The DC Universe is home to some pretty complicated continuity, perhaps none more than the cosmic world of the Green Lantern Corps. Reboots, resurrections and rebirths have compounded on one another to make the timeline of the GLC a knot that can only be pulled apart with some serious time and attention.
That is, unless Green Lanterns gets to have it’s say. With the introduction of two new rookie Green Lanterns from Earth -- Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz -- Green Lanterns has provided new readers an easily accessible gateway into the endlessly dense narrative of the GLC, even when it's gone on to tackle some of the biggest and most headache inducing aspects of the lore.
Now, with the release of Issue #23, Green Lanterns sets its sights on laying out the history of the Green Lanterns and their power, once and for all.
Part of the complication in explaining the history of the GLC stems from the fact that they’ve never actually been rebooted, even when the line-wide continuity reset and relaunch of the DCU arrived in 2011's New 52. Unlike most titles, which saw characters undergo massive adjustments, Green Lantern stories just kept on going as if little, if anything, had changed at all.
It was during this time that a character named Volthoom was introduced and denoted as the “First Lantern,” a man who had been imprisoned by the Guardians after he went mad due to a corrupted connection to the Emotional Spectrum. It’s been understood, largely based on his designation, that Volthoom was, essentially, the first lantern of any color -- even, perhaps implicitly, the first being to be considered a Green Lantern-proper, despite the lack of a “Green” qualifier in his rather ominous nickname.
This assumption has been allowed to lay relatively unchallenged for the past several years, even as more light was shone onto his origin story in Green Lanterns #18, “The Last Testament of the First Lantern.” In this one shot, Volthoom narrated his relationship with the Guardians, and how he came to be tapped into the emotional spectrum over ten billion years ago with the aid of a time-and-dimension hopping “Travel Lantern.”
He also revealed that, as he is now, he is so far beyond death that even Nekron, the lord of death himself, is unable to release him.
Still, what Volthoom’s story explained was how the Guardians were able to concentrate the emotional energies into forms that could be wielded through rings...but not how those rings were dispersed out into the corps we recognize today.
Volthoom may have been the first Lantern but he was not the first Green Lantern at all.
Welcome to the Third World
Green Lanterns #23 picks up the story of Volthoom’s tragic past by giving it a new spin. His dimension hopping, time-and-space manipulating Travel Lantern -- the thing that allowed him to master the Emotional Spectrum in the first place -- was “cannibalized” by the Guardians after his insanity took hold. With it, they crafted not one, not two, but seven green rings.
The very first Green Lantern rings.
Those seven rings were sent out through the cosmos in search of people who would have the willpower to wear them.
It’s in this moment that we come face to face with the actual first Green Lantern -- a citizen of a “Third World” planet called Galactica named Alitha.
In a recent interview with Graphic Policy, writer Sam Humphries commented that the Third World is a direct precursor to Jack Kirby’s famous Fourth World stories -- and this is directly addressed on the page. As Alitha takes a stand, she remarks that she is doing so to make sure that the Third World does not fall to a Fourth -- a mission that we, as readers, already know is doomed to fail.
Humphries also went on to explain that the remaining six Green Lanterns would each be revealed in upcoming issues, each representative of different “branch” of the DCU at large, and each fitting into a different area of DC’s ongoing legacy. He clarified that, though this development does mean that Green Lanterns are officially a ten billion year old concept in the DC Universe, it doesn’t actually reboot the Green Lantern Corps, which is sticking to it’s classic, Manhunter-tied origins.
It’s a lot to take in, but the principle behind it isn’t all that complicated...at least once you get through the time travel and the dimension shifting. After all, it only makes sense that the ability to harness the Green Light of Will had to come from something, beyond just the Maltusians evolving into the Guardians and becoming smart enough to harness it.
Now, the issue becomes keeping Volthoom, currently buried inside the mind of the Guardian Rami, away from these original seven rings. Though, perhaps an even bigger question is where those rings are now, given that they were all created billions of years in the past.
It’s likely a safe bet to assume that wherever those original rings have ended up over the years, it’s going to play some part in further knitting Simon and Jessica into the fabric of the GLC and their history. At least, that’s certainly the hope, because right now? Neither of them are handling their respective Lantern Boot Camps very well. Though in fairness to Jess, who hasn’t wanted to punch Guy Gardner in the face once or twice?