“For the first time in your life — we need you to do exactly as you are told”
When The Green Lantern was announced it was promoted as a space cop procedural envisioned as a twelve “episode” season. Today’s The Green Lantern #12 serves as the season finale as well as a new beginning. We know that the three-issue mini series Green Lantern: Blackstars fills the interim until the second season starts in early 2020, showing us a universe where the Green Lantern Corps never existed. Knowing that, there’s a lot of anticipation for how the creative team wraps things up and sets the stage for what’s to come.
One thing that has stood out for me throughout this run so far is the great efforts put in by the entire creative team. Surely everyone knows that Grant Morrison is writing the series and that bring with it a great degree of expectation. But this book doesn’t pin its success on just the writing, the entire team has done solid work from start to finish and it’s no stretch to say that it would not be as solid a series as it is without the contributions of Liam Sharp, Steve Oliff and Tom Orzechowski. The pencils, the colors and inks and the lettering have never failed to elevate the scripts for each issue.
That said, something that I found that greatly benefited me was going into this issue having recently re-read the first eleven issues. There are things that might have been overlooked early on that now are seen in a different light having finished issue twelve, and there’s also great satisfaction in seeing that the things I did pick up on were rewarded as this over-sized issue unfolded in front of me. The “Return of the Qwa-Man” comes full circle from the first issue of the series, as Controller Mu’s grand plan finally comes to fruition and Hal Jordan is put in the more dire of situations.
The issue starts out ten minutes since the ending of issue #11, since Hal only has fifteen minutes left to live according to Morrison’s countdown. Returning to Weirwimm, a planet in the zone where Green Lanterns have no jurisdiction, Hal makes a heroic entrance just as the Qwa-Man is about to put an end to Trilla-Tru. Tru’s been making a grand last stand in the wake of the Qwa-Man’s return, with Stel, Bzzd and Tuebeen much worse for the confrontation. There’s a nice piece of symmetry between this issue and the first in that both issues that bookend season one contain the only full page spreads in the entire run so far, and both of them are the title pages. And they mirror each other in theme. In issue #1 the full page drawing is of Hal staring up into the sky, seemingly at peace with the cosmos in an image which reeks calmness. Here Hal is at war with his opposite self and the page is full of chaos and savage action. I don’t know if it was an intentional choice or not, and I’d place my wager on it being a creative choice, but either way it’s pretty damn cool. I also appreciate the restraint in avoiding the modern trend of having at least one double page spread an issue and subscribing to the notion that they be used sparingly, to drive home the importance or scale to something that truly deserves to create a visual impact.
With the Guardians sending assistance to aid the falling Green Lanterns, there is some really interesting conversation between the Guardians that I feel is really important to where this series is headed. The Guardians recognize that Controller Mu’s plans are coming to fruition and that the endgame is close at hand. However the Guardians have one of their own, that they explained to “him” that he must do exactly what he’s been told to do. Given the humorous line about it being the first time in his life, once can only come to the conclusion that Hal is the “him” to whom they are referring. What’s the Guardians’ endgame in this chess game where all of reality is on the line?
This conversation immediately got my Lantern-sense tingling, because as I read the opening the first thought in my head was wondering why Hal, who was just ten minutes earlier charging rings with the Guardians of the Multiverse, heading to Weirwimm all by his lonesome? What I at first thought was a plot hole changed as my brain started thinking that Hal’s role is do just what happens in this issue and that he has to nearly die fighting the Qwa-Man so that Mu’s plan can come to fruition, the Guardians gambling all their cosmic chips on Hal Jordan to follow through with their instructions knowing that this wager has the highest stakes in the Multiverse.
As Hal battles Qwa-Man his ring runs dangerously close to running out of its charge, the clock ticking against Hal and an inevitable Matter/Anti-Matter cataclysm should he make actual physical contact with his negative self. These pages really let Sharp, Oliff and Orzechowski rip loose as each page is filled with the raw brutality of two combatants who are in the fight of their lives. Qwa-Man is Hal’s Doomsday, only he has a savior that Superman didn’t have, Sinestro. We saw Sinestro show up back in issue #8 and at the time I mused that this might be a Sinestro from another universe and it turns out that was correct, as we learn that this is the Anti-Matter Universe Sinestro, or as Hal says, “Good guy Sinestro”. Of course good is not quite the right choice of words as Sinestro reveals that he got money from the Blackstars to lure Qwa-man to Weirwimm and he’ll also be collecting from the Qwa-Masters once he returns him to them. Morrison’s take on Sinestro paints him as a rogue for hire, more of the mustache twirling David Niven inspired creation of John Broome and Gil Kane more so than the re-imagined space Hitler that Geoff Johns re-envisioned him to be. It’s a creative way to get a Sinestro in the book without doing anything to the modern version of him that’s been playing a large role in the Justice League book.
The battle continues and another loose end gets taken care of as the traitor in the Corps is finally revealed. The way that Chriselon had been portrayed made it pretty clear that he was the Blackstar informant, but the curve ball comes from Chriselon not being himself, but a Durlan in disguise. Durlans are the perfect spies and we haven’t really seen them in play since Robert Venditti used they as foils to test the Green Lantern Corps during his time with the franchise. Ziggle, who dies protecting Hal, had been quietly and effectively moved out of the picture, in fact it was done so subtly that it wasn’t until I went back and re-read the entire season that I remembered seeing her before. Back in the second issue Ziggle showed up as one of the Blackstars who broke Evil Star free from the Obsidian Depths where the creative team made a point of making sure readers knew she was Durlan – and then like a wisp of smoke she faded away until the reveal in this issue. Her job was to make sure that Hal survived because, as we learn later, Hal is the final piece in the Mu master plan. I admire that there’s no cheap way out here, that the plot unfolds with the reader learning that all the pieces of the puzzle have been there in front of them the entire time.
The Superwatch show up again, as does a healed Maxim Tox, joining the Lanterns in the desperate fight against the Qwa-man, but bringing with them an authority from the Anti-Verse to escort the escaped menace back to his own dimension. Sinestro recognizes that the Borderman is really a Qwa-Master, but before Hal can do anything about it he’s whisked away by Zeta Beam and rejoins Countess Belzebeth and the three Controller Mu’s among the rest of the Blackstars. Mu’s death wasn’t as final as it seems and we find that every step has been planned by a master tactician, and it’s then that Mu’s game is revealed. When issue six came out I and a number of fans all reached the same conclusion, that Mu was attempting to build the Miracle Machine, the device capable of rewriting the universe based on the will of the user that Morrison used to great effect in Final Crisis. Based on Guardian technology the Miracle Machine makes its chronological debut here as Mu’s way to create the most dreaded wish fulfilling mechanization in the DCU. It’s here that you realize that everything that Morrison has done for all these years somehow all ties together in one massive cosmic quilt that’s been revealed square by square over to course of Grant’s time writing DC comics. At face value it can certainly come of as fanciful ambition, but when looked at in its entirety the term “creative genius” seems far more deserving when you step back and see the grand design that has been built over the years.
Morrison’s script does a really smart job too in putting Hal in an all too familiar situation as he’s put in the position to be the one to rewrite reality in his role as the fifth and final component of the Miracle Machine. It’s a twisted, depraved spin as Hal is forced to use what’s left of the energy of his power ring to wish away reality. Hal Jordan, the man who once tried to do the very same thing in Zero Hour, is now once again changing the multiverse by using a perversion of the one thing that gives him purpose. That Hal chose the name Parallax for his Blackstar identity is not lost on anyone here, the irony is right there in the reader’s face. It’s here that I instantly thought back to that Guardian conversation earlier in the issue – is Hal supposed to be doing this as a part of the Oans’ plan? As the Qwa-Man lays waste to Hal’s allies he’s told to wish Controller Mu’s wish and set the universe right. I’m sure Hal’s going to do that, but not without an escape clause of his own!
The issue ends with an epilogue that teases the second season, a flash forward that also builds upon what we’ve seen out the series so far. Hal Jordan, Weaponeer 666 of the Anti-Verse is show repaired, his antimatter battery returned to his chest cavity and joined by his fellow Weaponeers who look pretty familiar. Morrison used the term in reference to the Qwa-Man back in the first issue when Mu had the Anti-Matter Hal’s battery removed. I love that Orzechowski has all the dialog reversed, and combined with Sharp and Oliff’s imagery we are witness to a horrific Corps that are being set up to be a major problem for the Green Lantern Corps, or the Blackstars depending on how everything goes down over the next few months!
If there’s any criticism about this issue it’s in that the conclusion of the story isn’t presented in a way that many readers are going to expect it. There’s no real end here of a traditional nature – the issue ends with the reader unsure of what wish Hal makes with the Miracle Machine and the epilogue doesn’t really inform the reader of what’s to come. For some that might be an unsatisfactory ending while others may see it differently. For me I’m happy knowing that what happens next isn’t being spelled out for me, that Hal’s choice will unfold organically over the course of the Green Lantern: Blackstars series. Like Hal I’m going to have to piece it together, which in my opinion makes for a richer reading experience. So bring it on!
The Green Lantern #12 is a packed finale to season one, filled with appearances by characters that have appeared throughout the run. This over-sized issue shows that the creative team ended the first twelve issues as they began, a cohesive unit presenting readers with an ambitious story that throws big concepts at you while still delivering action, adventure and humor every step of the journey. Morrison, Sharp, Oliff and Orzechowski show what can happen when creators stand together as a unit and let their imaginations run wild. The Green Lantern has been one of DC’s stellar books from the very start and this issue is a worthy conclusion to a saga that deserves tremendous accolades. The DC cosmic universe is alive and well in the pages of The Green Lantern – now bring on the Blackstars and Season Two! Ten out of ten lanterns.