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In the third part of the Wrath of the First Lantern Kyle Rayner is given the choice of a lifetime by Volthoom when he comes to toy with the White Lantern, and as the issue unfolds Kyle sees the repercussions had he chosen a different life for himself.  
The Story –
Kyle wakes up in his apartment in New York City with Volthoom toying with him until Kyle lashes out but his attack proves ineffective.  Like we’ve seen in the first two parts of this arc Volthoom peels away reality exposing the history of his captive and we see an interesting gallery of images from Kyle’s past with Volthoom surprising no one by choosing the infamous Alex in the fridge moment to taunt the White Lantern.

In the new reality Kyle didn’t keep the ring allowing Alex to ultimately survive, but Alex is not too happy knowing that her boyfriend could have done so many positive things with the ring and the knowledge that his worry for her drove his decision was too much for their relationship to handle.  Kyle’s ability to master all of the emotions in the spectrum allows him to warp this new reality a bit, transforming into the White Lantern in front of Alex, forcing Volthoom to end the charade in favor of a new bit of Kyle’s history.

You knew she’d be back

In yet another reality Kyle has been raised by his father, ending up as a car mechanic with him and never having met Alex or become an artist.  Again Kyle is able to see through the charade and ends up on the wrong end of a club when he argument with Volthoom intersects with the local police.

So Volthoom decides to make the third time a charm and puts Kyle in a reality in which he never helped Hal Jordan return and Sinestro successfully defeat the Guardians and decimate the Earth.  Guy Gardner being one of the few Green Lantern left attacks Kyle, but then Volthoom seemingly has a change of heart and allows Kyle to choose his fate since he has offered the most entertainment to the First Lantern.

Kyle chooses the version of reality where Alex gets to live and then Volthoom reveals that the offer was nothing more than a ruse designed to get under Kyle’s skin and put him off balance before leaving him despair as the issue comes to a close.

This issue is part “It’s a Wonderful Life” and part “Harvey”

The Writing –
Tony Bedard does a good job of pulling key moments from Kyle’s history to touch upon and as we have seen thus far this story is designed to explore the characters through showing the impact that their life decisions have on shaping who they are.  The return of Alex Dewitt was certainly a predictable choice but it’s a moment that absolutely has to be revisited given how instrumental it has been.

I love how Bedard uses the possibility of Alex’s survival to show that things would likely have turned out bad for the couple anyways, granted it’s not a “your girlfriend got snuffed and stuffed into a refrigerator” bad alternative but it’s not the rosy life that Kyle certainly imagined he’d had gotten if he could change his past.    Likewise the absence of Kyle’s father was a life choice he didn’t have a part in making, but it certainly shaped Kyle into the man he has become.

Kyle’s anxiety about fitting in to the great Green Lantern Corps once Hal returned is certainly a good choice and Bedard does an interesting job of creating a timeline that plays with the concept of “For Want of a Nail”, showing how one event can domino into a catastrophe and in this case leading to the tragic consequences for the entire universe.


The Art –
I had a chance to talk with Aaron Kuder this past weekend at Ithacon, one of the longest running comic book conventions in the country, and he shared with me that despite the solicitations this was his last issue on the series.   We had a bit of a chuckle over the two page spread for Kyle and the rather ugly looking baby that he made out of Kyle.  I also asked about some of the images that made up the two pages and he had to come up with quite a few of the images himself, citing that the dogs were those of people he knows and we both laughed that no one questioned the imagery of Kyle looking down at his umbilical cord.

While he indicated that some people didn’t like his spider web like emotional tendrils, but I personally find them more interesting that what we’ve seen so far.  To paraphrase Kuder he kind of envisioned Volthoom as an emotional vampire or spider and the web look was an artistic way to show that.  I particularly liked the sequence where Kyle is talking to Volthoom while the cop is present which came off as rather comedic to me – and was Kyle really taking his shirt off so he could get it on with Alex in the apartment?!

What Do I Think?
New Guardians #17 does a good job for their part in the “It’s a Wonderful Life” chapter of the Wrath of the First Lantern.  Kyle’s reactions to seeing these alternate lives are well done and we can all imagine ourselves if we could have just a few more moments with someone we lost that we loved.  With Kuder off the book it will be interesting to see who steps in to finish out the arc before the new team jumps on board.  Four out of five lanterns.

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