When Geoff Johns ended his final issue of the pre-New 52 Green Lantern with a cliffhanger twist ending, it seemed like he was merely setting up a compelling hook to whet readers' appetites for the new #1 that was just a few months down the road. Finally exhausting the patience of the ever disapproving Guardians, Hal Jordan had been stripped of his Power Ring, which was then rather unceremoniously handed over to onetime series arch villain Sinestro. Predictably, the move brought Hal to a low place that — for the first couple issues of the relaunch — seemed to be setting him up for some hard knocks character-building moments. What wasn't so obvious at the time, however, was the way in which Johns was poised to do the exact same thing for Hal's opposite number.
Sinestro's second stint in the GL Corps has turned out to be more than an opportunity for the erstwhile nemesis to rub his new status in Hal's face, as his change of costume seems to have heralded the beginning of a change of heart as well. While the outer covering of arrogance hasn't completely melted away, a visit to his enslaved homeworld of Korugar does have Sinestro questioning whether he made the right moves as a previous wielder of both the green and yellow rings. Coming face to face with the individuals who personally suffered under his totalitarian reign proves to be just what the doctor ordered for breaking the former tyrant's heart. It's a sequence that could have come across as overly schmaltzy, but Johns handles it like a pro.
On the flip side, Hal is undergoing some personal growth as well, but his journey brings with it more an air of we've-seen-it-before. Imprisoned and depowered by a Yellow Lantern army, his thoughts drift back to the many ways in which he has spurned the love of Carol Ferris throughout the duration of their turbulent relationship. What could have been a touching moment is immediately dashed for anyone who's read Green Lantern comics for longer than a year, having seen the same on-again/off-again scenarios play out for the couple. The Hal-Carol dynamic is, without question, the most Silver Agey aspect of the GL mythos, and it’s a shame it couldn't have evolved in sophistication for the sake of the relaunched DCU.
Still going strong, though, is the work of Doug Mahnke, who takes his rendition of Sinestro here to new heights. It's impressive enough to see the emotion he infuses into the characters to match what Johns is writing, and it becomes even more so once you consider that one of these characters was originally designed to be the Snidely Whiplash of the cosmos. Yet here Sinestro is, the pink alien with the gigantic forehead and John Waters mustache, expressing sorrow and regret with a true sadness in his eyes.
What Johns and Mahnke are doing for Sinestro is the type of thing that could cement his legacy as one of the great villainous characters in comics. He's finally transcending his role as a simple mirror image of the hero, putting on layers of complexity a la Victor von Doom or the Paul Dini version of Mr. Freeze from Batman: The Animated Series. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before Hal is back in the solo lead of this book, but there's a good chance that the supporting cast he shares space with will be much richer and more developed once this current story arc is complete.
Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin. He once reviewed every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and survived to tell the tale. Ask him about it on Twitter, where he can be found at @Chris_Kiser!