It’s been a while since I’ve come across a comic that is so clearly a product of its time, but Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight, New Dawn is so unequivocally 90’s in every way possible.
Quite frankly, I’m surprised it wasn’t turned into a movie back then. It would have been a blockbuster.
A lot happens in this trade. It opens on Hal Jordan surveying the aftermath of the Coast City disaster that took place in The Return of Superman. Understandably distraught over the utter destruction of his city and everyone in it, Hal goes a bit off the deep end. He rationalizes that the Guardians, whom he had pledged his allegiance to all these years, turned their backs on him, allowing his world to crumble before him. Believing enough power will restore his fallen city, Hal journeys across the universe to confront the Oans. He is met by numerous Green Lanterns along the way who reluctantly try to stop them, but Hal defeats each and every one, taking their ring as a way to augment his power.
As he finally reaches Oa, it is clear that Hal’s not in his right mind. Seeing no other option, the Oans release Sinestro from imprisonment to battle Jordan. The battle is fierce, but ultimately Hal wins, but this time the fight is different.
This time, he kills Sinestro.
It’s clear from this point on that this comic is going to change things.
Seeing Hal kill Sinestro was surprising, but forgivable. What wasn’t forgivable was watching Hal tear down a number of his fellow Green Lanterns, including his one-time friend and ally Kilowog. Although Hal believes his methods are justified, they are ultimately inexcusable, and cast a dark shadow over this once great Green Lantern.
Knowing they face imminent defeat, the Oans combine their power and send one of their own to Earth to present the last Green Lantern power ring to a worthy owner (why they choose someone from the same planet as Jordan when they have literally the entire universe to choose from is beyond me.)
Enter Kyle Rayner, aka “Radically 90’s Super Lantern”. Rayner becomes a brand new Green Lantern, completely separate from the other members of the Corps. While the introduction of a new character to seemingly replace Hal Jordan is extreme enough, the writers decided to completely overhaul the character. His ring is no longer impervious to yellow, it can hold a charge for longer than twenty-four hours, it apparently no longer requires the Green Lantern oath to charge (I hope that changes. I like that oath), and he gets a snazzy new outfit.
All of these changes felt like too much all at once, as though the Green Lantern of old was being completely rewritten. Even the design of his power ring changes, for God’s sake.
The story progresses from here with plenty of 90’s action movie cliches: Kyle uses his ring to summon an enormous gun, fights a series of bad guys who are approximately three times larger than him, and there is a somewhat gratuitous scene implying that he and his girlfriend Alex have sex right before he gets summoned away to fight a bad guy.
All of this was enough to make the comic feel like any number of mid-90’s action movies. Is there anything necessarily wrong with that? No, but coupling that with all of the severe changes to the Green Lantern character left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
Then of course, we reach the culminating scene of the trade: Kyle returns to Alex’s apartment to find his girlfriend dead, her body stuffed into the refrigerator.
Why did this have to happen?
The character of Alex was introduced at the same time as Kyle, and was given her own personality. She was characterized enough that readers could relate to her, and then they go and murder her.
And why? All so Kyle will have a driving force to continue being a Green Lantern? Is the death of a loved one really the only thing that will drive people to a heroic act?
Alex’s death in and of itself was horrifying, but the fact that her body was then stuffed into a refrigerator was far more disturbing. Was such a violent and gratuitous ending really necessary for this scene? Would it not have had the same impact had Kyle walked in and simply saw her dead on the floor? Truthfully, it’s scenes like this that turn people, especially women, away from comics. If a female character doesn’t have superpowers, it’s almost inevitable that she’ll die sooner or later to further the story of her male counterpart. I’m hoping awareness on this gross imbalance has grown since this comic’s release, and that such scenes will be fewer and far between.
Overall this wasn’t my favorite comic. Kyle eventually learns the enormity of the power he’s been given, once Alan Scott explains it all to him (as though Scott’s appearance somehow validates Kyle as a Green Lantern). With the weight of Alex’s death on his mind, he decides to continue his role as Green Lantern, predictably claiming he’s doing it, “for her.” It all felt like a cliched story that’s been told a hundred times over. While I’m sure it will hold some overall significance to the storyline (Hal going off the deep end doesn’t bode well for his character, especially with the introduction of a new Green Lantern), I’m hoping future stories with these characters take a more unique angle, rather than feeling like the same old rehashed storyline that’s been done many times before.