Wednesday, 24 October 2012

GET IN THE RING – GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #13


Something odd happened in Green Lantern: New Guardians this month. And before you say, I know something odd happens in this book every month. After all, it’s the kooky but loveable little brother of the GL family. But this was a very specific kind of odd that had me turning back to the front cover several times to check what book I actually had in my hand. And no matter how many times I looked it still claimed to be issue #13. Let me make myself a little clearer. For those of you who read last month’s GL:NG zero issue (and if you didn’t shame on you, you can catch up with my review below) you will know that it distinctly lacked any semblance of an origin story, which to my mind defeats the purpose of putting a big round “0” on the front of the book.

But now in issue #13 we are introduced to Kyle Rayner's earliest days as Green Lantern. It’s as if Tony Bedard received the zero month memo from the DC editorial but couldn’t quite squeeze the story he was telling into the preceding issues and had to spill over into this month. Not that I’m complaining I hasten to add. I was as disappointed as anyone that we haven’t had so much as a sniff of Kyle’s backstory since the opening pages of GL:NG #1. And I have to confess to have becoming rather nervous of late. Slowly but surely the New 52 is taking hold of the previously impregnable Green Lantern universe and reshaping it to mirror the youthful uncluttered image of the other titles in the DC Comics line.

For Guy Gardner this meant a new life, a new past and a new family. For Kyle it seemed that he had no life outside of his time as a ring slinger. We know that one of his greatest loves, the super-heroine Jade, has been blinked out of existence with the introduction of a reimagined JSA on Earth 2. And his most recent soul mate, Soranik Natu, has not be seen on panel since pre-Flashpoint in the War of the Lanterns event. When Rayner was first conceived by Ron Marz as a replacement for the disgraced Hal Jordan he had a girlfriend called Alex DeWitt who was infamously murdered by Major Force, Captain Atom’s villainous nemesis. With the drastic overhaul of Captain Atom in the New 52 it appears that Major Force is not on the table at present. By extension I supposed that Alex’s death, and possibly life, had not happened in the current continuity either .


Which brings us happily to the first panel of GL:NG #13 which opens with Kyle and a blonde girl called Alex sharing a bathroom as he prepares himself to meet her father. This playful scene is intercut with several panels showing our hero getting his ass handed to him by Atrocitous in a graveyard (cemeteries are featuring heavily in the GL-verse at the moment!). It transpires that Carol Ferris has engaged the Red Lantern to assist his green counterpart on a quest to conquer all the energies of the emotional spectrum. Atrocitus hurls him into a headstone, Alex’s headstone, which envokes memories in Kyle of the time he and Alex had shared together. She was there to pick Kyle’s original GL uniform from among the sketches he'd drafted. I was very pleased to note his costume remains unchanged from his introductory run in Green Lantern volume 3. And it is a bittersweet moment when we relive the moment Kyle finds her dead body in his fridge. In deference, I suspect, to the controversy that surrounded Alex’s death the first time around (she became a symbol of the poor treatment of female characters in the male dominated comicmarket) her corpse is rather more elegantly arranged here.


The pencils in this issue are taken on by two fill-in artists, Andrei Bressan and Amilcar Pinna. I am not familiar enough with either to know one from the other but the difference in their style is never more obvious than in their respective renditions of Atrocitous. In the majority of the book he is drawn (I suspect by Bressan) in a cartoon style reminiscent of Saturday morning television whereas the four or five pages by the other artist are depicted with much more realism. In a single page interlude reminding us of the rapidly expanding Third Army, a throwaway cameo from two other unnamed red lanterns is equally ‘cartoony’. Bedard’s script also bears the choppy unrounded finish of a kid’s adventure cartoon. As a result the books style belies the very serious subject manner that is handled throughout. At times the contrast can be a little jarring.


Having failed to spark the rage in Kyle’s heart with the tragedy of his own life, Atrocitus turns farther afield for horrific inspiration. He brings the GL to an Arabic nation and, pinning him in place, he forces him to witness the execution of a father in front of his son by gunmen on the hunt for rebel fighters. This is enough to send Kyle into a furious frenzy and he is transformed, ring and all, into a flaming napalm spewing Red Lantern. He quickly wipes out the armed troops, injuring civilians in the process. The double page splash of Red Kyle is suitably impressive, although I am not entirely sure about eyeless gladiatorial helmet he has donned for the occasion.


We also get a compressed account of Atrocitous’ own origins as the only survivor of the massacre of Sector 666. This is an oft told story over in the Red Lanterns title but, dare I say it, Bedard’s imitation of Peter Milligan’s narrative voice reads better than the original.

Having already mastered the blue energy of hope in the previous issue, Kyle Rayner is able to heal the wounded before heading back to Carol in New York. She is using her Star Sapphire powers to replace Alex’s damaged headstone with a beautiful pink crystal construct. Kyle, however, is not interested. The residual rage still fills him and he has little consideration for anything accept progressing in his personal quest. Apparently we are going to follow him as he conquers a different coloured energy each month, again unintentionally referencing the Saturday morning ‘toons' model. And next month is yellow.



This is actually quite an interesting development because, despite the depiction of a new team of New Guardians on the cover of the last two issues, it would seem that Kyle is going to encounter most of his allies individually. This departure from the formula established early in the run is no bad thing. I am excited by the prospect of a Kyle-centric book that takes time to elaborate on the peculiarities of each emotional Corps set in a context where they are not struggling to be noticed in the confines of a 22 page comic book.

In keeping with the other Green Lantern books this month the last page cuts away to a scene of the Guardian’s Third Army attacking a spaceship in sector 2819 and forcibly inducting its crew into their ranks. If anything is to be said on this episode it is that its not as creepy as Green Lantern #13 and its less graphic than Green Lantern Corps #13. Where it does succeed is in reminding us that the Third Army marches on, growing in number with each fresh victim and no-one in the universe can be considered safe from their attentions.

 
 



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