How do you pick up after a nearly decade-long story arc that launched both its characters and writer to dizzying creative heights? If you’re Robert Venditti and his band of co-conspirators*, following Geoff Johns’ legendary stint on Green Lantern, you address the task and its associated challenges head on.
Green Lantern Annual #2, released at the end of October, saw the culmination of Lights Out, the first Green Lantern event since Geoff Johns’ ended his time with the Lanterns in May. Lights Out provided some very cool moments and an even cooler antagonist, but most importantly it served to redefine the status quo of the Green Lantern books.
When Johns’ started his run on Green Lantern in 2005 he brought Hal Jordan back from the brink of villainy, made the Green Lanterns’ weakness to yellow tremendously less stupid and introduced the idea of not just green and yellow light, but an entire emotional spectrum to mirror the color spectrum. Over the course of the next eight years Johns’ executed massive, exciting events like Blackest Night and the Sinestro Corps War while simultaneously introducing not just a cast of new characters, but several different casts of new characters – various corps derived from each color of the emotional spectrum.
The relationships between these Corps and the emotions they embody was the backbone of Johns’ time on Green Lantern and his work with the series managed to turn a largely laughable character into an exciting protagonist gallivanting about an even more exciting universe. Be it through the rage of the Red Lanterns, or Saint Walker and the hopeful Blue Lanterns, or Larfleeze, the sole wielder of the orange light of greed, Johns has left a mark on the Green Lantern universe that can never be ignored.
But Johns’ time is over.
Lights Out is the story of Relic, a being from the universe before our own. Relic appears at the boundaries of the universe and upon awakening immediately sets out to eliminate the wielders of the emotional spectrum which, as it turns out, is a finite resource, one that is sapped every time a Lantern uses their power ring. In Relic’s universe when the emotional spectrum finally ran dry the whole of creation died out, which he wasn’t a huge fan of. He’s a brilliant scientist who will stop at nothing to save the universe from the same faint is boring, old universe suffered. That salvation just so happens to involve the obliteration of the “lightsmiths.” Luckily for Relic, in addition to being a scientist he’s also a badass inter-universal giant.
But Relic isn’t just a brilliant, badass, inter-universal scientist-giant. He’s the very personification of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern run. He’s the monster that is being tasked with taking over a series from a writer who defined it, the beast that is the expectations of loyal, longtime fans and the leviathan that is the vitriol of gnashing detractors ready to take to any forum they can to eviscerate any semblance of change.
And wildly effective.
Not only did Relic play the part of a narrative burning effigy, Relic’s arc provided unique challenges for the entire cast of Lanterns to overcome (except for Simon Baz, who Johns has taken with him to Justice League of America) and by the end of Green Lantern Annual #2 Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner are all in distinctly different places from where Johns left them off. Much like Green Lantern: Rebirth in 2005, Lights Out has set trajectories for the Green Lantern universe that can be followed and expanded upon for years to come.
Going into Venditti’s first issue of Green Lantern I had mixed feelings. Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern has the distinction of being the comic book that got me into comic books and Johns’ last issue put a beautiful bow on a package very near and dear to my heart. Needless to say I wasn’t overjoyed to see him go. But I wasn’t chomping at the bit to immediately dismiss any and all efforts Johns’ successors turned out either
Where I opened Green Lantern #21, Venditti’s first issue, with caution, I tore through each subsequent issue with excitement.
It wouldn’t have been unreasonable to assume that a post-Johns Green Lantern would have slowly sunken to the depths of pre-Johns Green Lantern, but Lights Out has proven that isn’t the case. Robert Venditti is poised to leave a mark on the character and the universe and probably sucker a few poor saps into reading Green Lantern comic books and then writing about them on the internet.
You know, God’s work.
*Robert Venditti writes Green Lantern and co-writes Green Lantern Corps with Van Jensen. The series are drawn by Billy Tan and Bernard Chang respectively. Additionally, Green Lantern: New Guardians is written by Justin Jordan with art by Bradley Walker and Andrew Hennessy and Red Lanterns is written by Charles Soule with art by Alessandro Vitti. All four books were a part of Lights Out.