Thursday, July 18, 2024

More Backstory for Green Lanterns

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The Green Lanterns bonus-sized anniversary issue is a tough act to follow. That issue had it all. It was both gorgeous and exciting, the culmination of everything writer Sam Humphries has been building to over the last twelve months. The only logical thing to do after a smash hit like that is to take a breath and get ready for the next leg of the story, and that’s exactly what we are doing with Green Lanterns #26. Much like the Volthoom-centric issue #18, this week we are getting a few more pieces of the puzzle that is Volthoom and Rami’s personal history.

If I Could Turn Back Time

Let’s go way back to ten billion years ago. This is when the Guardians of the Universe decided to forsake all emotions in favor of objective science. All their emotions were put into what they called the “great heart”. Also, as a side-effect, the First Ring appeared. Nobody knew how or why the ring appeared, but Volthoom was there and he took it to become the First Lantern. This is called “Day Zero” by Rami. We’ve been given bits and pieces of these events over the last year of Green Lanterns comics. Now, we get to see what happened after through the perspective of Rami himself.

Could you get the cookies down for me?

A mere month or so after Volthoom took the first ring, the Guardians are still working on how to use it. These guardians are not the little blue elfin creatures we know, they stand tall as a human, and their heads are normal sized. Volthoom sits sulking in the corner. Maybe bored? He’s waiting for the Guardians to figure it out so he can use the ring to save his home-world. Rami is concerned over his well-being, but concern is an emotion and they aren’t supposed to have those anymore.

Skip forward to 100 days after “Day Zero”, and Rami is already shrinking. The physical side-effects of abandoning their emotions don’t take long to start working on them. Volthoom sees Rami struggling to reach a high shelf and comes over to help. They get to talking about the ring, and the slow progress to unlock its potential. Volthoom sees in Rami the most brilliant mind of all the Guardians. They strike a partnership to figure it out together. At this point, they seem to form a genuine friendship, and both have the best of intentions at the outset. We already know that it won’t end well.

You’re the Best Around

It’s Miller time.

Time for a training montage. Over the next several weeks, Rami and Volthoom work to unlock the ring’s potential. They try running outside power to it, but to no avail. Finally, since it is forged of pure emotion, Rami suggests that Volthoom focus on an emotion–any emotion–in order to kick-start the ring. He focuses on the fear he felt watching his mother, his whole planet, die in a fiery cataclysm. It works, and the ring surges to life with yellow energy.

Rami takes some readings and suggests they abandon their work, as the emotions are too strong. The ring will eventually destroy its host. At the behest of Volthoom, Rami makes a deal with the rest of the guardians. They will allow the work to continue to master the ring. The next step is to implant the Great Heart directly into Volthoom’s chest providing him with a high-speed connection to the emotional spectrum.

Even though Volthoom is becoming erratic and volatile, both he and Rami want to continue. Their progress is much quicker now, but there is still a lot they don’t understand. Then 254 days after “Day Zero” Rami makes a discovery. He finds out that Volthoom, in a fit of madness, will eventually travel back to save his home planet and become its destroyer. He is the one who caused his own tragedy. Where is Barry Allen when you need a time paradox explained?

Anyways, that’s when it all comes crashing down. Volthoom thinks it’s a bulls&$% story Rami made up to take the ring for himself. He can’t control his own emotions, much like the Phantom Lantern earlier in the Green Lanterns arc was unable to control the Phantom Ring. The rest of the guardians show up to seize the ring from Volthoom, and he goes bananas. In order to fight Volthoom, and stop him from causing any more destruction in the multiverse, Rami breaks the travel lantern and forges the first seven green rings, sending them out into the universe.

Before it’s all said and done, we get another cool intro to one of the first seven Green Lanterns. This is shaping up to be a pretty amazing team, and we can’t wait to see them all together.

Much Needed Backstory

I’ve been unnecessarily critical of Green Lanterns before when it took some time to fill in backstory. I’ve since retracted my earlier stance, as Sam Humphries’s long game with this book has won me over. Green Lanterns #18 was all about Volthoom, and though it didn’t do anything for me at the time, it was essential to later issues. It would be easy to feel the same way about this week’s issue, mostly because we are spending too much time away from our precious cinnamon roll Jessica Cruz. I have to have faith that this isn’t just a fill-in issue. These events are important, and will pay off later. This team has proven they know what they are doing, and have been building in some fascinating and fun Green Lantern lore.

The art is a big part of what makes this issue successful. Volthoom and Rami have a real connection, and there seems to be genuine affection between the two. It’s there in their expressions and body language. Volthoom has never felt more like a real character here, and we can sympathize with him as Rami does. It’s too bad that we already know how it ends.

As Volthoom becomes more volatile, the shifts in color match his mood from blues and greens for hopeful determination, to yellow, orange, and red for when he feels betrayed, and strikes out in rage against the Guardians. Despite the absence of our favorite duo of emerald enforcers, this issue builds some much-needed character in our main villain, and in Rami himself, and gives weight to the conflict ahead.

The red means mad. See?

Next issue will reveal where Simon and Jessica have landed, and what the next stage of their journey will bring. Even though this issue was all backstory and set-up, it was still a good issue, and gave the villain more dimension, something that can often be lacking in superhero stories.

Fanfinites Rating: 8/10 Little Blue Men

Green Lanterns #26: The First Ring

Writer: Sam Humphries

Artist: Ronan Cliquet

Colorist: Ulises Arreola

Letterer: Dave Sharpe

Images Courtesy of DC Comics

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