As the Green Lantern Corps struggles to battle Relic during the current "Lights Out" crossover, writer Van Jensen's story is heading toward a showdown between John Stewart and Hal Jordan — a confrontation that's tied to John was a marine during Zero Year.
This week's Green Lantern Corps #24 will be the second chapter in "Lights Out," picking up the story after last week's Green Lantern #24, which saw a devastating defeat of the Corps by the villain known as Relic.
After "Lights Out," Green Lantern Corps will be tying into Batman: Zero Year, showing a story from John's time as a Marine, before he became a Green Lantern. Co-writer Van Jensen promises that the Zero Year story relates directly to what's happening in the present of the Green Lantern Universe, showing why John might be unhappy with the direction of the Corps under the leadership of Hal Jordan.
Then in December's Green Lantern Corps #26, solicitations indicate that Hal and John will go head-to-head for the leadership of the Corps.
Jensen co-writes Green Lantern Corps with the Green Lantern writer, Robert Venditti. Prior to joining the Green Lantern team, Jensen wrote the acclaimed indie series Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer.
Newsarama talked to Jensen to find out more about what's coming up in Green Lantern Corps during "Lights Out" and beyond.
Newsarama: Van, now that we've read Green Lantern #24 (last week — the first chapter of "Lights Out") and we've seen how Relic easily depleted the Central Power Battery, what does the Green Lantern Corps #24 issue focus upon?
Van Jensen: Things are looking pretty bleak for the Corps as we pick up the action in issue 24. The Battery is destroyed, which has destabilized the entire planet of Oa. Even worse, the Lanterns' greatest strength — their power to make constructs — is useless against Relic, who has an army of robots that are designed to deflect and absorb spectrum energy. This issue, we see Hal and John forced to use their intellect and training in military tactics to come up with a very unconventional counterattack. It's an intense battle, and not one that everybody is going to survive.
Nrama: You mentioned John and Hal. How do all these lead characters of Green Lantern Corps react to the current situation —John Stewart, Fatality, Salaak and the recruits we've seen you introducing over the last few issues? How does this uniquely challenge each of them?
Jensen: John falls back on his experience in the Marine Corps, which trained him not just to shoot a gun, but how to analyze a battlefield and adapt his strategy. We'll see Salaak utilize his knowledge of every nook and cranny of Oa to help protect the Corps. And we'll see the recruits summon a level of bravery that shows why their rings chose them. Fatality, meanwhile, is still in pretty bad shape from the Durlans' experimentation (in Green Lantern Corps #23), but she'll play a very big role in the series going forward.
What I loved about writing this chapter in the event is how many opportunities there were for great character moments. It's a really epic event, but the focus is always on the characters, including Relic.
Nrama: Let's talk about those character moments. Can you reveal what other characters are involved in your issue?
Jensen: Really everyone has a big role to play. Hal, Kyle, Carol, Kilowog, the new (lower case) Guardians. Voz makes his first appearance in Green Lantern Corps since I started writing it, and now I want him in every issue. All of the characters face the same challenge, which is the threat that Relic poses not just to their lives, but to the existence of the Corps itself. And each character handles that in his or her own way.
Nrama: You mentioned that the focus is always on the characters, "including Relic." His history and motivation are such an important part of this story. Why do you think Relic makes a compelling character/villain, particularly for this moment in Green Lantern mythology?
Jensen: Relic is the best kind of villain, one that is completely justified (at least to himself) in his goal of saving the universe from the Lanterns. It's just that he is willing to use whatever means he can — like destroying the Blue Lanterns and blowing up the Green Lanterns' Central Power Battery — to achieve that goal. It's easy to sympathize with Relic, even as he commits atrocities. And Relic is all the more interesting because his very existence ties directly to the existence of the Lanterns. All of the credit for Relic goes to Robert Venditti and Billy Tan, who created the character.
One neat thing about "Lights Out" is that it's a very quick event, taking place in a single month over the course of five issues. With the books all having new creative teams, it's a great chance to give fans a taste of what each book is like and where it's headed. All of the Lantern books are doing really exciting, compelling stories right now, and even bigger things are in store. So it's a perfect time for readers to jump on board.
Nrama: You mentioned Relic's "justification," and it feels like a very real-world problem, since we're all so used to utilizing the energy of planet Earth without thinking about its depletion. How are you approaching the Green Lantern Corps story with that theme in mind?
Jensen: That's exactly the corollary that inspired Rob with this storyline. We always thought that the emotion of sentient beings powered the Green Lantern rings, but in fact the energy comes from a specific source, a source that is finite. It's a paradigm shift for the Green Lantern universe, but one that brings in a lot of new, interesting wrinkles.
In writing the issue, I included a lot of coloring notes, because light (as a signifier of the Lanterns' power) is steadily being stolen away. There's also a moment of using spectrum energy in a fairly novel way, and it's something that I think readers will really enjoy. I'd say more but, you know, spoilers...
Nrama: Then let's talk about next month. What's the premise of the story you're telling in Green Lantern Corps #25 for your Zero Year tie-in issue? When does it take place, where is John Stewart, and what's the story's set-up?
Jensen: When the opportunity came up to do a Zero Year tie-in, we saw it right away as a chance to give John Stewart the #0 issue that he never had. This is set several years in the past, during the crossover, in Gotham City, amid a confluence of very bad things. John is among a unit of Marines that are sent into Gotham to help with a specific effort (again, spoilers). He isn't yet a Green Lantern, and so we see him using his experience as a Marine in a very unexpected fight with Anarky.
This issue focuses on John's time as a Marine and why he left that Corps. It's a story I was really excited to tell, because it relates directly to John's experience in the present, as he's unhappy with the direction of the Green Lantern Corps and considering leaving. What we see unfold in this issue will greatly influence the decisions we see John make in the present.
Nrama: How has it been working with Bernard Chang? What has he been contributing to your series?
Jensen: I couldn't be luckier to come out of the gate working with someone like Bernard. He's incredibly skilled, which is obvious from a glance at one of his pages. But, more than that, he's dedicated to storytelling. I think I've learned more from him about writing comics than the sum total of what I knew before I started writing the series.
Issue #24 is a real showcase for both Bernard and colorist Marcelo Maiolo. This was a really challenging script, with a whole lot of action and complicated settings. And they just crushed it.
Nrama: You mentioned before that the Zero Year issue highlights why John is unhappy with the Green Lantern Corps right now. I know that comes into play after "Lights Out." Is there anything you can tell us about what comes in December's issue, when John battles Hal for the leadership of the Corps, in the aftermath of "Lights Out?"
Jensen: This has been simmering for awhile. John looks at himself as the obvious choice to lead the Corps. He's a Marine and an architect — who better to rebuild a shattered Corps? And now John knows that it was Hal who sent his best friend, Guy Gardner, to become a Red Lantern. So John is charged up with emotion, and he finally boils over. The outcome of this fight is going to play a big role in the future of the series.
The issue also shows recruit Jruk returning to the Blood Bowl, and he isn't greeted as the hero he used to be. Jruk has been a really fun character to write, and this is a big moment for him.
Nrama: Then to finish up, let's take a peek beyond December. Can you offer just a few teases about what 2014 is going to be like for the Green Lantern Corps title?
Jensen: The Corps is weakened. The Durlans launch their attack (from without and from within). Some classic villains come back at the worst possible time. Things can't possibly get any worse. And then they do.