Writer: Peter J.Tomasi
Art: ChrisCross, Scott Hanna, Marlo Alquiza & Wil Quintana
Stewart R: ‘Essential reading’. It’s a phrase that I’m a little loathe to bandy around too readily as it really does depend on who you are, what you like and what you read. So let me just begin with some clarification; if you picked up Green Lantern #16 last week, you should have also picked up Green Lantern Corps #16 as that followed straight on from the cliffhanger left by Geoff Johns (likewise if you only pick up GLC regularly, the previous two issues of GL are probably worth grabbing hold of from your local comic book store!). So, if you’re in the position where you’ve picked up both of last week’s issues - as a regular reader of at least one of those titles - this Green Lantern Corps Annual will be ‘essential reading’. Phew!
It’s a little mind-boggling that DC don’t really seem to have gone big and bold with the statement that this is the epic conclusion to the Rise of the Third Army storyline having permeated the four different lantern titles in some way and form since the New 52 launched. The word ‘conclusion’ on the cover feels far too understated - have a hunt for it yourself - but perhaps that in turn reflects the publisher’s strange stance on not wanting to properly and forcefully clarify to the readership the suggested combination of issues required to get the strongest grasp of what this Universe affecting event threatens, and what then are delightful bonus reads to broaden that vision further. I just know for a fact that some readers will only be picking up Green Lantern and they will pick up #17 and have missed a giant piece of the puzzle by potentially overlooking this annual.
The foibles of editorial direction and leadership aside, this IS a damn fine finale (of sorts, and more on that later!) from Peter J.Tomasi who grabs all of the floating threads left wriggling before him - admittedly many are of his own making in his Corps book - and form them into a cohesive and driven piece of grand, whirlwind spectacle as the Green Lantern Corps, with associated and unexpected assistance from various corners, make their last stand against the treacherous Guardians of the Universe. Tomasi blatantly has a lot of love for Guy Gardner and he does take a large role in how this battle pans out, yet it’s testament to the writer’s great ability to understand the fine difference between regular monthly and tentpole event and allow all of the many participants to have their moment in the spotlight. This is a Corps title through and through, highlighting the many individual voices that make up the whole and maintaining a driven, and gripping plot focus from beginning to end.
Tomasi nails Gardner’s quick turnaround from self-doubting man to guns-blazing hero once realisation hits the headstrong veteran, uses John Stewart and Fatality’s quest to resuscitate the fallen Mogo as part of the greater battle without falling into the trap of making it the key, pivotal moment and brings in several other recognisable faces during the issue to ensure that this is a true battle for the survival of the Universe, the Corps willing to sacrifice themselves to ensure that their duty is carried out. Yes, there’s a big handful of bravado and inter-battle posturing and that is arguably an important ingredient of the regular title that keeps myself and the many readers picking this up on a monthly basis. The crucial thing is that Tomasi always knows where the limit of such bravado’s use lies and with this annual he keeps things from ever reaching the point of ridiculousness, ratcheting up the tension and danger intermittently to prevent any sign of a reader’s scoff surfacing. Fair enough, he has little choice but to bring Kyle and his 'rainbow' corps in with a flash, a bang and only the briefest of explanations on their involvement and adventures through 16 issues of New Guardians, yet once in the fold Tomasi writes Kyle as if he had been non-stop for the past couple of years.
Tomasi’s hard work on unifying all of the various lantern elements his has to juggle is superbly supported by ChrissCross who produces some of his finest work in his 38 pages of illustration (DC sees fit to hawk its wares for the other 10 pages in a $4.99 book, grumble grumble, counting my pennies...). His use of the double page layout is detailed, engaging and causes you to hover and absorb the finer points rather than swiftly nod at the poster-book spectacle and flick on at speed as other splash pages can occasionally allow. While his characterisation could possibly do with a little refining - Guy looks a little ‘bat-shit crazy’ in one important moment where I know that wasn’t meant to be the intention - the continued buildup of a Kilowog moment is incredibly subtle, scattered over the course of several pages and acts almost as a strange visual metronome to the beats of battle. It of course culminates in that oft required fist pump of awesomeness as the inevitable motto reaches its climax and a brilliant explosion of willpower is unleashed once more.
As a single issue that brings one main story arc to a close this is polished from first page to last and signals to me that DC have a writer on their books who certainly needs to be one of, if not the go-to-guy when it comes to scripting and delivering these big, powerful, expansive stories on a reasonably regular basis. His knowledge and love for the characters in his charge is clear to see and he seems to get the best out of the varying artists that he works with.
The big problem, which has been signposted through the past few months' Previews editions and does not really lie with the creators but with the bods higher up the chain, is that this is one of those instances where a cross-title ‘event’ has actually proven to be just a prologue to another, bigger event in form of the upcoming and title-spanning Wrath of the First Lantern and I can’t be the only one who is wondering if DC may end up sucking all excitement for such projects away with bewildering overuse and unbelievable escalation, especially when it comes to the Green Lantern section of the DCU.
That will of course be a moot point if they, and indeed Tomasi, can keep providing the accomplished goods as found within this annual, and as such this one piece of comic literature is truly worthy of its 8/10 score.