Green Lantern Vol. 4: Dark Days (The New 52) by Robert Venditti
Venditti has one of the most difficult jobs a writer can get in writing monthly comics: Taking over a title that has just finished a long successful run by another author. Green Lantern was written by Geoff Johns from 2004-2013. And, though I’ve never been a huge Green Lantern fan, I read that series because Johns is a great writer. Because of Johns, I know enough about Green Lantern’s character to be interested in what he’s up to now, and though Green Lantern Vol. 4: Dark Days is not a great book, it’s certainly a good one, and I enjoyed reading it.
The story doesn’t engage me all the way, but I love one particular storyline about a character named Relic, a villain from before what we think of as the dawn time, a villain with only good intentions. Oddly enough, Relic is introduced in issue 23.1, one of a series of extra issues across the DC universe that were, for the most part, gimmick issues with special covers featuring rogues-gallery villains for the lead character for each comic book. Batman, for example, had the following special issues 23.1 featuring Joker, 23.2 featuring Riddler, 23.3 featuring Penguin, and 23.4 featuring Bane. Many of these issues were written by fill-in writers and were not of major interest or importance. The shelves of the local comic book store I visit are still full of these unsold back issues.
Imagine my surprise in finding that Green Lantern 23.1 was not written by a fill-in writer and that it’s my favorite issue in the series. Also, Relic is not dropped from the book after this one issue. Instead, he becomes central to the storyline through the rest of the book. Who is Relic? Relic comes from a time “Long ago. The existence before ours.” He was one of the “Lightsmiths” who wielded light the way the Green Lanterns do their rings. However, they used light even more fully and constantly than do the Green Lanterns or Red Lanterns or Yellow Lanterns or any of the other Lanterns in the present DC Universe. Relic discovered one terrible secret that reminds me of how Superman’s scientist father discovered that Krypton was about to die but nobody would believe him: Relic discovered that light was a limited resource and that they were using it up so fast that they would run out. Even worse than merely running out was the fact that it would cause the end of everything, the end of all existence. Relic’s warnings were not heeded anymore than Superman’s father’s warnings were heeded on Krypton.
Dark Days deals with some other characters and plots, but I love that Venditti allows Relic to come into the present and discover that there are Lightsmiths in this existence, too. These Lightsmights, or Lanterns as we call them, also use the power of light without knowing that the light they wield is not a renewable resource. Relic, in the present, is not just another Lightsmith among Lightsmiths as he was in the past. He is much more powerful than the Lanterns, and when they obviously refuse to hand over their light rings, he takes them by force. The physical battle isn’t that interesting, nor is it supposed to be: What is really interesting is the intellectual battle. He eventually convinces Green Lantern Hal Jordan that his message is true, that every time one Lantern uses a light ring, he effectively brings existence one step closer to death, no matter how small that step may be.
What Jordan decides to do with this new knowledge is fascinating, and I won’t give any spoilers about that. But if the situation sounds intriguing to you, then I think you’ll enjoy the book. Rags Morales did the pencils in issues 23.1, and the colors are fantastic. I was allowed digital access to this book so I could write the review, but once that access expired, I went to the store and purchased issue 23.1. It doesn’t tell the entire story, of course, but that issue really struck me: It builds a mythology, a larger history behind the rings, and in that way, Venditti is as good as Johns was. Perhaps with time, the story will reach consistent greatness with all the plots and sub-plots. If you are a Green Lantern fan and like when authors try out new ideas — in this case, that all the Lanterns are wielding weapons and resources that will eventually run out — then I think you’ll want to read Green Lantern Vol. 4: Dark Days.