All in all, Green Lantern Annual #1, written by Geoff Johns and pencilled by Ethan Van Sciver and Pete Woods, is one of the most exciting books to come out of the DC New 52 so far. Faint praise, perhaps, but this felt like the build-up to Johns' previous GL events like "Sinestro Corps War" and "Blackest Night," and that feeling has been sorely missed over the last year.
I don't think there will be any major plot spoilers in this post aside from what already appeared in the online preview (the first six pages on the comic). I will show a couple images from later in the comic, but nothing really revealing--but be warned in any case. SPOILERS!!!
As you may have seen from the preview, the Smurfs Gone Wild have decided that the threat to the universe lies not in emotion in general, nor in individual emotions, but in the very willpower that powers the Green Lantern rings--or, as they put it, free will.
We need to be clear on they mean by "free will." He does not mean it as the term is used in metaphysical debates over free will vs. determinism. That sense of free will describes any being's ability to be the "uncaused cause" and "first mover," to be able insert his, her, or its decision-making power or agency onto a world of physical cause-and-effect. It is not up to the Guardians or anyone else to eliminate free will if it exists--it either does or does not. And if there is no free will, no one has it--including our Guardians.
No, what they mean by "free will" is true choice, agency, or autonomy, the ability to make choices independently of external (and possibly internal) authority or undue influence. Free will in this sense can exist regardless of whether metaphysical free will exists, since this variety of free will operates on a psychological level, not the level of elementary particle physics. Even if we are not truly "in control" of our thoughts and actions in a deterministic universe, we will still "make" choices independently of others' choices--in the end, they simply are not our choices at all. (For more on the various meaning of free will, see this article at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)
Basically, the Guardians don't like that their Lanterns think for themselves, for then you end up with rebels like Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner. (In fact, the middle Guardian above sounds a lot like the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg--he probably thinks the Lanterns drink too much soda too.) They want mindless creatures that will do their bidding--hence, the Third Army. And they're purty, too:
(I would have thought the word "assimilate" had been trademarked by the Star Trek people by now, but I guess not.) These soliders (for lack of a better term) have no mind, no identity, no free will. They will not make their own choices, they will not question the orders of the Guardians--they will be tools, pure and simple.
This story seems like a natural progression for Johns' broader Green Lantern arc, and I'm interested to see how it plays out. I do hope the Guardians eventually return to being good guys, if imperfect ones. Jordan and Guy Gardner disagreed with them often, of course, but at bottom they all sought the good, only disagreeing on how to pursue it. I hope Johns redeems them, or some of them, at the end of this storyline--but if the rest of New 52 universe is any guide, I'm not holding my breath.
I can't end this post without a couple panels from this comic that I found hilarious. First, we have the long-lost Guardians of Middle-Earth:
I guess they're the Lords of the... nah, too easy.
In the scene below, Hal and Sinestro have to combine the last flickers of energy in their rings to summon Sinestro's power battery. I guess Hal was a fan of the old Superfriends show, but Sinestro is none too happy with it.
Green Lantern powers, activate! Priceless.