Green Lantern: New Guardians 17

new guardians 17 wrath

Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing New Guardians 17, originally released February 20th, 2013. This issue is part of the Wrath of the First Lantern crossover event. Click here for our First Lantern coverage.

Shelby: There are times it’s important we don’t let our emotions get the best of us. Emotions are beautiful, terrible, irrational things that can lead us to commit wonderful, stupid acts. While acting on our emotions alone can be totally awesome, sometimes we gotta let cooler heads prevail, and let reason dictate our next move. The Guardians, evil little bastards though they may be, were half right; sometimes dispassionate logic is the correct choice. Volthoom, of course, takes the opposite approach; he is powered by emotion, the more he can make everyone feel the better off he’ll be. So, on a scale from Guardian to Volthoom, where does our favorite master of the emotional spectrum fit?

Just like with the rest of the gang, Volthoom is messing with Kyle’s mind by either showing him alternate realities or by actually Altering Reality. Volthoom is especially interested in getting a rise out of Kyle, whom he considers to be as “emotionally evolved” as he is. Unlike Guy and the rest, however, Kyle is able to remember his actual reality: he sees Alex alive again, has a lifetime spent with his father, he even sees a world destroyed by Sinestro after he was unable to properly fill Hal Jordan’s shoes. Through it all, Kyle remains a White Lantern. Volthoom is disappointed, but still sees Kyle as a tasty, little emotion appetizer that he can snack on until he’s strong enough to actually alter reality and make it stick.

I know I’ve been a little down on Aaron Kuder’s pencils on this title in the past, and even though I’m still not wild about some of his closeups his execution of Volthoom and his power is my favorite out of all the GL titles.

kyle and volthoom

Where Fernando Pasarin and Doug Mahnke give Volthoom more lightning/energy-looking powers, Kuder shows Volthoom’s abilities as manipulating a viscous, sticky, web. It’s supremely elegant; what are our lives if not a series of events held together by a web of emotions? Kuder imposes a tangible, physical presence to Volthoom’s meddling with reality. Conceptually, it’s incredibly smart: in execution, it’s gorgeous and clever, as seen in the panel above. Volthoom sorts through Kyle’s past; he tugs on the emotional ley lines of Kyle’s childhood, he travels on the web of emotions from memory to memory, looking for the next alternate reality he can create. There are other great visual moments in this book, Kyle tilting his head to talk to invisible Volthoom, Volthoom peering into the fridge at Alex’s body as we the viewer peer out from it, but the execution of Volthoom’s power and this page in particular took my breath away.

As much as I want to just talk about the art, I need to at least touch on the interesting things Tony Bedard is doing with the story. He shows us that Kyle is truly a master of the full emotional spectrum by having him…not give in to his emotions. Remember Guy’s reaction to Volthoom’s meddling in Green Lantern Corp 17? Even though Volthoom wasn’t actually changing Guy’s past (we think), Guy could not keep it together; emotionally, he responded accordingly to his “new” past, and Volthoom just ate that shit up. But Kyle, even when faced with the extreme joy of seeing Alex again, knew it was (probably) not real, and remembered who he was and what was happening to him. Kyle may wear all his emotions on his sleeve, but he also has shown he can master them. Personally, I think that’s going to be key to defeating Volthoom; we’re going to need someone who is emotional, can channel all the colors of the rainbow, but who can also maintain control. We need someone who sits exactly between the extremes of Volthoom and the Guardians, and I think Kyle is the only one who can do it.

Again, Bedard and Kuder are doing to us what Volthoom is doing to his victims: as Kyle’s past is laid out, so is our own relationship with the continuity of the character.

kyle's pastAs badly as I wanted to include the full spread of Kyle’s past, I want to focus for a second on our past with Kyle as Green Lantern. There’s Kyle in his first couple of uniforms, Kyle as Ion, Kyle as Parallax, etc. It’s all pretty standard, except for that one panel that Volthoom’s arm cuts through. It’s composed as a candid snapshot of Guy, John, and Kyle, with Kyle looking right at us the viewers. It’s actually pretty bittersweet, a sort of nostalgic reminiscence of the times we’ve shared with this character. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but that single image of Kyle looking out at us makes me think more and more that we’re going to get a hard reset out of this arc. What do you think, Drew? Am I merely waxing sentimental, or do you think this is going to turn into a most epic goodbye? 
Drew: Well, it certainly feels like a goodbye, but I’m not sure it’s a goodbye to Kyle’s history — I think this may just be Tony Bedard’s love note to this title, and Kyle in particular. We’ve talked a lot this week about how this crossover has allowed the writers to comment more directly on the nature of these characters, and comics history in general, and I think this issue is no exception. In fact, the visual details Shelby mentioned make the connection between the writers and Volthoom even more explicit.

Volthoom gets EVEN MORE META THAN EVER

Check out the way Volthoom interacts with the panels, tugging at the borders to switch from one scene to another. He’s very specifically exerting control over the issue normally reserved for writers and artists. Not only does this align him with the creative forces of this issue, it also tugs at the very fabric of the story’s reality, drawing our attention to the artifice of the medium. The postmodern approach and specific visual vocabulary reminds me quite pointedly of Chuck Jones’ Duck Amuck.

There are A LOT of interesting things going on in that short, but I want to focus particularly on the relationship between Daffy and the unseen animator. The very notion that Daffy could acknowledge that he is in a cartoon (and at the mercy of a cartoonist) while asserting his own agency is absurd, but speaks to the way this event has approached Green Lantern history. The fact that the cartoonist turns out to be Bugs ultimately places everything back in the cartoon realm (though not without permanently altering our presumptions), as Volthoom’s presence as stand-in for the writers has done here.

That is to say, Volthoom is acknowledging the “reality” of the Green Lantern Universe by being a part of it, but is also drawing our attention to its artificiality by changing it. Once again, I think the writers are working to demonstrate their respect for Green Lantern history, while making a case that change isn’t necessarily bad. Take, for example, Kyle’s decision when asked to choose between the various realities presented to him. Continuity-philes would have us believe that the one we know is the only “real” one, but I think we can all understand Kyle’s choice of the world where Alex is still alive. I’m still not sure we’re driving towards any kind of reset of the Green Lantern universe, but if so, the writers are putting forward a very compelling defense.

Shelby, you mentioned some frustration with Kuder’s closeups, and I have to agree — his faces distort from panel to panel, making for some rather awkward sequences. His sheer bravado on the Volthoom sequences generally excuse the wonkiness, but I was downright creeped-out by his depictions of the younger versions of Kyle.

WHAT IN GOD'S NAME

I get that Kuder wanted to make it clear that these are younger versions of Kyle, but why does his face get more mannish the younger he gets? Seriously, that is the freakiest looking toddler this side of ManBabies.

The first volley of the Wrath of the First Lantern seems all about the past, but hasn’t given us much of a clue for where it might go from here. Volthoom leaves Kyle broken, but very much alive, which leaves him in position to rally his troops for one last stand. I honestly have no idea what is coming, but with an opening act as strong as this one, you can bet I’ll be sticking around for the end.

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?

19 comments on “Green Lantern: New Guardians 17

  1. Volthoom is the shit. I just love having this character that can so effectively comment on continuity and serialized story telling without being explicitly meta about it. Like Drew points out, he acknowledges the reality by being part of it, but he also never talks like he’s in a comic book. He’s not breaking the 4th wall, he’s not winking at the reader: he just effectively has editorial oversight over the universe he lives in.

    I think we’re getting a lot, but I’d like to know even more about him. Like in that flashback to THE BEGINNING OF TIME, we see that he’s wearing a spacesuit. I’m not totally convinced that the “hand of the creator” that sets the universe in motion is Volthoom’s hand or something else. I mean, he looks like a regular dude at that time, right?

    • I don’t think it’s Volthoom either, but we can’t assume it’s not him based solely on what he looked like 10 billion years ago. For all we know, he may decide to go back in time in the next issue to start the whole cycle. The thing that really trips me up is the GL ring on the hand. The most direct bet would be to assume that it will be a GL’s hand but that’s too simple isn’t it? I guess it could just be a red (green) herring too.

        • That would be so trippy. Like, isn’t that what he wanted to do as Parallax? I know he was “possessed” at the time by Parallax, but a big part of Hal’s actions during that time were still Hal as far as I’m concerned. Will Hal finally get his wish to reboot all of reality?!? Find out next time on Soap.

  2. I’ve been waiting all week for this review: loved this issue! And I just wanna say that I love how Bedard has taken this endless string of crossovers he’s been sucked into and transformed it into this really fascinating character study of Kyle Rayner. I’m eating this up.

    • Yeah, Kyle’s definitely one of those characters (like Guy) that has this sort of uber-elastic history. And this is an awesome excuse to explore every aspect of that history, even where it starts to contradict itself (I HOPE Volthoom brings up Jade at some point). I really couldn’t be more excited for this event.

      • Oh wow Jade. I just realized, between her and Donna Troy, two of Kyle’s biggest love interests have been wiped out of history completely, haven’t they? No wonder they’ve been focusing on Alex so much…

        • Well, at least Soranik is related to someone who actually exists in this version of things! Poor Jade, not only does her father exist on another Earth now, but I also doubt he’ll be hooking up with Harlequin any time soon.

        • Ugh, I just got sorta mad about how much I dislike James Robinson’s writing. I really like the concept of Earth-2 and I would love the to following the adventures of the radically redesigned Alan Scott and Jay Garrick, but JESUS, that shit was hard to read. Anyone keep up on it?

        • Yeah, I do. It’s the JSA…kind of…so I’m forcing myself to read it. The concept is still completely sound but the characters remain to be somewhat off. They aren’t clicking and they simply do not feel like the characters I once loved. I mean, they aren’t, but there is a core to these characters (established over 70 YEARS) that Robinson just isn’t picking up on.

          Side note. Did you know that Robinson actually quit twitter because of all the shit talk he’s been getting? He’s lost whatever it was that once made him GREAT and joined the ranks of Loeb and Straczynski.

        • Were people giving him shit for the poor quality of his writing, or because they just didn’t like it?

          Not digging the character work is one thing, but the writing was just awful. How’s the hell this happening?

        • I didn’t get all of the details, but I’d imagine it was the poor quality of his writing. Fans have been displeased with him since he took over Justice League in the Pre-52. His JL was essentially a group of the original Titans (Dick as Batman, Donna Troy in place of WW) along with other heroes like Supergirl and Jade who were all trying to prove that they could be as good as the “Big 7.” It was all very meta since Robinson was trying to prove the same thing to the fans. It wasn’t a total disaster, but it wasn’t completely successful as well. That’s another example of a really interesting concept by Robinson that just wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.

        • How’s the hell this happening, indeed.

          Incidentally, Loeb’s Nova is damn interesting. Drew and I keep meaning to sit down and talk about whether we think it’s good or what. It’s certainly trying something. Also, looking at BMB’s Guardians o’ the Galaxy 0.1, it looks like they have a lot of similar DNA. My point is, we might not be done believing in Loeb.

        • I just got through reading that, it wasn’t terrible but that might only be in comparison to what he’s been serving up the last few years. It is worth a second look, that’s for sure.

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