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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?