Geoff Johns’ final storyline as Green Lantern Chief is ‘Wrath of the First Lantern’, a storyline which will conclude with issue #20 of the main book. The event has brought in, as is always the case, the other three Lantern titles as a crossover, and tells the story of a new/old threat to the Lantern Corps. And while it’s a solid storyline, it’s also a very strange one for Johns to bring to the table at this point…
Wrath of the First Lantern sees the very first Green Lantern ever, Volthoom (get used to hearing some very silly names, guys), escape a prison he was put in and subsequently go on a rampage around the Universe. He moves from one lantern to another at a time, therefore creating the crossover, and goes on the offensive. The strange thing about the storyline is that each time he catches up to one – be it John Stewart, Atrocitus, Kyle Rayner, or whoever – he effectively recaps their origin to them, making this one of the best stories to jump onto in a while.
Yes – the very last storyline from Geoff Johns is also essentially a series of origin stories for every single one of the main characters in the Green Lantern franchise. It’s rather strange. Volthoom’s power appears to be that he can rewrite timestreams, going backwards and forwards in time to change the lives of other people. So he can create a world where Hal Jordan’s father doesn’t die, or he can maintain the status quo and keep Poppa Jordan dead. For the last few weeks, Volthoom has gone over to a series of different characters, shown them alternate lives they could’ve lived, and then refused to change them – every week that’s happened. Readers get a potted history of whomever Volthoom has caught now, and by the end of the issue Volthoom has refused to change the origin, and also captured the hero.
This does allow Johns access to a reset button should he choose to take it. The last ten years have been one of change for the franchise, with grand sweeping gestures and smaller character-focused moments all built up on each other for a series of pretty successful storylines. Some of the stories have been better than others, but for the most part the Geoff Johns era of Green Lantern has been a pretty amazing success, creatively. Not only does Green Lantern now support four titles simultaneously, but it also tells stories which change the sweep of the DC Universe – from Sinestro Corps War to Blackest Night. There’s a clear vision for the characters, who have all been developed fairly well for ten consecutive years.
That can all be reset and cleared away if Geoff Johns wants to, via Volthoom. I’m hoping he doesn’t choose to take this route, because Volthoom hasn’t really worked as a villain so far. As a character, the villain has mainly existed as a fountain of exposition, narrating the lives of Guy Gardner or Carol Ferris like some kind of malevolent David Attenborough. He hasn’t had a particularly visible goal as a villain, and his progress has been very repetitive indeed. The saving grace has been that his powers offer artists a chance to try out some fantastically experimental page layouts, as they pull apart the lives of characters and arrange the important moments into spider-webs, and tapestries.
The story has served to underline the strength of the main characters. There are now around 20 characters in the Green Lantern franchise who could be used as the lead for one of the books, which speaks to how well the writers have managed to pick out underused, well-conceived characters already floating around in the DC Universe. There are several characters who had fallen into obscurity over the years, and writers like Peter Tomasi have done brilliant work in repurposing them. If nothing else, Wrath of the First Lantern has proven to be an excellent showcase for the franchise itself, and the directions new writers and artists could choose to take it in. Hopefully they won’t choose to, y’know, murder half of them.
Wrath of the Green Lanterns isn’t finished yet – Green Lantern #20 is the finale for the storyline, and for Geoff Johns’ run as a whole. It’s been very strange to take this moment in the run and start retelling everybody’s origin storyline – but it’s been a nice little showcase for the characters, and given the various creative teams a chance to experiment a bit with their storytelling. Fun, if a little unnecessary.