Twenty years ago, Green Lantern (Vol. 3) #48 hit the stands. The story briefly introduced a character created by writer Ron Marz and penciler Darryl Banks who would go on to become arguably the greatest Green Lantern of all time, propelling the book to new heights of creativity and popularity.
Yep…we’re talking about Kyle Rayner.
Kyle’s appearance in that issue was limited to him sitting on the beach with his girlfriend, but two issues later, he received the last Green Lantern power ring from Ganthet, and the rest is history. Kyle starred as the DC Universe’s primary Green Lantern for over ten years, forging his own unique path while learning about the Corps’ rich history. It’s a journey that is unrivaled even to this day.
Equally important to Kyle’s rise as a Green Lantern was what happened behind the scenes. As we know, the controversial “Emerald Twilight” storyline is what brought about the downfall of the Corps and Hal Jordan’s fall from grace, with the end goal to have a single Green Lantern unfettered by decades of Corps stories to bring in new readers. Someone who’d never read Green Lantern before could pick up an issue and learn about Green Lanterns and their history along with Kyle himself.
This was a tremendous success, but Hal fanboys absolutely lost their shit, and bitched about it for years. Ten goddamned years, to be precise. (Some still bitch about it, even though later retcons and reboots have completely altered “Emerald Twilight” as well as Kyle’s history and origin.) That’s a level of insanity that honestly makes me ashamed to be a comic book fan. Few things were more embarrassing than H.E.A.T., short for “Hal’s Emerald Attack Team.” (The “Attack” was later changed to “Advancement” due to well-deserved negative publicity.) This fan group was dedicated to demanding that DC Comics bring back Hal as the “one true Green Lantern” by any means necessary; the hell with the great stories that were coming out in the meantime.
Kyle’s time in the spotlight reached its end starting with the atrocious Green Lantern: Rebirth, a story specifically designed to wipe out “Emerald Twilight,” albeit in the cheesiest and most destructively inconsistent way possible. It got worse: the powers-that-be inexplicably hated Kyle for some reason, and decided to shit all over him for many years. They made no bones about their distaste for the character until they finally figured out that hey, Kyle fans buy comics too. Anyway, it’s only in recent years that Kyle’s finally gotten back some semblance of respect from the very company that publishes his adventures. Kyle fans were pleasantly surprised when he finally got his own book again in 2011 — Green Lantern: New Guardians, as part of the “New 52″ initiative. Recent issues have even solidified Kyle’s place as the most powerful Lantern that ever wielded a ring, especially during the “Lights Out” storyline.
I was a big Kyle fan from day one, but it’s important to note that I grew up with Hal’s adventures and loved them. I was as shocked as anyone else during “Emerald Twilight,” but rather than froth at the mouth, I was actually excited to see where the Green Lantern saga would go next. You know, the way you’re supposed to feel about comics. I loved Kyle’s trials and tribulations, and I believe that the “Kyle era” of Green Lantern comics is among the series’ best, if not the best. There was nothing else like it, and I’d wager that there never will be again, sadly.
To this day, Kyle remains the most human of the Green Lanterns and the most well-written of them as a character, not just a superhero with a magic ring. Ignore his detractors. Focus on the great stories, and one of the best “everyman” comic book characters ever created.
Here’s to twenty more years of Kyle Rayner tales!
(This post was originally published on November 11, 2013, but after reader Josh Marowitz found the exact release date of the book, it was rescheduled to the 23rd as to better reflect the proper twentieth anniversary. Sorry for any confusion!)