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It’s the First Lantern versus the White Lantern. Though, that’s not really the case. It’s more the First Lantern torments the White Lantern with his life constellation gimmick, leaving Tony Bedard with the difficult task of traversing the sinkhole-riddled landscape that is Kyle Rayner New 52 history.
More than any of the other Earthborn Green Lanterns, the New 52 really gutted Kyle Rayner’s history. Two of his major love interests, Donna Troy and Jade, have been wiped from continuity. He never became a member of the Justice League or Titans, and Wally West was never even around to become friends with. Hell, I’m not even clear that he was ever the Torchbearer anymore. I feel like I’ve gotten conflicting signals from DC on whether Kyle ever solo’ed as the one and only Green Lantern.
Yet, here we now are with a tie-in to a story event all about exploring characters’ pasts.
Am I making an excuse for this issue by pointing all this out? Hell no. This issue -- along with the zero issue or really any damn issue of Green Lanterns: New Guardians -- should be a perfect issue to start sorting this kind of thing out.
Volthoom, the First Lantern, starts things off by making Kyle live in a version of his life where he turned down the power ring and Alex DeWitt lived. What makes this interesting is that Bedard takes this to its believable conclusion of Alex leaving Kyle, because without becoming a Green Lantern, Kyle never would have really picked himself up and become a better guy. It’s a good, believable approach that avoids the cliche of just showing a happy life with Alex.
That said, Bedard does dance around one of the bigger glaring holes Kyle’s history. Who killed Alex? Her death is obviously referenced but not really explained. Given Captain Atom’s New 52 revamp, it doesn’t seem likely that Major Force is still the murderer. As one of the main defining moments for Kyle, this is really something that should be addressed sometime. This probably would have been a good time.
Next, Bedard revamps Kyle’s father, which isn’t anything new. It seems like Kyle’s dad changes with every appearance. This time around Bedard seems to strip away all of the silly secret agent or CIA business and just lets a deadbeat dad be a deadbeat dad. Don’t get me wrong. The issue by Judd Winick where Kyle tracks down his father is one of my favorite issues, but I do have to admit making him out to be a secret agent has always strained credibility. Once again, Bedard does a good job with this scene. The moment where Kyle dwells on the notion that his dad could have taught him to fix cars is actually a powerful moment that says it all about a guy who was completely abandoned by his dad.
The unfortunate thing about this scene with Kyle's dad is that Kyle's dad is portrayed as a white guy. Hasn't Kyle always been a half Hispanic character? Yet, here he is with a fairly white looking, blue eyed father. It's starting to seem like the New 52 has turned more characters white than it has given us more minority characters.
Bedard goes for the action with Volthoom’s third attempt to wrestle Kyle under his control as we go to a post-apocalyptic Earth where Kyle failed to stop the Sinestro Corps without Hal Jordan’s help. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this one. It seems to confirm that Kyle was still the Torchbearer but doesn’t entirely. It does seem to confirm that Hal still died, but the presence of Guy Gardner as a Green Lantern and a mention of the Green Lantern Corps confuses the issue of whether Kyle ever did go it solo in the universe. All in all, this is the weakest of the three parts as it goes for action over emotion. The situation is too fantastic to really feel for Kyle’s failure, and even he doesn’t really seem to buy into it at any point. If anything, it just gets a bit meta as Volthoom taunts him about being in Hal’s shadow.
The hook of this story that differentiates it from the Green Lantern Corps tie-in with Guy Gardner is that Volthoom is never really able to make Kyle live out these altered realities due to him being more “emotionally evolved” than the others. It’s a nice touch that reinforces Kyle’s unique status in the mythos, and it also makes for a more powerful moment when Kyle makes his choice regarding Alex, which is strong and touching moment for the character.
For the second time, Wrath of the First Lantern disappoints when it comes to taking a look at a character’s New 52 history in a way that really does anything to sort out the confusion or fill the gaps. Inconsistencies or holes are just glossed over or danced around, being put off to be some other writer’s problem down the road. But the rest of the issue holds up well as Bedard has Volthoom put Kyle through the emotional wringer while still allowing Kyle his own unique gift for resisting the full effects.
Maybe Justin Jordan will figure out what Kyle Rayner’s history is supposed to be now.