Geoff Johns: The Greatest Lantern of All

As I put down Green Lantern #20 I am overcome with sadness and I begin to mourn. Geoff Johns had ended his ten year relationship with the Green Lantern Corps and it signifies the final book I will read about Hal, Kyle, John, Guy and Sinestro. He has taken the legendary corps and escalated them to incredible heights. He didn’t just bring back Hal, but he made Kyle great again, Guy loveable and John less dull. Above all this, he has developed Thaal Sinestro into an incredible and worthy villain. If we delve a little deeper we discover Johns did more than just that; he created one of the greatest superhero relationships there has ever been. For ten years we were witness to some of the greatest grandstanding and immense battles. Both Sinestro and Jordan have at some point carried the mantle of greatest lantern, but as we all know there can only be one.


Emerald Dawn

When James Owsley penned the first issue of Emerald Dawn in 1989, he created the legend that was to be Hal Jordan. The first arc saw Sinestro as a regular lantern in the background and it was not until the sequel where we see his character come to the forefront. Giffen, Jones and Bright imagined Sinestro’s homeworld as an ordered and regimented society, with the green lantern symbol exalted to the rooftops. Sinestro ruled Korugar with an iron first and the population had no choice but to be grateful. He is requested by the Guardians to oversee Hal’s training on Earth. Their relationship evolves into an unstable mentorship where Hal disagrees with Sinestro’s strict and controlling attitude. The arrogance on display and belittling of Jordan makes Korugar’s saviour completely unlikeable. The recklessness and lack of control exhibited by Hal irritates Sinestro, and to takes him to Korugar to show him an example of success. Unfortunately his planet is in a state of civil unrest and collective rebellion against their ruler. Sinestro’s dictatorship is under threat and the Guardians find out about the misuse of his power ring. He is placed on trial and maintains his own defence. A representative of the Korugarian people expresses their desire to be free from his rule and to live free. He is subsequently banished to the anti-matter universe and Hal Jordan sits by idly watching it unfold, offering no defence and expressing no empathy.


Secret Origin

The origins of Sinestro saw him as no more than a strict tyrant abusing his power, but getting results. Hal represented the opposite of that because he cared for people but was more uncontrolled and disobedient in his behaviour. When Geoff Johns retconned their first interactions in the Secret Origin arc, he sowed emotional seedlings and prologues to an overarching story. In this series Sinestro is sent by Ganthet to investigate the death of his good friend Abin Sur, who passes his ring to Hal. Jordan is thoroughly unimpressed with his first meeting with Sinestro as he is in mid air during a test flight. Their war of arrogance continues with Hal being more bolshie than he was in Emerald Dawn, and Sinestro being even more dismissive and arrogant. The themes of being the greatest and not questioning your superiors lay their foundations in this book. The first sensitive moment between our lanterns revolves around Jordan realising he is angry because he grew up without his father and Sinestro’s discourse on dealing with pain, regret and loss. He also admits that he was as defiant as Hal when Abin was his mentor. Their bonding is interrupted by the Guardians, who summon Sinestro to Oa to be questioned for crossing lantern territories, despite being asked to do so. However this time Hal jumps to Sinestro’s defence as he begins to so signs of defiance. They stand side by side and the Guardians have no choice but to issue a simple warning. Both lanterns are thankful but Sinestro refuses to say goodbye but welcomes Jordan to his home the next time they meet. Secret Origin adds personal depth to Emerald Dawn and Sinestro is seen as, more than just an arrogant character but someone who can appeal to Jordan’s sense of risk and personal loss. Korugar is not shown purposely in this arc, because the origin of the friendship is most important. We can only assume that Hal’s next meeting with Sinestro leads to the Korugar civil war and his expulsion into the anti-matter universe.


Emerald Twilight

During Sinestro’s exile the Green Lantern Corp enjoys Hal as their saviour and greatest lantern. He flies so incredibly high but succumbs to personal tragedy in losing his family and hometown. The ring becomes his salvation as he starts using it for personal use, be recreating his lost loved ones. Ron Marz charts his despair of losing Coast City and him being admonished for his selfishness. Unfortunately for the Guardians this leads to Hal rejecting their commands and he tries to accumulate more power. He starts to destroy their Corps and collect power rings. The Guardians reach out to their last hope: one Thaal Sinestro. They have an immense battle with trash talking galore and epic physicality. As Sinestro goads Hal, he is in a tight vice like grip around his neck, he shouts, “Hal: I’ve won. Sinestro: Did you Jordan? Look at yourself….and answer me”. Jordan has become corrupt with power and on the path to immorality as….KRACK….he breaks Sinestro’s neck and leaves him dead. The final panels are truly harrowing.



Hal becomes Parallax and is finally stopped in Zero Crisis by the JLA, and his best friend Green Arrow. One of Johns first project was to bring back Jordan in the Rebirth arc. It involves all the green lanterns uniting together and freeing him from the grasp of the Spectre and Parallax. However there is an immense battle and Hal has to once again to fight…..yup… guessed it, Sinestro. Whilst he spent time in the anti-matter universe, he plotted his revenge against the Guardians and their new prodigal son, Jordan. His now tarnished legacy is has left him as Korugar’s greatest villain. It is time for vengeance, as Jordan’s betrayal of the Corps leaves the door wide open for his return. Within the central power battery lay the Guardians biggest secret. There was a power entity called Parallax who has shown Sinestro the way of fear. Sinestro has encountered fear many a time but instead of overcoming it, he learnt to embrace it. He set a plan in motion to allow the yellow impurity to grow and manipulate Hal. The final trigger would be the staging of his own mortality. The true protector of Korugar will have his justice. Whilst Hal Jordan attempts the free himself from the Spectre, the other lanterns fight Sinestro. But it is not until the greatest lantern returns does Sinestro run away to fight another day. That day lives in history as the Sinestro Corps War.


Sinestro Corps War

At the beginning of the Sinestro Corps War we hear a soliloquy from Sinestro describing how he fell into darkness and felt fear. He was blinded by its brilliance and found that fear was a more potent device for control than will. This was not a far-reaching step for Sinestro because this is exactly how he ran Korugar. He had a strong will to maintain strict order, but it was the fear of his people that kept them oppressed. The Guardians have always rejected emotions, but Sinestro realises this is a weakness and has embraced his fearful side. Now he has the power, weapons, and his Sinestro Corps, vengeance shall also be his. This crossover was the pinnacle of Johns run because it was incredibly epic, as one Corps fought another. The green lanterns versus the yellow lanterns; those who embrace fear against those with the will to overcome it. The ability of the Sinestro Corps to murder allowed them to use greater power against the green lanterns. However during the war a diktat was decreed from the guardians: Lethal force has been authorised. The green begin to murder the yellow and the war rapidly comes to an end. Sinestro fights both Jordan and Kyle simultaneously, as he berates them both for trying to overcome fear. As Hal delivers the winning blow, he delivers his victory line, “A Green Lantern is never without fear. A Green Lantern overcomes fear, every time they face it.” A lesson he once learnt from Sinestro himself.


In the aftermath of the war, whilst Sinestro is imprisoned in a sciencell, he is visited by Hal. He claims victory while smiling away, looking pleased with himself. The Green Lantern Corps now used lethal force and are an army to be feared. The battle may have been lost but Sinestro won the war. It is a genius twist from Johns that though the yellow lanterns were felled, the ethos behind the victory was that of the enemy. Sinestro had manipulated the Guardians by making them fearful of his power. Jordan struggled with this concept and only found satisfactory retort in in telling Sinestro he was on Death Row. As heroic as Hal may be, he is not able to match Sinestro intellectually because he knows that he is correct. He does not believe in capital punishment and does not wish for Sinestro’s death. His enemy clearly knows this and pursues in torturing Hal, knowing he is on the wrong side. A final blow is delivered when Sinestro says he never called anyone his friend, except for Abin Sur and then Hal. He twists the emotional knife deeper into Jordan, but all he can do in response is run away. The dialogue at play is incredibly deep and the rapport between the two characters is rife with history and moral codes. Hal is incredibly uneasy and consults with his fellow Lanterns and Carol. He tries to convince himself that he believes in the death penalty but it begins to annoy him. Geoff Johns takes his time to provide resolution to these issues, because the action never halts, as Sinestro is then kidnapped by the Red Lanterns. 


Rage of the Red Lanterns

Whilst on Ysmault, the Red Lantern home world, Sinestro is tortured by Atrocitus by claiming he has knowledge of Sinestro’s daughter. The irate monster has harnessed the power of anger in order to pursue vengeance on Sinestro, and threaten his bloodline. Hal Jordan uses the Blue Lanterns to rescue Sinestro but is forced to see red, as upon Sinestro’s escape he kills a former Green Lantern, Laira. He thirst to kill Sinestro is quenched by a red ring landing on his finger. It is an interesting twist on Jordan’s character because you wonder whether Hal really could have killed him. It seems unlikely but Sinestro is really enjoying inflicting torture on Hal.

Prelude to Blackest Night

As we move towards the Blackest night crossover, we learn more about Sinestro’s past, in particular about his wife and child. During the early days of Korugar, before Sinestro became its unforgiving leader, he had a family. Soranik Natu was his daughter who happens to grow up to wear her father’s ring as the Lantern of his sector. Korugar has slowly learning to accept the green lantern symbol again as one of hope and not tyranny. The people still calls for Sinestro’s head but Soranik is appeasing them and slowly rebuilding bridges. This revelation opens the door to Sinestro’s past, but he refuses to give any more details. Geoff Johns begins to show an affectionate side to Sinestro, as he reveals what his personal loss actually was and how hard it was to overcome. This leads into a further comparison to Jordan and how Hal is unable to dedicate himself to anyone or anything.


As the Blackest night begins, we see yet another sermon from Sinestro as he speaks to Carol, about how Hal will never reciprocate her commitment to him. His rebellious nature does not lend to listening to anyone or being there for her. The negativity towards to Hal reflects Sinestro’s own cynicism on romance: naïve idealism. Sinestro has a determined desire to protect his Corps and his homeworld; his loss of love is replaced by dedication to his people. However Carol, being a Sapphire Lantern is able to find the love he once lost, and give her a name: Arin Sur. His friendship for Abin Sur led to the adoration of his sister. Once again before we are able to progress with the romantic chapter of Sinestro’s biography, we are teaming up with Jordan and others against the Black Lanterns. But before that Sinestro needs to regains control of his Corps from the clutches of Mongul, who has set up base in Korugar.


Blackest Night

The key to the Blackest Night victory was for all the Corps to work together, which Sinestro struggled with. Hal was instrumental in the victory as he once again took on Parallax to defeat the Black Lantern Spectre, but it was Sinestro who led the final assault, in white. Hal Jordan made a bid for the white Entity but was headed off by Sinestro, claiming he had his chance and it was now his. Sinestro helps to defeat Nekron and becomes the White Lantern, once again reclaiming the mantle, greatest lantern of them all. This is the first time that Sinestro has fought hardest for the good of all the Corps. Geoff Johns has revealed Sinestro’s lost love and how he developed into a dictator. His dedication to his people is overwhelming and is juxtaposed well to Jordan’s inability to maintain a relationship or develop a mentor role at the Corp. To be fair to him though, there is rarely any time to do anything with the sequential battles he has to fight. However there will always be time for Sinestro to demean him, especially as the White Lantern.


War of the Green Lanterns

As we move through the Brightest Day we return to a normal existence as Sinestro takes charge of his lanterns once more. The leaders of the coloured lanterns convene to find the Book of Black, which holds the secret chapter revealing the origin of the exiled evil guardian, Krona. As all but Hal Jordan become trapped in the Book, Krona looms on the Corps and takes control of all the Lantern entities to increase his power. Krona believes in emotions and seeks to take revenge in the Guardians by infiltrating the Central Power battery on Oa using Parallax once more. Our heroes need to lose their power rings, whilst overcoming the manipulated Green Lantern Corps by embracing the other colour power rings. As they free the central power battery from the grasp of Parallax, Kyle also free the other leaders from the Book of Black. Krona has control of all the power rings and has Hal at his mercy. The lack of a weapon does not stop Sinestro as he charges towards Krona, screaming how Hal would die for the Corps, as would he. Sinestro shows the ability to overcome great fear and is anointed with a green power ring. As Hal places the finishing blow to Krona, Sinestro is left standing admiring his power ring, much to the shock of his fellow Corp leaders and Guardians. Given Hal’s ability to utilise all the spectrum of coloured power rings and to kill a Guardian, he is stripped of his power ring. Sinestro becomes the chosen one again and Hal is left alone in the dark on Earth.


The New 52

The reboot of the new 52 marked a change in tone and in heroic standing for Sinestro and Hal. They have come full circle with Hal being relegated to humanity and Sinestro promoted to a green lantern once more. Jordan’s persistence and will in the face of evil always earned him his accolades, but Sinestro finally stood up with Jordan to fight Nekron and Krona, proving himself worthy of his moniker. His redemption is complete, well to a point as there are many a deaths at his hand, and he did try to kill the Guardians at least once. He clearly does not wish to carry the green ring or have any interaction with his overseers, but in their corruption they allowed him to keep it. Over the past few crossovers we have learnt much about Sinestro, and his willingness to work in a team, which has allowed success in the face of insurmountable odds. The fact that Hal Jordan was there to rescue him, or support him is not obviously acknowledged. However when the new 52 began he needed Hal, and they spend much of the book together.


Sinestro returns to Korugar

The Sinestro Corps have enslaved Korugar. The two groups of people he cares for more than anything else are at odds in his absence. His frustration must be great as he asks the only person he can actually trust, Hal Jordan to help him. Hal is actually trying to build a life back in Coast city; he has reunited with his family and trying to build a relationship with Carol. Unfortunately due to Sinestro’s persistence and the lure of the ring, he returns to Korugar with him. Though he asked for Jordan’s help, he still continues to mock him for not doing more. Has Hal ever imagined a better world? Did he ever take the ring seriously? Because Earth has made no progress as a planet, he has squandered his opportunity and Sinestro accuses him of not doing more for the people he loves. In the end, the simple fact remains; Sinestro needs to ensure everyone knows he is the greater lantern and of late, he has more evidence than ever to the contrary.

Sinestro’s world comes crashing down around him when is imprisoned and comes face to face with his people. This was his day of reckoning and Hal is essential in keeping the peace. He encourages and supports Sinestro whilst he divides his ring with his people.  The Korugar sector lanterns take back their planet and the Sinestro Corps fall to their creator. The two worlds of Sinestro come to blows and he destroys his army in order to save his planet. He takes his first redemptive step away from the years of exile and hatred from his people. The most important catalyst and inspiration to this goal was the friendship of Hal Jordan. Not that Sinestro would ever care to admit it.


The secret of the Indigo tribe

The adventures of Hal and Thaal continue to the homeworld of the Indigo lanterns, on the trail of the late Abin Sur. The secret to the Indigos is that their chosen ones serve as lanterns in order to recompense their previous sins, in pursuit of the common good. Many of them have committed heinous crimes and sins. Sinestro is target for many a reason, most of which are described above, and succumbs to the indigo trance. We then learn of his wife, Arin and how Sinestro’s urge for control, led to her sad death. It has taken an extremely long time but Johns finally gives us the reason for his pursuit of loneliness. The story continues with the return of the Black Hand and the creator of the Indigo central battery. In order to free Sinestro from the lure of the Indigo power, Hal must convince the other Indigos that he believes in his friend’s ability to be a better man. Hal hopes that he can become a hero once more and the spell is broken, freeing Sinestro. Johns gives us more of the tragic history of Sinestro as we once again see him try to save face, in the midst of vulnerability. As their friendship twists again as Hal is in control of the green power ring once more. The Greatest Lantern relay race enters the final straight.


The Dead Zone

Whilst chasing Black Hand our dynamic duo enter a conspiracy where the Guardians betray them. Sinestro’s premonition from a long time ago finally comes true, the scourge of the universe has always been the little blue people. Before they can mount an effective response, the power of the black ring is enhanced by the Guardians, and they instruct him to kill our beloved heroes. The issue ends with their supposed deaths but in fact they enter the Dead Zone. Whilst they spend time in limbo with a fallen lantern called Tomar-Re, the universe is threatened by the Third army. They are the Guardians third incarnation of a police force and are stopped by the other Green Lanterns. However the power source for the new Corps is siphoned from a new character who was witness to the creation of the universe: The First Lantern. His power is incredible as he feeds off the emotions of the entire lantern Corps. Whilst he runs rampant through our other essential characters, Geoff Johns introduces a new character called Simon Baz who hunts for and finds Hal and Sinestro. Within the dead zone, both heroes argue over who should return and stop the Guardians, and upon the arrival of Baz, Sinestro betrays his long term adversary in order to return to the world of the living. Poor Hal is left for dead.

Hal dead

Sinestro returns to Korugar where he meets his former friend, Arsona. He asks for her help, which is something he would never do in his younger years. His path to redemption is almost complete as Korugar is returning back to a normal civilisation. Sinestro’s friendship with Hal and his reliance on the other lantern Corps has led him to realise he is a better man with others by his side. The path of a superhero never runs smooth but he is finally back home. Given the immense amount of control and power Thaal has had, it was only inevitable that the First Lantern would cross his path. In order to drain emotional energy from the life of Sinestro, he must not target the man but the ones he loves most: the people of Korugar. The fear instilled by Sinestro was replaced by hope and is far to a nutritious energy source for the First Lantern. He destroys his world. Sinestro has no family, he has no friends and he has no home. His reason for being is gone. All the while Hal lies there in the dead zone, taking his last breaths.

The End

The final issue of Green Lantern was suitably epic and brought about a culmination of the stories of the lives of the Green Lanterns. Johns dedicates his final issues to the characters he brought back and crafted them into incredible heroes and one tumultuous relationship. As Hal is resurrected as a Black Lantern, Sinestro finds solace in his yellow power battery. With their worlds torn apart and the universe hanging on a thread, we enter the end game. Hal accuses Sinestro of destroying his own world because he left without him. The First Lantern takes Jordan and feeds off his most base emotion, the fear of being alone after losing his father. We come full circle to the origin of Hal Jordan, the man without fear. His ability to overcome his most base primal fear is aided by Sinestro powered by Parallax. Hal returns to the Dead Zone to seek Nekron and enlists him to the fight. The remaining lanterns, including Kyle with a brand new white ring and a reinvigorated Mogo, team up with Sinestro, Hal and the entities to defeat the First lantern. All will be well, well only for a few minutes because as Sinestro reactivates the Sinestro Corps, he turns to the Guardians.


Though Hal may have destroyed the whole Corps and the threatened the universe, he returned a better man. Sinestro has fought hard to overcome his losses and when he finally makes peace with his homeworld and learns to trust in friends, it is all taken away from him. There is no solace for Thaal, all is lost. As he comes to blows with Hal one last time, Jordan tells him how he cares for him and will never give up on him. But it is too late as Sinestro has already murdered the Guardians. He sheds a tear as he finally lays them to rest, for all the destruction they have caused and devastating pain they have never felt. Hal feels he has failed Sinestro and their final conversation ends with a question,

“Were we ever truly friends?”

When Sinestro was in a sciencell after his war, he was approached by Hal, who wanted to ask him a question. Sinestro’s grandstanding deterred Jordan from telling him, and even when prompted after escaping the Red Lanterns on Ysmault, he still refuses to ask him. Geoff Johns waited until this moment for Hal to finally ask Sinestro. After all they have been through it is difficult to know how to even qualify their relationship. Sinestro began as a mentor but then became a fierce enemy battling to the death. The damage they have inflicted upon each other is immeasurable. Though they were always fierce adversaries, this was overcome in order to defeat Nekron, Krona and the First Lantern. Each man has reached the pinnacle of success and power in defeating villainy, both have overcome great fear. Though they have rarely believed in the same moral code, their actions have always had mass repercussions. Hal has struggled with the loss of his hometown and family, which led to his demise but was brought back by Geoff Johns. He then became the hero in many a war but was always with Sinestro, as enemies or friends. Sinestro underwent similar personal loss, as his planet was destroyed and he was let down by his Corps. Their lives have run in parallel but unlike Jordan, Sinestro could not find his peace. In fact his response to Jordan’s question is more touching and emotional than most things he has ever said.

“That’s that tragedy of this all, Jordan. Hal. We’ll always be friends.”

It is just beautiful. To understand how Sinestro actually feels and what he has done despite the love he has for Jordan. It saddens me that through all of these years, Hal never knew that. How could he know? Sinestro’s penultimate interaction with his friend, was to leave him for dead. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Together they share such pain and grief, but overcame it to save the universe time and time again.


So who is the greatest lantern of all? Geoff Johns has written that it is Hal Jordan, but though he has fought the good fight more often than Sinestro, he was never as clever as him. Sinestro lived to a higher moral code and tried to do his best for his people, but ultimately his political thought and will let him down. Hal Jordan is the man you want in a fight but Sinestro is the man you want leading the Corps. Geoff Johns has spent years developing Sinestro and has developed him more than Hal, that was done by his predecessors. He has put him through more hurt and despair and completed the evolution of his character. The final issue may declare the greatest lantern as Jordan but I have a feeling that if you were to ask Johns personally, then his answer would be the same as mine: Thaal Sinestro

Sinestro greatest

Thank you for taking the time to read this, it was brought to you by my extensive love for Geoff Johns, Hal Jordan and most of all Thaal Sinestro.


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