Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 1: The Ring Bearer

I just don’t understand the impulse.

The New 52 reboot did away with the tertiary Green Lantern title, Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors, and replaced it with this new series, starring Green Lantern Kyle Rayner and the lieutenants of each of the variously colored Lantern corps. Together they form a loose-knit team to investigate a disturbance that affects each of their respective armies.

The first issue opens with a rather heavily revised version of Kyle Rayner’s origin story.

Originally, he was out dancing in an era-specific NIN shirt, and he stumbles out of the club and into an alley…only to be faced with the last surviving Guardian, Ganthet, who promptly handed the young Earthling the very last Green Lantern ring in existence and then disappeared, leaving Kyle on his own to figure out what the hell was going on.
Here the book opens with Ganthet emerging from a pile of dead Guardians, prone Green Lanterns in the background. He forges one last Green Lantern ring and then heads to Earth to distribute it.

Kyle’s out for drinks and nachos with some friends, quietly sketching, and, when he has to go to the bathroom and finds a line, he heads out to the alley, where Ganthet presents him with the ring and flies him up into the sky, where he starts to instruct Kyle on the GLC and making light constructions with a ring…something Kyle’s already pretty much mastered, simply by being an artist.
A turn of the page takes us to “The Present Day,” so apparently the origin was the past, although not marked as such.

And in that present day, the variously colored Corps all still exist, as do specific characters within them, and specific events from all of the various just-rebooted Green Lantern series, all of which cause continuity problems if you think about them (For example, how did Blackest Night and Brightest Day happen, if various participants didn’t exist, or exist in the same form, how long has Kyle even been a Green Lantern if Hal Jordan has only bee one for five years, etc).

All of which is a rather long way of saying this is a book that both reboots continuity and doesn’t reboot continuity, simultaneously, while leaving fairly important information vague.

(As to why Ganthet is seemingly the only survivor of an attack on Oa, and why Kyle is the only Green Lantern at the start of the book but one of scores of Green Lanterns later in the book, long-time readers will know that Hal Jordan went mad—and/or was possessed by Parallax, the avatar of fear, the Sinestro Corps’ part of the emotional spectrum—and murdered everybody else. Either that happened or it didn’t; the first volume of this book doesn’t say, but at some point something killed everyone but Ganthet, and then everyone got better or...something. At this point, one can only assume "Emerald Night," Green Lantern: Rebirth and all that jazz still happened somehow.)

And that’s what I don’t quite get. If things were fine as they were, why reboot them? And if they weren't and needed rebooted, why keep so much of it un-rebooted?

As a first volume, this introduces readers to how Kyle came to be a Green Lantern—kinda—and then skips ahead some years, keeping those years worth of stories as the foundation for this new story, serving neither audience—new readers or pre-existing Green Lantern readers—particularly well.

Much more importantly, however, is the fact that the comic isn’t very good.

In large part that has to do with pencil artist Tyler Kirkham and inker Batt's artwork, which is of the prevalent WildStorm/Original Image revival style that defines the New 52 (Harvey Toliabo penciled parts of second and third issues collected here, which is about the point many New 52 books needed fill-in artists to help meet deadlines, presumably because of the last-minute nature of the sudden decision to reboot). Kirkham's art is flashy and emotive, but the layouts are rather haphazard and somewhat messy and, whether by writer Tony Bedard's design or not, the narrative is dominated by gigantic splash pages that don’t show anything much worth seeing that big (Generally a character or two appearing for the first time, or someone shooting an energy beam of one sort of another at someone else).
There’s not a whole lot of original design work here, as all of the costumes are imported from the old DCU, with the exception of the Star Sapphire get-ups, which have more material and show (slightly) less skin. (It’s still pretty dumb-looking though; there’s a zipper, but no actually zipping part, as if she’s wearing a costume with a broken zipper. Realistic covering is applied with exacting attention to her breasts, which, of course, don’t seem to be anatomically correct, missing an important piece. But, from this one panel below, they seem to be able to talk...?)
The main antagonist, Invictus, is an original design, but not all that original a one, looking like a rather generic superhero hulk with light effects (In fact, on first flip-through, I wondered if it was supposed to be Grayven).
The plot? A ring from each of the Corps, even an orange ring (of which there is only one), flies to Kyle on Earth. Prominent members of most of the relevant Corps—Blue Lantern Saint Walker, Sinestro Corpsmen Arkillo, Red Lantern Bleez, Indigo Tribesman Munk and Star Sapphire Fatality—all come at Kyle, thinking he stole the rings.

He goes to Oa, the rest on his heels, where the rather surprising person behind the unusual ring activity attacks The Guardians, and these “New Guardians” are sent by this manipulator to investigate an unusual structure, an artificial solar system entering the universe through a white black hole.

By collection’s end, the titular team has kinda sorta started to come together, faced off against the new Invictus character, and, in the last panel, is given a new, seemingly impossible-for-Kyle-to-meet challenge (morally impossible, not physically, as it involves killing someone; if this were the New 52 Justice League though, that probably wouldn't be a problem).

It’s not a terrible comic, and probably only of slightly lesser quality than the previous tertiary Green Lantern comic series, but it’s a…weird experience. Whereas the main Green Lantern series completely ignored the reboot, this one reads an awful lot like the main Batman book, where foundational elements were tweaked and recent history left unaltered. A sort of half-assed reboot, basically.

As a new reader, I likely would have found it completely bewildering. As someone somewhat familiar with the Green Lantern franchise already, it was mildly frustrating, in both its premise and its lowered level of quality.


Akilles said...

The beginning looks looks cool, though.

SallyP said...

As a rabid Green Lantern fan, you would think that I would be all over this book...but you would be wrong. I actually liked Emerald Warriors, and was sorry to see it end.

I love Kyle, I really do...but this book has been pretty below average. Kyle really isn't even in it all that much, it seemed to focus on all of the other characters far more than it did with Kyle. Plus, there really aren't any "new" Guardians, at least not yet.