Over the last year of the New 52, we’ve seen the Guardians of the Universe act somewhat differently than we had in the previous DCU. They seem a little crueler, but also more focused, as if they are somewhat re-establishing what they stand for. And all the nuances, the teasing, and the playing around that’s been happening for the last year begins to come to fruition in this issue: Green Lantern Annual #1, which is the prologue story for Rise of the Third Army. This discussion is spoiler heavy so if you don’t want to know, stop reading now. As for the rest of you…
ComicBooked.com has previously reviewed this issue, but there are 2 ways to review this story. The first is in the context of what did happen in the story, which involves heavily the fate of both Hal Jordan and Sinestro (more on that below but also in the previous review). But it also conveys a deeper story – that of the personas of the Guardians themselves and what they represent.
Historically, we have seen the Guardians as no-nonsense, do-as-we-say types of characters who are just that little bit removed from how things actually work in the universe… Think a cross between Q in Star Trek (power and attitude) and a Smurf (visual appearance, but a tad more human-looking). Now we see the Guardians being somewhat reflective, looking back at the power they had unleashed into the universe with both the Manhunters and the Green Lantern Corp (and, by extension, Lanterns of every spectrum) and deeming them unfit to serve what they consider the greater good.
Their decision: create a new force for order in the universe to battle chaos.
Long time Green Lantern followers will be surprised with a few of the twists that writer Geoff Johns (Justice League, JSA) has thrown into this story, most notably that of the First Lantern and a ragtag batch of Guardians who seem to still hold some level of emotion. The Guardians decide to utilize some of the power of this First Lantern, who has been held prisoner by agreement of all the little blue guys (and gals). Upon reaching his prison, dubbed the Chamber of Shadows, the two groups of Guardians come into severe conflict and begin to butt heads. The blue guys we know and love (?) take a turn for the worse and begin to actually kill their opponents – yes, the immortal Guardians are not so immortal after all, at least at their own hand and using the green energy of their lanterns (I sense a plot thread in future here…)
The Guardians win against the jailers and absorb some of the power of this First Lantern, who is held in darkness and in shadow (so yet again, some mystery that will most likely become apparent in the future – maybe something held over from the old DCU? But that’s just me speculating…). They each take a portion of this energy and begin to mix it as an extension of themselves, creating the first of the creatures that is to become the Third Army. We can see what appears to be the outline of a lantern on its chest, and green behind it, signifying its connection to the Guardians who control the power of the green energy.
Meanwhile, with all that going on, we also have Hal Jordan and Sinestro battling for their lives on Earth against Black Hand. Black Hand has a Black Lantern ring (taking us back to the pre-New 52 story arc of Blackest Night) and is torturing Hal, who seems to have risen out of a grave from being buried alive. Hal sees Sinestro’s grave next to where he was, and Black Hand reveals that he had buried Hal next to his father, who he is promising to raise from the dead. Of course, Hal wants none of this and fights Black Hand, only to lose the upper hand and is saved by Sinestro (oh, did I mention that for the last year Sinestro has been a Green Lantern again, not a yellow one? My bad…)
The Guardians take note of this and determine they can use Black Hand and his power for their purposes. They arrive on Earth, with the First Lantern in tow, and power up Black Hand who takes out his energy frustrations on both Hal and Sinestro. The green rings, being an extension of the same ring (don’t ask), seem to falter at the power of the Guardians and declare that both Hal and Sinestro are both dying. The rings rejoin into one, declaring their owners deceased after a huge unleashing of green energy, and the Guardians declare that the most powerful Lanterns – Sinestro and Hal – are dead. The ring seems to be in conflict though, perhaps because it was split into 2 and served 2 owners at one time, and so it sets out to find a new wielder in the vicinity – namely, sector 2814. Black Hand is then transported to the Chamber of Shadows by the Guardians, for their use in the future (and they have plans; oh, do they have plans…).
The Guardians get the opportunity to test the new Third Army creation on an unsuspecting individual who happens to be in the graveyard where the Hal/Sinestro/Black Hand fight was going down. This creation touches the groundskeeper and becomes to transform him… into another creation. His heart is expunged from his body, his cellular structure appears to have been rewritten to accommodate the appearance of this new army member, and he also appears to have some of the power of the Guardians within, most likely transferred from the original creature but maintaining a link to this First Lantern (who appears to be one powerful dude).
This was just the start of the battle. The original creature is sent to the stars to begin converting others to be like him, creating the first regiment of this new army, and to take out the other lanterns. The duplicate is ordered to raise a new regiment on Earth, and since all it takes is a touch and the individual becomes like them…
The story was written by Geoff Johns with art by Ethan van Sciver, long-time GL artist. The epilogue story, which covers the creation of the second army member, is also written by Johns and contains artwork by Pete Woods and Cam Smith.
This issue is a preview to what we can expect for the Lantern family for the next 4 months, so if you don’t want to be lost you either need to read this article many more times or pick up the issue itself. Or both – why choose?