They’ve fought every color of the spectrum, cold machines, and even Death itself. Now they fight with all fervor the very founders of their organization. Them and their entire Third Army. It’s GREEN LANTERN CORPS ANNUAL #1. Can the Corps (and friends) knock down this rising army?

It’s time people; this inevitable fight with the Guardians has been built up for nearly a decade. With the Geoff Johns helmed GL books, we’ve seen these old blue bastards grow steadily more arrogant and disillusioned with the state of the universe. More and more like supervillains than the forces they fight. Now they’ve grown tired of their current fighting force, the Green Lantern Corps, and have opted to replace them (and the entire universe) with their Third Army. Just like they had with their first fighting force, the Manhunter robots, before them.

So in less broad terms, the story so far: Hal Jordan and Sinestro are dead. Kind of. They’re in a place with a lot of dead people. Their replacement (it’s a long story why two guys “share” a ring), Simon Baz, has been recruited by fellow GL B’DG, and they busted a ringless Guy Gardner out of prison. The plan then becomes this: Guy will travel to Oa, hub of the GLC, and and confront the Guardians (while also trying to get his ring back). Meanwhile, Simon and B’DG will travel into the Book of the Black in the hopes of finding Hal Jordan (and Sinestro, I guess).

While that’s going on, Jon Stewart and Fatality the Star Sapphire are busy overseeing the reforming of Green Lantern Mogo, the sentient planet. Except the Guardians can’t allow Mogo to return to power, so they send their army to claim its core.

Lantern Kilawog, the resident drill instructor of the GLC, spends his time mucking around Oa’s seedy underbelly, looking for any stray lanterns. It’s here he witnesses the Guardian’s plans for their old corps: trick them into a trap and hold them hostage until they can assimilate them all into the Third Army.

And while all of that is going on, Kyle Rayner comes in with representatives of the other lantern corps, as well as his own newly acquired White Lantern powers. Truth be told, while it is awesome to see a (presumably permanent) White Lantern flying around, I kind of preferred his amalgam costume from the first issue of Green Lantern: New Guardians, which incorporated all the colors. But whatever.

Oh, and apparently after I stopped reading Red Lanterns, Atrocitus gained command of the Manhunters, gave them teeth, and painted red Xs on their heads. Cool. Not enough to bother reading the issues explaining how that happened, but cool nonetheless.

And then they all fight. They all get together (mostly) and just have a huge throw down.

If you’ve read nothing else of Rise of the Third Army so far, GREEN LANTERN CORPS ANNUAL #1 is the most important and the bare minimum. That being said, if you haven’t been reading any or all of the GL books for the last three months, you’ll probably be asking questions. Questions like who is this Simon Baz guy, and why is he teamed up with a talking squirrel? What are they doing with Guy Gardner on the moon? Where is Guy’s ring? Are Hal Jordan and Sinestro dead, or just kind of dead? What’s Black Hand doing in some room disconnected from anything? How did Kyle Rayner come to be a White Lantern? When did Kyle’s group pick up Larfleeze, master of the Orange light? What the hell is a Mogo, and why did it explode? Why are the Manhunter robots working for Atrocitus?

And where did the Weaponer go off to? Sure, he isn’t in this issue and hasn’t appeared in several issues, but the guy took off with a solar system-sized spaceship. I’m kind of curious about what he’s doing.

So do I recommend GREEN LANTERN CORPS ANNUAL #1? Yes, though it helps to have been on board for the last few months. You’ll probably still be able to get the previous issues in this event. Because really, we’re coming into things at the climax of a story arc. Granted it’ll touch off an entire new story arc immediately afterward, but still.

And as always, here is not necessarily the best place to hop onto the Green Lantern books. Better to check out any of the other Geoff Johns penned GL stories, like Green Lantern Rebirth or Secret Origins. As for anyone currently reading the GL books but not sure about putting another five dollars on this annual, remember that if you skip this, it’ll only make less sense when you pick up the next issues of the ongoings and suddenly everything is all different.

It’s not a bad comic. It’s a good comic. Go read it. Now.

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