The major players on all sides of the Blackest Night event spawn directly from the pages of Green Lantern. What follows is the “in a nutshell” version of the history of Green Lantern’s corner of the D.C. Universe, culled from issues from Hal Jordan’s first appearance in Showcase #22 through Crisis on Infinite Earths, the weekly run of Action Comics Weekly, the 1990 relaunch of Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner’s emergence as a Green Lantern, and more, with particular emphasis on the issues published since Geoff Johns took over writing chores with Green Lantern: Rebirth. This should get you adequately prepared for the forthcoming Blackest Night. Let me know if you think I’ve missed anything important.

10,000,000,000 B.C. through (approximately) 1950 A.D.

One of the first species to develop sentience in the D.C. Universe developed on the planet Maltus. After five billion years of development, they acheived immortality. One of the individuals was named Krona. Violating the principles and tennants of his people, he peered into the past, hoping to observe the moment of creation. He glimpsed a hand curled around the Big Bang, just before the experiment ended with an explosive equipment malfunction. His action had disrupted the very nature of the Universe, causing a divergence in the past and spawning an infinite number of parallel realities. Most were based on positive matter, and demonstrated duplicates of all worlds (such as Earth) save for the world at the centre of the Universe, which was known as Oa. One Universe was founded on antimatter, and the negative charges of the reversed everything. The antimatter universe not only had a predisposition towards the acceptance of evil, but it sported the only duplicate of Oa, known as the planet Qward. The creation of this Universe was so violent it “leaked” the concept of evil into the other positive matter universes, opening a veritable Pandora’s Box.

After exiling Krona, the Maltusian population decided to assuage their guilt by creating a police force to maintain Universal order and promote the forces of good. They migrated to Oa, as the central location was perfect for the deployment of their mechanical police force, known as the Manhunters. Along the way, the first task they set for themselves was the elimination of chaos, which was spawned from magic. To that end, they coalesced the majority of the Universe’s magic into the Starheart and left it in a sun. (A portion of the Starheart eventually found its way to Earth, and was turned into Alan Scott’s Green Lantern and Power Ring.) When the Maltusians arrived at Oa, they then divided the Universe into 3600 sectors, and created the mechanical Manhunters to police these sectors. Due to an as yet unexplained glitch, the Manhunters malfunctioned, deciding that the only way to guarantee order was to eliminate all of the emotional beings that infested it. They started in Sector 666, and slaughtered all but five of the residents. Those five became known as the Five Inversions. Led by Atrocitus, they swore vengeance against the Guardians and their agents. They were eventually subdued, and imprisoned on Ysmault, a world in sector 666.

Learning from the mistakes with the Manhunters, the Guardians went for the next step. Rather than choosing automatons without emotions, they went with sentient individuals with balanced emotions. In the DCU, emotions are spread across the spectrum of light. The closer you come to either end, the less emotional control you have. The colours (and emotions), in order, are red (anger), orange (avarice), yellow (fear), green (willpower), blue (hope), indigo (compassion) and violet (love.) The colours interact in various ways; the Guardians powered their next police force, the Green Lanterns, using the green light of willpower, located at the centre of the spectrum. Each colour also seems to have its own personified representative; the personification of willpower is Ion, and the personification of fear is Parallax. In an attempt to control and supress all colours of the spectrum, and recognizing that fear erodes willpower, the Guardians trapped Parallax within their main power battery on Oa. This prevented mass action by Parallax, but his influence did creep out into the Corps, making their rings ineffective against anything coloured yellow.

A faction of the survivors felt that the Green Lantern Corps wasn’t a severe enough measure, so they struck out on their own and became known as the Controllers. Those who remained on Oa became known as the blue-skinned Guardians of the Universe, and maintained their police force. Shortly thereafter, they divided into two factions once more. Having eliminated the need for physical procreation due to their immortatility, the male population neglected the female population. The females left for Zamaron, where they developed the Star Sapphire Corps around the emotion of love.

1950 A.D. to Hal Jordan

Each of the 3600 sectors of space, as identified by the Guardians, was designated one Green Lantern. Sector 2814 was patrolled by Abin Sur, who pursued a criminal to the world of Ysmault. The Guardian edict was that no Lantern should approach that planet without permission. Sur, however, was unable to reach the Guardians at the time. Rather than allowing the criminal to escape, he chose to pursue him to the surface. Once there, he encountered Qull of the Five Inversions. Qull offered to answer any three questions Abin Sur chose to ask. The first two questions were about his immediate mission and his eventual death. Though he could only verify one at the time, both answers were ultimately revealed to be true. The third question was about the nature of most terrible catastrophe that the Green Lantern Corps had yet to face. The answer was simple, and was the prophecy of the Blackest Night. The prophecy (taken word for word from “Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2,” dated 1986) was as follows:

After untold millennia, the enemies of the Green Lantern Corps will rise against them. The Corps shall be destroyed to the last life-form. The planet Oa shall be as dust. Amongst the gathered foemen shall be numbered the Weaponers of Qward, Ranx the Sentient City, and the unspeakable Children of the White Lobe. The Empire of Tears, finally released from entombment, shall join the assault. Sodam Yet, a Daxamite hailed as the ultimate Green Lantern, will perish battling the lobe-spawn. The planet-form Green Lantern named Mogo will be last to fall, as Ranx explodes a blink-bomb within his core. And after that, there will only be the demons, dancing in the ruins of Oa to the rhythm of drums bound with taut blue skin.

Abin Sur left the world of Ysmault, and shared the prophecy with his friend, the Green Lantern Sinestro from sector 1417. Sinestro took action against the prophecy by gaining even more control over his sector, to the point that he overstepped his bounds as Green Lantern and set himself up as ruler. Abin Sur, on the other hand, researched the prophecy on his own, and learned that it was known as the “Blackest Night.” According to the prophecy, there was a power so black that the seven emotional lights were unable to penetrate it. The Five Inversions were looking to collect this power to turn against the Guardians in revenge for the obliteration the Manhunters dealt to their home sector. The key to that power was said to lie on Earth, a world in Abin Sur’s sector. In an attempt to prevent the prophecy, Sur took the leader of the Five Inversions (Atrocitus) aboard his spacecraft and headed towards Earth. When arriving, Atrocitus broke free and forced the vessel to crash. Abin Sur died as a result.

When a Green Lantern dies, the planet-sized Lantern guides his ring to the best candidate. Candidates are selected by two criteria: they must be honest and fearless. Earth was home to a few potential candidates, but the one geographically closest to Abin Sur was Hal Jordan, test pilot for Ferris Air. The ring effectively kidnapped Hal Jordan, bringing him to Abin Sur, at which point the dying alien gave Hal a brief rundown of the responsibilities of a Green Lantern, and Hal accepted the ring and the responsibility that comes with it. Hal teamed with Sur’s friend Sinestro to recapture Atrocitus. In the process, the revealed the presence and existence of the Corps to two dangerous individuals. Hector Hammond became a highly advanced telepath but physical cripple after exposure to a portion of Abin Sur’s ship. William Hand found a way to harness the green energy of the rings, and went on to become the criminal mastermind Black Hand.

Hal Jordan to Kyle Rayner

Hal Jordan’s early career was problematic. On Earth, he’d already been thrown out of the military for his rebellious attitude and problem with authority. He rebelled just as fiercely when faced with alien Guardians as he did with human military superiors. He was provided a bit of latitude after he uncovered Sinestro’s activities ruling his sector, and ultimately defeated Sinestro, trapping him inside the main power battery on Oa, which served the power out to the various Green Lantern rings.

In the course of his career, Hal met his backups on Earth a few times. Guy Gardner, a physical education teacher, was injured while Hal filled the role of Green Lantern, and a new backup was needed. John Stewart was selected, and served as the main Green Lantern for a while when Hal quit to spend time with his girlfriend, Carol Ferris. John soon fell in love with the new Green Lantern of sector 1417, Katma Tui, Sinestro’s replacement and John’s trainer. When Carol Ferris was turned into a Star Sapphire and she became one of Hal’s villains, Hal felt the loss of the ring more heavily. Around this time, a crisis occurred.

Krona’s experiment to view the beginnings of the Universe didn’t just create a multiverse, but it also created two diametrically opposed beings. One, the Monitor, developed on the moon of Oa, while the Antimonitor developed on the moon of Qward. The Monitor guided the heroes of multiple Universes towards a confrontation with the Antimonitor, ultimately resulting in the death of the Monitor and the collapse of the Multiverse into a single Universe. During this conflagration, Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner were both given power rings in addition to John Stewart. In the wake of the Crisis, John Stewart and Katma Tui married, and formed part of a core of seven Green Lanterns active on Earth.

Things continued in essentially this fashion for some time. Two deaths changed things for all of the human Lanterns. First, the murder of Katma Tui at the hands of the now deranged Star Sapphire Carol Ferris threw John Stewart’s life off course. Later, Hal Jordan was serving the Guardians off world while Superman was assaulted and killed on Earth. Two of the villains who took advantage of the gap were a Cyborg duplicate of Superman, and Mongul, a warlord from another world. The pair destroyed Hal Jordan’s home town of Coast City as part of their plan. When Hal learned of these events, he snapped. Blaming the Guardians for the loss of Coast City, as they had kept him off world with full knowledge of the events taking place on Earth, Hal cut loose against the other Corps members as he cut a swath of destruction right back to Oa. The once-youthful Hal Jordan was showing the weathering of his burdens, with grayed temples and years of rage unleashed. He killed all but a single Guardian, and drained the main power battery dry, taking the power for himself and renaming himself Parallax. Only later did he learn that his lack of fear made him unable to recognize fear and its personification. Sinestro’s time in the battery had allowed him the time and opportunity to meet the similarly capture Parallax entity, and helped Parallax take posession of Hal through his ring, causing the rampage.

The sole surviving Guardian, who had taken the name Ganthet, travelled back to Earth, home of some of history’s greatest Lanterns. Near death and without Mogo’s help to identify an appropriate ring bearer, he gave the ring to the first person he encountered. In this case, the man he encountered was a commercial artist, who was emerging from a bar after a night of frivolity. Thus did Kyle Rayner become the torch bearer, seemingly the last Green Lantern and the first to operate without the Guardians or the support of the Corps. Parallax’ influence absent from of the power battery, combined with his own recognition of fear, left Kyle as the first Green Lantern with a ring that could affect any material, regardless of colour or composition. As the only Lantern in operation, his ring also lacked the enforced 24 hour charging limit other Lanterns experienced, needing charging only when the power was actually consumed. During his time as the sole Lantern, he also became a vessel for Ion, the entity of willpower, and he used that power to bring the Guardians back from the dead, now in both genders. Hal Jordan, meanwhile, continued to fight the influence of Parallax, eventually exerting his own will long enough to repower the Earth’s sun and sacrifice his life. His spirit became bonded to the Spectre, the entity responsible for dealing out God’s vengeance and wrath, as a way to repent for his sins.

Rebirth to now

On the outer rim of the Galaxy, Kyle encountered a species old enough to have met Parallax before his imprisonment and posession of Hal. Realizing the implications of what he was seeing, he restored Hal’s soul to his body, bringing the man back to life and shedding much of the responsibility for his actions as Parallax. In the process, they learned that yellow’s connection to fear was the problem with the original rings. Armed with this knowledge, and now able to restore the entire Green Lantern Corps, a new age was brought into effect, in which most Lanterns were able to affect anything with their rings, provided they recognize and control the influence of fear.

Sinestro and the Antimonitor were building a Corps of their own during this time. Their Corps was based on the yellow power rings developed by the Weaponers of Qward, and was powered by fear. They built an army and went to war with the Green Lanterns, igniting the War of Light in the process. The Green Lanterns defeated them, but were required to start changing their own rules in the process. An instrumental figure in the battle was Sodam Yat, a Daxamite who was also the vessel for Ion. As such, he had the powers of a Kryptonian without his ring, and had powers far in excess of most Green Lanterns with his ring. This Sinestro Corps War awakened other Corps, whose leaders, members, and oaths are outlined below. They also scarred a Guardian in the process, who is now behaving unusually for a Guardian, seemingly antoganizing and accelerating the War of Light.

The Red Lanterns

Leader: Atrocitus
Emotion: Rage
Oath:
With blood and rage of crimson red,
ripped from a corpse so freshly dead
together with our hellish hate
we’ll burn you all, that is your fate!

Atrocitus of the Five Inversions is driven by rage after the death of his sector, and his Corps members reflect that. Individuals who are posessed by rage lose all control of their actions, and have their blood forcibly removed from the bodies to be replaced with a plasma that can then be projected as a form of attack. Atrocitus was able to drive Hal into an uncontrollable rage to recruit him to the Corps, but Hal was released by a Blue Lantern.

Agent Orange

Leader: Larfleeze
Emotion: Avarice
Oath: unknown

Not much is known about this individual at this point, though more will be revealed in next week’s Green Lantern #41, part three of the “Agent Orange” story arc and promoted as the “Secret Origin” of Agent Orange. What we do know up to this point is that Larfleeze doesn’t recruit members of his Corps per se. Instead, his orange energy constructs consume them, turning that “recruit” into an orange ring which returns to him. With that ring in his posession, he can create a construct in the shape of that “recruit.” He recently consumed the Controllers, and was targetted by the Guardians of Oa in a proactive attack.

The Sinestro Corps

Leader: With the Antimonitor killed in the Sinestro Corps War, both Sinestro and Mongul are vying for the position.
Emotion: Fear
Oath:
In blackest day, in brightest night
beware your fears made into light.
Let those who try to stop what’s right
Burn like my power – Sinestro’s might!

The Antimonitor and Sinestro formed this Corps together. The Antimonitor’s goal was the destruction of the Green Lantern Corps, though Sinestro maintains his purpose was to drive the evolution of the Green Lantern Corps into the group he feels it has to be in order to survive the War of Light.

The Blue Lanterns

Leaders: Ganthet and Sayd, two Guardians in love.
Emotion: Hope
Oath:
In fearful day, in raging night
with strong hearts full, our souls ignite
when all seems lost in the war of light
look to the stars for hope burns bright!

In the wake of the Sinestro Corps war, Ganthet and Sayd left to form their own Corps to support the Green Lanterns. The blue rings of hope have the potential to be the most powerful rings, but they depend upon willpower to act with that potential. Without an active Green Lantern nearby, they can provide transportation and limited protection to the wearer, but with a Green Lantern to feed and reinforce, they can become quite devastating. We also know that there is a cost to becoming a Blue Lantern, though that cost is not yet revealed. When Hal was forced to join the Red Lantern Corps, a blue ring was placed on his finger, driving out the rage and returning him to his senses. However, it refuses to come off, and will not do so until its power is spent in an act of hope. Though Hal’s blue ring interferes with his green ring, Green Lanterns find their rings supercharged by the presence of a Blue Lantern.

The Indigo Tribe

Leader: Indigo, according to the solicitations to July’s “Tales of the Corps #1-3.” Possible connection to (spoiler guarded) Mother Mercy, who created the Black Mercy plants to give the dying a gentle and compassionate death, and whose speech balloons during the recent “Ring Quest” story arc from “Green Lantern Corps” were ringed with Indigo trim.
Emotion: Compassion
Oath: Unknown

This group will be introduced during the course of Blackest Night itself.

The Star Sapphires

Leader: Queen Aga’po
Emotion: Love
Oath:
For hearts long lost and full of fright
for those alone in blackest night
accept our ring and join our fight
love conquers all with violet light!

The Zamarons are an offshoot of the same Maltusians that led to the Guardians and the Controllers. They control the violet light of love, and can inspire love in others. Their love can blind them to rational thought, leading to inappropriate or unbalanced behaviour.

The Black Lanterns

Leader: Unconfirmed. Likely Black Hand (William Hand) and/or the scarred Guardian, based on the current state of affairs.
Emotion: Not an emotion, but death itself. The Black Lantern Corps consists of the dead.
Oath:
The blackest night falls from the skies
The darkness grows as all light dies
We crave your hearts and your demise
By my Black Hand — the dead shall rise!

The powers and abilities of these Lanterns is still unrevealed. According to Blackest Night #0 (the Free Comic Book Day issue) and upcoming solicitations, as well as promotional preview issues, the Corps will include the following (spoiler-guarded) characters: Batman, Superman-Prime (aka the Golden Age Superman, who takes a tougher stance on crime), Jonathan Kent, J’onn J’onzz, Bruce Wayne, Aquaman, the Flying Graysons (parents to Dick Grayson, original Robin, former Nightwing and new Batman), and Terra, the former Teen Titan. End spoiler.

Blackest Night Checklist

Preliminaries

The Main Event

  • Blackest Night #0 (Free Comic Day edition), #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, complete series
  • Green Lantern #43
  • Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1-3
  • Green Lantern #44-??
  • Green Lantern Corps #39-??
  • Blackest Night: Batman #1-3
  • Blackest Night: Superman #1-3
  • Blackest Night: Titans #1-3
  • more to come…