Green Lantern: New Guardians Volume 2: Beyond Hope
Reprinting Green Lantern: New Guardians #8-12, Blue Beetle #9
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artists: Tyler Kirkham, Batt
DC Comics, $22.99, color, 144 pages
My experience with this book was one of reading the final issues of a title that was being canceled.
Green Lantern: New Guardians wasn't canceled, of course, and continues to this day. But that feeling arose from the content supporting the vague feeling I had at the beginning of the series, that the title's concept couldn't be sustained.
I don't appear to have reviewed Green Lantern: New Guardians v1 for some reason, but if I had, I would have noted my strongest reaction to the series, which was this: "This ain't gonna work." Not at first blush, and certainly not long term. At least not without everyone involved acting incredibly out of character. And even so, outside events would certainly pull this "team" apart.
Because, initially, the idea was that one member of each of the seven Lantern corps would hang out together, becoming "New Guardians" (although they were rarely, if ever, called that) who would swoop about doing ... uh, not sure what exactly.
Which is the first problem. What mission could possibly unite these people? Sure, saving the universe (and therefore themselves) from the Black Lanterns did it briefly, but what could do it long term? The various corpsmen (and women) don't just have different colors, they have different motivations and purposes. What could possibly unite a Blue Lantern (hope) and a Sinestro Corpsman (fear)? The "New Guardians" didn't have a mission statement, so what are they all doing there? Yes, Sayd (the former Guardian and now, implausibly, Larfleeze's servant) gathered them. But what keeps them there? Some are natural allies (Blue, Green, maybe Sapphire), but some are antagonistic to the very existence of the Green Lantern Corps (Red, Yellow). Violet wouldn't give a crap, and Orange doesn't even exist -- the only Orange Lantern is Larfleeze, who provided a construct of a corpse! (And why would he even do that? Why would Larfleeze part with anything?)
So this "team" doesn't make any sense on the face of it. And many of these characters would not only be hostile to the idea of the team, but have other writers pulling at them to return to their own books. (And what the heck is Carol Ferris doing here? She's Hal Jordan's girlfriend! Were there no other Star Sapphires available? Maybe one to give Kyle a romantic interest? Because he's pretty celibate throughout this book.)
But let's face it: The real-world purpose of this book isn't to showcase the emotional spectrum, it's to give Kyle Rayner a book of his own. In fact, the Blues lose their Central Battery in this book, which doesn't suggest long-term survival. So Kyle is central to the book, and in every scene, which is probably good if you're a Kyle Rayner fan.
And if you are, good for you! I'm a Rayner fan only intellectually; I like how he's matured from a slacker to a responsible young man. But that's not really a personality; it's a character trait. And this book doesn't help me fix in my mind what sort of personality Rayner has, in that Rayner spends most of his time flitting from one disaster to another shouting "What's happening? Oh no! Everybody fight!"
I suppose that this breathless pacing is meant to make the book a page-turner, but the sheer lack of variety was kinda boring. Also, Rayner started to look a little like Chicken Little -- or a Jonah. Wherever he goes, the sky is falling, which it is his job (as star of the title) to point out. And then fight.
There's a lot of fighting. Lots.
But, while those things irritated me, my major complaint is what I stated at the outset: This concept cannot stand. And it doesn't. As the series progresses, fewer and fewer Lanterns show up for Rayner's "team," and eventually the focus shifts from Rayner the leader of a team to Rayner learning how to channel all of the emotional spectrum so he doesn't need a team any more. (Where this was explicitly stated as a goal I must have missed; it just seemed to be understood by all the characters suddenly.) Also, the readers know that the team was brought together by duplicity and murder to start with, which means it can't continue beyond Kyle & Co. learning that. Which -- spoiler -- they do.
So, by the end of this book, the whole New Guardians concept has pretty much become defunct. I felt like I was reading the final issues of a title whose basic concept was flawed from the outset.
And while I know from reading current issues what the new status quo of New Guardians is, that doesn't improve my experience with this book at all. Frankly, you could begin reading New Guardians with issue #13, and not miss a thing. In fact, I recommend it.