Ladies and gentlemen, the end is nigh. And nowhere is that more apparent than in the pages of this week’s Green Lantern #12. Geoff John’s writing is as potent and brilliant as it’s ever been, and the new artists joining him on this penultimate issue of Hal Jordan’s journey as Green Lantern – Renato Guedes and Jim Calafiore – bring a unique and nuanced change to the design of this book and its characters. This issue is one of the best issues of Green Lantern I’ve read, and in my mind, has everything that makes for a great comic book – a deeply evil villain and his minions; a stalwart hero up against insurmountable odds; a shadowy authority planning to take over the universe ; a mystery to be solved; a destiny to be fulfilled; and finally, a stunning, didn’t-see-that-coming reveal on the very last page of the issue.
Let’s jump right in. The Book of the Black has transported Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and Sinestro to the very feet of their greatest enemy – William “Black” Hand, and his army of zombies. It is readily apparent that something is wrong, as Black Hand points out – every page in the Book of the Black has been replaced with the same phrase repeated over and over, ad infinitum: “HAL JORDAN IS NOT YOUR ENEMY.” Sinestro and Hal are just as puzzled, but there’s really no time to figure it out at the moment. Hal blows off the top of Black Hand’s head with a blast from his power ring, buying him and Sinestro some time to escape as Hand’s Black Lantern ring puts his brain back together again. Recalling that it took more than just a Green Lantern power ring to kill off the undead during the Blackest Night, Hal tries to get in touch with Carol Ferris – Star Sapphire – but to no avail. And as they try to escape, Hal and Sinestro find themselves surrounded by hordes of the undead brought to life by Black Hand’s black ring.
Meanwhile, at the very center of the cosmos, the Guardians of the Universe chillingly declare that “The end is here.” Their plans of eradicating the entire spectrum of Lantern corps – which Geoff Johns has been hinting at in every issue leading up to this – are finally revealed. They are getting their greatest foes out of the way, one by one: successfully (or so they think) stripping Hal Jordan of his power ring; leading Sinestro to believe he was once again chosen by the ring, when in reality it was a ploy to sever his ties with the Sinestro Corps; using John Stewart’s guilt over destroying Mogo to un-do him; obliging Guy Gardner’s deepest wish that he really is the greatest Green Lantern; using Kyle Rayner’s desire to rescue Ganthet as a means to draw him into a trap; and using Sinestro’s ring to find the hidden homeworld of the elusive Indigo Tribe. “As soon as these Lanterns are broken,” the Guardians surmise, “No one will dare oppose. The Green Lantern Corps will be no more.”
Back at Black Hand’s family funeral home, Hal and Sinestro realize that the zombie horde quickly surrounding them are not actually Black Lanterns: they are just “puppets” as Hal so eloquently puts it – zombies brought to life by Black Hand’s black ring. What follows is an awesome showcase of the two odd couple Green Lanterns hacking and tearing their way – with the help of their power ring constructs, of course – through a zombie horde. The only problem is, there are too many of these undead creatures, and as Black Hand’s brain is finally put back together by his black ring, they become increasingly violent, agitated, and altogether hell-bent on snacking on Hal and Sinestro. The two Green Lanterns resort to their last means of escape – detonating Sinestro’s yellow power battery. Pulling the battery from the pocket dimension he’d tethered it to, Sinestro and Hal focus all their willpower on destroying the power battery. As their rings drain to 0%, the yellow power battery explodes – killing every undead minion of Black Hand in sight and severing their connection to his black ring. Black Hand awakes after the blast to find he has survived, along with Hal and Sinestro, who have been knocked unconscious. Black Hand stumbles across his beloved Book of the Black, which escaped the blast unscathed. Standing over an unconscious Hal, Black Hand fumbles through the pages of the Book of the Black once more. “The Book is wrong about you, Hal Jordan,” Hand seethes. “It has to be wrong.” We finally see the page Black Hand is staring at, in one of the greatest last-page reveals in recent comics history:
“HAL JORDAN WILL BE THE GREATEST BLACK LANTERN.”
All of us DC Comics fans who have been paying attention have known for about a month now that Hal Jordan would be “MIA in a big way” from Green Lantern in the coming months. I don’t think any of us had been prepared for this possibility, though. But in a weird way, it kinda makes sense. What is Hal Jordan, but a resurrected Green Lantern? Since Geoff John’s masterpiece, Green Lantern: Rebirth, it’s been abundantly clear that Hal has been “brought back to life” since becoming possessed by Parallax and destroying the Corps, Coast City, and launching himself into the sun at some point in the 90′s. So, when looking at it from that point of view, its plausible that Hal could become the greatest Black Lantern, given a black ring of course. But is this the kind of send-off that Hal Jordan deserves? Hal Jordan is the greatest Green Lantern – if he’s got to go, why not let him go in a blaze of glory befitting that title at least? For some of us – myself included – this idea of Hal becoming the greatest Black Lantern is too close to the horrible fate Hal encountered all those years ago when he destroyed everything he loved as the villain Parallax. While there’s no way of knowing whether or not Hal’s destiny as foretold by the Book of the Black will actually come to fruition – at least not until Green Lantern Annual #1 – one thing is abundantly clear: the end truly is near for Hal Jordan. The question is, is the end near for those of us who have loved Hal Jordan and the Hal Jordan-centric Green Lantern series? We will know in a couple weeks, it looks like. Yet, if Geoff Johns and Co. can finish out this arc with a modicum of the chutzpah they poured into issue #12, maybe this end won’t be so bad. I still retain a little hope in my heart for that.
After all, I learned to hope by reading Green Lantern.