Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing New Guardians 16, originally released January 23rd, 2013. This issue is part of the Rise of the Third Army crossover event. Click here for complete Third Army coverage.
Shelby: It’s finally time for Kyle Rainer to learn to master the power of love. He’s saved it for last because it is the most difficult, but why is that? Surely rage or greed or even fear would be much harder to command and control. While the more negative end of the emotional spectrum is difficult to control, it is easy to feel. I know I feel ready to puke red-hot plasma just about every morning on the commuter train to work. The difficulty of love lies in the challenge of letting yourself experience love. It’s an emotion that be very painful to the person feeling it; sometimes it’s just easier to block it out entirely. Kyle learns the hard way: you can’t master an emotion you are afraid to let yourself feel.
Kyle is taking a little trip down memory lane as the Sapphires try to jog his memories of love. Turns out, daddy issues are to blame; Kyle’s father left him when he was just a kid, teaching him to be afraid to love. This fear carries through his relationship with Alex, and just when he starts to get over it and find a father figure in Ganthet, dude gets his memory erased. No time for more love lessons, though, since Ganthet is on his way to kill Kyle. A fight ensues, and the Third Army shows up to make things more difficult. The Sapphires are working to kill Ganthet, but Kyle steps in, pleading for Ganthet’s life in the name of love. Ganthet, in proper Guardian fashion, takes the opportunity to shoot Kyle in the back. As he lays dying, Kyle realizes love is about forgiveness, and is finally able to channel the violet light. Because of science, combining all the colors of the spectrum results in white light, and White Lantern Kyle is able to blast away the Third Army with the power of life.
There’s something about this issue that left me a little unsatisfied. Don’t get me wrong, the climactic White Lantern reveal was very rewarding.
Even though it’s an obvious lesson in physics, I really like that channeling all the colors turns Kyle into a White Lantern. It’s interesting to compare this White Lantern to the first appearance of the White Light in Blackest Night. Then, the white light of life was just a counter to the black light of death; White Lanterns were just…created. They were heroes who needed to be White Lanterns, so they were. Here, though, the white light isn’t fighting physical death, it’s fighting the death of emotion and free will. It makes sense that Kyle would have to take the long way around, and learn all the emotions before he can channel the white light.
I think the part of the story I find most unsatisfying is the source of Kyle’s problems with love. “My dad left me, so now I don’t trust the emotion,” while a very valid experience is also very convenient. It’s an easy, boring solution. Love is complicated, as Tony Bedard hinted at in issue 15. To have this one point in Kyle’s history explain his problems with love is a let-down; it gets the job done fine enough, but I don’t find I’m particularly interested.
I’m also not particularly interested in Aaron Kuder’s art this issue. The big action sequences are dynamic and fun, especially when paired with Wil Quintana’s vivid palette, but the more intimate, emotional scenes fall way short.
Where to begin? First of all, Kyle is apparantly a loud, smug drunk; if he’s not that wasted asshole friend who gets left at parties in these panels, I’ll eat my hat. Secondly, I know the Guardians have some weird proportions to them, but Ganthet’s head in the second to last panel is fucking huge. Seriously, he’s further away from the camera than Kyle, and his fat face is bigger. It’s an impressive feat, considering how Kyle’s hairline is so dramatically receding from the rest of his face. Finally, look at Guy Gardner in that first panel. He is having the best god-damn time he’s ever had in his whole fucking life. That’s pure, unadulterated glee right there; it’s Ganthet’s motherfucking BIRTHDAY!!!
Disappointments aside, I’m happy to see that we’ve finally got a solution to the Third Army problem that doesn’t involve the Red Lanterns. It also appears that there’s no going back for Ganthet; if an impassioned plea for his life in the name of love wasn’t enough to trigger an emotional response in him, I don’t think anything will. What do you think, Patrick? Can Ganthet be saved? Am I being too hard on poor Kyle’s daddy issues? Patrick: Yeah, I think you are. It makes sense to me that we learn to love by being loved. The first exposure most of us get to real love is from our parents. I’ve never had the experience of having someone I thought loved me unconditionally walk out on me, but it sounds positively devastating. I like that Tony Bedard brings up Kyle’s hesitance to love as a defense mechanism – it means that overcoming it has less to do with overcoming the fear of it (and we already know he has the ability to overcome great fear), but it requires Kyle to emotionally retrain himself. The roadblocks that he throws up in the way of love are all totally common and even understandable. The moment that the Sapphire specifically calls out his dependence on sarcasm is particular well-observed.
Wonky perspective in that one scene notwithstanding, I actually really liked the art in this issue. I suspect Kuder’s style is one of those matter-of-taste things, because I’ve found his work on this title since the Zero Issue to be absolutely spellbinding in its simplicity. The clean drawings and clearly-staged action give colorist Wil Quintana a ton of licence to apply the thematically-relevant colors where he best sees fit. And when Kyle’s unleashing the kick-ass powers of the motherfucking rainbow, those colors dance of the page in bold, powerful rays.
Also, something I hadn’t noticed during Blackest Night: the White Lantern logo contains seven rays of light emanating from it, indicating the seven emotions in the spectrum. The Black Lantern logo has only five rays, but that’s partially because the logo is taken from a modified version of Black Hand’s emblem, so those rays would represent the fingers of that hand. There’s so much cool little meaning buried in the way these symbols look, and I’m happy to have realized this one more thing about the White Lantern logo.
Shelby, you couldn’t be more right in that it’s nice to see a possible solution coming out of a book that isn’t Red Lanterns. Although, with the inconsistent invulnerabilities we’ve seen from these things, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Earth Green Lanterns simply team up and blast them with their combined lanterniness and save the day that way. But however the Thirdsies get taken out, I’m super-pumped to see an avatar of Life emerging in the Green Lantern corner of the universe. I don’t know what to make of this exactly, but remember a few months ago when the Book of the Black said that Hal Jordan was going to be the Best Black Lantern EVAR? It looks like Johns and Co. (or whoever makes decisions of this size) are planning to pit Life against Death, but have two well-loved Green Lanterns on opposite sides of that struggle. There’s obviously a lot to speculate about here, as well as a lot of title re-arranging to consider, so let’s turn any of that kind of conversation over to the comments section.
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?