Green Lantern: New Guardians #1

Green Lantern New Guardians #1

C

The notion of a team book based on DC’s seven different Lantern corps is a strong one, and one only teased in Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke’s post-Blackest Night run on Green Lantern. The New 52 promises to pick up on that thread with Green Lantern: New Guardians, a book that brings together one of each Lantern to, um, do something. While the comic boasts a strong premise, this first issue exhibits almost zero execution. It doesn’t so much introduce what New Guardians is about as much as let readers know that yes, there is indeed a book called New Guardians, and something will happen in it next month, probably.

The issue opens with a seven-page flashback that sets up the induction of artist Kyle Rayner into the Green Lantern Corps — although editor Pat McCallum forgot to include the caption that marks it as a flashback, which could prove really confusing to new readers. Any way about it, after that, we get a series of brief vignettes that show members of various Lantern corps mysteriously losing their rings in the heat of battle (usually to disastrous results). Then Kyle Rayner saves a construction worker on Earth, and then some Lanterns show up to reclaim their rings from Kyle, because for some reason all the rogue rings went to him.

And that’s all Tony Bedard wrote.

Almost all of DC’s team books have had a problem figuring out how to pace their first issues. Is it better to assemble a team at a snail’s pace, so they don’t even know they’re a team by the issue’s end? That’s what New Guardians goes for, and it ends up feeling vacant and plotless. On the opposite extreme, you have books like Justice League International, which take no time to breath and come off a little too haphazardly. Probably the best-paced team books so far are Justice League (which only gives us a few characters but lets us get to know them pretty well) and, if you count it, Green Lantern Corps, which fleshes out its twin leads excellently in 20 pages.

New Guardians spends most of its time (re)introducing readers to Kyle Rayner, and that’s not totally unwelcome, especially since I think Kyle’s empirically the best Green Lantern (come on, he’s an artist! That’s so clever). What we see of Kyle is a nice, back-to-basics take on the character. While the pre-reboot DCU had shouldered him with a lot of family/relationship drama, New Guardians lets him have fun again. It also shows off his awesomely creative constructs, which are pretty much the best thing about any book that features Kyle as GL.

As for the rest of the team — who in the world are they? Ex-Green Lantern and current Star Sapphire Fatality appears on three pages, and a few of the others appear on two, but we have literally no sense of their characters, and that’s a problem. In a team book, you need more than one guy to be compelling, and there’s zero evidence that that’s the case here. New Guardians gives us something like half a first issue, and that’s being generous… it’s probably more like a third or even a quarter… and I’m not sure what in this book would make readers want to come back.

That is, except for Tyler Kirkham’s art. I tend to be perhaps too harsh on the Top Cow stable of artists, but Kirkham wins me over pretty easily here. There’s a lot of energy to his drawing, and his main characters look distinct and memorable; civilian Kyle is just as striking as his costumed counterpart. Also, Kirkham totally opens up on Kyle’s constructs; I absolutely love the two-page construction site spread. So long as Kirkham sticks around, this book is going to look good going forward.

I’m confident that Tony Bedard can turn New Guardians into a satisfying monthly comic, but this first issue doesn’t quite do it. He seems to be writing for the trade here, but isn’t DC’s whole thing about attracting all new monthly readers? Issue two’s almost sure to improve over this outing, but will enough people come back to find out?

Pull list verdict: ON PROBATION

tags: green lantern emerald warriors, the new 52, tony bedard, tyler kirkham

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