In the pages of DC Comics Green Lantern franchise, the cosmically-powered Guardians of the Universe have a definite pattern: They create a task force to put order to the cosmos, and if that force fails them, they create a new one to destroy their past work and start again.
Asked whether that power is similar to the task of a comic book artist, and Ethan Van Sciver is quick to answer, "No! I didn't even think of that until now. But I hope I'm nothing like the Guardians," he laughed while discussing the upcoming "Rise of the Third Army" story with CBR.
Starting in this week's "Green Lantern Annual" #1, the Guardians will unleash a new space military to replace the Green Lanterns just as they once used the GLs to replace their Manhunter drones. That extra-sized story from franchise architect and DC CCO Geoff Johns will be drawn by Van Sciver, who also designed the look of the new army.
"This is really about Hal and Sinestro and their last stand," he said. "It focuses on them, and the Black Hand is in it quite a bit. But it also for the first time, I think, introduces us to a new way that the Guardians are thinking. They've changed their minds."
Comparing the process of making the Third Army to his previous work kicking off events like "The Sinestro Corps War," the artist said this tale necessitated a new approach. "It's a little bit different. I think Geoff tapped me early on and said, 'Hey, let's talk about this idea I have called The Third Army' and invited me to design it, which I did. But the nature of this upcoming story kind of makes my contribution to it sudden and then over. It moves on very, very quickly from where 'Green Lantern' left off. This 'Green Lantern Annual' is very startling and very dark.
"The Third Army is a lot less diverse that the Sinestro Corps was," Van Sciver added of the emotionless villains. "There was a lot less to do. With the Sinestro Corps, Geoff would tell me 'Here's a double page spread. Introduce us to the Corps. They're the most terrifying aliens throughout the universe,' which involved a lot of creating and a lot of thought. This story was one singular, dehumanizing idea. Creating it and listening to the specifications for it made me very angry with the Guardians."
The cover to the Annual features a "bleeding" Lantern logo, which obviously pays homage to the classic "Death of Superman" issue from the 1990s. Van Sciver explained that readers who took the hint can expect a similar level of violent destruction from that tale as well as he and Johns' past collaborations. "Yes indeed. This book was an awful lot of fun, and I didn't even stop myself this time. Geoff gave me every opportunity to draw some gore, to draw some violence. And I said, 'I'm going to do it' because within the context of the story it works out. So I had an absolute blast. I think the cover might short sell it a little."
And of course, this issue is the starter for an entire "Rise of the Third Army" mini event taking over the various Lantern-related series in the months ahead. Johns and company have already teased an appearance by a mysterious "First Lantern" as well as the full debut of Baz – the Arab-American GL who has made a splash online and will be promoted by Johns at a special event at the Arab American National Museum in Detroit this September. "This new Green Lantern – Geoff gave me a brief rundown of what his future is, where he came from and who he is. I need to know more now," the artist said. "I can't wait to see Doug Mahnke draw him, and I can't wait to see the other creators on the GL titles run with the ball from here. They've got big stuff and big ideas on tap, and that's always been the hallmark of Green Lantern. That's the privilege of working on this franchise. The ideas are always so big and bold. It's so easy to shake things up and try new things. That what this Annual is the start of. It's the start of the next big wave of Green Lantern ideas."
As for his own future, Van Sciver promised that the Annual will mark a return to more full time comics work from him at DC. "I think these days, my attitude is that I really miss being a comic book artist," he explained. "I took a year off where I wasn't drawing interiors. I missed it, and I was unhappy. So I was doing a lot of conventions and things. And any artist will tell you that if you do a lot of conventions, it's difficult to maintain your focus on a project. I quit doing conventions so prolifically and decided to stay home and just start drawing comics again.
"It started with a couple issues of 'Firestorm,' and I had fun drawing those. Then Geoff had this Green Lantern story, and I called DC and said, 'I want to start drawing comics again.' They let me know what my opportunities might be. My next project after this 'Green Lantern Annual' is that I'm hoping on a big arc on one of their monthly series. It feels good. I'm working long hours again. I'm at my desk interpreting great scripts that have been given to me by DC's top writers. This is where I want to be. So my plan going forward is to do a lot of interior work – as much of it as I can."
"Green Lantern Annual" #1 debuts this Wednesday from DC Comics.