Green Lantern: New Guardians 20

new guardians 20 wrath

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Green Lantern: New Guardians 20, originally released May 22nd, 2013. This issue is part of the Wrath of the First Lantern crossover event. Click here for our First Lantern coverage.

Spencer: My first experience with a major creative team shake-up was back in 2007 when Geoff Johns ended his run on Teen Titans. It was the first book I had ever followed monthly, and I walked around for weeks with an empty feeling in my stomach after I heard the news. Nowadays it feels like creative teams change almost daily, and I’ve developed a thick skin out of necessity, but every once in a while a change will hit me like it’s 2007 all over again. Tony Bedard’s departure from Green Lantern: New Guardians is one of those changes, and this final issue epilogue is such an effective goodbye that I feel completely justified about how much I hate to see it end.

Two unknown figures observe Kyle from afar as he returns from the battle against Volthoom; he meets up with Saint Walker and flies around the world, casually saving lives and fighting crime as they discuss their adventures, their old friends, and where things go from here. Walker manages to pin down the source of Kyle’s melancholy: his failure to save his father figure, Ganthet. Walker encourages Kyle to face the unknown and meet his real father, which he eventually does. Meanwhile, the unknown observers reveal themselves to be Ganthet and Sayd, watching Kyle proudly one last time before giving him their blessing and leaving for parts unknown.

Green Lantern: New Guardians started as a fun but fairly average adventure series, but somewhere around the Zero Issue it morphed into something more, a contemplative, moody, unpredictable book that I looked forward to more and more with each passing month. Not much really happened, but it was so engrossing that it never ended up being much of a problem. Issue 20—which functions as an epilogue for not only “The Wrath of the First Lantern”, but for Bedard’s entire run—continues this tradition, taking what basically amounts to a 20 page conversation between Saint Walker and Kyle Rayner and turning it into an emotionally wrenching swan song.

Honestly though, this issue hits all the right emotional beats. Like any good comic book epilogue, it provides a sense of closure while still leaving things open for future creative teams, but it also manages to mix our sadness at the end of this run with hope for the bright future of these characters, and even throws in some humor, whether from Kyle and Walker’s brotherly rapport or from the more animated antics of other characters.

Nice goggles, Glommy

Bedard really understands what makes Kyle special. He was initially created to be a Lantern different from any before; he wasn’t an ace pilot or Marine or even a hothead like Guy. He was a normal guy, a gentle soul who had to learn to overcome fear, and his connection to emotions most Lanterns neglect is what allowed him to not only become a White Lantern, but to form relationships with the oddest of allies, from the prickly Larfleeze and his oddball constructs to the normally aloof Indigo-1. Seeing Kyle bring out new shades of their personalities is a real joy.

NOK NOK. Who's there?  KYLE!

Of course, it turns out that this entire run has been a story about the father-son relationship between Kyle and Ganthet, and I can’t believe I didn’t notice it sooner. Despite distractions from Cosmic Orrerys and endless crossovers, Kyle’s entire mission has basically boiled down to rescuing Ganthet and restoring his emotions, and as far as Kyle knows, he’s completely failed. Of course, Ganthet isn’t the only father in Kyle’s life, and thanks to the prodding of Saint Walker (and likely Kyle’s own connection to the blue light), he eventually reconciles with his real dad, continuing (and perhaps even completing?) the process of emotional maturation that Kyle’s spent the last nine months or so undergoing.

But with Ganthet gone it’s a bittersweet victory. Except wait, it turns out that Ganthet survived after all!

Daddy Ganthet is proud

What an absolutely perfect end to the story of Kyle and Ganthet. It’s still bittersweet, because Kyle has no idea he’s alive, but Kyle has earned the pride of a Guardian of the Universe, and that’s impressive no matter how you cut it. All of us who have strived to hear that “I’m proud of you” from a parental figure can appreciate the emotions behind this moment, and any parents out there can likely appreciate how Ganthet has learned from Kyle as well.

On a more technical level, I was impressed at how Bedard kept an issue that was largely talking from becoming boring. Bedard accomplished this through Kyle and Walker’s casual superpowered feats, often relegated to the background while they talked. These scenes served several purposes: they helped direct the conversation, and they also livened up long stretches of otherwise action-less speeches by giving us something interesting to look at.

They also served a third purpose: revealing the true extent of Kyle’s new White Lantern abilities. I admit, one of my only real complaints with recent issues of this title was that Kyle’s powers felt undefined, especially since we barely saw him use them since becoming a White Lantern. I appreciate Bedard clarifying this matter before the new creative team takes over.

Anyway, we often don’t recognize a good thing until it’s gone, and I kinda feel that way about this title. I’m a little nervous about what the future holds and whether the new creative team can keep up this level of quality, but if I learned anything from reading this issue, it’s that I have to face the unknown.

Face the Unknown

Is this Bedard’s way of telling us to give the new creative team a chance? Whether he intended it or not, that’s certainly how I read it. Okay Saint Walker, okay Bedard, I accept your challenge.

So Drew, do you feel like this was an effective epilogue? Are you going to miss this run as much as I am? And did we ever figure out why exactly this book is called New Guardians anyway?

Drew: If I remember correctly, Larfleeze calls the team the “New Guardians” back when they first assembled on Okaara, but I think the title is also a reference to DC’s short lived The New Guardians, which basically seems like Captain Planet, only without captain planet (which I’m ONLY NOW realizing is also a pretty good summary of the entire Green Lantern universe).

As for this epilogue — I absolutely agree that it was an incredible close for Bedard’s run. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the best epilogues I’ve ever read. The issue is completely devoid of any rising action — focusing instead on where the run has left Kyle. There have been many distractions recently, but this series is always at its best when Kyle is front and center. Sure, we check in with everyone else, but those are shockingly economical — Larfleeze and Glommy take up just one panel, same with Hal and Carol — giving us just enough closure to allow us to really dig into Kyle’s mindset.

Spencer, I love your read that Kyle decides to see his father because of his own connection to Hope. In fact, Bedard makes a point of showing Kyle using Will, Love, and Life, and Kyle explicitly mentions that his ability to switch wavelengths is essentially Compassion, which leaves only Hope. Of course, Kyle doesn’t need to use a ring to allow Hope to manifest. Of course, Kyle’s emotions regarding reaching out to his father are likely as multifaceted as his power-set, and I think Bedard’s subtle hint that Kyle could only do this once he had faced ALL of his emotions is brilliant.

For all our praise of Bedard’s work here (and don’t worry, I’ll get back to it), I want to take a moment to draw our attention to the art in this issue. Andres Guinaldo’s pencils are crisp, clear, and expressive, and Raul Fernandez’s inkwork is detailed and precise. In particular, though, I was impressed at Wil Quintana’s colors. Green Lantern titles always afford the colorists some fun, but Quintana excels beyond the usual construct fireworks. The issue opens with a number of Kyle’s paintings, and Quinata’s work there is bold and evocative.

Ooh! Pretty!

That passage also refers to Indigo-1 as Kyle’s “mistress,” which was news to me. Did I miss that happening, or is this older GL lore? They make eyes at each other later in the issue, and it felt just as jarring there.

More than anything, I’m impressed by how perfectly Bedard captures the feeling of not knowing what to do now that the adventure is over. I know we’ve all had that experience of uncertainty as a beloved book, TV show, or comic series comes to an end, but very few of those address that uncertainty so frankly. I’m more used to the heroes being carted off to Elf island or catching up with their boring, flabby, middle-aged lives, or being told that they are all dead. Bedard avoids any such finality, allowing Kyle to be just as uncertain about the future as we are. Of course, part of that stems from the fact that the adventure actually isn’t over, and that we’ll all be back next month to see where things go, but this issue is such a perfect coda that I’m happy to consider this the end. I suspect I’ll pick up New Guardians 21, but I won’t see it as the continuation of this story.

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?

17 comments on “Green Lantern: New Guardians 20

  1. Hey Drew, I’m pretty sure that Indigo-1 is MUNK’S mistress, and that they mean “Mistress” in the “Female Master” way, not in a sexual way.

    (Although Indigo-1’s training of Kyle did take place in-between issues; that would sure be funny if Bedard was hinting that something happened, even though I don’t think he is)

  2. Wait…mistress? Yeah, I missed that too. Weird. Anyway, this was a sad farewell, almost more so than with Johns. I feel like Johns was really able to tell the full story he wanted to tell (and did he ever). With Bedard though, I feel like he was just getting started. I’d have been more than thrilled if he had continued and am sad to know he’s not going to be guiding Kyles life anymore.

    As for that challenge you mentioned Spencer? Let’s just say I’m…concerned. No, no, terrified is probably closer to the mark. But, like you, I’m up for the challenge!

    • Concerned is right. I’ve yet to enjoy Justin Jordan’s writing, and I’m not sure he’ll fare any better with the big cast of New Guardians than he did with the big cast of Team Seven. Like I said, I’ll give it a try, but it will be totally separate in my mind from Bedard’s run.

      • Oh, THAT’S who Justin Jordan is? Interesting. I’ve got no clue what the next issue of this or ANY Green Lantern book is going to be like. We’re basically resetting an entire corner of the DC Universe, and it’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time. I’m going to give it a try too, but hey, “trying but not liking the book” still counts as facing the unknown to me! But I’ll try to stay optimistic until then.

        (Regardless, darn you Johns for taking all the other GL writers with you!)

        • It does seems a little greedy, doesn’t it? I get taking Tomasi with him – they’ve been writing the GL/GLC stuff in tandem for a while, but Bedard’s only been in on the fun for the last couple years.

  3. Shelby was asking about how Sayd came back to life over in our GL20 discussion, but I was kinda wondering the same thing about Glommy. I know he was “killed” in an issue of Blue Beetle and then through back, only to be killed again (maybe by that space angel). Anyone remember how he came back from that?

    • I’ve got no answer about Sayd, and even my memories of Glommy’s fate are fuzzy at the moment, but as a construct, can Glommy truly die anyway?

    • I don’t think we ever did see him come back, but I’m actually content with zero explanation. They also never established that he was Kyle’s now to command, but I’m cool with that, too. Like I said, Bedard really only gives us enough on each character to give them a happy ending (kind of like Johns did), but otherwise keeps the focus on Kyle.

  4. So hey, even though Kyle’s power set has been clarified, I’m still not sure what it really means to be a White Lantern. I only skimmed through Brightest Day, so maybe I missed something, but why do the White Lanterns have control over the entire emotional spectrum? And if their specialty is “life”, why can they only heal (be it people or environments), not revive or create new life entirely? I understand that it’s mostly so that they won’t be overpowered, but still, is there an in-story explanation?

    More interestingly, what are we to MAKE of the fact that White Lanterns can command the entire emotional spectrum? Is it that life is only as good as the memories we make the emotions we feel, so being well-versed in life gives us control over emotions? Or is it that we can only start “truly living” once we have mastered all of our emotions?

    I find that last reading really interesting, but I wanted to see if you guys had any thoughts.

    • I think there was a little bit of White Lantern mythology that morphed between Brightest Day and the New 52. The original 12 white lanterns (who I totally used to be able to name without looking up… (Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Jade, Deadman, Hawk, Dove, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Reverse Flash, Captain Boomerang, Maxwell Lord… two more…)) didn’t so much have powers as they were just conduits for the will of the Life Entity. I guess there was some normal construct/flying/shields/communications stuff, but they had nothing to do with the individual emotional powers. The kind of White Lantern Kyle is is more like like a Rainbow Lantern: a combination of all other colors, rather than a totally separate thing. We’ve been seeing a pretty radical re-defining of what a “White Lantern” is.

      That’s not nearly as clarifying as I was hoping it was going to be.

      • Patrick, I think your explanation makes sense from a mythological perspective, but for someone without familiarity with that mythology, I saw it more as just falling out of the physics of light. White light is all colors of light, and Kyle being able to select certain wavelengths of that just makes sense to me (more so than, say, holding a prism between his ring and whatever he wants to feel love, or something). I get that this doesn’t get at Spencer’s more thematic question, but I guess I didn’t see it as strange enough to second guess.

        • Well Green Lantern 20 shows us that Kyle ends up as “Space Hippie Jesus” anyway, so now I’m totally imagining him carrying around a prism as well.

          I like your explanation as well, and I don’t think there necessarily HAS to be a thematic reasoning behind the White Lanterns, but the exact details on them have always been a little hazy to me, so it seemed worth investigating.

        • Oh, absolutely — I totally didn’t mean to shut down the conversation. Honestly, the idea that life is somehow represented by combining these seven emotions has always seemed kind of weird to me, which I suspect is largely related to the constraints of the way Johns had to build this mythology to incorporate seven colors (I may be remembering this wrong, but I think Patrick once explained to me that it was a mix of adapted pre-standing mythology and some wholly new stuff). Patrick is generally quick to point out that “Will” isn’t really an emotion, but we allow it because the rest of the mythology is so neat. Fear, Love, and Rage (or maybe just anger) are without a doubt important markers on the emotional spectrum, but, you know, there’s no real way to combine any of the colors to get “sadness,” which also seems like a big one.

          That said, the idea that life is somehow inseparable from the emotional spectrum is fascinating — especially given that life includes stuff like tape worms and oak trees. It implies a level of divinity that I’m not fully comfortable with, but you know, I guess we know that the DC Universe actually was created by an all-powerful being, who allows the manifestation of his wrath to possess people, and likes to torture his son’s betrayer.

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