Here’s something that’s long been in the works. Before I digress into the particulars, I’ll come right out and say it: Hal Jordan is no longer my favorite Green Lantern.
Kyle Rayner is.
…aaaand there goes most of my readership. For those of you that are still sticking around, let’s continue.
I’ve been a big Kyle fan since day one, but this change in allegiance, as it were, has its genesis in the atrocious Green Lantern: Rebirth. Kyle got kicked around a bit in that book, but it wasn’t too bad. However, during and after “The Sinestro Corps War,” writer Geoff Johns and editor Dan DiDio seemed to go out of their way to shit on the character, constantly denigrating him, altering and even retconning away his achievements. Cripes, DiDio even dumped on Kyle to elevate Hal in a DC Nation editorial column! I hated that, and along with plenty of other awful retcons to the Lanternverse in general, it led me to quit reading Green Lantern comics for years.
Fortunately, by the time I came back into the fold during Blackest Night, Kyle had regained some semblance of respect, presumably because the powers-that-be finally realized that he has his fans, and they spend money on comics, too. Kyle’s new place in the DC Universe couldn’t hold a candle to his classic tenure as Hal’s successor, but it was better than the raw deal he got during “SCW,” and recent stories — including his own book, Green Lantern: New Guardians — have finally made his adventures exciting to read again.
I think somewhere in the back of my mind, Kyle’s been my favorite since about 1997 or so, and it just never kicked in. (Almost twenty years late is better than never, right?) I chalk it up to that tendency we all have to stubbornly stick with the past; I did grow up on Hal stories, after all. I don’t hate those classic tales now, I just enjoy Kyle’s adventures a lot more. It probably helped that in the late 1990s, I was studying towards my degree in art and graphic design, so I had a lot more in common with Kyle than Hal. Granted, I had no power ring or hot green girlfriend, but I could at least relate to the struggles of an artist and trying to meet deadlines. Kyle’s “everyman” qualities always made Green Lantern fun to read, whether he was fighting villains new and old, out saving the universe with the Justice League, or just talking with friends over coffee at Radu’s.
I’ve often maintained that Kyle’s starring role in Green Lantern (Vol. 3) #50-181, spanning late 1993 through 2004 leading right up to Rebirth, was the best the franchise has ever had. (It’s probably no coincidence that this span of time is my favorite comics era, period.) Sure, it had its ups and downs like any other book, but I’m talking about the era as a whole. In particular, Ron Marz’ run from #48-125 was absolutely stellar from start to finish. I’m even picking up the trade paperback collections from that era simply because they’re easier to pluck off the shelf and read than digging out the individual issues. (Since they all out of print, though, a few seem to command a ridiculous price on the secondary market; tracking those down could be a pain in the ass.)
Overall, that ten-year block of Kyle solo stories remains my favorite. I’ve read it many times, finding new things to enjoy with each successive reading. Aside from the usual space adventures, I find the Kyle-on-Earth stories as well as his tenure in the Justice League to be fascinating reading even after all of this time. Like I said, Kyle was the everyman Green Lantern back then rather than just another guy with a mood-powered ring, and he proved himself to be up to the task of being a hero in his own right as well as living up to the Corps’ legacy.
As you’ve previously read, I’ve been strongly considering ditching Rebirth and all of the revamped Lanternverse comics that followed it from my collection. “But wait!” you say, “Isn’t New Guardians included in there, too?!” Why, yes, it is. New Guardians started out great, got dragged through the mud during the atrocious “Wrath of the First Lantern” story, then shockingly became the best of the Lanternverse books shortly thereafter when it started featuring one- or two-issue science fiction stories rather than crossovers and events. I’ll get those new tales in trade paperback form (minus the awful “Wrath of the First Lantern” volume) eventually; DC Comics takes a long time to release trade paperbacks nowadays, as they want to push their hardcover collections for as long as possible. Personally, I refuse to pay extra for cardboard.
Anyway, modern Kyle is finally back to being a top-tier character, which is great. He’s a White Lantern rather than a green one at the moment, but we all know that can change. As with Hal’s return, it’s only a matter of time before Kyle becomes a Green Lantern once again. I look forward to that day, and until then, I’ve got loads of classic stories to enjoy time and time again.