Review: Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 2: Beyond Hope hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 05, 2013

What we understand at the end of Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 2: Beyond Hope, which concludes Tony Bedard's first year on the title, is that probably most of the ongoing story could have been resolved in the first trade, if not for a couple of tangents on which Bedard sent the characters. This was true for Red Lanterns, too (though Bedard's story is better); one imagines an edict that each Green Lantern title simply needed to fill twelve issues and get the characters to a certain point so that the first New 52 Green Lantern crossover could take place. Certainly that's what this collection feels like, looking at it in total.

At the same time, despite its circuitous plot, New Guardians remains a perversely enjoyable series. As I mentioned in my review of the first New Guardians collection, Bedard offers a compelling team of fan favorite characters who are fun to see interact and begin to coalesce as a team, even despite how goofy Bedard writes, especially, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner. New Guardians is a book like cotton candy -- brightly colored and momentarily satisfying; even if it doesn't stay with you for long, there's something about it that's strangely addicting.

[Review contains spoilers]

The first volume of New Guardians took the characters from Earth to Oa, to Larfleeze's home planet Okaara, and then to the orrery of the alien archangel Invictus; in this book, the characters move from the orrery to Earth, to the Blue Lanterns' planet Odym, and then back to Okaara. We learn that, despite blame having been placed variably on Invictus and Larfleeze for stealing the Lantern rings that were delivered to Rayner, they actually came from the rogue Guardian Sayd, hoping that Rayner could help free her companion Ganthet from the other Guardians. This effectively means that the characters arrived at the solution to their mystery on their third stop in the first book, and much of what else was found in New Guardians -- including their fights both with Invictus and with Larfleeze -- were mere distraction, threads that marked time but didn't truly move the story forward (near as I can tell, Invictus has yet to be even seen since this story).

That's to New Guardians's detriment, though keen plotting was never the book's strong suit to begin with -- Bedard's Rayner continues to call a vast selection of aliens "dude" and is surprised when Glomulus, whom we all know is meant to be an extension of Larfleeze, reveals to Larfleeze Rayner's secret plans.

Instead, the strongest points of Beyond Hope are Bedard's use of two of the perhaps-strongest characters going in, Sinestro Corpsman Arkillo and Blue Lantern Saint Walker. Bedard gives Arkillo something of a profile issue here, as he discovers himself to be the last member of the newly-eradicated Sinestro Corps. Bedard also gets points for using the Weaponer, who appeared last in Bedard's so-so Green Lantern Corps: Weaponer storyline, but who is stronger and more interesting here with his keen weapon-generating powers.

As with a number of other New 52 Vol. 2 books, New Guardians features a crossover, theirs with Bedard's Blue Beetle title. Rayner's encounter with Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes affects that title more than this one (hence why the Blue Beetle issue is collected here, but no New Guardians issues are collected in Blue Beetle), but it leads into a separate storyline in which the beetle scarab's creators, the Reach, attack the Blue Lanterns and Odym.

Though this is, again, a tangent that ultimately comes to nothing, it allows Bedard to spotlight the Blue Lanterns and Saint Walker, and especially to put the hope-powered Blue Lanterns in a situation we haven't seen before -- one where it seems hopeless for them. Like Green Lanterns and fear, hopelessness threatens to decimate the Blue Lanterns, and Saint Walker clinging to false hope only makes it worse. The Blue Lanterns prevail through Rayner's help, but what emerges is an angrier Saint Walker, slipping some of his Blue Lantern cool, and this is an engaging turn for the character.

Arkillo and Saint Walker continue to gain each other's characteristics -- this was more apparent with Arkillo in the first volume, and more apparent with Saint Walker here. I'd be eager to see Bedard continue to explore these characters together (a Saint Walker/Arkillo special, anyone? The Blue and the Gold?), though I wonder if the constraints of the upcoming Green Lantern crossovers will allow it.

It's a tad difficult to know who's doing what to whom in the Green Lantern universe without a scorecard. Generally everything bad that's happening in Green Lantern, Corps, New Guardians, and etc. can be laid at the feet of the Guardians, trying to eliminate their Lanterns before the rise of their new Third Army, though I do wish New Guardians would give us a better sense of all of this. Stealing the rings, we know, was Sayd, but we're never quite sure who brought Invictus into the Lantern's universe, though "the Guardians" is a pretty good guess. Ditto who might've lead the Reach to Odym; Saint Walker blames Larfleeze (for no specifically good reason), but we never learn the truth.

It's still, however, bunches of fun to see Green Lantern Kyle Rayner interact with Star Sapphire Fatality, Red Lantern Bleez, and especially with Saint Walker and Arkillo. Even despite that Bedard writes an exceptionally annoying Rayner, one can't help but be taken in by Rayner's so-cheesy-it's-compelling avowals that the various Lanterns are stronger together than they are alone; when Rayner questions Weaponer because he's not "one of them," we get the sense Rayner sees a family in these other Lantern misfits that he can't find elsewhere. What Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 2: Beyond Hope offers is an old comics trope in multi-hued packaging; this is far from the strongest Green Lantern title, but it does have a certain charm.

[Includes original covers]

Coming up it's Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army, plus the next volume of Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman.
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2 comments:

  1. While it's not overtly mentioned, I think Saint Walker's belief that it was Larfleeze who sent the Reach has to with Larfleeze's previous attack on Odym during the Prelude to Blackest Night

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    1. Sure; you're absolutely right about that, and I maybe should have clarified. This is subjective, but despite that Larfleeze attacked Odym previously, it seemed irrational to me that Saint Walker, the most rational of all the gathered Corpsmen (despite his present anger), would think that Larfleeze had sent the Reach. Why? How would that serve Larfleeze's "give me everything purpose"? I absolutely grant that why Saint Walker thought what he did was explained in-story; I simply thought it was a thin device on Bedard's part to get the characters back to Okaara. Just my opinion.

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