The Green Lantern Corp is DC Comics’ premier intergalactic peacekeeping force, but Future State may have just exposed one of their biggest problems. Established by the Guardians on Planet Oa, the Green Lantern Corp is tasked with patrolling 3600 sectors of the known universe. The Green Lanterns could arguably be described as “space policemen.” Members of the Corps have often fought alongside the Justice League in defending Earth from interplanetary threats. Heroes such as Superman and Batman have “non-lethal” law enforcement rules, but do the Lanterns? The recently released Future State Green Lantern #2 raises the longstanding question: are Green Lanterns non-lethal cops or deadly soldiers?
Since the Corps’ inception in 1959, the exact nature of the organization has been a matter of debate. Geoff John’s 2005 Green Lantern run went to great lengths to establish Hal Jordan and his compatriots as law-enforcement officers and to demonstrate that lethal force is an ongoing public relations nightmare for the Corps. More recent comic book series expand on this idea. In N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell’s Far Sector, Jo Mullein is arrested for policing outside of her jurisdiction. This doesn’t involve lethal force, but is an example of how stringent Lantern guidelines can be. In Green Lantern Season 2, Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp channel Dirty Harry and other classic police franchises by having Hal Jordan reprimanded by his superiors for being “problematic” and “reckless.” This further reinforces that the Green Lantern Corps operates with ironclad rules and regulations.
Future State Green Lantern is set twenty four years in the future. John Stewart and what remains of the Green Lantern Corp are caught off guard by Khund cultists during a planetary evacuation. They find themselves having to defend this fledgling civilization from seemingly endless hordes of bloodthirsty Orion-worshippers. Things go sideways, however, when the Central Battery goes down and Stewart and company are left without the use of their trusty power rings. Stewart grabs a blaster and energy sword and begins dispatching the Khund warriors with deadly force. Dozens of bloody bodies are left in his wake and longtime readers are left uncertain about the Green Lanterns’ moral code, or lack thereof.
Future State Green Lantern #2 is written by Robert Venditti, Josie Campbell, and Geoffrey Thorne, with art by Tom Raney, Dexter Soy, and Andie Tong. Since John Stewart first appeared in Green Lantern #87 in 1971, the US Marine-turned-superhero has become one of the most popular Green Lanterns and is widely considered to have the most powerful constructs. Yet, John has always been a wild card. His headstrong personality has resulted in multiple indiscretions including, the tragic destruction of the planet Xanshi as witnessed in the pages of Cosmic Odyssey. It’s no big surprise that John’s devil-may-care attitude might lead him to break one of the Corps most important rules.
Future State Green Lantern sows uncertainty in the minds of DC Comics’ readers. Is the Green Lantern Corps an intergalactic police force with concrete rules about how criminals should be treated? Or is it a group of soldiers who will do anything, including kill their opponents, to protect the weak and defenseless of the galaxy? The “Sinestro Corps War” arc introduced a last-resort killing exception in the Book of Oa. Perhaps this is why Stewart abandons non-lethal force in the face of overwhelming odds? Furthermore, does this put him at odds with his Justice League comrades? Either way, DC needs to decide once and for all whether Green Lanterns are pacifist policemen or deadly warrior soldiers and put loyal readers’ minds at rest.