By: Geoff Johns (story), Szymon Kudranski (art), Ardian Syaf (pencils), Mark Irwin & Guillermo Ortego (inks), Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina (colors)
The Story: Now Sinestro can join Superman’s support group for sole planetary survivors.
The Review: As Johns winds down on what has been an impressive eight-year run on his most popular series, he’s clearly aiming to give as loving a send-off as he can to all the characters he’s given new life to. He’s made Hal Jordan the centerpiece of the Green Lantern franchise again; he’s turned Sinestro from a villain you took for granted to one you fear, respect, and even sympathize with; and he’s given us Simon Baz, the most unpretentious and human of Lanterns.
I expressed some concern last month that Simon has lately lost the spotlight in this series and was even in danger of becoming an extraneous character in the presence of Hal and Sinestro. Now, however, I understand that this is Johns indulging in nostalgia, coming up with the most fitting and resonant coda to the two characters he’s developed the longest. Both Hal and Sinestro have had long, personal evolutions, and now’s the time to examine what has come out of that.
To be frank, the changes Hal’s experienced have been minor. At his heart, he remains a bold, totally self-determined character who operates according to his own instincts of right and wrong. What Johns has done with Hal feels more like careful retweaking than anything else, but even these slight alterations have importance. Over time, Hal has become less careless, more sensitive, more aware, and thus less aggravating on those around him and on his readers. He has an earnestness in his heroism now that would’ve felt like showboating years earlier.
For example, years ago, had Hal confronted the choice between staying in limbo or taking action and risking oblivion, he would have chosen the latter without even thinking about it, fully confident of his success. Here, he hesitates when Tomar-Re warns him of the consequences of leaping before looking. He’s not so willing to face certain death. He’s only driven to make that leap when he sees the damage the First Lantern can inflict: “The First Lantern’s already destroyed one world, Tomar! I have no other option! I have to try!”
In doing so, Hal will be achieving the greatest feat of will of all, perhaps of all Lanterns. In #16, B’dg saw Simon’s revival of his brother-in-law as a miracle, something neither Hal nor even Sinestro can do. But bringing someone else out of a coma admittedly falls a bit short of conquering death yourself. Tomar warns Hal, “The dead cannot will anything, Hal… The dead have no say in any matters of life.” So if Hal succeeds here—and there’s little expectation that he won’t—he’ll reset the bar pretty high for Lanterns to come.
All very impressive of course, but I actually think what Johns has done with Sinestro is worthy of even greater acclaim. All this time, Johns has instilled whole new levels of nobility, humility, and even compassion into a villain once portrayed as sadistic, all while retaining Sinestro’s defining arrogance and condescension. Even more incredibly, by the end of this issue, Johns transforms Sinestro into a truly tragic figure. Though I think—spoiler alert—the destruction of Korguar is a cheap way of achieving it, I can’t fault the final result. We’ve seen Sinestro slowly move toward the very precipice of redemption, only to be rewarded with despairing loss.
These are all pluses from long-term investments into the series, but the issue at hand have flaws which dampen your immediate enjoyment of the story. First, it’s rather incredible, given the venom she showed Sinestro the last time he was on Korguar, that Arsona decides to lend her aid to him so quickly and easily. Second, the First Lantern’s “What if…?” manipulations have gotten fairly old by this point (and still feel like a silly method of regaining his power). Third, the First Lantern is just so grandiose and poorly motivated a villain that it’s hard to take him seriously. He practically drools as he feeds on the emotions of Korugar: “The fear within your people…the fear you instilled with them…it’s mine to consume. And the hope you now attempt to replace that fear with…it’s so powerful.” It’s just kind of silly.
Unfortunately, it’s only here on his last issue that Kudranski strikes the right balance between light and shadow so that his eerie figures can be seen enough to be appreciated. Despite the limited vision he offers you, the emotions still ring clear and true in his art. Syaf is a fine artist, but the word that comes to mind in describing his art is “typical.” Nothing he draws can be seriously faulted, especially with Sinclair and Avina’s sparkling colors finishing the product, but nothing stands out as particularly remarkable either.
Conclusion: This is an issue where you appreciate Johns’ long-term work more than the instant product, meaning this arc may not be quite the perfect swan song for his run.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – The Hidden Ones have been officially renamed the Templar Guardians, which indeed means they’ll be here to stay as the old ones’ replacements. Good and good riddance, I say.