Green Lantern # 20 Ends Geoff Johns’ Run With an Overblown Bang

Green Lantern 20 Cover

Green Lantern # 20
Written by Geoff Johns
Pencils by Doug Mahkne, with Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason and others
Colors by Alex Sinclair and Tony Avina
Published by DC Comics

The last issue of Geoff Johns’ epic tour as writer on “Green Lantern”, a run lasting over six years and multiple series, can’t be anything but personal for me, hence my breaking SOS protocol to write this review in the dreaded first-person.

I’ve been reading Johns’ Green Lantern books practically since the beginning, when I spotted the very first issue of the ongoing on the shelf of my local store and thought “Huh. Green Lantern. Never read that before”. I was hooked instantly. Yeah, it’s cliché, but I was, dammit. The crisp, clean art, world building, great characterization and emphasis on the expansive GL lore all came together into something I ate up like bacon wrapped in bacon wrapped in green spandex. Really, it’s Geoff Johns who made Green Lantern my favorite superhero.

Which really makes it so devastating that the final issue, which hit stands this week, is kind of messy and half-baked.

The issue, in a more immediate sense, wraps up the “First Lantern” storyarc, with Hal dead again and Volthoom (which continues to be a silly sounding name) on the brink of destroying the universe. To recap the issue would be spoiling things, but also fairly dull, which is really the heart of the problem with the issue.

Gnort

As much as I love Geoff Johns and what he’s done with the characters, I’ve always noticed his writing tends to rely heavily on shocking moments and “wow!” scenes. Johns’ solution to prettymuch any problem is a splash page and a big dramatic moment. A character swooping in out of nowhere to save the day, or someone unlocks some new power or goes Super Saiyan or something. Usually, this is a perfectly fine solution to whatever’s going on, but when it happens five times in one issue, this starts to feel less like a story and more like a kid playing with his action figures and screaming out “And then a dinosaur shows up!!!”. The whole issue is just a cavalcade of these moments, and more than ever it just feels tiresome.

Then there’s the villain. This is more a comment on the entire recent GL run as a whole, but it’s felt for a long time that the series has been spinning its wheels, and the latest big villain is the best example of this. Oh gumdrops, another big cosmic baddie whose power is that he throws energy at people while making hand movements like he’s singing “Stop! In the Name of Love”. Never seen that in a GL comic before. At least in the “Blackest Night” arc they were fighting freaking Death itself. Sure, Hal does get a brief, unimaginative fight with Sinestro at the end but….it’s brief and unimaginative. The stakes feel artificially heightened throughout, and we never have any real reason to believe this is any more of a climactic final battle between the forces of good and evil than any of the other 4 or 5 times it’s happened over the course of this run.

Book of Oa

Finally, the issue commits the comic-book faux-pas of writing apparently conclusive futures for most of the characters, basically the superhero equivalent of the end of Animal House. And really, who are we kidding here? This is comics, no one ever moves past a set status quo and whatever changes the next writer they bring in to helm this thing will probably render the entire “and they went on to…” sequence null and void by killing someone off or somesuch. And while a few of them are amusing or feel fitting, most of them feel saccharine and indulgent. Spoiler alert, the vast majority of the characters go on to lead perfectly happy lives and basically become so universally loved and revered you’d think they were color-coded, laser-powered space Jesuses. I realize not every writer can be George RR Martin and force all his characters to lead utterly miserable lives ending with unceremonious deaths, but there’s only so many “And they lived happily ever after”s one can take.

There are a few good things about the issue. The framing story of some future GL recruit being told the tale of Hal Jordan’s glory days is somewhat clever, and there is at least one good moment between Hal and Sinestro that recalls the more complex relationships and characters before everything started winding down like HAL 9000 singing “Daisy Bell”. And I do realize that pretty much any ending at this point would have felt like a letdown, after all how many series this epic and long-running have truly satisfying endings? But when I put down the issue, I still felt cheated somehow.

Geoff Johns’ run on “Green Lantern” is something I’ll always consider important in my life as a comic book reader. Sure, it wasn’t as ground-breaking and revolutionary as say,“Animal Man” or “Swamp Thing”. But it still took the once-stagnant Green Lantern universe and brought it back to its former glory, if not making it more intriguing and wondrous as ever. But for all the things this run will be remembered for, this ending isn’t one of them.




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