Warning: Spoilers Below!
‘For I am The Green Lantern!’
It has all led to this. Arriving as the final arc, which leads right into the 30-page super-sized finale to Season 1 of The Green Lantern by Grant Morrison, Liam Sharp, Steve Oliff and Tom Orzechowski, the Guardians Of The Multiverse two-parter looks to set the stage for an explosive finale. And it starts here. The story kicks off by pulling back a bit from the end of the previous issue, which saw the arrival of the multiversal superteam of Green Lanterns, a cosmic Interpol, if you will. Cutting away to the moment of each of the key multiversal Lantern’s recruitment for the special mission, Morrison, Sharp, Oliff and Orzechowski immediately lay out the world and cast of characters they’re tapping into here. If you were parched for the drink dubbed context, you’ve got it here. With one page per character and their world, we’re given sufficient understanding of who these people are and where they come from.
We open on Earth-36, or Universe-36, if you will and get a sense of it for the very first time after its debut in The Multiversity (the title being a portmanteau of The Multiverse and Diversity, which is important). It’s a universe that happens to be a pastiche of Big Bang Comics, published by Caliber Comics, which featured pastiches of classic DC characters to begin with. And so, pastiching the pastiche, to somehow make something fresh. The universe is also one where queer heroes are front and center, as the A-list, top tier flagship champions. They’re the premiere heroes here, never on the sidelines the way they are in the main universe. And part of that is the character Flashlight, Hank Hallmark, a gay man in a happy relationship with a speedster, Red Racer, named Ray, the Flash of this universe. If you’ve ever had a gay DC ship, from Flash/Green Lantern to whatever else, odds are, it’s a thing here in Earth-36. It’s a world celebrating cool, queer hero versions of the icons we know and thus this universe’s ‘Guardian’ equivalent here being surrounded in a rainbow spectrum of color, practically screaming ‘pride’, is pretty great and rather fitting. ‘Custodians of the Cosmos’ is a fun alliterative spin on Guardians and one that tracks, given the history of the franchise and the multiversal spins on ideas, with ‘Weaponers of the Universe’ being the popular, anti-matter version of the idea, while another riff exists in the main universe via The Controllers.
We learn of the Flashlight’s seven unique settings and then see the hero zip away to answer the ‘Crisis’, a rather intentional choice here, which we’ll get back to in a moment.
By this point, it should be clear that Sharp, Oliff and Orzechowski are having the time of their lives here. Every page, every universe, a different, distinct palette and style and aesthetic and layout to delineate it for the audience. The first revels in the rainbow might of pride, while pairing purples, pinks and greens in fun ways. The layout displays a clear, easy structure of familiarity. Earth-47 throws all of that in the kitchen sink and then pulls out the sink to throw that out, too. And that’s a compliment. We’re instead treated to a psychedelic skirmish, resolved through no violence but hippie optimism and the power of being chill. Nothing is ‘rigid’ or structured here. Everything is ‘fluid’ and flows, including the panels, just flowing into one another neatly, while the SFX and its active placement makes it seem more embedded in the artwork than most SFX. And it doesn’t feel like it’s ‘popping’, as much as ‘oozing’, as Orzechowski presents it here. You can tell the letterer is excited by the challenge of having to pull out various balloon types for the various aliens and beings of the various worlds, while lettering to match Sharp’s wild layouts, ensuring the reading experience is enhanced, more than anything.
And then there’s Oliff’s colors, which move from the restrained approach of the first page to the cut-loose approach of the second here. Everything just pops as a wild range of color screams out at the reader from every corner, the weird greens (contrasted with blacks) that feel like you’re on a trippy experience, the wild blues and pinks, they all serve to blow out Sharp’s wonderful balance of ‘cartoony’ here in a way that stands out within the context of the rest of the issue, but also never feels out of place.
Earth 47, or Universe 47, if you will, may just be most people’s favorite world after this and understandably so. Here we have THE GALACTIC GURU ON THE CELESTIAL HOT-LINE, who says lines like ‘Tis’ I, the Ever-Living One, baby!‘ and boasts one eye, numerous arms, cool glasses that don’t match, while decked out in a sick robe. Magic Lantern and his world are a treasure. And the best part? Magic Lantern and his world were made in Animal Man nearly 3 decades ago. But at the time, Morrison was also working on Doom Patrol, as many will know. There in, he came up with plenty of ideas. And here, by riffing on one specific old one, he bridges both those works’ elements together here, in a potent alchemical experiment. The Galactic Guru is merely a new spin on this bad boy from an experimental pastiche issue of Doom Patrol, where in ‘The Living Guru’ is a play on The Watcher from the Marvel Universe. Now he’s got a refreshed Sharp look for 2019. But again, that’s just scratching the surface of what’s in play here, so let’s keep going.
Thus we come to BatLantern, The Emerald Knight of Earth 32, a world inspired by the conceit of the old Batman: In Darkest Knight story by Mike Barr and Jerry Bingham. While a neat elseworlds idea of Batman getting a power ring, it’s one that was pushed forward significantly by Morrison in his Multiversity, where he remodeled the whole thing as a sort of big ‘Warp’ world, where in, unlike the Barr/Bingham book, everyone and everything was a mix of at least up to two iconic DC properties and thus way weirder, boasting the likes of AquaFlash, Wonderhawk and Super-Martian. Morrison pulls that approach in here, too, as we get a look at The Shark, an amalgamation of The Penguin and The Shark, who’s in a gang war with Masked Hand, an amalgam of Black Hand and Black Mask.
It’s a wildly strange thing to get a look at, as the familiar imagery of crimebuster Batman is given a whole new spray of the strange, giving it an odd charm and refreshing sensibility, as you see a giant walking, talking shark mob boss in a business suit with a monocle over his eye. Sharp’s layout here differs once again, giving you a wildly different experience, with a page that is perhaps in more disorder than the first, but far less so than the second. Sharp and Oliff also opt for a relatively more restrained and ‘grounded’ palette here, giving the scene the sense of the crime story, which capturing the oddness of it all. Even the choice of green, a specific holographic shade, a techno-green of sorts, really sells that vibe here, as we see a construct Alfred acting as Bruce’s aide (the actual Alfred dies in the original Barr/Bingham story). Ah, what can’t a Lantern ring do, eh?
After all that, we return to the familiar scene of the crime, where The Qwa-Man (named for Qward, the central world of The Anti-Matter Universe) aka The Anti-Man lies in wait for our dear old Hal Jordan of Earth-0. Very much the deadly weapon haunting the story ever since his first reveal and debut at the end of #1, this cybernetic Anti-Matter Lantern, this Mad Lantern, who is Hal’s Anti-Matter counterpart is here to wreak true havoc, boasting unstoppable might. The layouts shift here, again, of course, playing to the style of the setting and context way differently, as Sharp proves to be one of the incredible masters of the form working at Big Two right now. Orzechowski’s reverse lettering kicks in again here, as Oliff smacks the reader with an almost diseased and perilous yellow emanating from the antagonist.
From that moment on, the book shifts gears and steps on the accelerator. The catching up is done. Time to hit the gas.
Morrison and Sharp immediately establish a fun, sizzling brotherly rapport between BatLantern and Magic Lantern here. The former is the silent, brooding hero of serious business, while the other looks like shaggy and loves to get high. ‘I don’t approve of weed’ is a line that is said, while Magic Lantern fires back ‘Don’t bum me out’ and that’s when you know there’s chemistry here. These character interactions are working. The Guardians Of The Multiverse then bind The Anti-Man and along with Hal Jordan, beam out through Flashlight’s teleportation powers.
And this is when Sharp gets to flex some more, as the book enters the iconic ‘Bleed Space’ or ‘The Bleed’, the space-between-spaces in DC comics. Usually shifting based on artistic interpretation, but traditionally red to fit with the name, here it has a different look. Sharp presents the reader with out-of-the-world imagery that looks like nothing any one’s ever seen in a DC comic and it is wildly surprising and special. His bleed is different in its very texture and makeup on the page, unlike anything else, like no element on the page, as characters and panels are almost pasted onto this larger than life setting. It’s a giant psychedelic whirlpool of deep blues, blacks and purples, full of swirling shapes, impossible twists and constant waves of energy, as things flow in and out of existence, as the very wavelength of existence fluctuates and worlds blink in and out. It’s a truly awesome depiction that makes you feel transported, which is how you should feel given what it is. Its textures can shift from metallic to organic and it is an incomprehensible, impossible place that evokes awe.
A brutal but quick battle of silence rages on in these moments, as Hal and The Anti-Man tussle and we see Hal knock him away and then fall unconscious. The absence of sound in these scenes only makes them better and almost punctuates everything perfectly, giving it a weight and importance it might not have otherwise. That there is no sound to bring to life the howling mad screams of a raging Anti-Man only makes it more chilling to read. From there on, Hal awakens at the base of the Guardians Of The Multiverse and finds a familiar face in Strong-Woman of Thronn. (For more on her and her team The Superwatch, check out our coverage piece here.) She lets him know of the struggle the readers witnessed in the opening of the previous issue at the Anti-Matter Mining colony, after which she also drops the bomb that Hal, in his duel, threw the Anti-Man at The Dark Multiverse. Trust Grant Morrison to make that a simple, off-hand line. And that’s how it must be, for there’s a dozen more ideas to get to here.
And to continue that ever-growing storm of ideas, we go back to a fun old one here. Morrison and Sharp bring in Uugo, The Conscious Planet, an old, old sentient world from the pages of Green Lantern #24 by John Broome and Gil Kane. While Ego, The Living Planet is the more well known sentient world of comics and Mogo’s the modern, iconic DC planet, Uugo came before either, really. A lone world that only ever wanted companionship and friends, it met Hal and shook his hand with her treebranch (Uugo identifies as female), as a planet does, making friends with Hal. Then, as she was under threat of death, Hal saved her and moved her to a place where a moon would orbit her, thus ensuring she would no longer be alone and would have companionship. Hal promises they will one day meet again and it took 50+ years for that reunion to occur, but at last, the promise is kept. In his honor, within the story, the planet with no name (at the time) takes on the name Green Lantern, to always remember her hero and first friend, until his return. Here, however, Morrison and Sharp reveal her true name and restore the original sentient planet to her rightful glory, coming up with a title that nods to and works with all the things that have come since her debut. The Conscious Planet is, of course, an obvious tip of the hat to Ego, while ‘Uugo’ is a name that fits with the planet naming conventions, such as ‘Mogo’ and even ‘Ego’. It’s a nice little revamp that acknowledges Hal’s wacky and fun history and out there friends.
From there on, we arrive at the Roundtable of The Guardians, an alliance of cosmic cops from across all of space-time. And we understand the situation that confronts our heroes. Some group of people went too far and created a hole in space-time at the Anti-Matter mining colony, from which Anti-Matter beings have been popping up, including but not necessarily limited to the Anti-Man and the energy being The Superwatch faced in the last issue. Anti-Matter is dangerous, going back to its debut in the early few issues of Green Lantern to its importance in the now iconic Crisis On Infinite Earths. That was, really, the last time the Anti-Matter universe truly reared its back for a serious attack against the DC Multiverse. A second Anti-Matter Event has not occurred yet, but if it does, things could get very, very dire. The book’s earlier use of ‘Crisis’ is pertinent here, as it brings up the danger of a 2nd Anti-Matter event. Ages ago, Morrison’s own work promised the dread of such things within the pages of Animal Man.
There have been other Crises since that iconic 80’s event, from Zero Hours to Infinite Crisis to one Morrison himself would write in the form of Final Crisis. But there has yet to, somehow, be a second true Anti-Matter event, a proper second crisis, even as we approach upon Crisis’ 35th anniversary next year. Beware o’ reader, beware. Anti-Matter is coming.
The interactions between all the Lanterns across the book here, are largely fun, even as they rely on a ton of exposition. Readers unacquainted with the mythos of Multiversity get a quick crash course here, as Morrison gets to quip and poke fun at his own ideas here through the characters. Writing everyone from Stan Lee and Dave Gibbons’ Doctor Manhattan-esque Norse Myth-based Lantern to Kai-Ro from the animated Justice League series, Morrison’s getting to play with a lot of toys here. His John Stewart is also on point here, as even in the single beat he gives him, he steers clear of all the ‘military/marine’ muck that has clouded the character in recent years and emphasizes the intellectual architect with a clear perspective. From here on out, the parameters of the titular multiversal mission are laid out. Every since the hole in space-time, a number of Green Lanterns across the multiverse have gone missing and now there’s a signal from one of the lost operatives, The Star Sapphire of Earth-11 (a matriarchal world, a universal Paradise Island), aka Carol Ferris. It’s coming from the mythic ‘once-perfect’ universe of Earth-15, which is now a forbidden world. Myth claims that the only remnant of this now dead universe is a green lantern, dubbed The Cosmic Grail, an object of awesome power. And so the grail quest begins, with the emerald knights assembling a party to both rescue their friend, find the unfindable, solve the unsolvable and save a diseased multiverse.
The heroes head to The Transmatter Cube, the only technology, apart from Motherboxes, that permits instant travel across the multiverse. Only one may exist per universe, as is the law. The Cube was a big part of The Multiversity, used by invaders to take the DC Multiverse, with Morrison seeding it as far back as his Action Comics run. A Len Wein creation from his 70’s Justice League comics (Morrison’s a big fan), they’re vital once more now across all of time and space. But they’re not the only thing given such relevance. Before there ever was the big, iconic Crisis, DC comics constantly had a plethora of regular ‘Crisis’ stories, which is what led to the title being used for the event to begin with. And one of the most well known ones remains the big team up story ‘Crisis Between Earth-One and Earth-Two!’ in Justice League Of America #46-47, which really set a sort of template that Marv Wolfman and George Perez would borrow from later on. Debuting with the threat of The Anti-Matter Man, the Gardner Fox/Mike Sekowsky Justice League/Justice Society team up story saw an entire multiverse of heroes reduced to nothing in front of this hero-crushing cosmic entity.
And now? Now he’s back. The energy entity we saw exploding with gamma radiation and taking down heroes with ease via reality warping powers? That’s him. He’s returned and powering up once more.
From the heart-shaped head to the darker face on one end, it fits. And as Brokk, the ambulance Lantern, alongside Lanterns Chriselon, Volk and Xax tries to help gather the beaten heroes of The Superwatch for medical care, the being returns, with thundering might, holding Super-Woman. Morrison and Sharp also immediately, amidst all the madness, manage to contextualize this as a police crime scene with tape, essentially, as we see Superwatch member and hero Hal Kar try to offer help, only to be told by the police that the help of a citizen, while appreciated, isn’t needed here. It’s that classic police bit, played in this wild scenario, again, underlining the motto of the run. Green Lantern isn’t a superhero, he’s a policeman.
At the same time, as overarching threads, both old and new, come together, Morrison connects the smuggling op of issue one and the entire Blackstar operation back to this mining colony. They even had a mindwriter, a mind-control device, in play to control events. This has all been their plan. And if we follow that, a traitor in the Green Lantern force remains at large, still. Lantern Chriselon tries to milk Volk for details on Hal, drawing suspicions to himself. Is he a Blackstar spy? Only time will tell. But Volk, who emotes via volcanic clouds, isn’t pleased with the crystal Lantern.
But the Anti-Man and Anti-Matter Man only cover two menaces of the supposed three that the cover advertises. So who is the third, you might ask and well, he’s here in these final pages. As the Necromancing powers of the Tangent Lantern summon the dead heroes of Earth-15, the Lantern rescue team is warned of the Grail. It is darkness, it is poison, it is cruelty and illusion, they say. And with that, they fall, as the Lantern-staff of the Tangent Lantern is summoned away via telekinetic power. And thus arrives the inevitable, final splash page. Caked in inky blacks, like it’s been sprayed on and then brushed, a strange, giant being stands in a fog of darkness. Wearing the garb of what resembles a Lantern, domino mask and all, but colored in a sort of dull gold, the lean, sleek figure evokes danger. He lets them know he’s trapped them and that while the night ahead is long and dark, he has a tale to tell them. The finale panel then closes in on his eyes and the danger triples.
Observe the eyes, which gleam green and hold the Lantern insignia as irises and then look to the side at the promised tease from #1 of the series. Let that sink in. Things are really coming together here, as this mysterious old man promises to tell them a story, the story of a man who lives in a realm with The Cosmic Grail, the tale of a being destined to destroy a cosmic lantern, the narrative of a man whose eyes gleam green and whose irises bear the Lantern insignia we know and love. Who is he, what is he? Morrison’s long promised that the run will go into the titular ‘The Green Lantern’ and touch on what it really is, which is why the book even opens on the image of it. So clearly we’re looking at the very origins and roots of the very fundamental concept. It is also worth noting that this man, this almost ‘Shadow Lantern’, if you will, calls all our Lantern heroes the ‘companions’ of The Living Lantern, which is really interesting. The creative team clearly has big ideas here, as we move into a time of epic revelations.
The Green Lantern #10 is an epic whirlwind of ideas and creative energy. This is one of those comics where every single page, in any other given comic, would be the top, highlight page and yet this book is just loaded with them. Every beat comprises of some big notion or fun concept and it moves quick, getting the reader to cackle with it, think with it and go on this epic space-fantasy ride of cosmic Interpol agents trying to find a celestial grail and save a multiverse. If you’ve ever wanted a sequel to The Multiversity, this is it, baby.