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Issue fifteen of Green Lantern finally answers the question of who is the First Lantern, but the answer is more of a trickle of information.  The history of the character and how he not only gained his ability, but how his destiny and that of the Guardians collided remain to be seen.  Baz also comes face to face with the person behind the van bomb and finds himself helpless to stop him.

The Story-
Far out in space Green Lantern Gorish rushes homeward on the increasing chatter of the rise of the Third Army but his arrival comes too late and he is left confronted by a planet’s population full of assimilated beings rising from his world’s surface.  
Back in Dearborn, Michigan Baz makes his way to the address his sister Sira provided to him last issue, the address of the owner of the explosive filled van that Baz stole.  The occupant, Edward Wale, greets Baz at the door, recognizing him as the “terrorist” and threatening to call the police before being convinced to allow Baz to come in and talk.  Agents Valdez and Fed continue their pursuit of Baz but Fed still follows his hunch that Simon is innocent so the two men split up to try differing methods of tracking the Green Lantern down.
Things at the Wale residence don’t go as planned and we learn that Wale himself rigged the van and parked it under the bridge in an attempt to blow it up for reasons as yet unknown other than taking out a train.  Baz’s ring prevents him from being shot but that ends up being the last act of a ring desperately in need of a charge and before long the scene turns into a chase scene as Wale hunts a perplexed Green Lantern.
The mystery deepens

Meanwhile in the Dead Zone Sinestro and Hal Jordan continue to be led by the mysterious stranger who turns  out to have a history with both of the recently “deceased” men.  He reveals that he was once Sinestro’s enemy and Hal’s friend as well as a seeming knowledge of what’s going on in the living world by his comments that the fact that Hal and Sinestro are dead it probably a good thing.

Back in Michigan Wale gets the drop on Baz but Fed arrives in the nick of time to prevent the man from killing Simon Baz and emerging as a hero triumphant over the man who tried to blow up the city.  Their confrontation is interrupted by the arriving Third Army who had been tracking Baz’s ring signature.  While Wale doesn’t survive the encounter, both Baz and Fed manage to escape after blowing up the home, only to be met by B’Dg, who was sent to Earth to find Hal.

Baz and Fed find themselves surrounded by the Third Army

Back on Oa the Guardians discuss the growing ranks of their new army, noting that as they grow in number the Guardians’ power is stretched thinner.  Drawing upon the power of the First Lantern, the captive vows  that he, Volthoom, will have his revenge on the Guardians.
The Writing –
This issue wraps up Baz’s mission to prove his innocence to the government, however with Fed as the only witness it will be Simon’s next priority to keep him safe from the Third Army.  Once can assume that B’Dg’s timely arrival will give Baz a chance to charge his ring.  Geoff Johns answered early criticism about Baz’s gun possession by saying that he has a reason not to trust the ring and this perhaps is the issue where we see that begin as Baz nearly loses his life due to his ignorance about how the ring works.  I’m still not sure I can get behind the idea of a gun toting Green Lantern but I can see how it would be a natural decision for Baz until he learns how to really handle the ring.
We all knew that Simon Baz’s story is one that is very personal for Geoff Johns, and of course Baz is not going to be a terrorist, but I honestly was looking for something perhaps a little more original with how it turned out.  While we may never know Wale’s backstory his form of domestic terrorism seems to be aimed at advancing a white supremacist or xenophobic agenda.  Having the hero falsely judged based on some sort of bias only to have the villain revealed as one of “us” has been overused and I really hope that Johns doesn’t overreach the bounds of competent story telling and fall into the abyss of the cliche.  Or as I like to call it, pulling a Terry Berg.

The Guardians’ learn that the cost of removing free will is the taxing of the limits of their power

What I found the most interesting in this issue took up perhaps the least amount of panel time.  The identity of our mysterious Dead Zone wanderer has me really scratching my head and the information provided this issue steers my thoughts away from the Starstorm theory I had and now knowing that he shares a history with both Sinestro and Hal I’m more interested in finding out just who this man is and right now I have absolutely no clue who he might be.
One of Power Ring’s incarnations

For some time we’ve wondered who the First Lantern is and at last we know and he’s no one I would have ever expected him to be.  Volthoom.  To make a loooonnnggg story short, In the Pre-Crisis DCU Volthoom was a monk on Earth 3 who gave a power battery and ring to Joseph Harrolds – who donned the name Power Ring as part of the Crime Syndicate, a mirror evil version of the Justice League.  Post-Crisis his story changed slightly with Volthoom being the name of a cursed monk who’s spirit inhabited the ring, seducing weak willed beings into wearing the ring in order to manipulate them and leading to several versions of Power Ring.  Post-Infinite Crisis there was no mention of Volthoom’s connection to Power Ring and this is the first mention of the name in the “new 52”.  (For more information on Power Ring’s history, take a peak here.)

What does this all mean?  Heck if I know!  I find the notion that Volthoom’s earliest history was very much like the antimatter universe’s version of the Starheart which powered Alan Scott’s battery and ring very interesting.  And by extension how that relates to being the first being to harness the energy is pretty cool, but this Volthoom likely shares little more than a name with that of his Silver Age predecessor.  My first thought is that Johns is going to re-define the character for the post-Flashpoint universe and make him something far greater than he was before because that’s what Johns tends to do.  Either that or he’s just toying with us and thought it was a cool name to re-use!

The revelation of Volthoom dashes the theory that the First Lantern is a time displaced Kyle Rayner after he masters all the emotions of the spectrum.  Then again, there’s nothing saying he doesn’t change his name feeling he’s outgrown his human identity!  Speculators gotta speculate, you know!

Despite the not so original terrorism plot the issue is another solid read.  A little too light on the Hal and Sinestro for my tastes, but still a well written chapter in the “Rise of the Third Army”.  We can see now that as the Guardians are stretched to the breaking point the opportunity will arise for Volthoom to break free and unleash the “Wrath of the First Lantern”.

The Art –
Doug Mahnke really did a wonderful job this issue when it comes to setting the tone of the scene.  Seeing the reflection of all the new Third Army soldiers in Gorish’s eyes only to turn the page and see the huge swarm rising from the planet’s surface really drove home how huge of a threat the Third Army is to free will.   And all throughout the issue the facial expressions support John’s dialogue and again create the right tone for the story.

What Do I Think?
On one hand I think Johns is trying perhaps a little too hard to tell a personal story and risks weakening the greater narrative doing so.  But the rest of the elements that make up the issue are good enough to compensate and Green Lantern fans continue to have those mythology building carrots dangled in front of their noses.  While I’d like to see a lot more Hal Jordan in this series for now I’m content to let my interest in the bigger picture override that bit of discontentment.  Four out of five lanterns.

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