When I first started reading Green Lantern: the Sinestro Corp War I thought it was just going to be another series with non stop violence in a clash of good vs evil. If you are looking for incredible fight scenes and feats of power, this book does not disappoint. There are certainly villains within this book that embody your classic bad guy or despot who simply wants to conquer, rule, or destroy like Superboy Prime and the Anti-monitor, but we would be foolish to see Sinestro as the same. How exactly was Sinestro able to rally such a massive army to willingly support his cause? We see similar examples throughout history and current events around the world. Sinestro believes fear to be the ultimate motivator. He sees strength in being feared and uses it to amass an enormous army of followers. Does this sound familiar? There are many people across the world who only respect leaders who invoke fear. They believe leaders who show empathy and compassion are weak and not fit to rule. They stoke fear of the opposition, fear of being replaced, fear that equal rights for another group will mean less rights for them, and fear that everything will fall apart without the leadership of a cruel and powerful leader who will make the tough decisions at any cost. When you think of real-world examples like Adolf Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Napoleon, Atilla the Hun, and Genghis Khan and how they were able to amass great wealth and power through similar tactics, it becomes very easy to see how Sinestro was able to do the same through similar rhetoric. One could argue that we still see this today with many world leaders including American politicians and leaders of certain groups, but I won’t name any names as this review is not meant to be a political piece, nor meant to sway anyone to vote any certain way. It is merely my insight and perspective of a brilliant story.
I also found this early scene in which Hal faces the Reverse Flash to be very intriguing and deep upon further reflection. He tells the Green Lantern that he knows about his fall to darkness where he gave into his fear and murdered several of his companions as Parallax. He tells him that rising up from that humbled him and made him better for it. We all have dark parts of our souls, and have done things we are not proud of, even if we aren’t willing to admit it to another living soul. When we acknowledge our own faults, our own darkness, we do actually become humbled and develop more empathy for others who falter. We stop seeing everyone as good or evil and realize ANYONE can truly be redeemed. I’m still a bit confused how the Reverse Flash has this level of insight yet still chooses to do evil. Does that make him even more evil, deranged, or just highly conflicted? I’ll admit I don’t know the character well enough to provide an answer.
I also love the parallels between Batman’s MO and the Sinestro Corps. Batman’s persona is designed to instill fear in the enemy. He also uses fear as a powerful motivator. It is no surprise that Sinestro would try to recruit him. What separates the two is their reason for instilling fear. One is to punish criminals and make them think twice about repeat offenses while the other is to instill fear as a means of gaining uncontested loyalty.
I really enjoyed learning more about Hank Henshaw as I read this series. I saw him as nothing but a monster at first, until I realized he is such a tortured soul. He wants to destroy everything just to end pain which is all he knows. He has no issue with taking away the good with the bad, just so long as his suffering ends. I feel the most pity for him. This is also where we see the true scale of Sinestro’s invasion. We learn that it isn’t just our Earth that is in danger, but the entire multiverse.
One of the most common tactics used by a political party or leader trying to usurp power from the current powers that be is to point out their failures. They point out where they came up short and suggest that the only way to see better outcomes is to change leadership. They tend to focus more on the failings of the others than they do on what they actually have to offer. Sinestro is no different. It’s the old “choose the lesser of two evils” approach.
The way Sinestro describes Parallax is similar to how the Phoenix Force is depicted in Marvel Comics, especially when she is the Dark Phoenix. Instead of being the living embodiment of life, creation, and destruction, it is the living embodiment of fear with Rayner only being a host. There are also several parallels with Star Wars. In one particular scene, Sinestro is using fear and loss of family members to get Rayner to accept Parallax and “turn to the darkside.” It is through that bitterness and fear of loss that he is able to convert him much like how Palpatine was able to convert Anakin through fear of losing Padme.
I mentioned earlier the differences between Sinestro, the Anti-Monitor, and Superboy Prime. It does seem odd that Sinestro would team up with them considering each has their own agenda and neither would want to follow the others. We actually see Parallax and Sinestro kneeling before the Antimonitor, Superboy Prime, and Henshaw. I can only guess this is because he knows he needs their help, but what will he do when they actually win? How will Sinestro rule a world that he himself cannot survive in when it is all transformed into antimatter? I see this short sightedness being similar to that of Italy and Japan during WWII. They saw aligning with Germany as their best chance at victory, but surely they had to realize that there was no room for them in Hitler’s ultimate world view. Will they all turn against each other or will they be defeated by the heroes before that has a chance of playing out as we had seen with the end of WWII.
Another interesting parallel to modern politics is how Hal views the Guardians. Unlike other Green Lanterns, he’s willing to talk back to them and question them. He also lacks some respect for them for having never done the job of a Green Lantern. There are many who think you need to have military experience to be a good president. How can one truly command an army in war time if they themselves have never seen war or even been trained in combat scenarios? I’m not asking for an answer or saying one is right or wrong, just pointing out the similar lines of thinking.
In addition to alluding to political characteristics, this book does an excellent job of alluding to some of the more elusive practices of the church throughout history. We will never know what all has truly been omitted from religious texts from historic church and world leaders out of fear of how society would respond. There may be several hidden scrolls and texts that are locked away from our eyes by people who believe “it is in our best interest.” I’m certainly not a conspiracy theorist, and am a man of faith, but am also aware of how religious texts have been used throughout history to instigate war, bigotry, enslavement, and to gain power. The Guardians have behaved no differently.
The best leaders care about what is good for all people, just one political viewpoint or another. I like how this series points out the flaws of one-sided political thinking without aligning with either party. During a time when our country is so divided, works like this can help open peoples’ eyes so that we can come together for the common good of all people. It is never too late, and we can only succeed through empathy and compassion.
With all of the protests that have happened over the last several years: Black Lives Matter, the truckers’ protest against vaccination requirements, Prolife and Prochoice protests, environmental protests, and political protests, we’ve seen a great lack of empathy from both sides. We’ve seen people call for and cheer for violence against protestors whom they disagree with. This lack of empathy has been very apparent on both sides. This gives way for leaders like Sinestro to gain power by granting their wishes and subduing their opponents by force. However, can such a leader ever be trusted? Can one be sure that they won’t one day be the victim of such extreme persecution?
Such tactics never end with just quelling the opposition. It leads to oppression in all aspects of society. This book does an excellent job of depicting how ruling through fear negatively impacts all facets of society. Do you want to work to make money to feed your family or do you want to work out of fear of consequences?
I mentioned earlier that Henshaw was a character I felt great pity for. It is truly tragic that his motivation for helping a being as sinister as the Anti-Monitor is simply so he can die. Every bit of his existence is anguish. I could only imagine going through that much torture that you believe the only way to find peace is to extinguish your own life and all other life.
This next panel further alludes to how political leaders use fear to gain followers. Some use fear of other cultures and anything different to gain unwavering support. Sinestro is great at tapping into this. The Green Lanterns have a lofty task ahead of them to get an entire universe to replace fear with empathy and compassion.
The Guardians very much remind me of the Watchers in Marvel, especially Uatu. Like him, they are forbidden to act, but eventually realize they must do something or there won’t be anything worth saving. This also helps the reader to understand the gravity of the situation. It creates more suspense. Can you think of anywhere in society where those who were forbidden to act, eventually did? The only example I can think of which would be a very loose correlation is the story of Lazarus from the Bible. According to the Pharisees, Jesus was forbidden from resurrecting Lazarus due to it being on the Sabbath, a day in which any work was forbidden. Jesus still chose to act and explained to the Pharisees that intent mattered more than the law itself. It does no good to follow the law just because it is the law.
This book is also a prime example of how war can escalate overtime. A conflict may start out as a battle at sea, a dog fight in the air, or troops on the ground. When one side starts losing ground, they may resort to more deadly methods: missiles, bioweapons, chemical warfare, or other devastating tactics. The Guardians realized the Green Lanterns were heavily outgunned and needed to authorize lethal force to give them a fighting chance. Some Green Lanterns relish in the chance to use lethal force while others detest it. There are soldiers in real life who love battle and signed up for that sole reason, while there are others who hate the thought of killing another person and will only do it out of no other option.
Another horrible truth of war is that children are often the victims. They have been used as decoys and as suicide bombs in many conflicts. I can’t help but feel great pity and sorrow for these children in this book. I’d like to learn more about how they came to work for the enemy and what their lives were like prior to this book. If there is any reading material out there that explores the history of these children, I certainly intend to read it. Perhaps they were genetically engineered for this sole purpose, but that wouldn’t make it any less tragic. Just look at those eyes. I always struggle with seeing a kid die, but also believe it is a powerful and important inclusion in this book to really show how brutal this war is.
Speaking of children, this next scene below really hit hard. My greatest fear is losing my daughter. I could only imagine how I would feel or react in this situation. I felt the fear and helplessness of this father deep in the pit of my stomach while reading this page. Once again, this book does an amazing job of depicting the horrors of war and the depravity of those who weaponize fear.
I’ve also grown fond of Kilowog while reading this book. He’s my favorite Green Lantern now, and I may just need to start calling people “Poozers.” I like how he acknowledges the burden of the power ring and acts nobly in all situations. He’s also a favorite of mine due to his empathy. I love this scene where he is kicking butt at the San Diego Convention Center during Comic Con. Now we just need a battle to happen at Rocket Con.
This book also warns of the harm of pushing your children down a predetermined path that does not align with their passions. We each need to find our own way. While a little nudging never hurt anyone and can actually help youth discover their passion, demanding on only one path leads to resentment.
The victor writes history. Unfortunately, that history often paints the victor or dominant culture in a much different light than the loser or minority culture. Propaganda quickly flourishes creating justification for heinous acts by demonizing other cultures. Fortunately, America is and has been coming to terms with this, and we no longer call Native Americans “Savages” in our textbooks and no longer label African Americans as less than human or soulless, as we had once done through the white washing of history. This is an interesting time in America where we have some factions wanting to ensure the truth is told in every painful detail, while we have others that want to sugar coat, cover up or give excuses for some of our nation’s most gruesome history so people don’t “feel bad.” Only time will tell which path our nation ultimately adopts. We see which path was chosen in the page below while we also are shown the truth of the situation. Fear is a powerful motivator. Unfortunately, it has always been easier to unite people under fear and hatred of others than love and empathy of others. We can only hope that more people read works like these and open their eyes.
One final theme I’d like to discuss is does “the end justify the means.” This is at the heart of many of society’s issues. Can we achieve a positive result without the use of violence and death. At what point do we become no better than the evil we hope to overcome? If we win the physical war, but not the moral one, did we really win? I highly recommend this book. At first I really thought it was just going to be a crazy war story with nonstop violence and no real depth. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The writers do a great job of bringing this story home and relating it to real world problems without pushing any agendas or trying to make you see things their way. They leave it up to the reader to come to those conclusions which ultimately makes it much more impactful. I hope you enjoy it.