Brightest Days: Geoff Johns and Green Lantern, Part Two
Green Lantern #20 marked the Geoff Johns' final issue as writer of Green Lantern, and nine years of Green Lantern stories stewarded by he and Peter Tomasi have come to an end. How'd they do it?
You can read Part One of our Green Lantern retrospective right here!Imagine where Green Lantern, the DC Universe, and mainstream comics would be without Geoff Johns. There would be no Sinestro Corps, Black Lanterns, Alpha Lanterns, Saint Walker, Larfleeze, Atrocitus, Dex-Starr, Simon Baz, Indigo Tribe, and Kyle Rayner would still be fighting the villain of the month in the only Green Lantern title. While never losing focus on Hal’s personal journey for redemption, Geoff Johns introduced concept after concept and created a whole new mythology for his characters to play in. It’s hard to imagine any future Green Lantern story that won’t harken back to something from this run. Johns took Hal and did the same thing he did to a galaxy of other characters. By creating nuanced little character traits, previously established by former Green Lantern writers, and tweaking them, Johns made Hal Jordan a compelling guide during nine years of storytelling.Johns, of course, had already created endless additions to the Green Lantern mythology with his Spectrum Corps, but with Simon Baz, he had the opportunity to create a new point of view character. As a Muslim hero, Baz was an instant attention-getter, but his struggles to overcome societal prejudices without fear marked him as a worthy candidate for a ring. Simon Baz gave Johns the opportunity to reintroduce elements into a rebooted DC Universe, and explore them through a fresh set of eyes. Simon was established as a character so unaffected by fear and doubt that he was able to raise the dead and perform near miracles, with a ring that was fueled, by not only courage but faith as well. Can a writer satisfactorily wrap up a run of such scope and magnitude? There were many dangling plot threads, mostly concerning the Guardians, Hal and Sinestro in the realm of death, and the arrival of the First Lantern, Valthoom. One of the main thematic points of the last two years of green Lantern was the absolute corruption of the Guardians. With the arrival of the Third Army and Valthoom, the Guardians had created more monsters to follow the legacy of the Manhunters to cast a shadow on their morality. As the Guardians became more corrupted, the Lanterns became more altruistic. Hal willingly corrupted his own soul in the final issue to join with the Black Lantern in order to combat Valthoom.In previous issues, Hal had embraced the other Lantern colors in order to master his own doubts. Now, Hal had fearlessly become a creature of endless darkness in order to defeat his corrupted mentors. It was big, it was crazy, it was daring in scope and stature, and like the entirety of Johns’ run, it was human. In order to win the day, Hal must overcome all fear… represented by the manifestation of Hal’s younger self after the death of his father. As Hal bravely fought for the fate of the universe, Johns juxtaposed the battle with young Hal trying to come to terms with his own loss. The last issue was a masterful weaving of Hal’s personal conflict against the tapestry of a grand space opera featuring all the Corps, a Living Planet, a legion of alien zombies, and the living manifestation of death itself. Yeah, it’s that big, and more impressively, that focused.
In recent years, Hal had been a co-star in his own book, sharing time with Simon Baz and, more importantly, Sinestro. In Green Lantern #20, Sinestro finally found his redemption. Sinestro, the eternal foil for Jordan, aided Hal in his battle against Valthoom and the Guardians by reviving his own Corps of fear mongers. It was a worthy conclusion for the villain that had driven Johns’ run to its ultimate heights. Shockingly, Sinestro displays a new found altruism that actually serves a double purpose in redeeming the Guardians.As fans said farewell to the writer they so admired, Johns said goodbye to his characters, all of them. Every one of his creations got a last moment to shine. Every spectrum was present to remind readers of their special place within the DC Universe, but the most heartfelt moments of farewell were reserved for the five human Lanterns. Through the story device of a flash forward to the future of the Corps, a Lantern recruit learns the fate of each human Green Lantern from a cloaked Lantern historian. Through these devices, Johns explores what each character meant to the Lantern mythos, Guy as the warrior, John as the builder, Kyle as the keeper of the flame, and Simon as the miracle worker. Of course the book’s last moments were reserved for Hal and Sinestro, as they both live happily ever after. Not many stories have the guts to let the villain get the happily ever after, but Johns run was never what one would call typical. He even succeeds in bringing back G’nort, a silly character noticeably absent from this entire run, and like everything he touched previously, even the introduction of G’nort worked.
A proper farewell cannot be bid to the Geoff Johns era without a mention of Peter Tomasi. In Green Lantern Corps, first Dave Gibbons and later, Peter Tomasi picked up on Johns’ myth creation and ran with it. Tomasi in particular, was an invaluable partner to Johns who provided a perfect voice to deeply explore John’s ideas. In Tomasi’s Green Lantern Corps, readers were able to explore the members that were inspired by Hal’s example. Tomasi made an already huge universe of characters even bigger, providing an outlet for the further exploration of John, Kyle, Guy and the myriad alien Lanterns introduced before and during Johns’ run. Johns and Tomasi would volley story beats back and forth between the titles, myth-building with every hit.While the stories in Green Lantern were big, they were not big enough to explore the ramifications of these universe-altering tales for every member of the extended GL family. Pete Tomasi crafted equally compelling stories about the other Lanterns, all the while exploring and fleshing out alien characters in all the Corps to make the Green Lantern universe even richer. While Johns introduced the Third Army, it was Tomasi’s visceral tone that made them truly terrifying, so when they popped up in Hal’s book, readers know what horrific creatures Hal was up against. After Johns introduced Valthoom, Tomasi explored the monster’s methods and motivations. This was the formula for their entire run, Johns would introduce, and Tomasi would flesh out, all the while guiding the adventures of the Green Lanterns of earth.
It’s rare that two creators end legendary runs that are intertwined together. As new voices come aboard Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, it is clear that they will have a legacy to live up to, but with Johns and Tomasi as inspiration, fans can rest assured, that the flame will burn bright. Green Lantern #20 was a fitting farewell from a writer to his characters. Johns says farewell to each of his creations in turn, allowing each their moment to shine and reminding the reader why each one is so amazing. Future writers will look to this run as a guide, utilizing characters and concepts dreamed up in almost a decade of storytelling; let us hope these writers have the creative acumen to add a fraction of what Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi did to the legacy of Green Lantern.