Green Lantern: New Guardians 1-6

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Green Lantern: New Guardians, originally released September 28th, 2011, October 26th, 2011, November 23rd, 2011, December 28th 2011, January 25th 2012, and February 22nd, 2012.

Drew: Creatively, the concept of the Green Lantern Corps is a tricky thing for DC to deal with. On the one hand, the density and vastness of literally an entire universe’s worth of mythology and intergalactic police stories is the perfect setting for the kinds of expansive, sprawling stories comics are so well-suited for.  On the other hand, that same density and vastness makes the title incredibly impenetrable to newcomers, which lowers their crossover appeal. Characters like Batman and Spider-Man can make the pop-culture leap into movies and television precisely because their mythologies can be so easily summarized. The reasons comics fans like Green Lantern are the same reasons that make a film adaptation so impossible (or at least ill-advised).

That mythology has grown immensely in recent years to include corps representing the entire emotional spectrum, from fear to love.

It’s a neat idea, but it doesn’t exactly fit with the mission of the New 52 to make DC more approachable. What it means for comics fans is that Green Lantern, the group’s flagship title, is that it won’t spend much time with the other corps, choosing instead to focus on Silver Age Lantern Hal Jordan. That leaves the world of the other corps (or even other things going on in the GLC) to other titles, like this one.

Issue one begins with a brief rehash of Kyle Rainer’s origin as a Green Lantern; hand-picked by Ganthet to be the Lantern that restores balance to the universe. From there, we jump to present day, where a single ring from each corps has abandoned its master (generally leaving them in a bit of a bind), to seek out Kyle. Each of the corps sends a member to investigate, and by investigate, I mean have a big fight before asking any questions. Kyle escapes to Oa with the help of Blue Lantern Saint Walker, with the other corpsmen in hot pursuit. When Kyle arrives on Oa, he’s shocked to discover Ganthet has been lobotomized by the other Guardians, who also don’t have patience to ask Kyle any questions about the rings before attacking him. The rings jump to his defense, slipping onto his fingers to make him some kind of rainbow lantern. Kyle starts to lay waste to the Guardians, but the rings sap all of his energy and disintegrate, leaving him defenseless. Fortunately, the other lanterns show up, distracting the Guardians from completely finishing Kyle off.

Larfleeze, the sole Orange Lantern (heretofore absent), drops in to help in the battle before Munk, the Indigo Tribesman, whisks all the lanterns to Larfleeze’s homeworld. Once things cool down a bit, Saint Walker takes a moment to heal Sinestro Copsman Arkillo’s tongue and attempts to heal Red Lantern Bleez’s stupid Tarzan speech-patterns, but she flees back to Red Lantern HQ. Everyone just kind of shrugs this off as Larfleeze explains that the rings abandoning their masters has something to do with a vessel the size of a solar system that just emerged from a “white hole.”

The team heads out to investigate, breaking into pairs in hopes of infiltrating the massive space station (called the Orrery). Sure enough, the Orrery seems to house an entire solar system, including one that is somehow a duplicate of one that exists elsewhere in the universe. The group learns that the people living in this solar system fear nothing more than Larfleeze, and that they worship a deity called Invictus. The presence of Glomulous (the ring construct Larfleeze sends as his proxy) attracts some unwanted attention, causing Invictus to show up. A huge fight ensues, with Invictus seeming to come out on top, but as issue 6 closes, Bleez has arrived at the Orrery and is pissed. (She also seems to have gotten over her Tarzan-speak, but I’m not going to pick up Red Lanterns just to get the scoop on this).

All in all, this is a pretty fun read. It has most of what I’m looking for in a Green Lantern story, from exotic planet and character designs to occasional moments of genuine humor (the Glomulus character, which Kyle rightly notes is more or less exactly Slimer from Ghostbusters, is fantastic comic relief). The writing is breezy, and the art is inventive. I’m particularly fond of the way writer Tony Bedard and penciller Tyler Kirkham are handling ring constructs; while other GL titles have their Lanterns making swords and guns, the Lanterns here are a little more creative. Check out the way Kyle saves a construction worker with larger, more stereotypical construction workers.

That is one phallic craneI don’t mean to harp too much on the other titles not being creative with their Lanterns’ ring constructs — I just don’t get how writers and artists can resist the temptation to come up with this kind of thing all the time. I know Kyle is supposed to be the most creative of the Earth Lanterns, but what’s Sinestro’s excuse for not coming up with something better for dispatching Gorgor than a giant sword? Point is, I think this title makes clever use of ring constructs.

At the same time, I have to fault Bedard and Kirkham a bit for indulging in a little cheesecake, a particular pet peeve of mine. There are a lot of panels I can fault here, like Bleez’s bizarre Smell the Glove moment when Atrocitus forces her face into the river of blood (apparently making her smarter?), but I really can’t get over the way Kirkham focuses on Star Sapphire Fatality’s chest. Literally focuses — twice (twice) he crops out all or most of her head in order to keep her chest in frame:

"Seriously, my face is UP HERE"What. The. Fuck. Kirkman wanted so desperately to show us how awesome boobs are that he forgot that the art is supposed to tell a story. Is there some target demographic that is really into drawn, clothed breasts, or is he just hoping COMIC BOOK FANS haven’t heard of the INTERNET (where you can see real, bare human boobs)? I suppose I should also hold colorist Nei Ruffino a tad bit accountable, as well, since those tits are lavishly colored. To be fair, all of Ruffino’s work on this title features that same gorgeous, painstaking detail, but it just seems gratuitous here.

In spite of that particular problem, I’m actually enjoying this title quite a bit. It hasn’t yet settled into the motley team dynamic it’s clearly headed towards, which I think actually has helped keep it fresh. There’s a new dynamic every two issues or so, and the tone is generally pretty light. I’m interested to see what will keep this team together once things are sorted out at the Orrery, but mostly, I’m just looking forward to more dumb fun. This may not be the most substantive title in my pull, but it’s one I’m happy to keep returning to.

Patrick: It’s a common chorus – especially when you and I start talking about comics – but GOOD GOD DAMN COMIC BOOKS, stop it with the T&A nonsense. There’s more than just Fatality to complain about (like Bleez’ ever-present thighs and ass), but I’ll register the complaint, wag my index finger and the creative team and move away from it.

There’s a lot I like here. Obviously, I don’t mean to hold this up with the likes of Batman or Animal Man or All-Star Western or anything like that. But it is good honest fun, developing a team of characters that are genuinely interesting on their own and whose group dynamic is compelling and ever-fluid. We spent a lot of time bitching about how Justice League served its own group so poorly by never giving any one member room enough to breathe. New Guardians doesn’t make that mistake – largely because we don’t bring any baggage to these characters. None of them are new (to Lantern fans anyway) but there is a lot to learn about all these guys.

And I’m a sucker for these guys. Due to my Blackest Night mania, I’ve read origin stories for much of this team. So, even someone like Bleez’, who’s way underdeveloped here, is near and dear to my heart. Just as Glomulus and Saint Walker got some nice character moments in these first six issues, I hope there are some equally nice moments for Bleez. I’ve got back-story for all of them, but I’ll bore you only with her’s because it speaks to our above-stated pet-peeve. Bleez was a narcissistic princess on her homeworld, one who was impossibly rich and beautiful and treated people like shit – especially if those people were in service of her family. So Bleez is up to all the usual princess stuff, bathing naked in waterfalls, rejecting suitors, etc. when the Sinestro Corps attacks and kidnapped her. Now, the Sinestro Corps are the worst, so they enslave her and rape her and rip her wings to shreds. Unable to bear the torture, she hurls herself out into the vacuum of space to escape it all. But some damn yellow constructs keep her alive long enough for a red ring to find her finger and channels her rage into sweet righteous revenge.

Very little of that comes through here. With the Black Lanterns behind us, the Red Lanterns seem to be a little more zombie-esque in the DCnU. But all the rest of the Corps are well represented as dynamic characters. It’s a tricky balancing act, and I’m amazed that they pulled it off at all.

They spend a little too much time dicking around on Oa, and I know that I would have been annoyed if we were reading them as they were released. I mean they’re in the Guardian’s chambers for the entirety of the third issue. The whole issue! An infinite expanse of space and they don’t leave the room.

In addition to all the fun heroes, we get a pretty cool villain. No, not Larfleeze (though I do love me some Larfleeze), but the Archangel Invictus. I can’t wait to see what kind of history lies between the Beast and the Archangel. He’s got a really interesting and strong design, one that’s not unlike the temporary uniform Kyle takes on when he wears all the rings at once. I might be imagining the connection, but I hope I’m not.

Also, Shelby and I have been talking about gods and religious and mythological figures showing up in Justice League. But this whole Beast and Angel thing suggests the real biblical showdown is happening here, in some enclosed duplicate solar system.

I don’t have too much more to say about this one. It’s good – I have fun reading it and its full of colorful characters. [Hold for laughter] Especially as the Green Lantern Corps series is feeling like sort of a slog, it’s rewarding to have something effortless and fun. And besides, in a world where we’re reading 99 Batman books, I think we can take the time out to read three Green Lantern books. Let’s just stay away from the Rage of the Red Lanterns… unless you’re into that… Hey, I can be convinced to read just about anything.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

4 comments on “Green Lantern: New Guardians 1-6

  1. Drew, You are exactly right in say that Kyle’s constructs are supposed to be more creative. DC has said time and again that Kyle’s constructs are the most complex in all the GLC, due to his background as a graphic artist. Remember, he drew in the Book of Black during the War of the Green Lanterns to get the old New Guardians out of the book.

    • Yeah, but John’s constructs are also supposed to be intricately designed – as though he’s started by engineering the thing he wanted to use. We don’t get to see much of that in his constructs in GLC, but we do get to see Kyle’s creativity in this series.

      One of the things I liked best about Rebirth was the scene at the end where Kyle, Guy, John, Hal and Kilowog are all using their rings in different ways. You get that a lot of that kind of thing in the New Guardians series – Arkillo mostly uses the ring to make armor, Gromulus acts like a cartoon character with his powers, etc.

  2. I didn’t mention this in the write-up, but this title has actually been a pretty great primer on the Emotional Electromagnetic Spectrum, with which I only had a very passing familiarity. It may be elementary stuff, but the first few issues got me up to speed on each of the colors as well as the nature and capabilities of the corps — all without feeling particularly expository. Patrick is right to suggest that the team dynamic here is helped by the fact that we don’t have the same baggage with the characters that we do for the heavy hitters in the Justice League. I don’t feel like any one character is getting short shrift, and their voices are pretty well defined (though, to be fair, the fact that they each have a pet emotion necessarily makes their characters distinct). I wonder if I’d feel differently if I knew these characters already.

  3. MY FRIENDS – I read the first issue of Final Crisis this weekend because it was free on the DC Digital Store. “The Orrey” pops up there as well, but it manages the Multiverse instead of a single solar system. Was this an obvious reference that I missed or an awesome discovery I just made?

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