The Ninjabot

First Light: Rise of the Third Army

Posted on March 2, 2013 at 1:34 am by Tyler Waterman

Over the past few months, almost all of DC’s flagship brands have been embroiled in epic crossover events. The Bat-family was under siege from the Joker in Death of the Family, the Super-family struggled with yet another surprise Kryptonian in H’el on Earth, and the Justice League(s) tangled with Aquaman’s people in Throne of Atlantis. The Lantern side of DC wasn’t spared, either. Across Green Lantern, New Guardians, Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns, the Rise of the Third Army cut a swath of destruction across the galaxy, the latest product of the Guardians’ mad plans to conquer emotion for the “good” of the universe.

However, unlike the rest of the crossover events occurring across DC, Rise of the Third Army had one distinction that separated it from the others. All of these crossovers were spread across all the books within their respective sub-genres, but all of them besides RotTA were self contained epics. Once those events concluded, the story was over, and the next month’s issues returned to separate storylines. RotTA was the exception; immediately following it’s conclusion in Green Lantern Corps Annual #1, the next event began, and now each Lantern title is neck-deep in the Wrath of the First Lantern.

RotTA1

Yup, this guy is definitely wrathful.

However, when you stop judging RotTA as a crossover event, and look at it for what it really is, it begins to shine. RotTA isn’t so much a crossover as it is an exceptionally long prologue. What’s more, it’s really the tale of four separate stories, intertwined but essentially independent, that come together with a bang at the very end, setting up the “real” event and also setting the table for Geoff Johns’ departure from the Corps. While each book carries the same event banner across the cover, each is focused on a very separate but equally important facet of the overall story, and when you see them for what they are, they’re all pretty great.Having read all of the crossover events in DC, it’s easy at first to dismiss RotTA as one of the weakest. Compared to the horror of the Joker’s actions or the devastation caused by the Atlantean invasion, RotTA doesn’t really stand out. In fact, it’s very easy to walk away from this story feeling like nothing really happened, even though the actual destruction invoked by the Guardians’ actions is immeasurably larger than anything seen in any of the other events.

Of all four Lantern titles, the most significant storyline elements occur in New Guardians. Inevitably, all Lantern events end up focusing on the Earth Lanterns, and also inevitably, Hal Jordan ends up being the most important of them. This time around, it’s becoming quite clear that Hal may not be the most important Lantern in the room, and nowhere is that more apparent than New Guardians. New Guardians follows Kyle Rayner in his quest to master each of the seven Corps abilities, in a desperate attempt to combat the unfathomable power the Guardians and their Third Army posses. If every Lantern event can eventually be summed up with “this was definitely a (insert Earth Lantern here) event,” RotTA is a Kyle Rayner event. Make no mistake about it; every comic event has its “holy crap” moment, and Kyle unlocking the final color of the spectrum and becoming the White Lantern is absolutely that moment for this event.

Holy crap.

Holy crap.

Ironically, the flagship Lantern title doesn’t carry the greatest significance to the story, but the character it introduces during this event will absolutely be massive to the Lantern mythos. When it was first announced that Simon Baz would be receiving Hal’s ring, the critics came out in force. Allegations flew that DC was looking for cheap points by introducing a Middle Eastern Lantern, that no way could he be an integral character, and that a Lantern with a gun made no sense. Clearly all of those critics forgot that what Geoff Johns does is take characters you can’t imagine could ever be cool and makes them cooler than you could ever imagine, and other than Aquaman, nowhere is that more apparent than Simon Baz. Simon has an interesting backstory, his perfectly detailed car constructs are great, and what’s more, his role in the Corps is clearly going to be significant. He’s already demonstrating an ability to use his ring beyond its normal capacities, and now he’s come face-to-undead-face with Black Hand himself. Simon Baz was definitely one of the most interesting surprises to come from RotTA, and I hope he remains a Lantern for a long time to come.

Now that is willpower.

Now that is willpower.

While Kyle and Simon are definitely being built up to be the key players in the next event, the other Lanterns have also had important storylines as well. Green Lantern Corps has ultimately been a book about redemption, one a legitimate quest, and one forced. For John Stewart, his mission to reclaim and rebuild the pieces of Mogo, the living planet Lantern that John himself destroyed, has been an interesting side story, mostly because Mogo is a great character and I’m excited for his (or her?) return. At the same time, Guy Gardner has been essentially framed by the Guardians, deliberately left to believe he failed as a Lantern so that he wouldn’t be there to stop their plans. Now that he knows he was tricked, Guy is fighting harder than ever to stop the Guardians and rebuild the reputation they tried to destroy. Not to be forgotten, Atrocitus has used the power of his Red Lantern Corps to revive a small army of Manhunters he hid away, turning the Guardians’ own creation against them.

So why is it that I started this article calling this the weakest crossover event and then proceeded to tout the merits of every part of it? For exactly that reason: they’re parts. Each of these stories has been compelling and fun to read, even those focusing on characters with little or no expectations for greatness, but other than having an generally similar endgame they’ve all been pretty independent. As I said before, RotTA is a prologue; we’re all reading these stories for no other reason than to be ready for WotFL, when the real you-know-what hits the fan and the actual story begins. Since most Lantern fans already read all the Lantern books, putting these under the same banner seems less important for story and more important for marketing purposes. Now that WotFL has begun, it’s even more apparent, as each part of that crossover is sequentially numbered, where RotTA was not.

But don’t let this discourage you from getting into this story. Does it suffer a bit from being yet another example of the Guardians screwing with their Corps and essentially being the biggest jerks in space? Yes. Do you kind of feel like we’ve done this all before? A bit, yes. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t good, nor should you skip out under the feeling it’s just a setup for a larger event. There are enough new things going on here, particularly surrounding Kyle and Simon, that anyone with even a remote interest in all things Corps should be tuned in. Rise of the Third Army may feel like a bit of a let-down at first, but when it all comes together at the end it pops, and now that the Wrath of the First Lantern is underway it’s becoming clear that when Geoff Johns walks away at the end, nothing Lantern-related in the DC universe will be the same again.

You can follow Tyler on Twitter @BatmanIncVP.

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