Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing New Guardians 15, originally released December 19th, 2012. This issue is part of the Rise of the Third Army crossover event. Click here for complete Third Army coverage.
Patrick: Everyone experiences loss at one point or another. And your response to that loss is usually sadness. “Sadness” isn’t part of the Green Lantern emotional spectrum — not active enough to dramatize. We’ve seen this weird little problem before (take last week’s Green Lantern Corps for example), but it always ends up feeling like the character appeals back to whatever emotion suits them. John regrets blowing up a planet, he’s going to will the thing back together; Atrocitus misses his family, he’s going to rage all over the bad guys. But as the All Color Lantern, Kyle Rayner can show what the proper response to loss is: all those awful emotions at once. Too bad there’s so much loss to be had. [Especially if you’re a Green Lantern fan, you should know: there be SPOILERS after the jump.]
This issue starts off as the continuing adventures of Kyle Rayner: Emotion Collector (gotta catch ’em all). Kyle, with his two bestest buddies Star Sapphire Carol Ferris and Yellow Lantern Arkillo in tow, descends on planet Okaara to learn the emotion of Avarice from Larfleeze, but are first greeted by former Guardian Sayd. (If that’s too many wacky proper nouns for you, I’m sorry, Green Lantern books are just written this way.) This has sort of become the pattern for New Guardians in the last couple months: go to location X, learn emotion Y from character Z. But before they finish their transaction, our characters are set upon by the imposing — but heretofore not all that immediately threatening — Third Army. Everyone uses their Level 4 Limit Breaks against the Thirdies, but to no avail, so Sayd tells Kyle to teleport everyone else to safety — she will hold off the threat. Kyle complies. The issue closes as the Guardians, including Ganthet, callously watch the Third Army rip Sayd into a thousand fleshy pieces.
Let’s. Start. There.
I know the Guardians have been pointlessly evil since the reboot. Further, I know that Sayd’s been marginalized as Larfleeze has drifted out of the limelight. But I learned to love comic books during War of Light (or whatever we’re calling the years-long lead-up to and aftermath of Blackest Night), and Sayd and Ganthet were instrumental players in the broadening roles of the emotional spectrum. I know, intellectually, that those developments are actually the work of comic book creators — people like Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi (who were writing Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps at the time) and built on foundations laid down by people like Alan Moore. But in my heart, Sayd and Ganthet brought the emotion spectrum to life. But I know that’s not the case for everyone — particularly my partner on this article — so I’m interested to hear whether Sayd’s death meant as much to Drew as it did to me.
This issue was as much about Love as it was about Avarice. Curiously, a lot of the emotions seem to have Love behind them somewhere. Maybe this is because Carol has become one of the main players in this series, but it might speak to larger truths about the Green Lantern Universe. There’s a great sequence in the middle of the issue where Carol uses her powers to learn about Larfleeze’s lost family. The violet power manifests itself as a crystaline structure, one that appears rigid, but also prone to shattering. Andy Kudder shows both the strength of this power with the edges crumbling (not just the fracturing on the panel – look toward the bottom).
Let’s not forget that we get a weird little moment at the beginning of the issue wherein the Zamarons observe the carnage brought on by the Third Army and do nothing. They all but say “ew, gross, let’s not touch it,” before deciding to mind their own business. The most powerful creatures in the Universe are ignoring their emotional compasses, and Tony Bedard is sharp enough to show us this on multiple scales — the Zamaron look the other way as the Spider Guild is assimilated, the Guardians watch their Third Army take over the Universe, and Ganthet looks on dispassionately as his friend is murdered.
Not so inactive are our lesser characters. Kyle’s band of New New Guardians is shaping up to be awesome: Larfleeze, Carol and Arkillo are all stomping around with him now. Arkillo was on the team for the last go-round but Carol and Larfleeze are clear trades-up from Fatality and Glomulous (R.I.P. Glommy). Kyle, himself, is becoming a more dynamic and interesting Lantern, as each new emotion he inherits makes him a little less reliable. Carol has to reign him in — reminding him that having all these powers is great and all, but you have to feel these feelings. It’s hard to wrap out heads around what it means for our heroes to be leveraging concepts like “Will” or “Love” to use their powers, but its neat to see the negative consequences thereof. I love seeing Kyle’s emotions manifest as his powers. Like when Carol tells him to cool down, he responds with fear — made tangible through a yellow snake-attack.
Incidentally, there’s a part of Blackest Night that explains the origins of each part of the spectrum, and the origin of Avarice appears to be a snake in an apple tree — a clear allusion to Original Sin in Genesis. I don’t know if this snake attack is a direct reference to that, or just a fun creative way Kyle thought to attack Carol. Either way: pretty cool.
I almost don’t believe how well this issue manages both the gigantic Universe-at-war elements and the quiet personal moments so well, but it does. I’m starting to feel like I’m reading a New Guardians crossover event and all the other titles are just for color. Drew, help me sort it out: is that just the Green Lantern ultra-fan in me saying that or has this series found emotional and thematic resonance that the other Rise of the Third Army titles have not?
Drew: This is without a doubt my favorite of the Green Lantern group, and while I may be a little more forgiving of GL and GLC (but not Red Lanterns — that book is a shit-show), I think you’re right on the money in suggesting that Kyle’s newfound dynamism is really making this series come alive. This title endeared itself to me quickly early on thanks to its goofy team dynamics, but without an emotional anchor, it was hard to get too invested. At the time, I was happy for high-flying space action, so I didn’t mind too much, but now that I’ve got a taste for a closer, more personal story, it’ll be damn near impossible to go back.
Kyle’s emotional journey has been a fascinating one, and seems to be circling his own loss. I know Alex DeWitt’s death represents a lot of bad things about the way comics treat female characters, but Bedard’s doubling down here doesn’t feel exploitative at all. In fact, seeing Kyle’s rage over it in issue 13 and Carol’s use of Alex in this issue is downright respectful (or, at least as respectful as visions of a dead loved one can be).
Carol would have been the logical first teacher for Kyle, but she knows that love will be the hardest emotion for him to confront. Her fears seem well-grounded when Kyle totally flies off the handle. She doesn’t even seem that surprised that it was possible, musing that this was more a matter of timing.
If he can’t handle avarice, how the heck is he going to be able to control love? Kyle’s emotionality makes him the ideal candidate for Rainbow Lanternship, but it also puts him at high risk for losing himself in those emotions. It’s like method acting on steroids.
Man, I really can’t get over the art in this issue. Aaron Kuder’s evocative linework paired with Wil Quintana’s detailed coloring yields some incredible art. The closeups especially have a tactile quality, so that you can almost feel the heat coming off of the characters. I’m sure there are purists out there who find the colors over-rendered, but I think they’re brilliantly effective. It’s interesting to think how this title might look if we were using the printing techniques of 20 years ago.
As for Sayd, I’m sure her death was less significant for me, but this series has done a pretty good job of demonstrating exactly what was lost here, and what it means for our principal players. More than anything, I understood that it may have awoken something in Ganthet.
At the very least, we’re given a hint that there might be something worth saving in Ganthet, after all. It seems that love is everyone’s achilles heel in this issue — Larfleeze, Kyle, and Ganthet all seem to lose some composure when faced with it. That may feel a little reductive, but love is a damn compelling emotion. I can’t wait to see how Kyle handles confronting his issues next month.
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?