It’s been about eight and a half months since Green Lantern #12 was released, but after the wait, we now have the arrival of John Stewart: The Emerald Knight #1, an oversized one-shot that hit stands this week. The new issue appears to be the bridge between the end of Geoff Thorne’s run and the upcoming “Dawn of DC” books and an effort to tie up any loose ends left dangling by this run and Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths.
With the time gap since we last visited this run and how comics have marched on, I’m not sure this book was needed at all. Let’s be brutally honest here – DC has moved past the events of this run and the changes that we saw to the Lantern universe in the series finale already seem to have been forgotten and things appear to have reverted back to the familiar status quo. So where does this cosmic lame-duck story have left to go that’s worth our energy? For better or worse, this denouement leaves the door open for the Dark Sectors to be explored when and if DC Comics ever decides they want to revisit it.
This issue jumps ahead two years from where we last left it – but remember that two years in the Dark Sectors means something different than it does outside of this pocket universe. In those two years, John and his group have continued the long and labored conflict against Phalanx and his minions while Esak grows closer to his final goal. John’s forces are battle-weary and tired of the drawn-out conflict, with signs of discontent growing amongst the troops. Lonar arrives and does what he does best, he talks a lot.
From a storytelling perspective, the structure of this issue suffers from narrative congestion which bogs down the pacing and makes the book denser than it needs to be. I get that this might be Thorne’s last chance to put in place what he’d like to since we are unlikely to return to it any time soon, but the story suffers under the weight of all the exposition.
In the end, John trick Esak into choosing what type of God he will be since his lack of choosing his destiny is allowing him to ignore some of the rules of Godhood. In making his choice Esak can no longer kill others to create the energy he needs to achieve his goal, thus ending the conflict. Along the way, we learn that the Dark Sectors are created from Hypertime, explaining why time passes differently there. I did like Thorne’s explanation of Hypertime’s place in the Multiverse and the analogy of the Source flowing like a cosmic ocean of creative energy, creating Multiverse rivers as it flows.
Hypertime comes into play with a couple of troublesome parts of the story as well. For one, well, Xanshi is back – at least a copy of it is anyways. Listed as one of the crux worlds back in the second issue, Esak uses a Hypertime version of Xanshi as a base of operations. Xanshi survives the final conflict and lives on in the Dark Sectors. This should lead to an interesting conversation between John and Yrra Cynril (Fatality) should a writer want to explore it at some point. While some fans will no doubt celebrate the return of Xanshi as there is a belief that John’s failure on Xanshi in Cosmic Odyssey damaged the character, I’ve never seen it as a problem the way they have. I’ve always viewed that as one of the few events which defined John Stewart as a character and his self-examination of those events is what led to him becoming the leader he is. Sure, Xanshi’s return doesn’t make John unlearn the lesson coming out of the original story, but what’s the point of returning it? After all, John’s been aware of the Multiverse for some time and has known there are multiple versions of Xanshi floating out there anyways – so it’s not like this is a huge burden lifted off his shoulders or anything.
The bigger problem comes from the fact that John is joined by another version of himself as well, dividing the power of Source given to John between both versions. The problem being is, well, according to comments made by Thorne, the version that stays in the Dark Sectors and goes in search of another Katma Tui is the original John Stewart, and it’s the copy that returns to our universe. Thorne says it doesn’t really matter since, at the point they go their separate ways the two versions are identical, but what a horrible idea! Isn’t there a John Stewart missing from someplace where he’s needed? And the version who comes back is still ascended and commands nearly limitless power – how does that fold into where we find John right before Dark Crisis on Infinite Earth takes place? Again, what was the point of this special, and why not have just published issue 13 of the series back in May and called it good?
At some point will the “real” John emerge as a much older man to return to take his place? Will the “copy” John at some point let the Corps know he’s just a reasonable facsimile? Goodness, the last thing I want is a Green Lantern variation on the clone saga, so I do hope that this whole notion is erased or simply ignored. The book closes with an ominous “End Chapter One” line, but I really could care less about reading more.
If there’s a positive that I could bring out of this it’s the art of Marco Santucci. Santucci continues to be the strongest element of this run and fortunately he was able to carry the load of this entire issue himself. His pencils are brilliant and really elevate the script. I do think that the coloring by Michael Atiyeh is not as complimentary as the art deserves, as it looks a little flat and cartoony for my personal preferences. While I’m not a fan of the emerald blade concept, Santucci does carry it off pretty well and makes it at least look cool.
John Stewart: The Emerald Knight #1 is hopefully the final time we’ll see Geoff Thorne writing in the Green Lantern universe. In an issue that could have tied the series back into regular continuity, this one-shot effectively opens a kettle of worms that puts DC Comics in a position where ignoring the run is its best option – and the best option for readers as well. Four out of ten lanterns.