Saturday, June 7, 2008

G-L-C Ain’t Nothin’ ta F*** With!

"What do you mean, 'everyone'?"

from issue 1, volume 2

Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps War, Parts 1-13

Written by Geoff Johns & Dave Gibbons
Drawn by Ethan Van Sciver, Patrick Gleason & Ivan Reis

Hal Jordan is interesting. Guy Gardner is cool. John Stewart is useful. Sinestro is scary and Dave Gibbons can write worth a shit? Who has created this topsy-turvy Bizarro universe?
Oh, it’s just Geoff Johns. Right.

His first run on the old JSA drove me absolutely crazy with his ability to find long-buried, worthless Silver Age characters and make them cool. His work with the Flash and his whole “poof! No one knows your secret identity anymore!” scam, which has now been ripped off by JMS for the end of Spider-Man’s “One More Endless and Agonizing Day of Aunt May’s Life,” was bothersome. Infinite Crisis had holes in it that DC’s editorial staff could and did drive a truck through. But with the Sinestro Corps War, Geoff Johns claws his way to the bottom of my favorite comics writers list.

This is not Geoff Johns’ victory alone. Artist Ethan Van Sciver once again proves himself as one of the most amazing human artists in the world—this is an important distinction, as Frank Quitely is half-Scotsman and half-demon, Sam Keith is an urban legend and George Perez is an asshole. Joe Madureira… well… I’ll get to him later. Ivan Reis once again proves himself an impressive and dependable penciller—not quite on par with Van Sciver, but the trade-off is he knows how to meet a fucking deadline. Patrick Gleason, the artist on Green Lantern Corps, also does good work in a more angular, “animated series” style than Van Sciver, which at the very least helps you realize that the crossover is, in fact, spread out across two series. To wit, Dave Gibbons writes GLC. Yes, the Dave Gibbons. The man enshrined in golden beautiful infallibility because he was lucky enough to be selected for an intimate little project by the name of Watchmen. Let me tell you something, ladies and gentlemen: I’m a writer. I threw away any chance I’ll ever have in my life at getting a good job by majoring in Creative Writing because I love the English language and the myriad of horrible, wonderful things you can do with it, such as the lovingly crafted ‘zine you hold in your hands. Conversely, I DRAW WORSE THAN A SPASTIC TEN-YEAR-OLD WITH ONLY THREE FINGERS. My point? Many artists should not—nay, should never—be allowed to write. And Dave Gibbons proved my point with the disastrous Rann-Thanagar War miniseries that served as one of the four major lead-ins to the Infinite Crisis event. It’s some of the most lame, corny, hackneyed prose I’ve ever read that didn’t come from the first wave of Image Comics or any non-Luke Cage work of the 1970s. Fortunately, he half- redeems himself in GLC by stringing some words together that could easily be confused with any other serviceable second-string writer like Sean McKeever or whoever the hell they got to write Blue Beetle after Keith Giffen left. Obviously his story was very carefully nudged into line with Johns’s story by DC’s editorial mission control, but to give him credit, it could have been a lot worse.

But anyway! To the story. Everyone knows the basic idea behind the Green Lanterns: interstellar police force who keep the galaxy in line with their ultimate weapon: a ring that can turn willpower into anything made out of solid green energy. Used to be the ring’s only weakness was the color yellow, which was absolutely retarded and obviously an idea they came up with in the Sixties when no one over the age of twelve read comics and you could get away with any dumb idea you wanted. But now they make movies out of anything successful, or at least sell the movie rights, so Johns had to update it. Green is now the color of willpower. Green Lanterns are supposed to be fearless, able to retain their willpower under any and every possible stressful situation. Naturally, the color of fear is yellow, which is also the color of the ring that Sinestro, Hal Jordan’s old arch-enemy who bears a keen resemblance to a pink hydrocephalic Gary Oldman, has always worn. Sinestro started forcing the Weaponers of Qward, who made his yellow ring, to make a whole ton more, and now he has a Yellow Corps to rival the Greens.
Enter, a bunch of huge battles.

No problem, because for once in a comic the fights aren’t the most interesting thing (until the end). Here’s what is: Kyle’s struggle with the yellow living embodiment of Fear, Parallax. Hal’s struggle with the idea that his father, a test pilot like him, may have lived his last moments in fear. The passing of the Ion identity from Kyle Rayner to Sodam Yat—a Daxamite (Daxamites are like an entire planet of Supermen, only instead of Kryptonite or red sunlight, they can be poisoned by the mere presence of lead. Thanks again, 1960’s pseudoscience!). The final test of Natu, Sinestro’s replacement. Watching the smile evaporate from Amon Sur’s face as he discovers that the Guardians of Oa have approved lethal force. A GL by the name of Vath doing a shot for each of the four-hundred-odd Lanterns who died fighting the Sinestro Corps. The list of great moments just goes on and on.

But even Dave Gibbons’ spontaneous generation of writing talent is not as astonishing as the finale in Green Lantern #25. The much-hyped battles in New York and on Planet Mogo were mere foreplay to the showdown in Coast City (which burns and galls me to admit, because I hate all the stupid made-up cities that DC has their characters settle in. It’s California. Why not just say Hal is from San Diego or LA? It can’t be that terrible of a legal situation or New York would have sued Marvel generations ago! What gives?). Picture it: Superboy Prime, the Cyborg Superman and his Manhunter Robots, the entire Sinestro Corps, and oh yeah, THE FUCKING ANTI-MONITOR, versus the GL Corps and all the superheroes of Earth who Ivan Reis remembered to draw (the others off-panel are assumed to be asleep or at work and unable to answer their phones). And that’s certainly a beautiful window-dressing. But in the end it really comes down to one fight: Hal and Kyle versus Sinestro. Without rings. Just a big ol’ brawl. Nice. Oh yeah, and John Stewart, Guy, Kilowog and Salaak (the two leading non-human GLs that anyone gives a damn about) throw Mongul’s Warworld (think of it as kind of a Death Star Lite that the Sinestros were using as a portable yellow power battery… Lord knows how they took it from Mongul, but they did) into the Anti-Monitor. And it works. The big anti-matter fucktard gets blown up and then Superboy Prime throws his corpse into deep space (more on that a little later). Superboy Prime then gets his own just desserts—if you’re not familiar with SP’s history from Infinite Crisis, imagine a 14-year-old C student with a bad attitude and Superman’s powers and you’ve almost got it. Perfect… for the Guardians to disintegrate! Ha. Take that, you damn teenagers.

So, obviously, Sinestro and his Corps loses. Well, the Corps does, at least. So why is Sinestro smiling inside his jail cell on Oa? Throughout this whole storyline, no matter how much misfortune befalls the group of ultimate uber-bad-guys he puts together, Sinestro gets this same knowing look that Caesar gets on every episode of Rome (rent the HBO/BBC series sometime, Ciaran Hinds is an amazing Julius); that look that no one really knows what’s going on except him. See, Sinestro used to be the greatest Green Lantern. And what did he desire above all else? Order. An entire galaxy, an entire Universe, kept in line by the GL’s. So what does it matter to him if the yellow-ringed order is defeated and disbanded? Thanks to their threat to the galaxy and the Guardians’ dominion, the Lanterns have been granted the use of lethal force with their power rings, which they lacked before now. And who will stand in the way of Sinestro’s beloved Green Lantern Corps, now that they have power over all who fear death?
Damn. That is some cold-ass alien logic. Well done, alien Gary Oldman.
But Hal and Kyle still kick his ass and put him in alien jail. So whatever.

The other awesome thing about the finale is the revelation of the meaning behind the Guardians’ prophecy of “The Blackest Night,” which has nothing to do with any metal bands. So there’s the Green Lanterns. They’re fueled by willpower, not an emotion as much as a state of mind. Meanwhile, the Sinestro Corps use yellow energy, fueled by the ability to instill fear. And the Star Sapphires, an old Silver Age group of villainesses (I can’t believe that’s a word but Sinestro isn’t according to MS Word), use love to power their violet-energy powers. So—green, yellow, violet. Will, fear, love. Ganthet the Guardian predicts that in time there will be seven Corps—each responding to a specific emotion and using a different color. The prediction that these seven Corps will wage a seven-way free-for-all war against each other results in two of the busiest, most detailed, awesome comics pages ever not drawn by George Perez. The Indigo Lanterns try to inspire compassion in others. The Blue Lanterns use hope to try and stem the violence. The Red Lanterns are fucking horrifying, not only because they’re evil beings who are fueled by rage, but also because their energy-weapons seem to come out of their mouths instead of their rings. Ugh. But the ones that totally win forever are the Orange Lanterns. What emotional concept do they embody? Happiness? Guilt? Sadness? Lust? No. The Orange Lanterns use the power of avarice—that’s greed, for you unwashed and unlettered masses. That’s right; we already used up the color green on willpower, so greed and envy, traditionally associated with the color green, have been attached to orange. I can just imagine that meeting:

“Shit! The only major bad emotion left to put between rage and fear is envy! But envy is green!”

“Screw it. Kids don’t know that we’ve always associated greed with the color green. They’ll call it orange if we say it’s orange.”


“But nothing. Print it!”

As awkward as it is to try and encapsulate the emotions of sentient beings within seven distinct colors, it’s still more thought-out than anyone has ever, and I do mean ever, put into why Green Lanterns aren’t the only guys out there using their brainpower to make weapons out of solid stage lights. And for completely overthinking and simplifying and rationalizing a poorly-imagined original premise, I give Geoff Johns props, as one member of the Irredeemable Total Fucking Dork Club to another.

And here’s something I may not have made clear before, which I’ll say in a very roundabout way: As horrifying a concept as this may be to some of you, I actually have read the Bible. And my favorite verse, out of the entire thing, is the last verse in the Gospel of John—John 21:25. “Now, there are many other things that Jesus did. If they were all written down one by one, I suppose that the whole world could not hold the books that would be written.” Basically, what I mean is the best way to end any story is with the promise of more stories. And once again, The Sinestro Corps War delivers with a 3-page spread that’s a lot like a movie trailer, right down to the “widescreen” panels— “ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, THE DEAD SHALL RISE! GREEN LANTERN: THE BLACKEST NIGHT— SUMMER 2009.” Wonderful. A promise worth keeping. Better than any actual movie trailer I’ve seen this year. Once the dust settles after this Final Crisis fiasco, we’ve got the Black Lantern saga to look forward to. I, for one, am excited. The X-Men were my first love in comics, and how did the writers of X-Men top a final confrontation with Magneto and the Brotherhood? Have the two opposing sides team up to beat back the threat of total annihilation posed by Apocalypse. Same concept here. The Green and Yellow Corps will have to work together, presumably after avoiding/defeating the five other, dumber color-corps, to protect the whole Universe from an early demise. By then, I might actually have the money to subscribe to Green Lantern myself. I’m excited.

Rating: Four Whiskey Sours.

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