ALL OF THE LIGHTS, or, Green Lantern #20 Ends an Era

Look at all the people! And that lava lamp guy! And the colors!

Look at all the people! And that lava lamp guy! And the colors!

Spoilers for Green Lantern #20 ahead.

Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern run, a nine year stint that wrapped just last week with the finale to the current Wrath of the First Lantern arc, is the reason I read comics.

That isn’t me being profound. It’s me being extremely literal.

It’s the reason I read comics – not trade paperbacks or graphics novels, mind you. Comics. Every once in a while I’d pick up a collected paperback of Batman and sometimes when I was feeling wild and crazy I would grab a Superman book, but one day I got particularly wild and particularly crazy and found myself nose deep in Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern: Rebirth in which Johns’ revived/rebooted/retconned/whatevered Hal Jordan, the most Ryan Reynolds-ish of all the Green Lanterns. And it was awesome. There was Batman and space and space monsters and some crazy elf-Hitler guy whose name was literally Sinestro. Holy shit.

He's holding a green lantern. And THAT'S THE NAME OF THE THING.

He’s holding a green lantern. And THAT’S THE NAME OF THE THING.

Shortly after finishing Rebirth I plowed my way through the rest of Johns’ run until I was caught up with the paperback collections. It was at that point that I did the unthinkable: I walked into a comic book store and purchased an actual, single, flippy-floppy comic book.

Of course since then I’ve picked up a slew of other comic books because Scott Snyder’s run on Batman is amazing and Johns’ has now turned his reviving gaze to Aquaman so now, though Johns’ Green Lantern might be wrapped, I will still be wandering into comic book stores on a regular basis.

Thanks for that Geoff.

Needless to say I wasn’t eager for Johns’ story to end. But not entirely because I would miss it.

While Johns’ run was solid throughout and offered such immense events as the Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night the aforementioned final act, Wrath of the First Lantern, had started to wear on me and I was beginning to fear that Johns’ nine-year epic would wrap with a whimper. It of course makes sense, in ending such a colossal story, to end it by examining its very bones (the genesis of the ability to wield the emotional spectrum to effect the universe around oneself as portrayed by a silly lava lamp man), but something about this particular examination seemed flaccid.

Maybe it was the fact that the villain’s name was literally Volthoom. You know, “Volthoom,” the onomatopoeia of a vacuum breaking the sound barrier. Maybe it was that the series’ two primary sources of momentum, Hal Jordan and Sinestro, spent much of the arc trapped inside a dead book. Maybe it was just that I didn’t really care about revisiting every single formative event in every character’s life and asking “what if?” ad nauseam. Or maybe I was possessed by Parallax. Perhaps the arc will fare better in a paperback then it did month to month and perhaps a rereading will dull my complaints, but my expectations for Johns’ finale were starting to dwindle when Green Lantern #20 hit shelves.

Exit blackest night and queue brightest day. Green Lantern #20 was phenomenal. It touched on all of the Corps of the emotional spectrum (evil the girl one) that Johns has spent so long establishing and the rogues scattered throughout them, it gave each of the now five Green Lanterns of Earth their time in the spotlight and most importantly it brought the perfect conclusion to the struggle at the heart of Johns’ run: the will they/won’t they BFF tension between Hal Jordan and Sinestro.

Hal and Sinestro have been through a lot together. They were student and teacher, then peers, then friends, then bitter rivals and then they tried to kill each other all the time and Sinestro invade Earth with interdimensional hyper-villains and Hal strapped Sinestro into an awesome electric chair and so on and so forth. But throughout the ups and downs of their Lantern feuds it’s been hard to imagine one of them ever finally ending the other because at the end of the day they aren’t that different. Sure Sinestro is something of a power hungry dictator, but that lust for power comes from a desire to protect and disillusionment with a broken system. And Hal is no doubt a valiant emerald protector himself, but he’s also a loose cannon cop who doesn’t play by the rules and/or has nothing left to loose and/or plays it fast and loose. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Hal and Sinestro have always been Riggs and Murtaugh and in the closing pages of Green Lantern #20 it was nice to see them acknowledge it.

In brightest day, in blackest night, bros before hos.

In brightest day, in blackest night, bros before hos.

When Sinestro admitted to Hal that they had always been friends it not only served as a nice cap for their relationship in Johns’ story, it cast every previous event in his in a different light. It made their conflict all the more tragic and the two men’s adherence to their own personal politics all the more impressive.

Of course Sinestro’s exit didn’t just see him buddy up to Hal and while it was nice to see the two hug it out no homo I was glad to see Johns’ reminding the readers of just how brutal Sinestro can be when enforcing his convictions with the brilliant Ozymandias reference in regards to his slaughter of the Guardians.

Which of course brings me to the greatest achievement of Johns’ finale: he killed the Guardians! Sorry guys, they were dumb as shit. Little blue guys that are also old and thirdly huge dicks all of the time and consistently adhere to the doctrine of the exact wrong thing to do every single time a choice has to be made? Yeah that sounds really cool. Let’s keep them around for nine years because they won’t needlessly obstruct our heroes time and time and time and time again.

What a load of crap.

I read comics because I want to see a bunch of buff guys with six packs and butts, not a collective of gross little pigmies in robes. Yuck.

Of course not all of the Guardians were murdered in Sinestro’s Parallax-possessing fear attack, but enough of them are gone that I am happy. After all you can’t have your Guardian slaughter and have all of your Guardians slaughtered too.

I love Johns’ Green Lantern and followed it with such interest because it is an epic science fiction story wrapped in a Zen observation of self masquerading as a super hero comic and I love Johns’ finale because it manages to do the entire saga justice after over a hundred issues spanning nearly a decade. If I never read another Green Lantern comic again, if Green Lantern never makes it to the movie screen again, if a decent video game never brings the Corps to life, Geoff John’s run will have been enough and that is due in large part to the graceful ending he’s afforded Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps.

Of course, I hear if you buy Green Lantern #21 by whatever weirdo is replacing Johns then you get a Green Lantern ring, so…

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