[THE NEW 52] Green Lantern – New Guardians: The Ring Bearer

Readers who were with me back in May know that I was left somewhat disappointed by the latest installment of Geoff Johns’ multi-year epic Green Lantern saga, and that it utterly failed as an introductory first volume for the New 52 comic book virgins wanting to have their emerald cherry popped. I was heartened by the presence of a new spin-off in DC’s ever-expanding line of merchandise-driven superhero punch-ups titled Green Lantern – New Guardians, which purported to carry themes and characters first introduced in Johns’ run but instead utilising underdog Lantern Kyle Rayner in place of wisecracking douche-hero Hal Jordan.

On paper it sounded awesome, and a great way to introduce newcomers to the mythos, but in practice does it live up to what it advertises?

The story kicks off in the wake of War of the Green Lanterns, with Kyle Rayner acting as one of the last Lanterns attached to Earth and saving people all over the place. His mission is curtailed when a variety of coloured Lantern rings suddenly appear and try to attach themselves to him like clingy ex-girlfriends, causing the rings’ original owners – one from each Corps – to appear on Earth and rather grumpily demand an explanation for why their superpowered bling has suddenly been drawn to him. After establishing a very haphazard alliance, if one can call it that, Kyle and co. head off to discover who is behind the rings detaching from their owners and what they could possibly want with the young Green Lantern in particular.

As if the title The Ring Bearer didn’t already make it obvious, the story carries a bit of a Lord of the Rings vibe to it, and not just because of the specific ring MacGuffins the protagonists are chasing. There’s a strong sense of fellowship – albeit a disjointed one – that runs throughout the narrative, each of the characters seems to inherit a trait from the original Tolkien party of nine – for example, Saint Walker doing a rather uncanny Gandalf at times – and the end goal looks like it’s shaping up to be everyone battling a particularly massive foe who threatens galactic stability, a la Sauron. I say “looks like”, since this volume seems to be the first act in a several-act story and, thus, ends without a real resolution.

That’s not to say it’s bad, because it isn’t; there’s some good characterisation here and there, even for crazy and psychotic nutters like resident Sinestro Corps party member Arkillo, and in the end everyone ends up with a personality beyond a two-dimensional representation of the emotional elements their respective Corps’ embody. That said, the story doesn’t jump out at me the way others in the New 52 have. It feels like it’s missing something; what that something is I don’t know, but it needs a spark to really bring it to life and elevate it above other attempts at team-books. Maybe it’ll get a bit better when Volume 2 comes out.

The artwork by Tyler Kirkham and Batt works really well, and really pops the way the art in Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern: Brightest Day did. The colours all mesh together fantastically, and there’s some great action sequences where neon Lantern trails cover the page in a way that make double-page spreads look awesome. It does have moments where the multitude of hues can get a bit disorienting here and there, but on the whole looks great.

Dialogue is fairly standard, which is a little disappointing; scribe Tony Bedard wrote part of War of the Green Lanterns and it went down pretty well, but here it just seems a little pedestrian in comparison. By the end he seems to have found his feet and given the character dialogue some greater depth, but it’s still nothing terribly engaging. Again, not bad, just a bit ordinary.

I’d recommend The Ring Bearer since it acts as a pretty good introduction to the contemporary Green Lantern mythos mostly through having all the important Corps present and having a little bit of exposition that establishes where everybody is and, roughly, how they got there. Don’t read it expecting anything as universe-altering or groundbreaking as Johns’ run, but just a bit of fun with some nice colour and action in it. It kicks the ass out of the movie, at any rate.

STORY: 3.5/5
ARTWORK: 4/5
DIALOGUE: 2.5/5

OVERALL: 10/15

BEST QUOTE: “Oh, this can’t be good.” – Kyle Rayner

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