Best Shots Review: Johns Wraps His GREEN LANTERN Run with #20

Credit: DC Comics

Green Lantern #20
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke, Patrick Gleason, Cully Hamner, Aaron Kuder, Jerry Ordway, Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, Joe Prado, Ethan Van Sciver, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Marc Deering, Mark Irwin, Wade von Grawbadger, Tom Nguyen, Alex Sinclair and Tony Avina
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Credit: DC Comics

This is it — the end of an era. After nearly a decade of ringslinging, Geoff Johns is wrapping up his run on the title that made him a comic book superstar. Given Johns' penchant for big fights and bigger mythologies, Green Lantern #20 definitely nails the dismount with some over-the-top action, all while touching upon the characterization that made this series so strong to begin with.

For those who have been reading this series since its relaunch in 2004, the evolution of Green Lantern has been almost a case study in the shifting priorities in today's comic book marketplace. What began as a tight, character-driven comic about a hot-shot fighter jockey with the most powerful weapon in the universe suddenly shifted into overdrive, as Johns built a veritable cathedral of mythology with the Sinestro Corps, the Red Lanterns, the undead Black Lanterns, and more. Even returning largely untouched after The New 52, Johns shook up the status quo by teaming Hal Jordan up with his greatest nemesis, the reinstated Green Lantern Sinestro — yet in many ways, it felt that Hal had become less and less the focus of his own book.

Credit: DC Comics

Yet this conclusion proves that Johns hasn't forgotten about the character that has defined his career. Even as Johns brings back titans like Mogo and Parallax to take on the admittedly nebulous threat of Volthoom the First Lantern, this book's strongest moments are the emotional beats. Seeing Hal's formative moments — namely, the way his psyche was shaped after his father died in a plane crash — reminds us all at once not just why this Green Lantern takes these crazy risks, but why we root for him again and again. After last issue's cliffhanger, Johns strikes that tricky balance between characterization and mythology, as Hal's last-ditch gamble in the realm of the dead provides a surprising new weapon to save the universe. Sinestro also gets some great moments here, as Johns makes him one of DC's most interestingly conflicted villains.

Of course, while critics might have said that Johns couldn't see the forest from the trees with his rapidly expanding Corps, you can't argue that sales grew with every new ring. For those who loved the space opera and mythology of Green Lantern, Johns delivers here, too. In a lot of ways, the way he continues to up the ante in terms of power reminds me a lot of the Power Rangers of yesteryear — the threats get larger, and the heroes harness some very unorthodox means to match that scale. It's all tied into the greater tapestry that Johns has been weaving for years, and while occasionally it might not be the most user-friendly (sorry, Kyle Rayner and the New Guardians) or the most fully fleshed (sorry, Indigo Lanterns), it definitely reads as payoff for the faithful. Johns ends this comic with a nice sense of finality, giving readers closure while shaking up the Lanterns' status quo in some disturbing ways.

Credit: DC Comics

The army of Lanterns is also backed up by the army of artists on this book. Artist Doug Mahnke leads the charge, and he seems determined to make this issue his GL swan song. He succeeds. The splash pages in this book are superb, particularly a double-page spread of Hal leading an army to fight Volthroom, as well as a double-pager of Hal and Sinestro clashing rings for what may be the last time. Occasionally there is a misfire — it's hard to make a splash page of Mogo look interesting, no matter who you are, and occasionally the backgrounds are a little noticeably lacking — but Mahnke makes up for it with the emotional moments, as well. Seeing the younger version of Hal struggle with his father's memory is a heartbreaking moment, particularly as his adult counterpart tries to make sense of it all. Sinestro too has moments of total sorrow, and that makes some of his later actions seem all the more surprising.

Nine years ago, Geoff Johns brought back the greatest Green Lantern of all. Operating on DC's space opera superhero with the confidence of a surgeon, Johns delivered a theme that could resonate with any reader: "You have the ability to overcome great fear." Since that time, Green Lantern has been the premiere comic book success story of the past 10 years, acting as a beacon for DC Comics even when things seemed darkest. Even though this series has occasionally dragged under its own weight, Johns' mythology has borne fruit, as he brings everything back for this final chapter. With crazy action and a wonderful conclusion to all the characters we've known and loved, this is a conclusion that no Green Lantern fan should miss.

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