In a flash of emerald light, the Kyle Rayner era begins! Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Green Lantern #51 awaits!
GREEN LANTERN #51
Writer: Ron Marz
Penciler: Darryl Banks
Inker: Romeo Tanghal
Colorist: Steve Mattson
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $1.50
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $6.00
Previously in Green Lantern: When the cosmic villain known as Mongul arrived on Earth seeking Superman, he destroyed the entirety of Coast City, home of Green Lantern, in a show of force (and to prepare the planet for conversion into a new WarWorld. Earth’s Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, was a native of the city, and his anger and grief drove him to Oa, home of the Guardians, to siphon off as much power as he could in the hopes of using it to undo the devastation and death in his hometown. Hall killed his friend Kilowog, his old frenemy Sinestro, and dozens of other Lanterns before absorbing the power of the Central Power Battery and becoming Parallax. Realizing their cause was lost, the Guardians Of The Universe gave their combined power to one of their own, Ganthet, who was sent to Earth as the last Guardian to find the last Green Lantern.
The results have been… mixed.
That’s our newest (circa 1994) protector of the Earth, folks, smashing bodily through the plate-glass of a high-end lingerie shop on Rodeo Drive. I try not to be a cynical feller (or at least, I try not to be as cynical as certain of my compatriots) but I can’t help but think that the use of the lacy undergarments is part of an attempt to “man up” and edgify the Green Lantern title at the time. Certainly Darryl Banks does good work with this shot, and as Kyle stumbles back out into the street to confront his first super-villain, we get a flashback.
The night before, moments after Ganthet (or, as Kyle calls him, “the blue midget in the dress”) arrived to give him the ring, Kyle flew off into the night to find his on-again/off-again girlfriend Alex, and share his big news…
At the time of this writing, Hal Jordan was considered one of the elder statesmen of the DCU. Since the end of the Crisis On Infinite Earths, he had been sporting white side-hair (the mark of maturity in comic-book land) and had been trying to teach a new group of Lanterns about responsibility and grown-uppiness and stuff. Kyle was specifically designed to counteract that, as his first instinct upon getting the Green Lantern ring is marketing and making himself a little cash…
The issue also goes to great pains to show us that Kyle is hip (his t-shirt says “Nine Inch Nails”, albeit without the NIN logo, making it look like he made it himself with the screen printer at sleepaway camp) and that he is young and sexy (the relationship with Alex seems to be a ‘hookup when we feel like it’ affair, and he is shown sleeping nekkid), all of which are strong reminders of why I held a negative opinion of Kyle Rayner for so long in the 90s. Still, there’s a lot to like about our young hero, especially when Alex (in her day job as freelance photographer) takes him along on an assignment, only to find a super-villain attack. His first instinct?
To save the day… Of course, we (and the staff of the Victoria’s Secret) have already seen how well that went, but this Green Lantern isn’t going to let one setback put him out of commission. As Alex snaps away with her camera, Kyle engages the bad guy (a generic dorkus named ‘Ohm’), but isn’t quite GL Honor Guard material yet…
Whatever else you can say about Kyle, he quickly gets the gist of the gig, even with the steep learning curve (remember: Hal Jordan spent something like THREE issues learning how to do the most basic ring functions just a few years before in ‘Emerald Dawn’) and his first big battle quickly becomes his first big win…
I admit it: You kinda have to love that moment, though I have the advantage of twenty years of growing to like Kyle as a character and a hero to give it resonance. The crowds swoop in to thank Green Lantern, not realizing that there’s a new man under the mask, and Mr. Rayner soaks up a little adulation before Alex (literally) drags him off. Later that night, she has a recommendation for our new Lantern: A new Lantern uniform.
Yes, Kyle. You ARE a graphic designer, though Alex has pointed out, you’re not making a lot of money at it. Still, when you put your skills and talent to bear, I’m sure you can come up with an improvement on the staid old symmetrical Green Lantern costume, something with zip, with verve, with that 90s ‘New Kids On The Block’ joie de vivre…
…or that would also work, I suppose.
I really shouldn’t get TOO snotty about this Green Lantern costume. It’s not as terrible as unreliable memory and youthful contrarianism would have had me remember, and the mask (while damn near impossible for anyone but Darryl to draw the same way) is iconic of the era, in the same vein as Saturn Girl’s pink dominatrix costume or the Giant-Man uniform with the built-in Ant-Man helm. It’s memorable, it’s striking, and for the time period, it’s remarkably restrained. Of course, picking a new look is the least of Kyle’s problems, as somewhere up the coastline…
…the villain who was the end of his predecessor has a bone to pick with Green Lantern. (He’s fine with a skull or a spine, whichever he can reach.) Given that the intent of ‘Emerald Twilight’ (and by extension, the creation of Kyle) was to make Green Lantern younger, hipper and ‘more unique’, this issue had a pretty hard row to hoe. The question of how yet another loner in his 20s was ‘more unique’ than the representative of an interstellar police force is something we’ll have to hash out another day, but Kyle’s debut as a hero has a lot going for it. The script, while trying really hard to show us it’s edgy, grown-up side, makes Kyle and Alex likeable (though hindsight makes me want to warn new readers not to get too attached to her), and Banks and Tanghal deliver really good art. Sadly, the coloring and production are not up to the same snuff, with weird color decisions throughout, issues with legibility of lettering and the repeated use of the Green Lantern logo nearly illegible in words balloons. All told, though, it’s a decent issue, with less early installment weirdness than one would suspect, leaving Green Lantern #51 with a more-than-respectable 3 out of 5 stars overall. The art is the star here, but there’s a lot to like about Kyle Rayner…[taq_review] [signoff predefined=”PayPal Donation” icon=”icon-cog”][/signoff]