Review: Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, September 09, 2013

In comparison to the last Green Lantern-title crossover, War of the Green Lanterns, in both story and organization Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army is a big improvement.

This crossover trade, which includes issues #13-16 of each of the Green Lantern titles plus the Green Lantern Corps Annual #1 and a story from the Green Lantern Annual #1, does a better job than War in balancing the disparate stories in the various series. Each title's storyline is self-contained enough, but both offer sufficient cliffhangers to make turning to a new series seem natural, and also the titles feed into one another well enough that the transitions don't feel forced.

Though this crossover collection reads a bit rough at the outset, it's ultimately an enjoyable Green Lantern epic. All the issues collected here (and more) can be found in other trades, but it's hard not to be impressed by a 400-page hardcover of Green Lantern goodness.

[Review contains spoilers]

Third Army's biggest detraction is that it does not follow well from the volumes that come before. Both the Green Lantern Vol. 2: Revenge of Black Hand and Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 2: Beyond Hope collections ended with those books' issue #12, and Third Army picks up with their issue #13; both titles, however, have significant present-day events in their Zero Month issues, such that Third Army begins one step removed. Those Zero Month issues are collected in the Vol. 3 collection of each titles; so, someone wanting a full story would essentially have to go to the Vol. 3 collections first and then come back to the Third Army collection (and if you already had two Vol. 3 collections, you might as well just skip Third Army and get the other two Vol. 3 collections and read the story that way).

In contrast, the Red Lanterns story essentially starts where Red Lanterns Vol. 2: Death of the Red Lanterns ended, and the Green Lantern Corps story even overlaps with Green Lantern Corps Vol. 2: Alpha War. However, the Green Lantern and New Guardian jumps are fairly jarring -- Green Lantern Vol. 2 ended with Hal Jordan's disappearance, and Third Army begins with new Green Lantern Simon Baz having already received his ring and faced some trouble with the FBI. New Guardians ended with Kyle Rayner abandoned by his team, and Third Army starts with Kyle partnered with Carol Ferris, returned once again to her status as Star Sapphire. The audience can generally piece together what has happened, but I was surprised the fit between this book and the ones that came before wasn't tighter. (At the same time, with more than seventeen full issues in this collection, I grant adding two more might not have been feasible.)

This is a big deal collecting-wise, but a smaller one in terms of story, because once Third Army starts moving, it's easy to get roped in. In the first two Green Lantern issues, writer Geoff Johns offers a likable new Lantern in Baz, whose struggles to understand his ring echo those of Kyle Rayner's first days, while Baz's problems with his family, with prejudice, and with the law help to differentiate him. Johns seems to purposefully play Baz against superhero types in interesting ways; when faced with the Justice League, for instance, Baz simply gives up, understanding how quickly Superman could defeat him. I liked that while we see elements of Kyle's naivete and Hal's stubbornness in Baz, we also see some of Guy Gardner's toughness, and the scenes with Guy and Baz sometimes finishing each other's thoughts were priceless.

Baz's story reaches a natural stopping point, and the book switches over to three issues from Green Lantern Corps. These three issues are self-contained as well, detailing Guy's expulsion from the Corps; I praised the two issues that appeared in Green Lantern Corps: Alpha War as being very strong, and the third issue is equally so, as a non-powered Guy still tries to be a hero with even more disastrous results. Corps writer Peter Tomasi continues to bring new depth to the sometimes one-note Guy, and I only hope Corps's next writer can continue to do Guy the same justice.

The next two sets of four issues are the entirety of the New Guardians and Red Lantern "Third Army" tie-in issues. As one might surmise from the two series being collected all together in the middle of the book, these have the least to do with the "Third Army" storyline; they might be lifted out of the book entirely with no consequence except to help explain some cameos in the book's conclusion. New Guardians mostly sees Kyle traveling between the various-colored Corps, trying to learn all of their powers (not significantly different from New Guardians stories thus far, though I always like seeing these other Corps).

Red Lanterns's story is the weakest of the four titles (as has been the case since the New 52 relaunch). Characters appear on one page with no introduction and die on the next; the Red Lanterns have hallucinations never quite explained (and we're shown Atrocitus's origin yet again); and while Atrocitus recruiting the Manhunters is significant, he seems to fight, defeat them, and then have to fight and defeat them again for too long a span in the four issues.

Third Army finally turns to the final two Green Lantern issues, the final Green Lantern Corps issue, and the Corps annual. An earlier Corps issue referenced that the "squirrel Lantern" B'dg had gone to Earth, so when he intersects Simon Baz's story, it makes sense; Johns deftly transitions from a fairly earthbound story, in which Baz engages in a tense "police procedural" standoff, to the sudden arrival of the Third Army and the cosmic into Baz's life. From there, Baz and B'dg break Guy out of jail in Corps, and the switch from Johns's series to Tomasi's is seamless. The story races to a conclusion where the Lantern Guardians get their long-deserved comeuppance and all the characters make a contribution but Guy, appropriately for Corps, is spotlighted; after 400 pages, readers may be distressed to find that Third Army ends on a cliffhanger, but getting there was strong enough that I still felt I'd read a complete story.

The book also benefits from artists Doug Mahnke, Fernando Pasarin, Aaron Kuder, and Miguel Sepulveda's styles resembling each other's well enough that the reader doesn't feel especially jarred going from issue to issue, as was the case, for example, in moving from Brett Booth to Ale Garza in a recent Teen Titans collection.

In Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army, the titular "Third Army" is almost a secondary concern to the various, often-internal struggles of the characters, and that's just the way it should be. Third Army is an airier crossover than War of the Green Lanterns, allowing each title to project its own identity but still making most parts relevant to the whole; this is a better organized crossover than most. It's hard to fully recommend this book, missing pieces as it is, but like the Batman: Night of the Owls collection, for your second or third read or a long plane ride, this seems a good book to have on hand.

[Includes full covers, character designs and cover sketches]

Coming up, a review of Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Iron.
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  1. Skimmed this if only to get the collected details as I'm a little behind on my reading.

    So, this is like Night of the Owls? If we're planning on getting the trades anyway, this isn't a required purchase, as I'll already have the issues?

    The lede got me interested, so it looks like I'm going to bump this up the backlog.

    1. Yes, that's right -- this volume collects issues from Green Lantern, Corps, New Guardians, and Red Lanterns which are all also collected in their own individual trades. If I were reading these on their own, I'd read New Guardians first, then Red Lanterns, then Green Lantern, then Corps.

      The story is good, how ever you read it (if you dumped New Guardians and Red Lanterns, you'd be a little lost at the very end, but not much). Again, this book doesn't collect anything you can't find elsewhere; it is, however, a nice package for reading this storyline.

    2. Does this collection covering everything that would otherwise be collected in GL:NG, RL, GL and Corps Vol. 3 or would I be missing part of the other collections?

      This bothered me a lot with Night of the Owls collection. I ended up selling it because I'd still have to get the individual trades because otherwise I'd miss the second halves of the individual trades.

    3. This collection completely duplicates the material that appears in the Vol. 3 Green Lantern collections. If you buy the Vol. 3 Green Lantern collections, you'll get the exact same material (and more) as you get here. Cheers!

    4. I just looked up the following:

      Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army collects GL Annual #1, #13-16
      Green Lantern Vol. 3: The End collects #0, #13-20

      The same with the other books. Which means that I can't replace the individual trades with the event book. I'm collecting GL, GLC and GL:NG so I definitely need the individual trades.

    5. There will be another crossover book, Wrath of the First Lantern, that collects the issue #17-20 of all the books. However, you're right, if you want the most complete story, including the Zero Month issues, you have to get the individual trades.

      I think this is how it should be. The crossover trades can be non-comprehensive -- collecting just the most immediate crossover elements -- as long as the individual trades are comprehensive and collect everything. The problem you get into is with two-book crossovers, like Aquaman and Justice League's Throne of Atlantis, where each book virtually collects the same material as the other with only a few significant differences.

    6. According to amazon (I take this with a grain of salt):

      Justice League Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis - Collects JUSTICE LEAGUE #13-17 and AQUAMAN #15-16.
      Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis - This volume collects issues #14-18.

      13,99€ is a bit on the expensive side for the 3 missing Aquaman issues but it could be worse I guess.
      To be honest, after the 3D cover bullshit debacle this move doesn't surprise me much. DC has turned greedy in the last months.

    7. The Aquaman/Justice League: Throne of Atlantis solicitations are all over the place; I think the DC site has something different than the above. I seem to recall at some point it looked like a difference of only an issue or so, mainly Aquaman #0. We'll see when those books finally come out.

  2. How integrated is Red Lanterns in this crossover? I dropped the book after Vol. 2 and I wasn't planning on picking it up again.
    Would it be better to skip the the Rise of the Third Army event (aka all Vol. 3 trades) alltogether?

    1. >> Would it be better to skip the the Rise of the Third Army event (aka all Vol. 3 trades) alltogether?

      Better than what? If you're a Green Lantern fan, I can't see why you would skip Rise of the Third Army (in this collection or in some/all of the individual collections); also in general I thought it was a good story, better than some of the other Green Lantern crossovers.

      >> How integrated is Red Lanterns in this crossover?

      Red Lanterns and New Guardians are less connected to this crossover than Green Lantern and Corps. You could safely ignore Red Lanterns and New Guardians, and the only place their storylines come up is at the very end of the crossover (in the Corps Annual, I think), and there the storylines only make a "cameo," I'd call it -- the characters just show up to fight the final battle. If you want to email me at the Yahoo account or message me on Facebook, I can spoil the Red Lantern/New Guardian aspects for you, if you like.

    2. Actually, I've already ordered this book (but can still cancel it).

      I'm in a quandary. I've already collected Vol 2 of GL and GLC and seeing that I loved Kyle turning WL (his battle with Gantlet was awesome), what should be the choice?

      Collecting GL: The End and GLC:Willpower (thus ignoring RL and GLNG completely) or buying ROTTA and WOTFL collections?

      I love complete stories but the Gl #0 issue missing in ROTTA is really grating me, since it''s the origin story of a whole new character.

      And as per prices on Amazon, it seems collecting the two volumes of GL and GLC mentioned above may be equal or more than the crossover collections. So, where does that stand?

      Please advise.

    3. You've read Green Lantern and Corps Vol. 2s, and you said that you "loved Kyle turning WL," which I take to mean that you've been reading New Guardians, too.

      In that case, especially if you don't care much about Red Lanterns, I'd suggest you buy Vol. 3 of each of the books you read, and skip the combined Rise of the Third Army and Wrath of the First Lantern collections.

      You'll get the same content reading the individual books (and more) as you would reading the crossover volumes. If it's imperative for you to read the crossovers in order, you can skip between the three books.

      Maybe you'll pay a little more for the two or three individual collections than you would for the crossover collections, but I'd rather pay a little more for more than less for less.

    4. Thanks for the advice.

      One of the biggest problems reading the vol 3 of each is how GLC and GL interact. You have to literally stop reading at a point and take up the other book.

      Still, maybe you're right. I love my collected crossovers rather than individual books, but really, if only they had included GL 0 (and maybe GLNG 0), this book would have been a steal!

    5. Glad to help. Maybe the direct lead from GL to GLC is an annoyance (I kind of liked it), but it's better than War of the Green Lanterns, where all the titles -- GL, GLC, and Emerald Warriors -- fed into one another, and then you had to read all three series to get the whole picture. So I think the Green Lantern crossover system is getting better, at least.