"Green Lantern Annual" #1 by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver with an assist from Pete Woods is branded with the prologue for "Rise of the Third Army." As usual, Johns and Van Sciver bring big things, sweeping storylines, new characters and change to the Green Lantern side of the DCU.
This story brings the Guardians' mad quest to fruition and in a plan that involves Hal Jordan, Sinestro, the Black Hand, the Guardians and new concepts like the Chamber of Shadows, the Hidden Ones and the First Lantern. Geoff Johns is at his very best when he's world building and he breaks ground on a whole new construction site with this issue. The characters don't get much development, but Hal Jordan and Sinestro exhibit their personalities in a definitive manner as the world around them continues to develop and evolve.
Johns' seemingly favorite collaborator, Van Sciver, draws up thirty of this issue's forty pages of story. The artist layers the characters in grotesque detail: etching decay into Black Hand's face, bubbling up boils on the Guardians' skin as they summon the Third Army and splattering rain off of Hal Jordan's flight jacket. Some scenes are scrubbed of distracting backgrounds, empowering Van Sciver to expand his studies of texture and tone, but when he does insert backgrounds, they are plentiful and filled with stunning specificity.
The work Pete Woods and inker Cam Smith add to "Green Lantern Annual" #1 is equivalent to a back-up or post-credits movie scene, dropping just enough to tease readers, focusing more on setup than truly moving the story forward. This is the part of the issue where the Third Army literally takes shape and Woods is up to the task of helping to define that shape while visually connecting it to the rest of the Green Lantern mythology. The Third Army has vestiges of Manhunters, Alpha Lanterns, Guardians and Green Lanterns, but deeper than that is an understated creepiness inherent in the design of the Third Army drones.
"Justice League" #12 has been snatching the headlines and fan interest this week, but "Green Lantern Annual" #1 is filled with action, fighting and surprises. Two characters die, many others are introduced. New concepts are given introduction and teased plotlines begin to congeal. While the deaths in this issue are almost anti-climatic and certain to be undone at some point, the final page of the primary adventure points stories in the directions of "Green Lantern," "Green Lantern Corps," "New Guardians" and "Red Lanterns" to be picked up after next month's zero issues. The fact that one of the deceased's rings seeks a new user, but is struggling against an error is just a sliver of what's to come. Once October rolls in, each title will host threads of the Third Army tale for four months in issues #13-16.
As summer winds down, Johns and Van Sciver come through with a summer reading comic. This is a story filled with crazy ideas, comic book violence and fan favorite characters and concepts. This is the type of story best read from a hammock or on the lawn and enjoyed for what it is: loud, fun summertime reading.