Green Lantern #20 Review

The day is here, the final issue of Geoff Johns first run in Green Lantern.  Yeah, I said first run because I’m wearing my blue ring today and hope that we’ll see another Johns’ helmed run at some point in the future.  Don’t take that as a concern for Robert Venditti, because having read a little bit of his work on X-O Manowar I think we’re in really, really good hands.  The conclusion to the first  John’s era is here in the form of an over-sized issue which provides the conclusion to the Wrath of the First Lantern and a fitting bookend to Green Lantern: Rebirth.  

The Story –
In the future we witness a number of new recruits taking their oaths around the central power battery.  One new Green Lantern, Snow, travels to the Book of Oa and asks the keeper about the most popular story of the Corps, the story of Hal Jordan.  The keeper, Toris, recounts in a few pages the history of Hal Jordan, a reminder of the events that have rebuilt the Green Lantern mythology as we’ve seen re-established by Johns. Toris’ recounting segues into the continuation of our story where we pick up moments after Hal has taken his life ending plunge in Green Lantern #19.
Hal and Sinestro’s lives continue to reflect each other as we see Sinestro deny himself the green power ring in favor of yellow while Hal has denied himself existence to don the black ring.  The Templar Guardians arrive on Maltus to find that the Great Heart is gone and preventing them from using it to aid their misguided comrades.  The Guardians continue to try to reason with Volthoom from their captivity on Oa and in doing so reveals to us a little more about the origins of the emotional spectrum.
Volthoom recalls witnessing the Guardians divorce themselves from their emotions which in turn led to the creation of the first power ring and battery, as a side effect, altered Volthoom, infusing him with the Guardians’ combined emotional energies.  We learn that Ganthet took the first ring for himself and upon Volthoom’s reclamation he dons the ring and restores emotions to the Guardians, who are soon overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and shame.  Before Volthoom can begin his final gambit the Green Lantern Corps arrive on the scene and try to take him down.
The origins of the First Lantern get more fleshed out.
Returning to the Dead Zone Black Hand turns to dust without his ring, now firmly in the possession of Hal Jordan.  Tomar-Re questions how his old friend will be able to escape the afterlife to which Hal reminds us of his allies, the Indigo Tribe.  Back on Oa, Lanterns are falling to Volthoom until Atrocitus arrives with the rest of his Red Lanterns.  Atrocitus is no more effective at dispatching Volthoom than the Corps, but more troops arrive including most of the New Guardians and more lanterns from throughout the emotional spectrum, including one familiar canine that we haven’t seen in years.  Working together with Mogo the collected ring wielders channel all of their energy into one massive blast which barely slows down Volthoom.
This makes way for Sinestro’s arrival, and he’s out for revenge against Volthoom for destroying Korugar.  Volthoom uses the destruction of Sinestro’s planet to put a halt to the attack, but then the Indigo Tribe arrive,   channeling the power of the black to help Hal return from the Dead Zone, much to the amazement of Carol Ferris.  Hal emerges from the portal commanding a troop of Black Lanterns, commanding them to attack Volthoom.  Hal and Sinestro trade a couple of barbs while Volthoom takes out the Black Lanterns in short order.
Capturing Hal Jordan and surrounding them in a force bubble, Volthoom looks to find the perfect moment of  Hal’s life to exploit, and while Hal is intent on that moment being his possession by Parallax, Volthoom goes much deeper, pulling out the death of Martin Jordan and a young Hal.  Volthoom seduces the younger Hal to wish for his father back while Carol and Kyle try to break through the force field.  Seeing that Hal is about to be undone, Sinestro leaves.  Volthoom reveals that Hal himself is a connection to the source of willpower, perhaps having a greater connection that the central power battery itself, allowing Volthoom to begin to remake the universe.
Atrocitus’ arrival makes heads turn!
Sinestro has found his way to the yellow central battery that was stored on Oa some time ago and summons Parallax, merging with it but proclaiming that he is the master of fear and will not be ruled by the entity.  While Sinestro controls fear it’s not enough to take out Volthoom and Hal quickly realizes that he has to return to the Dead Zone for one more weapon to be used against Volthoom.  After a brief appearance by Martin Jordan Hal summons Nekron, mastering command over him as Sinestro has Parallax.
With Sinestro holding Volthoom down Hal uses his ring to expel the entire emotional spectrum from the First Lantern, leaving the powerless being for Nekron to slice in two.  The Guardians are freed and realize they have been given a second chance with Volthoom’s original corrupted ring sent back to his universe and the one that Sinestro gave up finding Hal Jordan after he consoles his younger self.  Returned to the land of the living Hal Jordan sends Nekron back to the Dead Zone and embraces Carol Ferris.
But the story isn’t done yet, and while Atrocitus hunts for the Guardians to exact the revenge that has driven him all these millenia the imprisoned Sinestro Corps breaks free.  Sensing it’s a distraction Hal goes after Sinestro while the rest of the Corps fight against the revived Yellow Lanterns.  And so it comes full circle as once again Hal and Sinestro trade blows.  But while Sinestro thinks Hal is out to save the Guardians it’s really all about saving Sinestro and that for all these years Hal has never given up on him.  
Sinestro reveals that it really is too late for the Guardians and for him because he’s already killed them except for the one he left for Atrocitus to sate his rage.  Sinestro claims that he universe has nothing left for him and leave the Green Lantern Corps in the hands of Hal and the Templar Guardians.  Sinestro promises to release Parallax once he’s gone far away from everyone, but questions Hal about a something he was going to ask Sinestro and he never did.  Hal tells Sinestro that the question was whether or not they were ever friends.  Poignantly Sinestro calls Hal by his first name and tells him they will always be friends and that’s the tragedy in their relationship.
Returning to the future, the bookkeeper Toris tells Snow that Sinestro vanished, leaving Arkillo in charge of the Sinestro Corps.  All the Corps left after some stayed behind to help rebuild Oa and Hal mentored the Templar Guardians, who were eventually welcomed by everyone and continue to serve the Corps in their present time.  As they leave, Snow asks Toris what happened to everyone and the keeper replies by revealing the futures of many of the the main characters in Johns’ run but skipping over Sinestro, revealing to the reader that Toris IS Sinestro and that he burned the pages in the Book of Oa about himself.
The prophecy of the greatest Black Lantern comes true
Via flashback we see that Sinestro didn’t kill all the Guardians, trading the secret that both Ganthet and Sayd are alive with Larfleeze for Sayd’s freedom before sending the two away.  Toris then reminds Snow that Hal Jordan was the greatest of all the Green Lanterns and what Sinestro did was not important.
The Writing –
Wow, just wow!  While Green Lantern #20 doesn’t provide solutions to all of the mysteries that Johns’ created during his tenure, THIS is how you end a run.  This issue satisfies on so many levels and one can sense a creative intensity that explodes from the pages. 
I continue to re-evaluate the whole Wrath of the First Lantern story and I keep re-defining it for myself.  After reading this issue several times today and knowing what happens I’ve come to think of the word wrath a little differently than when I started.  I think most of us, myself included, looked at the title quite literally, that the First Lantern, Volthoom, was out to dispense a lustful vengeance on the Guardians.  But in retrospect I’ve started thinking about it more thematically rather than literally.  Restated, the Wrath of the First Lantern to me has come to mean the repercussions of denying or bottling up our emotions rather than mastering and embracing them for the invaluable role they play in our identity.  In terms of the story the Guardians literally put their emotions into the First Lantern rather than learn to manage them, and it catches up to them in a catastrophic way when those emotions, embodied by Volthoom, are uncorked and allowed to run free without the understanding to control them.
While some might think that spending some of the introductory pages recounting history is a bit of creator service, I think it’s a critical part of having a satisfactory conclusion by remembering the characters’ journey that brought them to this point of the story.  In this case it’s a long journey and there’s no harm in a little summary!  In this situation it also serves to address some of the lingering concerns about the New 52 relaunch and what parts of continuity are still intact.  Finally, as Johns likes to point out, every issue could be someone’s first issue and for someone who might pick this title for the first time a recap would be a necessity.  Johns does a superb job of revisiting the future at the end of the book and in doing so creates a very story driven reason to use the Book of Oa within the context of his script as well as for the reader. 
Sinestro re-unites with Parallax
Something I’ve always admired about Geoff Johns’ writing is that his issues of Green Lantern have been very cinematic experience for me and I often listen to a TV/movie/game soundtrack in the background to heighten the feeling that I’m “reading a movie”.  This issue has that same big blockbuster feel to it as all the pieces that were created in the expansion of the universe come into play and everyone gets their time in the spotlight.  There were a lot of fist pumping moments in Green Lantern #20 and perhaps the one that surprised me the most was the cameo by G’Nort.  While I’m far from a big fan of the character it was cool to see him show up since he was listed as “presumed dead” back in the crypt listing in the Sinestro Corps Secret Files issue.  It just seemed like every few pages there was another one of those high points that had me riveted to this issue like no comic I’ve read lately.
Underlying the various levels of action is the continuing exploration of the Hal Jordan – Sinestro dynamic.  Like the ending of any great epic story there is an extremely satisfying conclusion, but here it’s wrapped inside another equally awesome conclusion.  We’ve seen so many times how these characters are two sides of the same coin and so often we see their lives reflected in each other.  Here both men have seemingly forsaken their lives for darker paths which result in them being put in opposite corners.  Underneath that is the unspoken respect for each other, finally given voice in a moment which evokes emotion in both men that nearly breaks through to the surface.  On one hand it seems almost insignificant given the cataclysmic events surrounding them, but in a sense those few panels are more powerful than many of the battle sequences we’ve seen throughout the entire run.  With the revelation that Sinestro is the bookkeeper and that he has downplayed himself and named Hal the greatest Green Lantern is an enormous evolution for the character and in some ways makes his journey the most satisfying of any character throughout the Johns era.
There’s some interesting groundwork that’s quietly being built with regards to Volthoom that I didn’t quite pick up on in my first reading of this issue.  As the battle with Volthoom reaches it conclusion one of the Guardians comments that the first ring has been banished by to Volthoom’s universe, and we never see exactly what happens to Volthoom once he’s cleaved in two by Nekron, but I’m assuming that he, too, returned home.  Given the character name’s pedigree I wouldn’t be surprised to see this tie to the eventual New 52 version of Power Ring….and I’m still holding out that Volthoom is that universe’s Hal Jordan!
I’m torn in my opinion of the epilogue which shows the future of the characters.  While I found those epilogues personally satisfying, and I think Johns has earned the right to come up with them, I’m not sure how I feel about it in serialized fiction.  It’s one thing for J.K. Rowling to tell us in her last novel what happens to Harry Potter years down the road, but in comics there are more stories with our cast and I’m left feeling like subsequent creators are either going to feel bound by what Johns lays out or they’ll write them away and invalidate them.  I think in either of those situations it’s the reader who loses out in one form or another.
My enemy, my ally
That said, the destinies that Johns sets up for our characters are in some ways exactly what we’d expect or want for our cast.  Guy’s page is wonderfully fun with a reference back to the infamous “one punch” line, while John finds peace at last as Yrra’s husband and a career in politics.  Kyle’s stint as a cosmic Jesus isn’t anything I would have thought of myself but it was fitting and I found satisfaction that Glommy stood by his side!  Simon Baz’s future provides Johns a chance to cement him a little more into the fabric of the DC Universe and foreshadow some ominous things down the line that he’ll be working on with Justice League and perhaps the upcoming Trinity War event.  We see some of the New Guardians’s futures as well, with Iroque reaching a state of transformation that serves as a suitable legacy for Abin Sur.  Meanwhile Hal and Carol get something we’ve always wanted for them, and more.  If there were no more Green Lantern stories being told it would be the perfect ending for all of them.
There are some sub plots that we don’t get resolution on in the conclusion to the story, one being that we didn’t learn how Hal was affected by the yellow battery when he was disintegrated back in issue three.  Sinestro told Hal in issue five that they’d deal with it later, but it wasn’t revisited.  That is a minor mystery given all that’s still unknown about the origins of the emotional spectrum and I’d like to think that Johns has either passed those things on to his successors, leaving them for others to address or not, or he’s simply going to save them for another day if when he writes more Green Lantern stories.
And ending and a beginning as the torch is passed
Following the story are nine pages of congratulations for Geoff Johns from people all over the entertainment spectrum as well as a retrospective by Johns himself.  It’s a great tribute to the man’s creative vision and talent and fitting given what this issue represents.  I’m glad DC expanded this issue and allowed for some shoulder patting considering what Geoff has done with the Green Lantern universe and I hope he realizes that for every comment in this issue there are hundreds of readers out here who feel the same way.
The Art –
Geez, where to begin!?  Doug Mahnke of course hits a grand slam this issue and the guest artists is a “Who’s Who” of some of the most talented artists in comics today.  While sometimes books with multiple artists suffer from a lack of cohesion Green Lantern #20 works nicely and gives artists who have helped shape the Green Lantern universe one more opportunity remind us of their roles in this run.  
While there are clearly many epic moments in this issue in terms of the narrative Green Lantern #20 is rich with the same level of visuals.  In a book this big it’s hard to list them all because there are just so many of them.  It goes without saying that every splash page provides the artists moments to create something awesome and they certainly capitalize on each one of them, but there are those little, more subtle moments that sometimes resonate with me more.  In particular the panels where we see the emotion in Sinestro and Hal come to the surface are some of the best for me personally and they help support the character driven drama going on behind the greater plot.  I’ve literally spent a life time with Hal and Sinestro and for me this issue marks a major milestone in their relationship with the art being a key factor in that opinion.
Sinestro finally lets down the wall
I’m always happy to see Ivan Reis and Ethan Van Sciver on a Green Lantern book, especially Van Sciver who helped launch Green Lantern: Rebirth.  It’s also great to see relative new comer Aaron Kuder alongside them; he’s a great guy who lives not far from where I do and he’s one of those rising artists who you find yourself rooting for once you get a chance to talk with them and hear their personal story.  
What Do I Think?
The state of the Green Lantern universe isn’t the same as when Johns first took over, in fact it’s in a better position than it has ever been before.   Granted the Guardians are dead and so is Black Hand, but for those and perhaps a few other losses the mythology itself has been expanded exponentially and the universe is ripe for stories to be told by the creators that follow in Johns’ footsteps.  The scope of Johns’ work on this series is something that defines a career and I have little doubt that it will be one of those runs that the medium refers to for years to come.  Geoff Johns name will forever be linked to Green Lantern and I look forward to more from him whenever he decides to visit Oa.
I left comics for a period of time in the nineties and didn’t return until I’d heard about JSA and this new guy, Geoff Johns, who was writing it.  I picked up an issue or two, got hooked by Johns’ handling of the characters and before long I was reading a few titles again.  So when Green Lantern: Rebirth was announced with Geoff’s name attached I just had a feeling that it would be something special.  Here I am now, a lot older and a little wiser, at the end of a run which has seen my favorite character elevated to where he has always belonged – flying among the stars, taking care of business and still getting the girl.
Green Lantern #20 is everything you’d hope for and more. Yes, of course this issue gets five lanterns – what’d you expect!

About the author

Life long Green Lantern fan and co-host of the Podcast of Oa. I’m a Barbecue snob and aficionado of blues music. Hal Jordan is my co-pilot!

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