Future’s End: Green Lantern and Phantom Stranger (Comics Review)

As usual for DC by now, September is the publisher’s big month of doing one-shots. In 2012 it was the origin issues #0 for all the titles. In 2013 it was Villain’s Month as the top-selling titles all got villainous one-shots. In 2014 it is Future’s End as all the titles step 5 years forwards in time to Future’s End and show how Earth 1 has changed in the fallout of the war with Earth 2 and what has happened to all the different heroes. Last night I read the Grayson and Green Arrow one-shots and they were excellent, so this morning I decided to step up that reading and get through a lot more.

It has been almost a year now since I haven’t read the flagship Green Lantern series. Robert Venditti stepping in for Geoff Johns was a really rough transition for me and I gave up after Green Lantern #23. And then comes along the Future’s End: Green Lantern #1 one-shot and suddenly I feel as if I’ve been missing out. This is a far better one-shot than I’d expected, both in terms of the writing and the artwork. On the other hand, Phantom Stranger is a title I’ve been following now for well over a year and writer J. M. DeMatteis hasn’t really disappointed to date. And this one-shot is definitely among his absolute best stories to date. It also helps that Phil Winslade does a great job with the art and really makes this an issue worth reading.

FE - Green Lantern - Phantom StrangerThe first title here takes the reader to the Source Wall, the mysterious galactic barrier that has seen some of the most momentous of events in the DC universe in its long years of lore and history. Pursued by an army of Black Lanterns led by Krona himself, Hal Jordan goes to the Source Wall and asks the villain Relic for help. Last year when Robert Venditti came on to Green Lantern his first arc dealt with the villain Relic, from an alternate universe who wanted to destroy the emotional spectrum entirely, or such was my reading at the time. It seems that in the year since, he has somewhat changed and is more of an anti-hero now than a villain.

While Robert’s writing didn’t work for me with the regular title, this one-shot definitely presents a great example of how well a story he can tell. The title has nothing to do with the larger Future’s End meta-story, but that’s fine with me. I wasn’t expecting it to either. The best thing here is that in this one-shot Robert presents a very interesting vision of how the Green Lantern Corps and the Black Lanterns are in the future five years from now. And I value that. And also, I now want to get caught up on Robert’s entire run to date. I want to know more about his Hal Jordan and how Relic turned from a villain to a not-villain, because his characterization in this issue was great, whether we talk about the two heroes or the villain himself.

The art here is by Martin Coccolo and Aaron Lopresti with colours by Alex Sinclair, letters by Dave Sharpe and cover by Billy Tan and Alex Sinclair. Martin and Aaron are both among my favourite comics artists and it is nice to see the two of them collaborating on an issue here. Their art styles are complimentary and to be honest, I didn’t even notice an art shift between the two! Maybe a little bit, but that’s all.And Alex Sinclair, well, Alex is a great colourist and this issue has some of the artist’s best work.

A great outing, definitely!

Rating: 8.5/10

The second title has had a bit of a rough time of late. It debuted in September 2012 with Phantom Stranger #0 and in the two years since, it has become a title worth following. Initially with Dan Didio himself behind the script, it eventually transitioned to J. M. DeMatteis on script duties with Didio occasionally along to plot out the story. This one-shot sees the two of them collaborating once again, and I have to say that I loved this issue. I’ve been a fan of DeMatteis’ Phantom Stranger since I started reading his Trinity War tie-ins and build-up issues last year, and I’m saddened that it has now come to a close because of (apparently) poor sales. The writing and art have always been strong, as this issue bears out, but I guess people didn’t connect so well. A shame really.

Anyway, this issue sees the Phantom Stranger take a trip on the River of Time aboard a cruise-ship as he is summoned to a Council of Eternity by the Presence (God) to face his final judgement. Back in the #0 issue, we saw how Judas Escariot of Biblical mythology was condemned by the previous Council to a lifetime of service to God to account for his betrayal of the Lamb. Ever since, the Stranger has worn a necklace of thirty coins of that era to mark his shame and his penance. Last year, I saw in the occasional issue that when the Presence was satisfied with a particular act of repentance, penance and goodwill that a coin would disappear from that necklace. It was a great narrative device to show how far the Stranger had progressed on the path to making up for his sins.

That’s what Didio and DeMatteis focus on in this issue. There is only one coin left now, and the Stranger gives that to the Ferryman as payment for his travel on the River of Time as he goes to meet the Council. But the twists don’t stop there, because the Presence has convened a Council of Eternity that is made up of the most evil villains in DC history: Trigon, Eclipso, Mister E, Blight, Sin-Eater and others. That’s what I really loved about the issue. Evil must judge evil, as Trigon says here.

DeMatteis’ script, with the dialogue, is every bit as great as Didio’s plot here. I won’t go into details but suffice to say that this issue packed a hell of a lot of punch than I’d thought it would, and that it is my favourite Phantom Stranger issue to date. Great pacing, great story, great characters, great resolution, nice emotional moments, it has it all, in spades.

The art here is by Phil Winslade with Guy Major on colours, Dave Sharpe on letters, and Guillerm March on the cover with Tomeu Morey. Now I’m a pretty big fan of Fernando Blanco’s art on the regular series, but thing is that Winslade doesn’t disappoint either. His style is similar to Blanco’s but the way the story is told, Winslade really captures the Stranger’s humanity and his humility, and the antagonism of his greatest enemies, especially Trigon and Sin-Eater and Blight. Major’s colours are also atmospheric in that there is a lot of darkness to the issue. Momentous events are taking place in the shadows, and his style fits right in.

Another amazing issue from Didio and DeMatteis!

Rating: 10/10

More Green Lantern: (Vol.3) Rebirth, No Fear; (New 52) #23.1, #23.4.

More Phantom Stranger: Volume 1, #10-13, #14, #15, #18, #19, #20, #21.

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