A few issues ago, writer Sam Humphries spent an entire issue revealing the backstory of the then villain of the series. It was a great way of fleshing out the character and revealing the complexity of their humanity. He does it again this week but with Volthoom. This should be good, but is it good?
Green Lanterns #18 (DC Comics)
So what’s it about? The summary reads:
“THE LAST TESTAMENT OF THE FIRST LANTERN”! Before the Green Lantern Corps, the Guardians of the Universe embedded a power battery inside a man, imbuing him with unimaginable power. Eventually fearing him, they stole that power back for their own control, but now Volthoom, the First Lantern, has returned with a plan to force Jessica and Simon to help him regain his lost godhood.
Why does this book matter?
This issue reveals what happened before there was even Green Lanterns and before the Guardians ever mattered. It’s a flashback to how the power of a Lantern was even created. How can you not want to see more?!
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Humphries does it again with the character work thanks to excellent captions that put you inside Volthoom’s head as he recounts the billions of years he’s been alive. By going back to the time he was still human looking we learn not only what the first Lantern was (a surprise to me), but also how this character is deeply connected to the Multiverse. It’s a compelling story particularly now as Superman and the DC universe faces a multiversal threat. As we learn how Volthoom got to where he is we also learn why his revenge is so fervent. He has good reason to be angry, though in a clever bit of writing Humphries has Volthoom explain clearly negative actions to himself. You can gather he’s aware he was bad, but how can you blame him?
The art by Robson Rocha with colors by Alex Sollazzo and inks by Daniel Henriques has a dreamlike and ethereal look to it that suits the story. Even in the darkest of panels there’s a beauty to Volthoom’s self loathing and sorrow. Rocha uses interesting ways to convey Volthoom’s travel through the multiverse from a neat chart to a row of Earths. As he hops across dimensions there are fun wrinkles to convey the differences in worlds like a weird fish creature or a futuristic looking guitar. The visuals back up the tall tale quite well and you’ll never doubt Volthoom’s story to be true.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Not so much a problem, but the opening page almost comes off as one of those cliched videos where you hear a record scratch and a character goes, “Stop it there. That’s me before my life really got bad…” It made me laugh when I think the intention was the exact opposite.
Humphries appears to be attempting to make Volthoom sympathetic and I don’t think it works. That’s partially due to the character lying to himself about his own actions and while it’s certainly understandable he’s angry the character doesn’t change by the end. His story is epic and amazing — really the whole issue is a fine story– but I don’t think the character changes in any way by the end.
Selve loathing is so ugly.
Is It Good?
Green Lanterns #18 is a fever dream that you’ll never want to end. It tells a story that recounts billions of years, reveals key Green Lantern history, and is a fun story in its own right.
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