Warning: Spoilers below!
The penultimate issue of season 1 of The Green Lantern. Let’s take stock, shall we?
This book has been a long voyage. Each issue a new hook, setting, concept or plot that, for the most part, stands alone, as a macro-narrative builds. But there’s something more interesting happening in the pages of the book. Each issue is a tribute, an homage to a specific era, genre, creator or influence. When you break it down, it goes like this:
- 2000 AD. Right from the Venturan opening, this brand of odd, textured sci-fi worlds screams 2000 AD and Sharp himself is a veteran.
- Bandes dessinées. Take one look at the Oa splash. This is work that you’d read in gorgeous French collections of sci-fi stories.
- Strange Tales. Specifically the odd ball ones done in the ’70s by Steve Gerber, Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart. The latter two loved having their heroes face down god stand-ins. Those satires and “strange” stories are key influences on Morrison. Gerber’s Defenders for his Doom Patrol, which he saw as a successor to the weirdness of that. And his love of Englehart Doctor Strange as well as Starlin Captain Marvel and Marvel Cosmic is well known.
- Western Tales. To even packing in multiple short stories, we’re treated to The Man With No Name, which is as overt and Western as it gets.
- Gothic Horror. Specifically the horror comics published by Warren Comics, such as Vampirella. We, quite literally, have a space vampire from a vampire planet.
- Atomic Age. Very much in the tradition of those classical Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino tales full of retro sci-fi worlds.
- Vertigo comics. Specifically the sort of “literary” comics that grew at Vertigo, like The Sandman in the ’90s. Neil Gaiman is key here, a friend and peer of Morrison’s, his Doctor Who episode (The Doctor’s Wife), which Morrison is a big fan of, is being riffed on here as well.
- The Relevant comics. The tradition of the grounded political comic in the ’70s, especially like Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams’ Green Lantern/Green Arrow, which is tackled head on through Kirby here.
- Fantasy. Very Barry Windsor-Smith and Mike Grell, so Conan and Warlord, all of that in here, as Sharp is a huge fan.
- Unifying Voice. This is the issue where the riffs on others end. They stop. The riff on the creators’ own work begins. All the prior elements are unified by their voices and vision in doing so. Morrison homages himself and his own work in The Multiversity, as Sharp does the most Liam Sharp comic possible, down to gorgeous layout design pieces on the orrery. It’s the “Morrison/Sharp” issue, no one else’s. The work becomes something of their own, completely, even in terms of influence. And at the end, the last page? Something totally new.
And so we open.
We’re introduced to Sector None, a new, unseen sector who’s just introduced in this series. A brand new creation, which was mentioned in a one-off line in issue #2 when Hal investigated The Spider-Pirate of Vega, we finally get to see it. Then the world of Weirwimm, from the opening flashbacks of issue #4, is revealed to be a part of said No-Zone, which is a No Man’s Land, a sector of space where The Guardians have no jurisdiction. A classical DC idea, seen evidently in The Vega System (Morrison terms it The Vega-Volume, which is a nice little bit of specificity), which also falls outside Guardian jurisdiction. And as is evident from the ties to previous issues, right out the gate, the creative team of Morrison, Sharp, Oliff and Orzechowski begin to pull various threads together here.
And how do they do it? A crime scene investigation, of course! This is still very much a police procedural, albeit elevated to the wild, cosmic level. And thus we have a group of cops investigating a crime scene, the place where The Qwa-Man, The Mad Lantern, emerged from and was taken by Belzebeth of The Blackstars. We learn that save for Trilla-Tru, the Xudarian Lantern (space chicken), have next to no emotions. Officer Stel is a robot man, while Tuebeen is from a race of emotionless beings and the Fly-Lantern with them has only one emotion (ostensibly will). Morrison throws in the idea here that Guardians minimize on Trauma Counselling by sending special officers like these on select missions, which is both amusing and fitting. It’s the little things like these that make the Corps feel a little more fleshed out, giving them a nice texture. Stel here is reinvented as, essentially, “Robocop Lantern,” as drawn by Liam Sharp, which is hilarious. And the notion of space Robocop feels obvious and neat, as this book wraps in every cop beat it can. The scene above, where he asks them to dust for prints and mutters “Somebody murdered a whole planet– I want to know why!” is perhaps the entire series in a microcosm. It’s such a perfect, succinct summary of what the book is going for. It’s a typical cop line, but adjusted to this wild canvas of the DC Cosmos, where planet deaths are common, where the impossible is everyday.
Tuebeen is also interesting, as he’s a veteran investigator, who tackles cases most struggle with due to his unique aptitude. But he doesn’t get to do much investigating, with Stel cracking the code. The issue, essentially, lays out the entire plot thus far here. This is the starting point, where it all began and from here, we get a sense of all the events up to this point. Someone was using this planet as a vault for The Qwa-Man, who was then acquired by the antagonist of the run, Controller Mu. As Anti-Matter warnings go off on Lantern rings, Sinestro shows up and this is where things begin to really take off. This is not our Sinestro. Notice the color palette of his suit. It’s inverted. This is The Anti-Matter Universe’s Sinestro.
Now, this is interesting and a really great choice. The character debuted in #8’s stinger and is now worth discussing. There’s effectively two characterizations of Sinestro, the classical mustache twirling foe and the Geoff Johns character. And for the most part, the latter superseded the other in the last two decades. Johns’ character was a broken mirror of Jordan, his closest friend, his mentor, his father figure, who Hal would eternally be odds with, unable to give up on him, because the love there was so strong. He was a flawed, morally ambiguous figure with his own agenda and goals, which he believed to be righteous and better for the world and his people. He was almost Johns’ Magneto, in a sense. But as all villains must, eventually, he’s sort of returned to the more mustache twirling foe role at the moment, donning his old suit back on in the pages of Justice League.
The decision here to just make an Anti-Matter Sinestro is kind of genius since Sinestro debuted in an Anti-Matter story and has forever had strong ties with that universe, effectively popping up in multiversal plots. To sort of make another Sinestro, who is more classical, rooted in that past in a way that makes total sense, to occupy that mustache twirling foe role? Brilliant. You effectively get two characters, really. Those who want to use the more complex, sometimes heroic, figure can use Matter Sinestro, while those that wanna lean in to the camp and play the classic angle can utilize the Anti-Matter version. It’s being able to have your cake and eat it too. Everybody wins.
We’re then treated to the almost Judge Dredd sequence of Robocop Lantern exclaiming “Sinestro!,” as the comic zooms in on his cold eyes. Sharp, being a Dredd vet himself, bringing that and mixing that with Robocop here, is pretty fun. The implication here is, obviously, that Sinestro was the one who had The Qwa-Man put in the vault, before he was taken away. But before we get any answers, he warns that The Qwa-Man is returning and we bear witness to a terrifying image of the cybernetic cruelty climbing its way across the Dark Multiverse, from the darkness at the depths of the Multiverse into the light, into the realm of matter once more. Sharp’s art is really spectacular here, with the bloodthirsty glare of this monster coming through clearly, as Oliff bathes the man in Gothic shades to punctuate the scene. In fun contrast though, their Sinestro isn’t really terrifying. He’s much more the chill, seductive James Bond-villain. Always making a pose, grinning cheekily, sipping tea, you name it.
Meanwhile, in the main narrative, picking up from the end of the last issue, we get the deal with the mysterious Lantern. Or, well, bits and pieces. That’s what’s interesting and surprising about this issue. Morrison, Sharp, Oliff and Orzechowski exercise a lot more restraint than one may have expected given the teases of the last issue. The entire beginning was just “cops investigate crime scene” — it’s a police procedural and as the issue progresses, that still holds true, amongst all the wackiness. This isn’t the epic issue (not to say it doesn’t feel epic, it absolutely does), it’s much more of a breather that slows down the ride after the ramp up from the previous issue, letting us catch ourselves, before dialing it back up to 11 again for the season finale. It’s much more focused on being the sort of glue to link up the entire narrative thus far wherever it possibly can, while setting up for the final issue and seeding future stories. And that is a strength here.
But onto the Lantern, we meet the lost Zundernell, The Golden Lantern, who calls himself The Guardian of The Cosmic Grail. He’s someone who feels impossibly Morrisonian, referencing Silver Sun-Ships, Sentryboxes, The Over-Sky and most importantly, The Multi-Crisis. Zundernell speaks of the oncoming moment of prophecy, when The Cosmic Grail will awaken. And when it does, he will lead his captured Lanterns with it onto the ultimate battlefield. The whole thing screams of Odin and the warriors of Valhalla, which is an interesting parallel. It feels very much like set up for season 2 of the book, but at the same time in the context of the run thus far, Zundernell is vital. If all the things prior, the focuses, were riffs, Zundernell isn’t. He isn’t really tied to anything, he’s not a revamp of anything. He’s something completely brand new. Our heroes literally venture into unknown territory at the end of #10 and this is that territory, where Zundernell awaits.
Those looking for a lot of answers will have to wait, as this is clearly a more long-form story, but Morrison does tease and imply a lot, from Zundernell’s deceased sidekick to his unseen adventures and the abandonment by his people, who may still exist somewhere out there. He also seems to be a cosmic knight, which is intriguing. He warns of The Eternal Night that is coming and brings up guarding The Night-Gate, all of which are likely going to be important in the next season. His connection and ties to the mythology remain shrouded in shadow, but as one looks at this lone gold of metal, one is reminded, visually, somewhat of The Silver Surfer. But apart from that, most of the issue is the sort of fun back-and-forth of Lanterns, with this issue particularly getting at the sparky dynamic between both Batman and Hal as well as Star Sapphire and Hal. There are some fun nods and jokes to both histories, from the face-punching references to the baggage of romance, which are all done in fun ways. Hal and Carol of Earth-11 both being tempted by the notion of a clean start with the other minus all baggage is an amusing little moment.
There’s a real sense of “good god, there is a lot happening,” with the issue clearly broken down into marked “prologue,” “interlude” and main story, but that’s very much when the title excels, as it feels like a huge meal. You’re not getting decompressed comics. You’re getting comics you can re-read a number of times to glean more from, speculate about and engage with a bit differently. For instance, Morrison teases some of the unknown worlds of The Multiverse here and we see The Primate Legion of the Gorilla Galaxy, who last appeared in Metal, claiming to be from the 53rd world. Now, they’re from the 853rd Century, so it could just be a neat reference to that or odds are, they have an entire Earth to themselves, an Earth-52, if you will, one belonging to Morrison, given they are his legacy from DC One Million, getting him side by side with Kirby’s Earth-51.
Now to get to the ‘interlude’, the team drops a huge bomb here. They recontextualize The Anti-Matter Man as…Border Patrol of The Anti-Matter Universe. He’s not a bad guy or a monster. He was attacked and he defended. He’s a cosmic cop of another universe! And he hasn’t killed any of the members of The Superwatch. All the members last seen fallen are still alive, with life functions preserved. They just need a hostpital and some bed rest before they go about superheroing again. Trust Morrison to always save his heroes and ideas. But past that, the revelation once again tilts the whole bizarre tale into a cop story. The Anti-Matter Man or Titan, is just after Sinestro and The Qwa-Man. In the end it’s just a cop chasing down escaped convicts. Of course. It even fits with the way this entire narrative began in #1. The whole thing’s a cop story. And it’s so much one that when it has every opportunity to blow out into a huge epic quest, it doesn’t, it just resolves the problem carefully and then has an arrest conducted after back up is called in.
The art’s inconsistent at points in this issue — a step down from the peak of #10, but nevertheless, Sharp tries some neat things here. To match with the “new,” he sort of does his own new take on the impossible angles he played with during the Adams issue. Particularly the Batman page as he points his finger up, is a page with a perspective and angle unlike any other in the book. It feels different. There’s also a general, more perspective based storytelling approach here, as Sharp gets in real close, to Batman’s face as he’s speaking from the top, to the bottom of Zundernell or Hal seeing Carol from after he awakens. There are a lot of choices like that consistently, which give this issue a unique vibe. And to top it all off, the crew introduces us to Spectra, a brand new Lantern, who looks remarkably different from all the rest, a pitch black, with a rainbow fin and triangle on her chest. She fires not green light but a rainbow wave of power.
Apart from all that, the highlight of the issue is very much Morrison and Orzechowski doing a whole bunch of Lantern Oaths. We get Zundernell’s, which feels mythic and reads like a warning. We’re given Bat Lantern’s, which is just the right mix of crime buster and space hero, we get a look at Flashlight’s solemn swear and Magic Lantern’s goofy and groovy one, too. Those should likely be a source of great amusement and entertainment for many, as the team just captures everything wacky yet appealing about Green Lantern, in all its prismatic glory, with all its variations, in a single splash page. Even the variant cover of the book boasts the super obscure Green Lantern symbol for greetings. A green infinity insignia that looks almost like a ribbon or an 8. This is a title in love with its history, but is using it to sort of open up new corners for the future rather than just revel in nostalgia. Nostalgia is never the point, not with Morrison. It’s about going to the future.
And thus the end of the season is set, as The Qwa-Man’s revival is almost put across as prophetic by the captions of the book, like we’re reading a book of myth. And there’s a real sense of “A Good Man Goes To War” here, the Doctor Who episode where the Doctor rises higher than ever before falling. That’s where Hal is at in this canvas of cosmic cop narratives. The Qwa-Man is essentially the idea of “The Zombie Criminal” vibe from John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 given literal form. Except rather than an army, it’s just one being, who keeps on coming and coming, no matter what. It’s impossible.
The Green Lantern #11 is a relatively restrained penultimate installment than most might expect. And yet, it’s as strange and wildly fun as people have come to expect by now. It’s peppered with fun allusions to the past, neat re-contextualizations of the present and new additions that look to the future and make promises that excite. A lot awaits our hero Hal Jordan in the coming days. His Duel with His Anti-Self. The Age Of The Blackstars. The Multi-Crisis. The Eternal Night. How will he make it through all that? That’s the fun. Green Lantern hasn’t felt this exciting in a long time.