"Rise of the Third Army" concludes this week with Green Lantern Corps Annual #1, a rather fantastic finish to a somewhat lackluster 'crossover' event that spanned all four Green Lantern Family titles from the 'New 52'. Things started out well enough last August with Green Lantern Annual #1, but the actual "Rise" of the Guardians' new army has been slow-burning, to put it lightly. In fact, the Third Army was rarely more than background noise that happened to pop into the main story every so often. Fortunately, Green Lantern Corps Annual #1 offers a bit of redemption for "Rise of the Third Army" with a satisfying conclusion that smoothly leads into the upcoming follow-up crossover, "Wrath of the First Lantern".
The Guardians of the Universe have been losing their marbles for quite a while. Geoff Johns provided the catalyst with the reveal that the Blue Ones had been hiding the fear entity Parallax within the Green Lantern central battery for eons. Besides giving explanation to the ineffectiveness of the Green Lantern rings against the color yellow, Johns' revelations in Green Lantern: Rebirth were the first of many that showed how billions of years of immortality have made the Guardians lose sight of their ethics.
In Green Lantern Corps Annual #1, Peter J. Tomasi picks up all the plot pieces -- from Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians, and Red Lanterns -- that have been piling up over the past four months. The Guardians' endgame is near, and part of that includes deceiving all Green Lanterns ignorant to the threat of the Third Army into returning to Oa for a mass genocide. Guy Gardner, new Lantern Simon Baz, and the squirrel-like B'dg concoct a plan to exploit the Guardians and inform the rest of the Corps as to what's happening by manipulating the Guardians' massive egos. John Stewart and Star Sapphire Fatality finally manage to see Mogo's reconstitution through. Kyle Rayner and his Rainbow Brigade show up near the end to add some seriously needed firepower. Finally, Atrocitus' reprogrammed Manhunters join the fray against the most powerful, most insane beings in the known universe.
This is Green Lantern storytelling at it's best: crackling interconnectedness that conveys the larger-than-life essence of science fiction storytelling. And unlike Geoff Johns' previous epic Green Lantern story arcs, the Guardians sit firmly at the center of this conflict, not through past mistakes or misinterpreted intentions, but by the will of their own machinations. Parallax, the Sinestro Corps, the Black Lanterns; all of them pale in comparison to the Guardians of the Universe in terms of raw power. Ganthet and his sorely misled brethren want peace in throughout the universe, no matter what the cost. In one sense, their endeavor is no different than in the past. Just like any other technology, advancements are made as time moves forward. For the Guardians, upgrading their technology means having a singular goal, a shared focus that allows for the best possible results. Under these guidelines, the Green Lantern Corps is like an old PC from the mid-90s: slow, outdated, and not worth the effort it would take to make it better.
Just like any nefarious villain bent on total control, the Guardians bite off more than they can chew, leading to the explosive -- if not foreseeable -- escape of the mysterious First Lantern, now named Volthoom. Without spoiling the circumstances of his escape or his intentions, the First Lantern's plans are a natural step forward from "Rise of the Third Army" that will give all the different Lanterns a lot to deal with in the coming months. Geoff Johns' Green Lantern plans have been coming to fruition for the past eight years, and it will be exciting to see how the Guardians' fall from grace will end. I word it like this because I can't see an outcome to "Wrath of the First Lantern" where the Guardians are still in power. Already in the 'New 52', the rules have changed for the Green Lantern franchise in significant ways, and introducing a First Lantern into the mix makes logical, if not yet evident, sense.
Green Lantern Corps Annual #1 does a great job finishing up one story arc and starting another. While the entire "Rise of the Third Army" event was less fast-paced as I had originally expected it to be, the conclusion makes it worth the build-up because we've been able to slowly integrate the idea of a hive-minded army of locust soldiers assimilating sentience into the basic setting of Green Lantern series. Instead of "Rise" being a one-month blitzkrieg (like, say, "Night of the Owls"), Johns and Company opted for pacing that made the threat of the Third Army all the more real and disturbing.