Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kyle Rayner, the Last of the Green Lanterns

This week saw the passing of a comic character very near to me and I imagine most comic readers from the 1990s. Kyle Rayner, Green Lantern was the latest casualty of the Blackest Night event that began earlier this year. Now, he may come back eventually, most comic characters do, but lets take a moment to reflect on the overall impact of a character who held the torch for the Green Lantern franchise for almost a decade on his own.

As a young reader, I never fully identified with Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) as he was written in the late 80s and early 90s. Most of the brash, hotshot personality that Hal was known for had given way to fairly cheesy characterization. I was not heartbroken when the decision to send Hal on his way and bring in some new blood was made in Green Lantern editorial. As Kyle was introduced in the Emerald Twilight story and issues that followed, it was clear that an effort was being made to really separate Kyle from his predecessors. The GL writers showed that Kyle was not a perfect character from the get-go and had to spend time learning not only how to wield his newfound power but also learn what that responsibility really meant. He was very much like an early version of spider-man, at first thrilled by his new abilities but quickly learning that not only his but his loved ones lives were now on the line because of his decisions and actions. Kyle also differed from other Green Lanterns in how he would create and use his ring (which manifests anything he can think of). Being an artist, Kyle's mind was fertile ground to explore the full potential of creating constructs from light, much like a 3D painter. Lastly, Kyle was burdened in a way no other Green Lantern had been before. He was the last soldier in an army which no longer existed. The years of training and experience which had been passed on to his predecessors would not be available to him.

Over the years I continued to follow Kyle's integration in his surrounding universe, from his inclusion into the Justice League, to his personal relationships with fellow heros and various girlfriends. Kyle, a romantic at heart, was continually on the receiving end of bad breakups which seemed to become a trend for him. Kyle's book also became a place where social issues came to the forefront which some readers may have complained about at the time but I felt added a relevance and maturity to the title.

As I stated earlier, most comic characters never stay gone forever and after years of Kyle headlining the Green Lantern title, the decision to bring Hal Jordan back to the forefront was made. Kyle's adventures would continue in the Green Lantern Corps. book which also followed the resurrected Green Lantern army. For a character who traditionally had stood out for being the last of his kind, Kyle's importance in his new role as part of the corps was his conscience. Doing his best to question the blind orders for which he disagreed with and proving has valor as a member of the GL Honor Guard, Kyle continued to thrive while having been put in a more supportive capacity rather than the spotlighting role he had previously had.

This week saw his sacrifice and passing in an effort to protect his fellow soldiers. For myself and many people who grew up following his adventures, the Green Lantern Corps will never be the same.

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