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.
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.
As 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.
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.
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?