, kiddies. After writing Green Lantern for nigh on a decade, Geoff Johns is finally passing the torch on.
I purposefully did not say, "passing the lantern on"...
Johns run started back in 2004, I believe, with Green Lantern: Rebirth, a miniseries touting the return of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern.
I. Was. Excited.
For whatever reason, Green Lantern was a favorite of mine, probably due to the power set mixed with Hal Jordan's ability to be a giant-sized man jerk. I'd only amassed a small collection of GL comics, but amongst them was part of the arc detailing Hal Jordan's descent into super-villainy and transformation into Parallax. I know a lot of fellow nerds despised this storyline, but I thought it was great.
In no small part due to a cover detailing Hal wearing like ten power rings and sneering with a batshit crazy look on his face.
After DCs flirtations with Evil Hal, they killed him off for a spell and eventually recast him as The Specter, which was another win for me. The Specter was always another favorite of mine, and now he got to run around wearing Green Lantern's domino mask! Superb!
As with all things, however, DC decided to bring back the dead, and the next thing you know, Green Lantern: Rebirth.
I was excited to see Hal back, but right away had some gripes about Geoff Johns' storytelling; the retcon explaining away Hal's villainy being the major one. Apparently being possessed by a yellow space-weevil was a better storytelling device than a hero snapping, turning evil, languishing in purgatory, being turned into God's Spirit of Vengeance, and finally returning to the fold.
Nope, get that Campbellian Hero Journey crap outta here!
Yellow space-weevil possessed him and made him do bad stuff!
But, such is comics. At least I was getting Hal Jordan back. And Killowog, and Sinestro, and some other long gone but oft-remembered characters.
Then the mega-events came.
We had some self contained 6-parters, but all too quickly Geoff Johns (or possibly editorial mandate) flooded the hallowed halls of Distinguished Competitors' comics with 19-part crossovers that spilled out across four different books.
This always displeases me.
It's not that I mind spending ludicrous amounts of money on books, I just hate when a storyline tries to force me to buy books I normally wouldn't.
Which is why I have every third or fourth part of Johns' Green Lantern stories.
So after weathering Sinestro Corps Wars and Wrath of the Red Lanterns and Blackest Nights and Brightest Days and Lanterns of every color of the spectrum (no shit, ROYGBIV Lanterns), Geoff Johns brings his Green Lantern epic to a close with Wrath of the First Lantern.
I was more than ready.
What was at first an exiting new direction for the Green Lantern book rapidly degraded into sprawling, bloated storytelling that had diminishing returns in the entertainment department.
Now I know there's many amongst fandom that swear by the Church of Johns and would burn me at the nerd-stake for my heresy, but I have been less than impressed. Either fine ideas went out of control (Yellow Lanterns and Red Lanterns? Sweet! But I still don't really know what the deal with the Indigo Tribe is, and I've been reading this book for ten years!), or the storylines lasted waaaayyyy too long (did Brightest Day really need THAT many issues to tell the story? Signs point to no).
Unfortunately Wrath of the First Lantern was no exception. I had all but clocked out when a giant Green Lantern hand at the beginning of the universe opened the arc.
Issue 20, however, was pretty damn good. Granted it was rife with cliches and played out storytelling tropes from the "tell me the story of when..." to encountering your dad's ghost and him telling you he's proud of you, to that old chestnut "the enemy will be vanquished when we all join forces and defeat him in an Orgy of Teamwork!"
I'm pretty sure they even borrowed a page from Uncle Al's Watchmen playbook towards the end.
Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I mentally cheered for the Good Guys and reveled in every (and there were quite a few) two-page spread. All my favorites were there (Kilowog! Mogo! G'nort! That Red Lantern cat!) and at the end of the day, Hal Jordan was the hero.
I'll avoid being to spoiler-y, but Sinestro absolutely stole the damn show here. In sheer four-color nerd moments and actual points of fine storytelling, he absolutely stole the show.
The art is tight and well detailed, which is something I can say for all the Green Lantern books under Geoff Johns' purview, as was the inking and coloring. Similarly styled artists have been used throughout the series, which is much appreciated as comics tend to switch creative teams every three issues it seems.
The book itself is an oversized, squarebound affair that is steeply priced ($7.99), but I felt like I got my money's worth out of it. Most giant-sized issues from the House of Ideas are letdowns and leave me feeling ripped off (80 page extravaganza! 30 pages of content followed by crappy reprints of old comics!).
Not so here. Cover-to-cover story with the exception of a few pages of recommended reading at the end and every few pages is testimonial bj's from Johns' peers about how supercrazyawesome he is.
But what the hell, it's his swan-song, let 'em stroke the 'ol ego a bit.
As an aside, the book features a wraparound cover that you can't actually enjoy to the fullest due to the squarebound format. It didn't bother me in the least, but I did notice it as a bit of an engineering foible.
At the end of the day, you're not going to pick this book up if you hadn't previously been following Green Lantern, but it's totally worth it if you have been. I'm curious to see what Geoff Johns' successor comes up with, but he or she needn't feel like they have to jump off with an epic 12-part follow up.
Maybe Hal can just fight a space pirate, call it good, and be home by suppertime.
That would be a welcome change of pace.