ART: Ethan Van Sciver
There's a lot going on in Green Lantern Annual #1. There's so much happening, in fact, that the amount of information is almost too much. This over-sized issue has two goals: to finish up "The Revenge of Black Hand" as well as preluding "Rise of the Third Army", the Green Lantern Family-wide crossover starting in October that will see the Guardians of the Universe's new legion of soldiers attempt to eradicate the Green Lantern Corps as well as the rest of the multicolored Corps littered throughout the universe. While Geoff Johns has been slowly dragging the Guardians into madness over the past few years, this singular issue really drives the point home, showing just how ruthless these little blue guys can be.
Johns does an apt job flowing from one focus to the next. The beginning of the issue is all about Hal Jordan, Sinestro, and Black Hand. Slowly, scenes of the Guardians start to trickle in before their crazy crusade against emotion takes center stage. It's an interesting way to segue from one plot point to the next, and Johns knows these characters so well, he can interweave the stories without actually having them connect. Amid major revelations every few pages, Johns manages to keep things light and well-paced throughout the issue, taking time to make emotional jabs when can, and relying on readers' visceral connection to the story to keep the momentum going.
As a whole, Green Lantern Annual #1 is really all about the Guardians and their descent into madness. After millennia of attempting and failing to squelch chaos across the universe, the Guardians have obviously started to show the cracks in their armor. Starting back in Green Lantern: Rebirth when it was revealed that the Blue Ones had imprisoned a 'fear entity' within the Green Lantern Central Battery, causing the yellow impurity that had plagued the rings for eons. The list of their grievances goes on and on, but now, with a universe more chaotic than ever, the Guardians have reached the end of their rope. Plagued by insubordination within their ranks and throughout the cosmos, the Guardians turn to their last hope (if you can call it 'hope'), the First Lantern. While there is virtually still nothing known about the individual encased within a shimmering crystal lantern, it stands to reason that he/she is the origin of the emotional entities that power the seven differently colored lanterns (not counting the Black Lanterns because death isn't an emotion).
One of the best parts of the issue is the meeting between the Guardians and the Hidden Guardians. Billions of years prior, the Guardians decided to leave half of their people behind in the Chamber of Shadows to guard the First Lantern from any who would attempt to steal his power, while the other half would venture out into the universe to create peace in place of the chaos. The Hidden Ones immediately question the Guardians' motives when they demand the First Lantern and his awesome power. The fight that ensues is not only cool for the simple comic-bookiness of it (little blue aliens fighting each other with sci-fi energy ball beams!), but also because it really gives a visual interpretation of the Guardian's insanity as Ganthet kills the Hidden Ones' leader with a knife to the throat. It's chilling, watching a Guardians murder in cold blood. It's the kind of thing Geoff Johns is known for: emotional backhanding that takes you by surprise through shock and awe.
After the Guardians defeat the Hidden Ones and take the First Lantern, the crap really hits the fan. Ganthet uses the First Lantern's power to step through time and space into the cemetery where Hal and Sinestro are facing Black Hand. With his fellow brain-addled Guardians, Ganthet soaks Black Hand in energy, charging up the lone Black Lantern to become their tool against Hal, Sinestro, and the rest of the Green Lantern Corps. After the dust settles, the Guardians throw Hand into the Chamber of Shadows with the surviving Hidden Ones before locking them all up for future use. It's small, but sick detail that reinforces the Guardians' cruelty.
And then there's the Third Army. The Guardians - in their infinite madness - use their own genetic material to create a new creature. I hesitate to call it a 'life'-form because the Guardians make sure it doesn't have a heart or soul, just a direct connection to the Guardians' hive mind. Basically, the little blue guys are waging a war on free will, a frightening endgame if there ever was one.
Next month's Green Lantern #0 focuses on new GL, Baz. Up until now, I'd been confused as to how DC was going to shoehorn a new Green Lantern into the mythos, but after reader Green Lantern Annual #1, things are starting to make a lot more sense. Already, some have criticized this issue - and Johns' direction with the GLU in general - for being a rehash of previously tread ground. To that, I say what isn't? This year's amazing "Court of Owls" is based on any secret society trope, but that doesn't mean it can't be interesting and fresh. "Rise of the Third Army" promises to be a huge (if not long) event that will change the landscape of the Green Lantern books and the DCU at-large for a long time to come.