To DC Comics fans, The Green Lantern is known as one of the galaxy’s foremost peacekeepers; however, many fans still wonder if the Corps is an army or a police force. When events like Sinestro’s War uniting the Corps to fight in large-scale battles, it’s easy to see the Green Lanterns as soldiers in an army. On the other hand, series like The green lantern really dive into the law enforcement and protection side of the Corps. Due to the different representations of the Green Lantern Corps, the debate persists: is it an army determined to annihilate major threats or a police force dedicated to maintaining peace?
Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and Kyle Rayner wield their rings for the Green Lantern Corps as soldiers in intergalactic crises, and many Earth Lanterns have come from the ranks of the military. Still, most of the language the Guardians and Lanterns use is police jargon, and they ultimately try to imprison their enemies when they can. The difference is important, because the Body ultimately imposes its will on the universe, so the nature of organization is central to the fundamental nature of its authority.
In 2005, in JLA: Ranked #11, writer Warren Ellis and artist Butch Guice actually closed this discussion, making it clear that the Green Lanterns are and always have been an intergalactic police force. Kyle Rayner tells the story of the first intelligent life in the emerging cosmos in a “world of fog”. One of the first things this life set out to accomplish was to establish a police force and signal their presence and protection with an iconic Green Lantern.
Although it seems that the responsibilities of the Green Lantern Corps can sometimes turn into fights in huge battles, their authority in the galaxy stems from the concept of acting as the police. As Kyle Rayner pointed out, the Green Lantern tradition has been deeply rooted in protection and service, from the beginning. The Book of Oa describes these principles and establishes the codes and ideals by which the Body lives. Green Lanterns are assigned to a sector, must patrol that sector, and must obey the orders of the Guardians. While the myth shared by Kyle may not be true, it shows how the Corps sees itself on a fundamental level – not as a collection of warriors, but as individual champions of law and order.
The Green Lantern Corps was always meant to be a police force, only going to war under extraordinary circumstances, and usually against competing corps. In this context, the currency, “Brightest day, darkest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship the power of evil beware of my power, the light of Green Lantern” is even more striking. The Corps searches for wrongdoers and brings them to justice. Although the Green Lantern Corps may have many assignments of an army, it is at heart a police force, as shown by its deepest traditions and the founding myth of the first The Green Lantern.
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