Book of Doom: Green Lantern Annual #1

It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these Books of Doom, but it seemed appropriate, given that the first chapters of the previous massive Green Lantern crossovers — Sinestro Corps #1 back in June of 2007 and Blackest Night #0 from May of 2009 — were both also Book of Doom-style reviews.

gl_annual_1So the Legion is partially reunited, with Doom DeLuise offering his thoughts on the issue below [and Fin Fang Doom manning up after all]. I’ll get us started, though, by prefacing my review with the admission that I am suffering some major Green Lantern Huge Event Fatigue. We have always been at war with The Guardians.

On one hand, I do genuinely admire what I assume to have been some major long-term planning — or at least long-term outlining — on the part of Geoff Johns. I like to know that the stories I’m reading are going somewhere and that there are consequences to the actions I’m asked to get emotionally invested in. And this latest event is definitely a result of events that were put in motion more than six years ago. So bravo for that.

On the other hand, though, these Lantern events have started to feel somewhat formulaic. I no longer react to seeing The Guardians huddled around to discuss what they’re going to do about whatever they’ve decided the problem is, because they’re going to decide something stupid and illogical in the name of supreme logic. I no longer react to Black Hand’s threats to raise the dead, because we endured a many-months-long crossover in which he and his boss resurrected a whole bunch of people and made them bad guys. These plot points, god bless ’em, seem to be unveiled in a way that acts as if we haven’t seen them done a lot in the past few years. But we have! And so they fall flat.

Backing up a bit, we open with the Guardians narrating the past few billion years in which they explain that they first created the Manhunters as a means to restoring order to the universe, believing that emotion was the cause of chaos. But then oops, being emotionless, the Manhunters wiped out an entire sector. Then they created the willpower-fueled Green Lantern Corps when they believed that fear was the cause of chaos. But then they realized that was a silly mistake too when they saw how the whole spectrum of emotions — not just fear — can lead to chaos.

So this brings us to the creation of the third army after they make a little bit of an intellectual leap. All emotions can become a source of conflict, they say. But then they just kind of arbitrarily decide that the green part of the spectrum is the one that needs to be eliminated. Mind you, this is no more logical than sticking with the Green Lanterns as a way of eliminating the Yellow Lanterns, which would be far simpler, and leaves everyone with a bunch of other colors still remaining and unaddressed, but whatever. We’re either not supposed to think that hard, or we’re supposed to write off the logical flaw because the Guardians are kind of losing their minds.

So anyway, we saw that prophecy recently that Hal Jordan is going to be the greatest of the Black Lanterns or something like that. What does Black Hand do to bring that about? He buries Hal Jordan alive in a coffin full of air and apparently not very deeply buried at that. He appears to have gone to similar lengths to “kill” Sinestro. Presumably, he pursued this path as he has demonstrably been unwilling to directly murder people. Yeah whatever.

Oh, did I mention that he wrote their names on their headstones with a magic marker?

In fairness to Black Hand, when Hal says “If you want me dead, then kill me already,” he does say “I never said I wanted you dead.” So instead of being a really bad murderer, he’s now apparently someone who buries people alive in cemeteries because he doesn’t want them dead. We have now established that the primary villain in this story is a moron.

So we get to the point then where we are about to witness the dramatic resurrection of Martin Jordan. I don’t really remember, since it’s been a few years ago, but did none of the Black Lanterns seriously tease the resurrection of Hal’s father throughout that entire storyline? I don’t remember that happening, but instead of thinking “Ooh, this hasn’t been done yet!” I thought “God, seriously? The threat of another emotionally jarring resurrection by a Black Lantern, so that we can have the debate of whether or not it’s actually him?” No thank you.

I did actually kind of like the next part — where the Guardians go to this vault thing where they locked up a bunch of other Guardian-like people where they guardianed The First Lantern, who needed to be locked up for some reason (I guess taking rings away wasn’t an option back then). Little blue people fight, the bad blue people win and they split with The First Guardian. This, we are led to believe, is a bad thing. One might even look at The Guardians’ track record and predict that their attempt to harness some kind of ultimate power will slip out of their control and end badly, not necessarily in line with their plans of how things will end badly in a different way.

One might think that.

So anyway, fightin’ in the graveyard, Sinestro pulls the ol’ “I climbed out of my grave that you didn’t mean to kill me with” trick. Then, Johns has written himself into a corner in which Hal and Sinestro can’t charge their rings because Hal’s is too far away (it’s in a locker on Earth, where they are) but Sinestro’s is somewhere else in the galaxy. So they decide to go for Sinestro’s. Except oh no, their rings are depleted! So they do what anyone would do in that situation — just do what they would do if their rings weren’t depleted. And it works because Hal said it would work.

One of the things that I so thoroughly admired about Johns’ work in the previous Green Lantern Big Stories was his attention to detail and his ability to grow new, meaningful events out of attention to and appreciation for story elements that we’d seen before. This is like the bizarro version of that. We see extremely lazy plot advancement based on tired retreads of things we’ve seen before, and when those things don’t really do a very good job of telling the story, we get bridges like this.

And then it gets even dumber — they were powered up — why? So that they could get “killed” ? What purpose did that serve? What demonstrates the true depths to which the Guardians have sunk more — “killing” a fully powered-up Hal and Sinestro, or “killing” unarmed Hal and Sinestro? Not that anyone believes they’re actually dead anyway, but still. The stupidity of their recharge was completely unnecessary, because nothing happened that required them to be fully charged.

At the end of the day, my biggest complaint ends up having nothing to do with Johns’ story. The Third Army looks really stupid. There is nothing about these alien-looking dorks that comes anywhere close to the visual appeal of the Black Lanterns, the Sinestro Corps or even the Manhunters. And while this may seem like a superficial criticism, this is a visual medium. And the biggest threat to the universe looks really dumb.

This kind of reminds me of a feeling I had when Ed Brubaker’s run was winding down on Daredevil. The whole gritty crime-noir thing was great and fresh when Bendis had started it many years earlier, but it had gotten exhausting. There were only certain types of stories that could be told, and they started to get repetitive. That staleness led to Mark Waid’s amazing current run, which has breathed so much life back into the character by being so different and old-school superheroey.

The big difference between this and that was that even in the last days of Brubaker’s run, Daredevil was still great. Green Lantern has stopped being great. It’s still one of the few books I make a point to read immediately after visiting the shop, but I don’t know how long that’s going to last. I just hope that once this crossover ends, Johns (or whoever else is writing) drops the Guardian-meddling / spectrum stuff and just does some good old fashioned cosmic stories. Maybe even standalone issues! Because this has all worn out its welcome.

But that’s just my opinion. Let’s see what Doom DeLuise has to say about it!

Doom DeLuise:
Let me get this straight.

In the Sinestro Corps War, Sinestro wanted to destroy the Green Lanterns and usher in order to the galaxy through the use of fear. Makes sense.

In Blackest Night, Nekron wanted to destroy the emotional spectrum and kill all living things in order to make himself the ultimate power in the universe. Again, makes sense.

In this, The Guardians of the Universe want to assimilate all living things into one heartless, mindless society, thereby eliminating chaos through the destruction of free will. Does that make sense? Is that the logical progression of their previous plans? Let’s review what those are.

When the Guardians created the Manhunters, the Manhunters were considered a failure, since they had no emotion and therefore slaughtered entire space sectors. When the Guardians created the Green Lanterns, that Corps was considered a failure because it was primarily intended to combat fear, yet all emotions play together to create chaos in the cosmos, not just fear, so their reach was too short. Now, they want to create the Third Army, which will eliminate emotion, destroy free will, and bring order to the galaxy.

I guess that KIND OF makes sense, but what sort of galaxy are they trying to save? How is this any different from when the Manhunters mindlessly murdered millions of sentient beings? Isn’t the process of turning every living thing into a thoughtless, heartless, light-blue, OMAC-looking blob creature pretty much the same thing as just killing everything? Oh, but this is the Guardians’ descent into madness, right? Well, okay, but that doesn’t make their plan any more engaging. It’s half-baked, at best.

Who wants to guess that Rainbow Brite eventually turns against the Guardians and foils their plot, btw? Sure, we may get a new Green Lantern member out of this whole ordeal, what with that new Arab dude gracing the cover of the next issue, but who wants to bet that Hal Jordan and Sinestro aren’t REALLY dead? Just a hunch, but I’m guessing they aren’t. Wanna bet? Ten thousand dollar bet?

I don’t give an actual crap about this issue. And that stinks, and I’ll tell you why.

I LOVE annuals. I really do. I think they’re the most entertaining issues of a series that you can possibly find. I just buy Annuals, no matter what, whenever I see them. They rarely tie into continuity, which is the draw. They’re usually always just standalone issues that don’t get bogged down with the bullshit of the rest of the series.

But this one is all about the rest of the series. As an Annual, it sucks. As anything else, I don’t really care about it. Ok, that’s all.

Fin Fang Doom:
I can’t say I’ve found much to love about The New 52. There have been some good titles out there, but the best are always the self-contained ones. So I wasn’t really looking forward to another Mega-Crossover Event. How long has it been since Blackest Night, anyway? Thankfully, Green Lantern Annual #1 didn’t do much for me.

So Hal Jordan and Sinestro are “dead.” They’ll just become Black Lanterns and fight for their lives to get their Green back. That could actually be a good story, and hopefully Hal & Sinestro will continue their story in the regular Green Lantern series, with the regular creative team.

But I don’t care about any of this business with the Guardians and The First Lantern and those weird white mouthless things. And that’s kind of the whole point of the crossover, right? Because I love Guy Gardner and this new GL from Earth seems interesting, but nothing’s getting resolved until Hal & Sinestro are back. So why do any of the crossovers matter?

I haven’t cared about the Red Lanterns aside from them being a necessary part of the spectrum of Lanterns. So why would I care how they got the Manhunters on their side? All that matters really is that they do.

The New Guardians story will probably play some grander part in the Third Army saga than the Red Lanterns, with Kyle Rayner inevitably mastering all seven rings (8? 9? Whatever happened with the White Lantern, anyway?). I’m sure he’ll fight some of those white monster things, but it won’t really matter. And I’ve just never liked Kyle Rayner for some reason. I understand why he gets his own title and why he’s important in the universe, but Kyle is just boring to me. So just like before, I don’t care how he becomes Rainbow Lantern, it’s just important that he does.

Then there’s Guy Gardner. I liked him in Emerald Warriors when he was on a mission with a small squad, but I don’t really enjoy him much with the Corps as a supporting cast. Who knows how Guy is going to play into all this, but I’m sure it will be easily explained when Hal & Sinestro are Back In Black.

So as far as this being the Prologue to the Next Big Crossover Mega-Event (!!!!!), this was a pretty sub-standard comic book by my tastes. As far as it being the next issue of Green Lantern, yeah, it was all right. I like the regular artist more but this was a decent fill-in. It was a pretty normal issue, so you know, good.