Review: Green Lantern #20

As is true of most other comic book readers, Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern: Rebirth reinvigorated my obsession, not just of my favorite superhero, but of mainstream comics in general. That was almost a decade ago. Since then, Johns has consistently served up a buffet of downright delicious Corps Wars, Blackest Nights and Brightest Days, each one, whether you like his direction or not, deepening the mythos of Green Lantern into something greater than it has ever been. Green Lantern #20 is Geoff Johns’ swan song, and in a way, it’s a love letter to the story that put both him and his character onto the contemporary pop culture map. That’s not hyperbole - his run is simply that seminal. Not ironically for someone who created DC’s emotional spectrum, this one also takes you through quite a few feels, including the words of heartfelt congratulations after the story from people like Grant Morrison, Richard Donner and Neil Gaiman, which speaks to Johns’ credit within the pantheon of great creators.

And yet, while it is self-reverential, this final entry in Johns’ GL canon stops short of being self-aggrandizing. This isn’t Johns kissing his own ass, this is him mustering everything he has created in the Green Lantern universe and firing it ... at will and with furious urgency. And I’ll be goddamned if the result isn’t one hell of a light show.

Okay look, as big of a Green Lantern fanboy as I am, let me qualify this review by saying that it has recently felt like Johns has run out of steam, beginning with the War of the Green Lanterns arc, which led into the completely unnecessary and quickly quashed Rise of the Third Army event and then this, the rehashed-Krona threat of the Wrath of The First Lantern. The last few issues, however, have been stellar, and in this, his run’s death rattle, Johns has finally returned to form. Green Lantern #20 is a perfectly furnished bookend to the legacy he created almost 10 years ago.

Green-Lantern_20_FullSet within the framework of a future “beyond tomorrow,” where the Corps still burns brightly, this story is told by the new Keeper of the Book of Oa (whose true identity we are shown a wide-eye-inducing glimpse of later). What follows is a fairly concise wrap-up of what has happened throughout Johns’ run - something he has proven to be very good at over the past few years. Afterwards begins the knock-down, drag-out, technicolored donnybrook we’ve all been waiting for, with all of the “Christmas Corps” converging to collectively bitch slap Volthoom, the so-called First Lantern.

The brouhaha that ensues is gratifying on almost every level if you’re not just a Geoff Johns fan, but a Green Lantern one. Not only does he, even in his last gasp, continue to build on the legacy of the Green Lantern universe, but he pays homage to what got him there, what made him a fan, in the first place. Within all of this are quite a few nods  to old canon and great reveals, whether it’s the (AMAZIG’N) return of an old fan favorite character, or the revelatory nature of “The First Lantern” him/itself.

Pretty much every character gets in his, her or its licks, with one or two trying on new / old rings, and a couple of the more dangerous emotional entities making their presence felt, as well. Speaking of which, the big reveal of the new Parallax would have been pretty goddamn amazing ... had it not been spoiled to shit previously by Green Lantern Corps #20. Not sure who fucked that one up, but it still didn’t take away from the overall punch of this story ... and what a punch it was!

I’m not an emotional guy, not even when it comes to comics, and maybe this is because I’ve just quit smoking [will] ... but this took me down one hell of a roller-coaster. I’m man enough to say that I got as close to “choked up” as I get a couple of times, both at specific scenes and in the general nostalgic overview this book so beautifully crafts. Whether it was seeing a young Hal Jordan ripped back into existence and tormented by Volthoom or seeing the culmination of the relationship between Hal and Sinestro, this issue tugs the old heartstrings in a very pleasant way, particularly in the story’s postscript.

This series of short stories explores the fates of each one of the Earth lanterns many years hence. Sometimes when this “looking forward” device is used in stories, its payoff comes across as weak or muted. This, however, is how you do it right. Not only does Johns wink at us with forthcoming story beats of Lantern Baz and his future partner, but what he sets up in the lives of John, Hal, Carol and even in aveiled view of what happens to Sinestro is completely satisfying. The best part, however, is when Johns GIVES GUY GARDNER HIS OWN ONE PUNCH! Okay, Geoff, you are officially allowed to leave now.

This was everything I had hoped for in Johns’ big send-off issue: enormous fights crackling with Lantern energy, massive outer space operatic grandstanding, true and lasting consequence, the resuscitation of old villainy and the resurrection of long-thought-dead good. As much as I’m looking forward to Venditti and Tan’s forthcoming run (and wonder how they’ll ever effectively follow this run), this issue serves as an exemplary finishing point. To put it simply, if I never read a Green Lantern comic book ever again (which isn’t going to happen, let’s be honest), I would be happy leaving the story right here.

Thanks, Geoff. You did good. Real good.

Score: 5/5

Writer: Geoff Johns Artists: Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Marc Deering, Mark Irwin, Wade Von Grawbadger, Tom Nguyen, Patrick Gleason, Cully Hamner, Aaron Kuder, Jerry Ordway, Ivan Reis, Ethan Van Sciver Colorists: Alex Sinclair, Tony Avina Publisher: DC Comics Price: $7.99  (yes, it’s worth it) Release Date: 5/22/13