Green Lantern #51 Review

Reviewer: Jesse “I’m not a member of HEAT but Consider Myself a Fellow Traveler” Baker
Story Title: Changing the Guard

Written by: Ron Marz
Penciled by: Darryl Banks
Inked by: Romeo Tanghal
Colored by: Steve Mattsson
Lettered by: Albert De Guzman
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Publisher: DC Comics

I like Hal Jordan. I like Hal Jordan as a mass-murdering Magneto-lite villain and would have liked to have seen the See You Next Tuesdays in charge of DC Comcics to have fully committed to Hal being the big bad in the DCU instead of tossing him into limbo faster than you can say “Monarch was Hank Hall?”. That being said, I never liked Kyle and that I’m happy as hell that he’s having his spot as Green Lantern yanked from him and it given back to Hal. Now if DC can have John Stewart die a horribly bloody death and install Guy Gardner as the token JLA Green Lantern, DC might actually have the Green Lantern franchise working properly for the first time in ages. And God knows DC needs to do something that shows that they care about the franchise after hiring Judd “I have zero shame in regards to whoring out my best friend’s personal tragedy for an additional 15 minutes of fame” Winick to write the book.

The book opens with the mother of all metatext moments to say the least. Upstart new Green Lantern Kyle Rayner gets tossed into a plate glass window in his first ever super-villain encounter. Welcome to the Kyle Rayner Era as DC Comics proceeded to take a huge stinking s— on longtime Green Lantern fans as they turned Hal Jordan evil and then put him in comic book limbo to rot rather than going full steam ahead with Evil Hal. After all, if they can publish freaking Eclipso (a book about an evil spirit who murders people for kicks, then why not make Green Lantern a comic about an amoral bastard who kills?

The brute tossing the new Green Lantern through the window? OHM, a generic armored villain who shoots yellow electricity bolts. That’s important to note as is the fact that Kyle’s in the classic GL uniform, for reason I’ll mention in a bit.

Kyle’s narration makes it clear that he has zero clue as to what he’s doing as we see OHM beat the living daylight out of Kyle. This leads us to a flashback as Kyle (complete with a Nine Inch Nails T-Shirt to show new readers that Kyle’s “hip”) shows up on the doorstep of his girlfriend Gwen Stac”¦. I mean Alex. Alex of course is more familiar to comic fans as “The Woman in the Refrigerator” that comic fans talk about whenever the subject of the mistreatment of women in comics comes up, as she gets killed off ala Gwen Stacy for the sake of giving Kyle cheap angst ala Gwen Stacy’s death within a couple of months of the publication of this issue.

Alex and Kyle talk and we learn that Kyle is a slacker and that Alex is hung up on the lack of ambition Kyle has. She shuts the door on him but opens it up and is shocked to see him in the Green Lantern uniform. It should be noted that Darryl Banks does a good job drawing Kyle in the domino mask, something no one has been able to do ever since DC decided to bring it back as part of Kyle’s costume.

Alex does the delayed reaction spiel as Kyle recaps how a Guardian of the Universe handed the ring to him. Oh, and Kyle has zero idea who or what a Green Lantern is. Alex recaps who Green Lantern is as Kyle uses the ring to fly around the living room. We get more exposition as Kyle (who we learn is a struggling artist) wants to use the ring to get them on the path to easy streak (way to endear the character to the readership guys). We also learn that Alex is a photographer and Kyle offers to let her take pictures of him in battle so as to advance her career as a photographer. We then get the clichéd sexual tension moment as she decides to let Kyle sleep on her couch and blocks Kyle from sleeping in her bed with her.

The next morning Kyle is woken up by Alex, who tells him that a bad guy is rampaging through downtown. They go (Alex to take pictures and Kyle to fight the villain) and we get a nice shot of Kyle flying into action while Alex runs towards the fray on the ground. So we get Kyle versus OHM as Kyle tries to bluff OHM into surrendering only to get the crap beaten out of him. However, Kyle’s able to deflect the yellow electricity bolts with the ring which heralds the new era of Green Lanterns no longer having to fear anything and everything yellow! Sadly they would replace the yellow weakness with an unearthly fear of kitchen appliances but that’s a tale for another time. After blocking several bolts, Kyle KOs OHM with an emerald energy cylinder and guts OHM’s suit and removes the naughty villain. As the crowd begins to circle around Kyle and demand to know where Hal Jordan is, Kyle is dragged away by Alex.

And now the big moment: Kyle and Alex talk on the beach and discuss the problem they’ll have with people confusing Kyle for Hal. So Kyle decides to make a new costume for himself that featured the famous “Crab Mask” mask. Alex swoons over Kyle’s new costume and comments that they have a bright future ahead of them with all sorts of interesting possibilities awaiting them. Or at least Kyle has a bright future and interesting possibilities waiting for him. Alex has a date with the insides of a refrigerator awaiting her….

The issue ends with a visit to “The Slab”, the super-villain prison where alien overlord Mongul has escaped from his cell and vows bloody vengeance on Superman and Green Lantern. And blink and you’ll miss Major Force in one of the jail cells in one of the jail cells, reading his copy of “How to Stuff Dead Bodies in a Refrigerator Without Resorting to Dismemberment.”

Kyle Rayner’s tenure at Green Lantern started with controversy and despite DC’s best efforts never successfully escaped the taint of controversy that surrounded the character. Ron Marz, either on purpose or totally accidentally, made things for the title even worse by killing off Kyle’s girlfriend in a manner that is now held as the textbook example of the misogynistic way women are treated in comic books and tainted the book even more. And DC didn’t help themselves with the obnoxious way that they rammed Kyle down everyone’s throats with everyone and their mother fawning over him as being “The One True Green Lantern”, going so far as to forcibly taking the Green Lantern name from the Golden Age Green Lantern and renaming him “Sentinel”. And let’s not forget the numerous quasi-fourth wall breaking moments in which Kyle talks to the readers and tell them that they are stuck with him as Green Lantern and that they need to stop their whining. And the less said about Judd Winick and to a lesser extent Ben Raab’s tenure as writers of Kyle’s exploits the better.

And for the record, Kyle was at his best a badly written Peter Parker wannabe complete with his own dead girlfriend (who was a hundred times more interesting than Kyle) for him to angst over. The only writer who wrote a remotely interesting Kyle Rayner was Grant Morrison and the sole shiney moment of his handling of the character was when he had Kyle get shot in the gut by the demented love-child of Micky and Mallory known as Prometheus. And let’s not forget the way that DC couldn’t ever decide if Kyle was Asian or Caucasian half the time, as his ethnicity changed constantly depending on who was drawing him at the moment.

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