“I was the first one in the universe to wear a power ring”
I originally thought that this week’s Green Lanterns #18 would be a return to the Volthoom/Rami plot so I was quite surprised to find that Sam Humphries instead wrote what is essentially a more detailed origin for Volthoom than what was revealed during the whole “Wrath of the First Lantern” story arc that served and the end cap to Geoff Johns’ run in the franchise. The issue provides some new information about how Volthoom arrived on Maltus ten billion years ago and what his motivation was to travel to our Earth in the first place.
I appreciate that Humphries is taking the time to explore the character more because Volthoom in his first outing was a villain who’s motivations where nebulous at times. Here we learn that he is the last survivor of Earth 15 and while searching for a way to save his planet and his mother he uses his knowledge of the emotional spectrum to seed the information throughout the multiverse. The early scene between Volthoom and his mother are the emotional anchor point of the story which makes Volthoom’s motivations clearer, but as events unravel so does his drive to actually accomplish the goal that sets his fate in motion.
Once the first power ring arrives it takes over as the driving force in Volthoom’s life. While he blames the Guardians for imprisoning him in the Chamber of Shadows it reads like Volthoom’s obsession with the ring and the applications of the emotional spectrum eclipsed his original motivation and once he began exhibiting mental side effects from exposure to the spectrum the Guardians locked him up. Of course this story is all being told from Volthoom’s point of view so the events are all subject to interpretation.
I found it odd that Humphries chose to spend an entire issue on Volthoom’s background and I’m not sure what the point of this is with regards to the overall narrative. If the goal was to paint Volthoom as a sympathetic character the opening story serves that end, but that ends up kind of lost once you realize he’s lost his mind. I hope that the plan isn’t to try to redeem Volthoom because he’s really too far gone for that.
Humphries mines some continuity here in terms of recalling some of the events of the Johns’ run, but there are some big time problems with getting the pieces to line up right. Volthoom claims to be from Earth 15 in the far future, however that can’t be true. Earth 15 was populated by superheroes and destroyed by Superman Prime during “Countdown”, and then when the new multiverse was created during “Flashpoint” Earth 15 was revealed to be a barren planet devoid of life. That’s a minor problem to be sure, but Humphries use of the Great Heart is more problematic. The Great Heart, a vessel containing the emotions of the Guardians, is depicted here as being used in experiments on Volthoom and it is implanted in his chest ala the Alpha Lanterns. However we know that the Great Heart was actually buried deep under the surface of Maltus, the original homeworld of the Guardians, as show in Red Lanterns #17 during the “Rise of the Third Army”.
Perhaps the biggest problem though is the timeline of events here. We know that the Guardians encounter Volthoom, lock him up, create the Manhunters, then the Green Lanterns. But Humphries seems to ignore the Manhunters altogether, having the Guardians create seven Green Lanterns to defeat Volthoom instead, only to then take their rings away for billions of years. Where Krona’s gauntlet fits into the equation is very muddy and it seems the only way to make any of this make sense is to connect the dots where possible and then rationalize the parts that don’t fit right. I did, however, like how Humphries tied Volthoom to the Earth 3 story line and explain a little bit about how it connects with the creation of Power Ring.
Robson Rocha is back on pencils and his work is of the same high quality that you’d expect it to be. His facial expressions help sell the emotional beats in the story and his version of Nekron looks good as does his version of Hal Jordan, who is the only Green Lantern to actually appear in the issue. The pencil work is good but the whole issue looks a little off to me and I think it’s color work. Alex Sollazzo did the colors and everything looks a little too muted and muddy to me. Sometimes that works well when you’re trying to create a visual distinction between different time periods or locations but this issue is essentially one giant flashback and there’s no contrast when the timeline shifts.
Green Lanterns #18 attempts to expand on the lore behind the Green Lantern franchise by showing readers the “secret origin” of Volthoom. While it does provide some new insight there are clear bumps in the road when it comes to contradicting what’s come before which may put off long time fans. Robson Rocha’s pencil work is good as usual but the coloring of the issue knocks it down a peg or two for me. Six out of ten lanterns.