Several weeks ago while browsing one of my local bookstores, I came across Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 01 (graphic novel 343 pages). I’ve read several of the Kyle Rayner comic books before and was curious to read his story.
“Hal Jordan had been Earth’s Green Lantern – a proud hero in an even prouder tradition. But even heroes have their limits, and when his hometown of Coast City was destroyed by Mongul, Hal Jordan reached his. When refused the power to change the past by the Green Lantern Corps’ creators, something inside Hal snapped. He crossed the line he had sworn he never would, and stripped the Guardians of the Universe and their legendary Green Lantern Corps of every shred of power they had, killing many of them in the process. He became a man consumed with his own rage, and an era of heroism ended. The ring and legend of the Corps, however, would not be extinguished. The lone surviving Guardian has come to Earth and bequeathed the final power ring to a young man named Kyle Rayner. With it, a new chapter in the legacy of Green Lantern has begun. But this time, there’s no one to train the new bearer of the ring, and he must learn to wield it in a trial by fire against some of the DC Universe’s most powerful threats!”
This storyline started in January 1994, which was when I was in my prime comic book reading part of my younger days. I was never a fan of DC Comics because I felt as though most of their super heroes already started out as someone extraordinary. Batman was rich and had endless resources, Superman’s home planet genetics grants him powers from Earth’s yellow sun, Aquaman was the king of the seas, etc., and it never really felt to me as though DC Comics represented the same kind of “average person” hero that Marvel Comics. I never really gave DC Comics a chance.
And then there’s Kyle Rayner.
While this compilation of Kyle Rayner’s story doesn’t introduce Kyle Rayner as the new Green Lantern until Green Lantern 50 in 1994, the story builds up with Hal Jordan’s desire to find the power to bring Coast City back to life. Coast City was Hal Jordan’s home and its destruction caused him inconsolable grief. Hal Jordan destroys the Green Lantern Corps and takes all of their rings, then destroys the Guardians on OA. With the last of their power and energy, a lone Guardian finds Kyle Rayner in an alley and presents him with the last Green Lantern ring.
I’ve read dialogue about how Kyle was told what he needed to hear in order to become a hero and I’ve also read people who thought that the Guardian really didn’t have a plan when giving the ring to Kyle. Either way, when the Guardian gave Kyle the ring, Kyle had to make the choice about what to do with it. Kyle showed up to his ex girlfriend’s apartment in the middle of the night and she was smart enough to realize what the ring meant and what he should do about it. This was the introduction of Alexandra DeWitt, and also the introduction of a very specific trope, Stuffed into the Fridge. Alex changed Kyle’s life and helped him understand what it means to be a hero. She taught him about self-sacrifice, caring about others, and responsibility. As a professional photographer, she also did a number of photo shoots with the new Green Lantern in order to get recognition for Kyle’s version of the new Green Lantern from earth. She takes pictures of Kyle defeating Ohm and teaming up with Superman to defeat Mongul and she helps give Kyle ideas on how to use the ring. She unleashes his creativity and shows him how to think bigger in order to actually make a difference. She’s a remarkable person, so naturally she’s killed in order to further the lead male protagonist’s story.
I could say a lot about Alexandra DeWitt and I might have some ideas about how she would have made an amazing Green Lantern. So even though she was killed almost as soon as she was introduced, she has a longterm and positive impact on Kyle’s transformation into a hero, and he is by far my favorite of the Green Lanterns.
Kyle seems to have problems with women rather frequently in this first volume of Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner. In Green Lantern 56 from November 1994, Kyle is adrift in space, trying to find his way back to earth, and he hooks up with former Green Lantern, Adara. She sleeps with him, then steals his ring. When he tracks her down to get his ring back, she said it didn’t work for her, but it was such an important part of her identity that when he walks away, she kills herself.
Kyle is the first truly vulnerable hero I can recall seeing in the comic book world. He visits Alex’s grave to talk to her a little bit about how his life is going and some of the things he’s done. He tells her about how he should have done better and there were so many things that he should have told her. And then he mentions how he’s going to move to New York and follow his dreams about becoming a more established graphic artist and building a new name and face for Green Lantern. Even though she’s gone from his life, she encouraged him to follow his dreams. I think that says more about Kyle’s character than anything else. He has dreams of doing something other than tying his entire identity to being Green Lantern and when he confronts Hal Jordan in Green Lantern 0 in October 1994, when he sees Hal’s pain, he gives up his ring. Kyle saw how much Hal being in a Green Lantern meant to him and Kyle wanted to believe Hal was still that hero he’d grown up watching.
Kyle believes in people. He believes in people so much that he tries to talk to people and follow his heart. He tries his best to do better at being a super hero and earning his Green Lantern ring. When he makes mistakes, he owns those mistakes and tries to make amends. When he visits Alex’s grave, he says good-bye and he cries. This very masculine hero breaks down and cries. The first three pages of this comic, Green Lantern #57 from December 1994, were heart-breaking because of how hard saying good-bye to someone you love, who has changed so much of your life, can be, especially when you know you should have done better by them. He mentions that he always forgets her birthday but that he always remembered that roses were her favorite. I think that says a lot about how relationships really work, where you may not remember the things you’re supposed to but that you still know and love your partner.
I read several of the early Kyle Rayner comics in the last several years and I saw Kyle Rayner’s distinct Green Lantern symbol as a tattoo on the forearm of one of my coworkers and that encouraged a discussion about how Kyle Rayner is the only super hero who made the choice to become a super hero. He also had to learn to be a hero all on his own, especially after Alex was murdered. While he did have his memories of her to help him with making decisions he believed would make her proud, he had no Guardians or other Green Lanterns to provide him any guidance. He didn’t have anyone to call when he needed help and he didn’t have any friends to talk with about how he didn’t feel worthy of the Green Lantern ring, but he still made the best decisions he could and he still followed his heart.
He is the most relatable super hero I’ve read. His story resonates very heavily with me. Overall, I would rate this as a solid four on my rating scale. I am absolutely thrilled that DC Comics has compiled Kyle Rayner’s story into a convenient graphic novel, they clearly labelled them with volume numbers, and put the story in chronological order. I am happy that I own this book, I am highly likely to reread this story again, and I am definitely going to read and buy the next books in the series.
Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 1 collects (in chronological order) for the first time ever Green Lantern 48-57, New Titans 116-117, and R.E.B.E.L.S. 1 from Ron Marz, Darryl Banks and Romeo Tanghal, comics creators who reinvented Green Lantern for a new generation! Writers: Ron Marz, Marv Wolfman, Tom Peyer, Frank Pittarese; Pencillers: Darryl Banks, Bill Willingham, Fred Haynes, Steve Carr, Jamal Igle, Derec Aucoin, Arnie Jorgensen, J.B. Jones, William Rosado; Inkers: Romeo Tanghal, Robert Campanella, Dennis Cramer, Craig Hamilton, James Pascoe, Keith Champagne, Rich Rankin; Colorists: Anthony Tollin, Steve Mattsson, Stuart Chaifetz, Chi; Letterers: Albert Deguzman, Gaspar Saladino; Collection cover art by Darryl Banks and Romeo Tanghal; Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family.