Hope Burns Bright
My first job as a full-time teen services librarian in 2010 included curating my location’s graphic novel collection (great work if you can get it, right?). While I familiarized myself with plenty of publishers, creators, well-known runs, and hidden gems, I kept getting questions from tweens and teens about Green Lantern. What was the reading order across all the trades? Did we have Blackest Night? Had I heard of all the different colors for the corps? Does Hal Jordan ever meet Deadpool? Was the new Green Lantern movie available to rent? Did we have Blackest Night?
If I was going to keep up with these youngsters, I needed to dive into some GL, and fast. What caught my eye more than anything throughout the Johns/Tomasi/Van Sciver/Prado/Reis/Gleason/Mahnke years (among numerous talents) were the colorful new corps to join the Green Willpower. Red Rage, Orange Avarice, Indigo Compassion, Blue Hope, Yellow Fear, Violet Love… they each had compelling nuances and personalities within them, but by and large consisted of lethal threats to the galaxy, including the many dangerous experiments of the Greens. However, the Indigo Tribe practiced compassion and made up for crimes committed in their former lives, a nobler ideal than the other corps’ infighting and galactic campaigns. Then there were the Blue Lanterns.
The Speed of Hope
I’m not here to recount the entire history of the Blue Lantern Corps – try Wikipedia or fandom sites for that. One of my favorite things about them, though, is their collaborative nature. They do not exist to inflict a worldview on anyone, only to help and assist. In a spectrum of corps that wield countless methods of death and destruction, a little cheeriness is truly subversive. During Blackest Night, when each corps deputizes an earthling for 24 hours, Barry Allen gets drafted into the Blues. This is a choice on par, to me, with the creation of Santa Claus. The Blue Lanterns are already committed to healing people’s wounds (physical and emotional), calming destructive entropy (like de-aging a dying star), and generally keeping sentient beings on the upswing. Give those powers to the Flash and Earth officially has a better day every time Barry goes for a brisk jog. Plus, given how many times Barry’s borrowed Hal’s ring since their very first team-up, it’s nice to see him receive a ring so appropriately attuned to his strongest traits.
“A story of a man who would never let us down.”-Grant Morrison
Grant Morrison once called Superman “a story of a man who would never let us down,” an idea he says surpasses that of a bomb with its power. Then came the Blue Lanterns, a group of quasi-religious leaders who scour the cosmos making everyone a little more comfortable. Anyone who has shared the lesson of “everyday superpowers” with a child has a friend in the Blue Lanterns. You don’t need a ring to make a positive connection with someone. For as many people Superman has talked down from ledges, Saint Walker & Co. need more examples of gently leading people out of despair and self-doubt. Even the recruitment process, which takes place one member at a time, speaks to a spirit of selfless commitment that I think would find a devoted audience if given more page time.
Blue Man Group
Which brings me to the current state of the Blue Lantern Corps… which is nearly non-existent. After recruiting several members dressed in garb resembling that of several religions, they were wiped out. Their sole remaining member, Saint Walker, was experimented on by Sinestro and his sadistic scientists who were looking for a way to use Blue Lantern tech to enhance their corps. Since Rebirth, the latest attempt to recruit more Blues was seemingly prevented by Doctor Manhattan himself, the Watchman with the gall to say this during Doomsday Clock:
Here’s a clue, Manny: hope only decays in a vacuum. Maybe you lost sight of certain wages of cause and effect while exploring your universe buck naked, but living beings experience consequences from proximity. You were supposed to have learned that from examining the circumstances of your once-girlfriend, Laurie. Saint Walker’s increasingly weary and lonely path, guided by faith, led him to the blessings of a renewed outlook on existence. Hope is not a pollyanna attitude that says everything is fine – hope has to be built on a daily basis. Otherwise it will crumble like a tunnel with no light at the end, which is why Walker’s cohort say that all will be well.
Where have the Blue Lanterns been lately? Blue Barry makes cameos in LEGO and Injustice video games. Saint Walker has a prominent role in Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Walker’s role does justice to the power of hope, including his nonviolent dodging against a Red Lantern, deftly disarming a warship, and an ultimate team-up with Green Lantern Mogo (hey, I’m just now catching up through DC Universe). However, the coolest Blue Lantern appearance of late belongs to Lois Lane.
In Nightwing: The New Order, Lois Lane is a Blue Lantern who sides against an anti-superpowers regime. She wields her ring to fly, heal, defend, and even fight back. Also, unlike previous Blue Lanterns, she is able to use her personal willpower to summon some explosive energy from her ring, whereas Blues normally need a Green Lantern nearby in order to put up a fight. Lois tends to get sidelined in stories, and it was a real blast seeing her take charge here and flex the potential of a Blue Lantern ring.
Look To The Stars
My favorite superheroes are aspirational and give people a reason to hold their heads higher, whether they intentionally inspire others or simply model perseverance or teamwork. This brand of superheroics is part of why I love “super families,” whether they’re the Supers, Bats, Flashes, Lanterns, Hawkeyes, Captains, Wonders, Marvels, Shazams, Wasps, Fantastics – power that is worth wielding is worth sharing. A hero who can save others is great, but a hero who inspires others to also take up the mantle is doubly great. As cool as Saint Walker is, and Barry and Lois were in his colors, I want to see a DC universe where hope burns bright. This desire for greater exposure goes for all the lantern corps: it’s easy to set a bunch of color guards shooting fireworks against each other, but harder and more rewarding to show how the different emotions inform, challenge, and enhance each other.
Those younger readers I mentioned at the beginning of this piece? They get a kick out of all the ring-slinging, but they also take some cues from how the different emotions are portrayed. The Red Lanterns make a badass but tragic impression for having the will to enact revenge at the cost of their own well-being. The Indigo Tribe’s compassion is mysterious to outsiders but rewarding for the effort made. The Star Sapphires’ love can conquer all but is best in mutual moderation. The blue light of hope can counteract fear, anger, and avarice, but needs willpower for maximum effectiveness. Sinestro’s yellow light commands respect and power that can tip too easily into authoritarianism. Larfleeze aka “Agent Orange” can be humorous to watch in his single-minded pursuit of things, but he is also a cautionary tale about the expense of sheer consumption.
The variety is great, and like I said earlier, it includes compassion and hope among more hostile and action-packed feelings. As DC’s Rebirth arc continues on through Doomsday Clock, I want Doctor Manhattan to step aside and let Saint Walker do his job and build a team. Chaos, suffering, and vengeance will still sell, but so will a regular dose of hope.
Thomas is a teen services librarian who reads way too many comics. He can be found gobbling pancakes at the nearest diner with Jessica Cruz, Forsythe Jones III, Jane Foster, and Hellboy. He reviews media for the public here and graphic novels for librarians at No Flying, No Tights.