Green Lantern issue nineteen provides some of the most dramatic moments in the series since its post Flashpoint relaunch. With Volthoom growing stronger with each passing issue of this story line both Sinestro and Hal Jordan find themselves in two very different but very seemingly powerless scenarios just as the First Lantern seems to have reached his apex.
The Story –
In the Dead Zone Hal Jordan finds himself left behind by Sinestro and Simon Baz with only Tomar-Re beside him and the fallen Black Hand. Hal reasons that if he will have to risk jumping to his death in order to don a Black Lantern ring in order to return and take on the First Lantern, however Tomar-Re solemnly reminds him that a Black Lantern cannot do anything, that during Blackest Night it was Nekron who pulled the strings of the Black Lanterns. Should Hal choose to take the ultimate leap of faith he may very well doom himself to an undesirable fate.
Back in the land of the living Sinestro tries to force Baz to reveal Volthoom’s location not realizing that no one in the Chamber of Shadows has that information. Confronted with the Hidden Ones, who now call themselves the Templar Guardians, Sinestro makes his escape and arriving on Korugar where he interrupts Arsona’s confrontation with a thug. She’s not happy to see him, but softens when Sinestro asks for her help in confronting Volthoom. As the scene begins turning towards something more interpersonal, Volthoom arrives and peruses Sinestro’s emotional constellation, finding him to be the being with more turmoil than anyone else he has ever encountered.
|The dynamic between Sinestro and Arsona begins to reveal the true nature of their emotions
Sinestro is given an alternate history to witness, one where he amasses an army to fight off the Anti-Monitor and Qward alongside Arsona, his partner in both his professional and personal life. Volthoom reveals that in either reality both Arin Sur and Arsona would die, causing Sinestro to fight back and for the first time show that Volthoom can be hurt. Volthoom reveals that he came to Korugar not for Sinestro, but for the planet itself given how much emotion and turmoil that Sinestro has instilled in his people over the years. With that the First Lantern destroys Korugar, leaving Sinestro as the sole survivor floating unconscious in the ruins.
Back in the Dead Zone Hal and Tomar-Re witness the arrival of the newly dead Korugarians. Seeing that Sinestro is not among them, Hal literally leaps before he has fully looked at the repercussions of his actions, willing himself to commit an act of ultimate sacrifice by choosing his own death. As the issue comes to a close we see Sinestro and Hal both at the ends of their ropes, Hal lying in a pool of his own blood at the bottom of a chasm and Sinestro coming to and seeing the only think left of his homeworld….the yellow power battery he had stored in his headquarters.
The Writing –
There’s been a lot said about the Wrath of the First Lantern, most of it critical of the lack of action and dramatic power that fans would expect from Geoff Johns’ final story arc after helming the Green Lantern franchise for eight years. While I agree that the level of action hasn’t been on par with stories like Sinestro Corps War or Blackest Night, I think there’s something to this story that runs deeper than what we’ve come to expect from Johns.
|Volthoom is ready to pick the fruits of Sinestro’s failure
There is a common theme among the books during this story arc – that we are all the product of our decisions and that we have the power within ourselves to make our future if we channel our energies towards our goals. In this issue we see Sinestro left with what could be an incredibly difficult choice – to embrace the power that once consumed him or to hold on to the role that originally helped to define him. He’s an alcoholic being offered an unlimited tap and there’s no one there to help guide him towards making the better personal choice, just he and his id. Meanwhile Hal Jordan, a man who is willpower personified, finds himself overcoming what was his greatest strength by defying his will to live in order to serve the greater good and surrendering himself. To control or be controlled by our definitions of ourselves, to be more than was we are, that’s the greater challenge here. On one level it doesn’t compare to the all out action we’ve come to expect, but it’s a far more introspective story.
There are a couple of things that I found myself raising my eyebrows over with this issue. One was seeing Sinestro disappear from the Chamber of Shadows and thinking that if Sinestro could get out so easy it seems to fly in the face of what the Chamber was designed for. But then again I think way back to Green Lantern: Rebirth and remember that we saw Sinestro do this back then, shortly after fighting the newly returned Hal Jordan. Combined with the memory that Sinestro has already told Hal that there are things the ring can do that the Guardians kept from their Corps and what Simon Baz has done with his own ring and I’m left thinking that the ring’s limitations really do seem to be defined by the ring bearer.
The other thing I have been trying to wrap my head around is the issue of how Arin Sur died. Back in Green Lantern #9 of the previous series we saw that Arin Sur died when the people of Korugar chose to stand up to Sinestro and a child suicide bomber caused a great deal of damage. Here we see that the Manhunters were involved and I’m left wondering if this is a continuity change created by Flashpoint or if this is a history change brought about by Volthoom. Regardless of the source of the change if indeed the Manhunters are tied to Arin’s death it does add fuel to Sinestro’s feeling towards the Guardians.
Hal’s journey is also one that’s rife for controversy. Could a man driven by will do something so un-heroic as taking his own life. That’s been rolling around in my head for a while and if I find disappointment with this issue its that Johns made it too easy for Hal to jump off that cliff. It seems to me that this should have been Hal’s greatest battle – overcoming himself to allow himself to give up his own life. What’s lacking is Johns filling in those gaps so that it’s a bit clearer to the reader because depending on how one chooses to look at it you get a different experience out of it. But perhaps that’s what Johns wants us to do as the reader in this situation – to think about this and decide for ourselves by trying to put ourselves in Hal’s shoes. Could any of us summon the willpower to do the unthinkable not knowing how it would work out while having to force down the urge to live. If so that’s a gutsy decision and a lot of readers aren’t going to take it that way.
|Hal’s decision is left for the reader to digest and would have been helped along with just a little bit of internal monologue
The Art –
I again love how the creators chose two different artists to handle the Dead Zone and the land of the living sequences. We also see the continuing visual plot thread that Volthoom is continuing to loose his transparency as he rises in power, something that has led to me to think of the First Lantern as not only the first to don a power ring, but as literally the first lantern, a living power source made up of the white energy of creation.
There are a few things that really stood out for me this issue, one being the attention to detail with regard to Sinestro’s lair and not only the inclusion of the yellow power battery that shows up again in the final pages but also the symbolic nature of the broken image of Sinestro and Arin Sur as his love for Arsona begins to come to the surface. Visually the decision to show both Hal and Sinestro in their various states in the closing pages was also greatly symbolic of two men who’s lives run in such parallels. And one nitpick – Sinestro’s ring is on the wrong hand when Korugar is destroyed.
I also feel the need to address the cover which showed some oddly colored lanterns. If it was an attempt to show the familiar lantern colors in different lighting it failed to achieve the desired result and instead led readers to believe that there were some new colors we’d never seen before. We all know it’s not uncommon for covers to not match the contents but at the same time I wouldn’t expect for a cover to go as far as to imply something of that magnitude that simply isn’t true.
What Do I Think?
The penultimate issue of Geoff Johns Green Lantern run features some powerful if sometimes understated moments. With Korugar gone and Hal Jordan dead we’re left with a lot of questions to be answered in the oversized conclusion. While the issue does propel the overall story forward it would have been served well with a little bit of insight into the minds of our lead characters in light of how little page time they’ve had in recent months. Four out of five lanterns.