Green Lantern: New Guardians #1 Review

The end of September brings us the first issue of Green Lantern: New Guardians, written by Tony Bedard with art by Tyler Kirkham.  Now anyone who knows me knows that I am a life long Hal Jordan guy and Kyle has always represented what I considered a poor editorial decision by DC Comics to deal with struggling sales.  In fact I will admit that I have a H.E.A.T. membership card (go ahead and look, I’m listed on the site as a member!) and stopped buying comics six months after “Emerald Twilight” ended after giving the new direction a shot.  But those days are behind all of us and we are now in the best era of the mythology since Julius Schwartz, John Broome and Gil Kane gave a Green Lantern for the silver age.  But, of the four new Green Lantern titles, I will say that New Guardians has been the hardest sell for me because Kyle has never resonated with me even though I love the creative team.  How did this first issue rate with me, perhaps one of the hardest to please fans when it comes to the fourth Green Lantern of Earth?
The Story –
Kyle’s origin retooled
The issue starts out with an image that artist Tyler Kirkham shared with fans in August, the Guardians lay in ruins with one lone hand raised from the pile of Oan bodies.  Long time fans will recognize the first two pages as a revised depiction of “Emerald Twilight” where Ganthet creates a ring forged from the remaining energy after Hal has emerged from the Central Power Battery after being taken over by Parallax.
On Earth we get a little more background on the pre-Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, a down on his luck artist who wears his heart on his sleeve.  Sharing some time with friends at a local tavern, Kyle excuses himself to use the men’s room only to find that the line is greater than his willpower to wait until his turn and takes the opportunity to exit the back of the in hopes of urinating in private outside.  It’s there that he encounters Ganthet who tells Kyle that he’s been chosen.  It’s a far better scene than the “you will have to do” line that Ron Marz used back in 1994 and in this bit of reimagining of Kyle’s origin we see that Ganthet does give Kyle a little bit of instruction and we see that Kyle has a natural affinity with the ring.  Also among the missing element from the Marz story is Kyle’s girlfriend, Alexandra Dewitt, who was famously killed and stuffed in a refrigerator by Major Force.
The issue takes a just forward an unmentioned amount of time to today in Sector 422 where a member of the Sinestro Corps is instilling fear in a number of Khundians.  The alien, a new member of the Corps designed by Kirkham, doesn’t live long when his ring abandons him and leaves him to die a gruesome death at the hands of those he terrorized, heading off to Sector 2814.  A similar story plays out in Sector 1009 where a Red Lantern dies when he ring also flies of to our sector and leaves him to die, while in Sector 22 a member of Star Sapphire barely averts death when her ring flies off and she is rescued by her fellow Sapphire, former Green Lantern hunter Fatality.
Another Lantern bites the dust
Out of the mouth of babes

In Times Square a construction crane collapses a fortunately for the construction worker Kyle arrives just in time and saves a number of people by creating a giant construct of men who hold the crane and prevent it from falling and crushing innocent people below.  A young man in a Flash t-shirt is rather disappointed that it’s Kyle and not Hal Jordan but Kyle is saved from much more comparison to Hal when the a full set of all the rings of the spectrum arrive, having chosen Kyle to be their bearer.  The rings are followed quickly by Fatality, Arkillo, Bleez and Munk, none of whom are too happy that Kyle has “stolen” the rings.  The issue ends with the promise of a major throwdown next issue as well as a visit to Oa that might not turn out so well for Kyle Rayner.

The Writing –
I have to applaud Tony Bedard for spending a few pages at the issues start to both re-tell Kyle’s origin for new readers and remove one of the biggest criticisms of it at the same time.  I think we’ll find out more over time why Ganthet appeared where it did beyond it being the seeming act of random happenstance and that makes me very happy. 
I also appreciated the interaction between Kyle and the young man near the end of the issue who compares Kyle to Hal, something that fans have been doing for years.  The kid represents many people like myself who have looked at Rayner over the years and scratched their heads at both the costume and the character in it.  Rather than dodge the inevitable comparison Bedard addresses it head on, albeit very briefly, making sure that the reader know that this isn’t the guy from the movie or the Superfriends.
As much as I like the first few pages and the ending, the stuff in the middle left me a bit confused.  I’m not quite sure why rings from the other Corps would fly such a great distance rather than just fly off the hands of the members wearing those rings that are in our own Sector of space.  I hope that gets addressed down the line a bit, but if not it’s an illogical leap in my mind.  I also wonder if we could have gotten more story in this issue if those sequences had been shortened.  Out of a twenty page book five of those pages are spent showing the other Corps and the rings while seven more are spent on the flashback sequence, leaving only eight pages (and seven if you count the double splash page as one) for the rest of the story.  If Bedard needed to end the issue where he did I would have liked to have seen a little more of the interaction between Kyle and a little less of the rings abandoning their bearers.  In the end I’ll excuse some of that to this being a first issue and wanting to build things up before jumping headlong into the main story.
The Art –
I know online there were some harsh criticism leveled at Tyler Kirkham’s depiction of Kyle Rayner in the flashback sequence, but personally for me I thought the look is well conceived.  In this point in his life Kyle is lost and the disheveled look to me is an outward representation of the inner struggle Kyle has finding his way in the world.  In the present day you can see that Kyle has a less unkempt look, but there’s still that razor stubble and somewhat wild hair that signifies that his life is still in a state of flux. 
As for the rest of the art in the book I think that Kirkham has from day one in his tenure with the Green Lantern universe had a firm grasp on the look he’s trying to achieve and he continue to execute his vision with flair and clear intent.  Batt and Nel Ruffino’s ink and color work bring that vision to life with vivid tones and textures.
What Do I Think?
As I said at the start of this review, a Kyle Rayner book is a hard sell for me, but in the end I found that this issue was more enjoyable than Red Lanterns, but not as much as the main Green Lantern title or Green Lantern Corps.  Despite what I think is a waste of page count in the middle of the book and some far reaching logic I think that Green Lantern: New Guardians is a solid entry point for new readers and is on the right track for the pre-relaunch fan.  This issue gets three out of five lanterns.

About the author

Life long Green Lantern fan and co-host of the Podcast of Oa. I’m a Barbecue snob and aficionado of blues music. Hal Jordan is my co-pilot!

Related

JOIN THE DISCUSSION