The end of DC Comics’ Green Lantern Corps “Alpha-War” arc is finally here, and it goes out with a bang – literally. Writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Fernando Pasarin are at the top of their respective games in Green Lantern Corps #12, providing a satisfying conclusion to one of the coolest and most-fun Green Lantern Corps story arcs yet, as well as paving the way for the upcoming Rise of the Third Army event that promises radical changes in the Green Lantern universe. Tomasi’s writing really goes “widescreen” here – and Pasarin’s amazing art only adds to the cinematic quality of Green Lantern Corps #12.
Facing off in the Sciencells on Oa, the Green Lanterns – led by John Stewart and Guy Gardner – find themselves at an advantage against the onslaught of the unforgiving and merciless Alpha Lanterns: the giant Manhunter-monster-mash-up created by Stewart and Gardner in Green Lantern Corps #11 is turning the tide of the battle in the Corps’ favor. Keeping the Alpha Lanterns busy for the meantime, the “Machine Monster” allows the other imprisoned Green Lanterns to breach their Sciencells and join the fight, at which point they begin pummeling the Alpha Lanterns with one green beam of energy after another. Picture the battle scenes from 300, but with the heroic Green Lantern Corps as the innumerable Persians and the dastardly Alpha Lanterns as the tiny Spartan fighting force, and you might come close to the intensity of this final battle in Alpha-War. However, the tide of battle turns once again as the Alphas beat the “Machine Monster” and send out beams of energy draining the power levels of every Green Lantern in the vicinity. Stewart and Gardner are promptly cuffed and brought forward to face execution at the hands of the Alphas.
Just when it seems there is no hope in sight, the Lanterns are helped by an unsuspected ally: Alpha Lantern Varix. If you’ve been paying close attention to the last couple issues of Green Lantern Corps, and very close attention during issue #12, you will no doubt have noticed that Alpha Lantern Varix doesn’t quite seem to be as amped about annihilating the Corps as his comrades are. He is a character bound by a high degree of conscience – he is loyal to the “dream” of the Green Lantern Corps, and when faced with his fellow Alphas’ plan to execute Stewart and Gardner, Varix can no longer sit idly by. He charges Stewart and Gardner’s power rings, unbeknownst to the other Alpha Lanterns, and just as they’re about to be “put down,” Stewart and Gardner break loose from their chains and wrench the power batteries out of the chests of two nearby Alpha Lanterns, killing them in the process. When the remaining Alphas descend upon Stewart and Gardner with a vengeance, Varix steps in and obliterates the remaining Alpha Lanterns in one emerald flash.
This epic end to an epic battle is followed by one of the most poignant comic-book moments in recent memory. After destroying his Alpha comrades and thereby saving the entire Green Lantern Corps, Varix stands in the midst of the broken, lifeless bodies of the other Alpha Lanterns and waxes philosophic about “absolute power corrupting absolutely.” Varix realizes that even though he did have doubts about the Alpha Lanterns, he should have acted on them sooner and saved more lives in the process. Varix’ sense of duty – and ultimately, true justice – leaves him only one path of consequence for his actions. Before blowing off his own head with a concentrated power blast from his own hand, Varix proudly recites the Alpha Lanterns’ creed one last time, in a scene that is the very epitome of moving. And in the aftermath, as the Corps gathers to memorialize the fallen Green and Alpha Lanterns that died during the Alpha-War, the Guardians gather to put into motion the mobilization of their “Third Army,” leaving at least this reader with feelings of uneasiness and anticipation.