Stew’s Reviews: Green Lantern – Kyle Rayner
My wife and I had an extremely romantic date night at Dave & Buster’s tonight.
Weird dinner experience where our waiter actively tried to dissuade us from BOTH meals we ordered. I asked for some Kobe meatball dinner they had, and he went into a story about how his Italian grandmother makes meatballs, and the restaurant’s aren’t as good as hers, and am I SURE I want them? They aren’t that good. He even asked “Do you have a backup choice?”
Dude, it’s Dave & Buster’s. I’m not here because I expect fine cuisine. I’m here to Push Coins Off A Cliff. So I tell him it’s okay, I’ll run the risk of not-his-nana’s-meatballs. My wife then ordered a steak and shrimp thing, and he mentioned it’s $20, but it doesn’t look like it does on the picture. She had to convince him that it was okay, and she would still want it.
Why don’t you want us to eat your food, guy?
Anyway, after that, we played our games. Went to the ticket counter, and they told us we had 866 tickets. Didn’t think much of it until we were comparing notes driving home, and that figure HAD to be off by, like, several hundred. I had 600+ on one play of Push Coins Off A Cliff alone!
So I’m calling you out, D&B! Your system lies about how many tickets I won pushing coins off of a cliff! Also, your own waiters hate your food.
TITLE: Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner vol 1
Writer and Artist: Ron Marz and Darryl Banks
Protagonists: Green Lantern
Antagonists: Hal Jordan, Mongul, Major Force, Psimon
(to tie that story together to what I’m actually here for, I stopped at the comic shop en route to D&B and bought the new issue of Uncanny X-Men)
(also, I really just wanted to see how many times I could reference that game that I have no idea what it is called, but I dub “Push Coins Off A Cliff”)
Today’s offering, Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner (volume 1) is surprisingly not as Kyle-centric as you might initially imagine. He’s the main character through most of the trade, yes, but the first several issues are actually Green Lantern #48-50, which is the end of Hal Jordan’s tenure as the titular hero. It documents his heel turn on the Corps and his transformation into Parallax, as he murders his way through his former partners in an effort to consolidate more power for himself. Funny to think about how all of this would retconned years later to make him the victim.
It suddenly dawns on me that Hal Jordan has been the central Green Lantern again in his tenure since GL: Rebirth for longer than Kyle was the central GL during his entire era. Kyle lasted from 1994-2005, and Hal’s been back since then. Man, I am old. I miss the days of Kyle being the star and not being treated as a third class schmuck .
Anyway, after Hal destroys the Corps and sets about remaking the universe, Ganthet provides the last power ring to an Earthman named Kyle Rayner, and he takes up the mantle. The remaining issues are about his adventures as he tries to figure out what being the Green Lantern means. He fights Mongul, duels a mad Parallax, gets lost in space, teams up with his era’s iteration of the Titans, and… oh yeah… becomes part of a controversial scene that would forever be part of the discussion on how female characters are treated in any form of fiction.
Let’s talk about Hal’s heel turn, because it didn’t sit particularly well with me, and is the biggest thing in this volume that just didn’t work.
In the wake of Coast City’s destruction, Hal desperately tries to use his ring to recreate his hometown and reconnect with those that he has lost. His ring quickly runs out of juice and the whole thing is unsustainable, whereupon the Guardians appear to him and threaten him with court martial for using the ring for personal gain. And that’s all it takes for Hal to go megavillain and start murdering the hell out of folks. It’s just… such unnecessarily big feelings from everyone involved. It’s hard to believe the Guardians would care THAT much for a temporary construct of a fallen city (though it explains why Geoff Johns would later ALWAYS treat them like assholes), and it’s even harder to believe that a guy who had been a hero for years would fall that hard, that fast. There’s a lot of PTSD and a collapse of Jordan’s mental health in play with the latter sure, but that’s not handled with any nuance or tact; he essentially just becomes a cackling villain without much shown regression. It all feels very forced to me.
That said, the first few issues with Kyle in play as the new hero are done well. He actually struggles quite a bit with the ring and is entirely unsure of himself. For a guy who would come to be known as the most creative GL, he doesn’t show that here, as he resorts to incredibly basic constructs and blasts as he gets his grips on the ring. It’s a much more gradual progression in his development than Hal had in his psychosis, and it makes him feel more complete. He struggles mightily and is almost killed by Mongul, gets lucky agains Major Force, and then gets manipulated a BUNCH in the subsequent issues (a final confrontation with Parallax sees Jordan convince Kyle to give the former the ring, a former Green Lantern on an alien world tricks him into lowering his guard so she could run off with his ring, a crossover with REBELS ’94 has Kyle tricked into working for the bad guys, and finally, Psimon possesses him to fight the Titans). Kyle is in complete rookie mode here as he makes baby steps towards becoming the hero he would ultimately be.
But let’s talk about Alex DeWitt, of the “Fridging” fame.
Alex starts off as Kyle’s ex. He confides in her about his powers, and she helps him develop them and use them heroically. And then, after a few issues, she is gruesomely killed my Major Force and, yep, stuffed into a refrigerator. She’s a fun character while she lasts but is really included solely to give Kyle a dramatic incident. In the issues following her demise, Kyle’s grief is handled just as poorly as Hal’s descent into madness; he seems to care on barely a cursory level, and here is just an overall lack of maturity on the violent murder. I’m not going to knock the the scene more than it needs to be done because there are many articles and sites that break it and its ramifications down better than I would here, but if there is a positive to draw from, it is that it did create an important discussion, and, hopefully, promote some change in how writers across all mediums see female characters. Might not have been Ron Marz’ intention, but that is what came of it.
Talking Point: Hal Jordan had a pretty extreme fall from grace here, and it’s weird to know he would end up getting rehabbed and given his old job back. So the question is: how have you felt about bygone heroes such as Barry Allen and Hal Jordan returning and reclaiming their old roles?
It’s an inauspicious start to the Kyle Rayner era, and frankly, a lot of the writing here lacks major substance. The story and the plots are well thought-out, but the actual writing just isn’t up to their level. Darryl Banks’ art is good enough, though. I didn’t discuss him enough here. He does a great job creating Kyle’s world.