This is going to be a bit of a weird entry. I didn’t want to give away the topic in the title for fear of spoilers, but anyone who doesn’t want to be spoiled on the events of Green Lantern Corps #42 should read no further.
Last spoiler warning. Read on at your own risk.
I’m not going to review GLC 42. I thought it was a fine issue on it’s own. It suffered from some of the usual pacing issues I have come to excpect from Peter Tomasi. And I thought Patrick Gleason continued his evolution as an artist. Even the Gleason-haters have to admit this was a strong issue for him.
I am going to write about the “shocking death” at the end of the issue. Yep, Kyle Rayner died.
I’ve long been on record as being a Kyle fan. I grew up on Hal. Always liked him. Still do. But I relate to Kyle. And I’ll never relate to Hal.
I remember when Rebirth was announced. Ron Marz came back to write one last arc for Kyle. I read each issue with a sense of impeding dread. I wasn’t ready for DC to axe my favorite character.
Marz’s run came and went. Then ending was a muddled mess but Kyle was still alive. Then came Rebirth which opened with Kyle and a coffin. Kyle mostly got the snot kicked out of him in that series, but he lived to fight another day.
Kyle was a part of the Corps relaunch only to be pulled from the on-going series due to his role in Infinite Crisis and turning into Ion again. I’m still not sure what Johns, Didio and company were going for with that move. The Ion transformation and Jenny’s death just never felt like a natural progression to me.
Kyle had his own maxi series as Ion which was once again written by Ron Marz. And like Marz’s final run on the GL title, it felt like editorial was standing over his shoulder. The series was kind of a mess even for a Kyle fan. But it was good to see my favorite character acting like himself again.
Then came the Sinestro Corps War which was a pretty durn good story. The big moment in the first issue was when Kyle was brutally stripped of his Ion powers and possessed by Parallax. Even as a Kyle fan, I had to admit it was a pretty neat twist.
Of course Johns used this development to “even the score” so to speak. Kyle fans had long accused Hal of being a murderer despite all of Johns’ retcons to the contrary. So, Johns made sure Kyle had blood on his hands as Parallax. And Hal was there to explain that it wasn’t Kyle’s fault – thus exonerating not only Kyle but himself.
I didn’t mind the transparent ulterior motive. It fit into the story. It gave Kyle a little more depth (potentially). And it was just plain cool. Of course, once Sinestro Corps War ended, virtually nothing was done with any of this and Kyle basically went back to being Guy’s sidekick in GLC.
Around the same time, Kyle also got sucked into Countdown. No one came out of Countdown looking good and Kyle was no exception. There was some kind of ill-defined conflict between Jason Todd and Kyle over Donna Troy. It felt kind of like a romantic triangle, but it was never established that Donna was involved or even interested in either one of them.
The less said about Countdown, the better. But I feel the need to point out what a giant wasted opportunity this was. Kyle fans had been waiting for years to have some kind of resolution to the Donna/Kyle relationship. Instead, DC gave us some ill-defined crap that cheapened all three characters. Even Jason Todd came off worse for it!
Moving on, we come to Blackest Night. Like most of the Corps, Kyle’s been toiling in the background while Hal, Sinestro, Barry Allen and Mera (?) are front and center. John Stewart has been mostly MIA. But Mera fans are getting more face time with her than they have in the last 5 years combined.
And then Kyle dies. Obviously, I’m a Kyle fan. You’d think I would be upset. But I’m not. I shrug. I shrug for a lot of reasons I’m about to go into. But let me be clear, I just don’t care that DC killed off Kyle.
I should care. Kyle’s my favorite character in the DC Universe outside of maybe Batman and Superman. I should definitely be upset that he’s dead. The fact that I’m not tells me something is wrong.
So, why didn’t I get upset when Kyle died?
1. It was predictable. As soon as you saw the solicits featuring Guy as a Red Lantern, you knew someone close to him was going to die. Kyle was the most likely candidate.
2. It’s clearly temporary. Blackest Night has been full of deaths and resurrections. But Kyle’s death is being handled differently. His corpse is pristine considering he just got blown up. And unlike almost every other victim in this event, he hasn’t immediately risen as a Black Lantern. Clearly, Kyle’s death is different.
2A. Also, let me add that Tomasi just “killed off” Sodom Yat a few issues ago. And no one buys that death either since there is no body and we have already seen Yat alive in well in the distant future in Legion of Three Worlds.
3. Kyle’s outlived his usefulness. Even as a Kyle fan, I have to admit that his day has passed. DC hasn’t used him as anything but a whipping boy since Hal’s return. And I don’t see that changing any time soon. When they try to give him a spotlight, it turns into Countdown.
Also, let me pick apart Kyle’s death scene for a minute. On the surface, it looks like a good heroic sacrifice. If Kyle was going to go out, this seemed like a pretty good way to do it. But, if you think about the situation for a second, it all seems pretty pointless.
The Alpha Lantern battery was going to explode. The explosion needed to be contained. This should be a piece of cake for Kyle who has contained an exploding sun in JLA. But Kyle decides to kill two birds with one stone. He lures all the Black Lanterns into the blast range and kills them all while containing the blast.
Sounds good, right? Like Spock at the end of Wrath of Khan. Except, Spock had to put himself in harm’s way to save the rest of his crew. If there was any reason for Kyle to be standing in the blast radius, Tomasi didn’t provide it. As a result, he just looks like a suicidal idiot.
Okay, nit picked. We’re supposed to assume Kyle had no alternative and died a hero. Fine. I like Kyle. I’m willing to assume there was some reason for his actions that wasn’t fully explained within the story.
What happens next? Well, maybe Kyle stays dead. I’m fine with that. DC wasn’t using him. Keeping him dead means he doesn’t appear in crap like Countdown any more. And he won’t be the sacrificial lamb every time there’s a big Hal-centric Green Lantern story. Really, I’m fine with this DC. Leave him dead.
But that seems unlikely.
Kyle might rise as a Black Lantern. I’m less cool with this. Having just seen Kyle as Parallax in Sinestro Corps War, this would feel like a re-run. Especially given the fact that we’ve seen umpteen Black Lanterns rise already and it’s getting old.
The Black Lantern scenario seems somewhat unlikely as well. So far, everyone who rose as a Black Lantern did so within a panel or two of dying. The big cliffhanger of the issue usually involves the new Black Lantern closing in on the reader menacingly. With Kyle, that didn’t happen. Maybe it still will, but I doubt it.
Instead, I think Kyle will rise in some other form. Some are guessing White Lanterns will be involved. I don’t know. I’ll just say I expect Kyle to play some part in the resolution of Blackest Night.
But I expect it will be a somewhat minor part. Why? Well, for one DC has sidelined Kyle for years. But more importantly, Kyle’s death happened in GLC. If it was going to be a major turning point in the story, it would have happened in Blackest Night or at least in Green Lantern. Nothing truly important to the central story is likely to happen in GLC or any of the various tie-ins.
I’ve rambled on for a long time now. Thank you for indulging me. But my point is that I’m sure DC was going for a shocking death that would get people buzzing. But even die-hard Kyle fans are just kind of shrugging at this point. And this brings me to my last and perhaps most important point.
Blackest Night has hinged on big character deaths so far. But these deaths have become meaningless. No one expects any of these deaths to last beyond the final issue. In fact, by the end of the story I think most of us expect the graveyards of the DCU to be more empty than full.
Every time they splash in another death, it yields diminishing returns. And with Kyle, they are down to a shrug and a heavy sigh. The next character they kill off may well put me to sleep.
Hopefully, with Nekron raised at the various rainbow warriors in place, Blackest Night can really get started. And hopefully, that won’t involve a bunch of predictable and likely temporary deaths.
But I’m no Blue Lantern. I’m the Ambivalent Lantern at this point. Call me the Grey Lantern. And wake me up when this story gets good.