(a) Doug Mahnke
(i) Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Tom Nguyen
For the first time in three months and eleven issues (including this week’s Green Lantern: New Guardians #15), “Rise of the Third Army” feels really grave. So far, the new army created by the Guardians of the Universe has been more theoretical in it’s horror and scope, mostly growing in the background and scattered panels throughout Green Lantern Family titles. In Green Lantern #15, Geoff Johns brings the Third Army to a horrifying forefront, as well as continuing Simon Baz’s journey as the most grounded and believable superhero in a long time.
Even before this issue, Simon Baz rebuffed most superhero cliches. Sure, he’s a nobody from some city in Michigan, but Kyle Rayner was also a nobody in an alley. No, Baz stands apart because his journey didn’t start with a power ring. Most any other hero you can think of (besides characters like Wonder Woman) begins their story with a mask, with the desire to do good in a world gone bad. Baz is simply trying to clear his name of terrorism charges for something he didn’t do. Geoff Johns recognized how normalized the process of character introduction had become in the mainstream superhero world, and how the community at-large had just come to accept it. Sure, there’s a whole world of independent comics that explore alternative origin concepts, but applying less conventional character development to a hero as popular as Green Lantern is admirable. (For the record, I love independent comics and the previous statement is in no way meant to undermine the quality or caliber of independent comics or publishers.)
The Third Army is so f*cking scary. I couldn’t say that before reading Green Lantern #15. Geoff Johns managed, in two sequences, to achieve what Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians, and Red Lanterns have failed to convey, and that’s the pure breadth of this parasitic legion spreading across the universe. Maybe it was an editorial decision, but it seems like Johns simply had to punch things up a bit in order to get a little momentum with “Rise of the Third Army” going. And while the ‘crossover’ event has been enjoyable, it mirrors Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire’s “Rotworld” crossover in that they both seem to be floundering a bit, offering stories with little advancement or affect on the greater tale. Either way, seeing a planet-sized swarm of grey monsters made my stomach drop.
Green Lantern #15 is simply exceptional. Geoff Johns is literally building Simon Baz’s character–his moral, his ethics, his personality–from the ground up as he deals with his personal issues while simultaneously trying to learn why he’s received a Green Lantern ring and is being approached by a talking squirrel (for those who watched Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special, B’dg’s inclusion in this storyline is just awesome.) “Rise of the Third Army” finally feels real, like something ominous and terrible is getting ready to devastate the entire universe.