Green Lantern: New Guardians 21

new guardians 21

Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Green Lantern: New Guardians 21, originally released June 19th, 2013.

Jingle bells / Batman smells / Robin laid an egg / Batmobile broke its wheel / and the Joker got away.


Patrick: I know there are variations on the above. There are the small variations, like the difference between “broke its wheel” and “lost its wheel”; and there are the big variations, like the difference between the Joker getting away and dancing ballet. We’ve all been that little shit – belting away over a chorus of vanilla Jingle Bells. While it’s mostly nonsense, there are a few simple truths buried in those lyrics. The first being that superhero stories are simple and repetitive, but the second being that that the superhero trappings are all it takes to make the story engaging. If the “police car” broke its wheel and the “bad guy” got away, it’s not the same story. A new creative team on Green Lantern: New Guardians trots out all the all the trappings of the Green Lantern universe and threatens to do something new with it, before doubling back to the space operatics we’ve come to expect.

The term “New Guardians” has always been kinda ill-defined. Geoff Johns was throwing that title around in Green Lantern, right after Blackest Night, and under Tony Bedard, the roster and goals of the team fluctuated wildly from one arc to the next (I think only Saint Walker has been in every permutation of the group). Always confusing the matter: there are characters actually called “Guardians,” but the “New Guardians” were never on a mission to replace them. Justin Jordan has been blessed/cursed with a set-up so obvious that it may have forced his hand: there actually are replacement Guardians, i.e., New Guardians. I hope you like the more adventurous version of the little blue guys, because Kyle’s going to be hanging out with them for a while.

The first half of this issue finds Kyle refusing this assignment.

Oh, sorry. I said: "Lick my balls Mr. Garrison."

The shit-eating grin on Kyle’s face when he refuses the Guardians is well-deserved. Not only did he earn his current power set completely divorced from the previous Guardians, but the last time he dealt with them, Ganthet shot him clear through the chest. Determined to be the loneliest White Lantern, Kyle jets off to space to fight space sharks. SPACE SHARKS, SHELBY! But Hal Jordan joins him and talks Kyle into keeping an eye on the Guardians for the sake of the Corps. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have much else to do, but Kyle agrees to show the Guardians around the universe. First stop? An The Anomaly at the edge of space. Taking cues from what it looks like, Kyle refers to The Anomaly as a cist in time and space, but the Guardians tantalizingly refer to it as “the old universe.” There’s a guard-dude there, but it doesn’t much matter – The Anomaly bursts, and Relic emerges.

Let’s tackle the big dumb elephant in the room: The Old Universe. This could be a benign concept – something akin to the Anti Matter Universe – but we could also have on our hands the first glimmering of a pre-Flashpoint world within our New 52 world. We just went through a merging-of-realities story in the Age of Ultron, so I don’t really have the stomach for another. Plus, as much fun as it is to speculate on these sorts of Crisis-like things, I don’t think it would be introduced so quietly in a third-string Green Lantern book. But I can’t deny, I gasped when I read “Old Universe” – so take that for what it’s worth.

That whole sequence outside The Anomaly is hard to follow – not just because Jordan has written a sequence that is — by its nature — tricky to understand, but because penciler Brad Walker seems to favor chaos to clarity. This is a problem I frequently have with GL titles: the characters can all fly through space, so any kind of orienting restrictions, like gravity, are off the table. Add to that countless glowing beams of energy, and the action becomes a fireworks show – sort of a spectacle, but it doesn’t really mean anything.

Kyle battles the guard of the anomaly

The same can be said about Kyle and Hal fighting the space sharks. Much as I am always want to see sharks flying through space, they’re not really hurting anyone until the Lanterns show up. At least, as far as I can tell. Like I said, the action there is so muddled, I can’t rightly tell what the heroes are up to – other than just punching space sharks. It’s a weird twist on an old writer’s trick: if you need to have to characters have a conversation, have them perform an unrelated task while talking. Next time you watch a detective show, notice how none of the people they interview stop performing their jobs to answer the cops’ questions. But then there are Space Sharks? And Hal even makes a point to call them “Space Sharks?” I don’t know, it feel like Jordan wanted something outrageous and cool and just dropped it in to his first issue. And then had Hal point out how cool it was.

Hey. Shelby. You are my Green Lantern friend. Maybe you can help me find my way with this title. Is it unfair of me to want something new from this title? Is it unfair of me to say that what we’re seeing is business as usual?

Shelby: Do not look a gift space shark in the mouth, Patrick. My life has never been more filled with space sharks than it is at this moment, and I am a better woman for it. That being said, I’m also not totally sure what to make of this issue.

Jordan starts things off in the right direction by having everyone state how different things are now. The actual New Guardians want to differentiate themselves from their crappy brothers, so they go on a field trip. White Lantern Kyle wants to differentiate himself from Green Lantern Kyle by flat-out refusing to do what he’s told (more of a Guy or Hal move). Even Hal is differentiating himself from old Hal by actually showing some responsibility. His request to Kyle to both keep an eye on the New Guardians and keep them out of his hair is reasonable and beneficial to the Corps as a whole. Everyone seems to be ready to turn over a new leaf and rebuild the Corps. But then the New Guardians act like arrogant assholes who assume they know better and ruin everything for everyone. Sound familiar?

new guardians do what they want


I get really frustrated when the plot in a story is driven by dumb mistakes. Exeter was legitimately guarding the galaxy from The Anomaly, and the New Guardians did want to only observe. But because Exeter can only communicate by yelling at people and telling them what they can’t do, and the Guardians can only communicate by simply doing whatever they want, we’ve unlocked Relic. Because these two entities couldn’t take two minutes to actually discuss the situation, everything has been made much worse. This is a conflict with an obvious and simple solution, but in order for the plot to move forward, everyone had to ignore that straightforward solution; for me, it makes the story less powerful and less compelling when a peer mediation could have fixed the problem.

So, between the New Guardians claiming to be different from the old, and immediately turning around to prove that statement wrong, and Carol’s “I have to love him, but I can’t love him and be with him,” which still does not sit well with me, I was a little letdown by this issue. I know it’s a new team, still finding their legs (and I can’t blame them for a plot point I don’t like if they didn’t come up with it), so I’m going to be patient with them. Personally, I don’t have any major issues with Jordan and the team returning this title to the status quo; that’s just how comic books work. There are a lot of fans who just don’t have a tolerance for the new, and while I might disagree with that, I still recognize that that is how it is. But don’t tell me you want to change things and then deliver the same old thing again. You can try to distract me with a whole shoal of space sharks, I’ll still by distracted by the hypocrisy of the 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?

11 comments on “Green Lantern: New Guardians 21

  1. I have NOT liked Justin Jordan’s contributions to the DCU so far, but I actually enjoyed the voice that Jordan gave to Kyle in this issue, which is probably why I enjoyed this issue way more than I was expecting to. Shelby, I didn’t like the Exeter/Guardians fight either, it was definitely a dumb, plot-driven fight. The thing is though, if you get me to like the main character, I’m willing to forgive A LOT of the story stuff, so I think that’s where I’m at with this book right now.

    Also, did anyone else kind of like Exeter? He actually seems like a decent dude, protecting the universe and whatnot. It’s true that he was ready for a fight but he seemed to have a sense of honor about him which kind of struck me as very Klingon. I’d actually like to see more of him.

    • You had mentioned that you liked Kyle’s voice in this issue when we were talking the other day, and I’m not totally convinced that there a strong voice behind this character. Just about the whole time he spends in space, those words could come out of the mouth of any Green Lantern. The only exception is in during his conversation with Carol, when he muses about having a normal life and stares longingly at some art supplies. But like, didn’t we see him processing his baggage through art in just the last issue? I would be happy to see a new take on the character, but I’m afraid I just can’t see what he values in this version.

      • Idk, Kyle doesn’t do anything out of character here and he gets a good chuckle out of me. I dreaded Justin Jordan’s takeover because his previous material from Luther Strode to T7 had me convinced that his interpretation of Kyle wasn’t going to sit right with me. So far so good though.

  2. This might be blasphemy, but I wish Carol could get over her “I have to love Hal” nonsense because I’d kind of like to see her and Kyle get together. Please don’t hate me forever, guys.

  3. So I know that, technically, the GL books have been in an perpetual state of crossover for at least a year now, but this most recent month of Green Lantern comics feel more interconnected than ever, much more closely tied together than they did during “Third Army” or “First Lantern”.

    I dunno, it’s obvious that they’d crossover sometimes, but I was looking forward to these books charging off into new areas, not repeating plot points over and over in each book and all (seemingly) featuring the same villain.

    • No, that’s a great point – this book is clearly foreshadowing Relic (to be fought in GL), and GL and GLC end with the same Orange Corps invasion, and all three issues start with the same basic building blocks of the New Order on Oa.

      the biggest bummer is that they all basically do need to start over and can’t just pick up in the middle of whatever these characters new lives are. So everything feels very much like The Beginning of a Story.

  4. Patrick, you really dug into the notion of the “old universe” being something a relic of the pre-Flashpoint universe, but I saw it more as a commentary about Jordan distancing himself from the previous GL continuity. That may sound counter-intuitive, since he spends the whole issue cleaning up the relics of that continuity, but it was hard for me not to read that encysted piece of an old universe as a commentary on the burdens of continuity.

    • It’s interesting that you use the word “relic” twice in this comment. You think there’s any commentary with the name of that character? Is it possible that he’s meant to serve as a generic Johns-era-esque villain? I guess I don’t even know what that would mean… unless Relic is tied into a hidden secret mythology who is impossibly powerful. I was sorta ready to dismiss Relic as whatever, but this just got me thinking.

  5. Pingback: The Wake 2 | Retcon Punch

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