Friday, April 22, 2011

Kyle Rayner for the Justice League

I’m not saying anything revolutionary or controversial when I say I think Kyle Rayner belongs on the Justice League. I’m well aware of this, but just for kicks, let me state the case anyhow.

In the recent past, I’ve stumped for Wally West to be a fixture on the Justice League not only because he’s my favorite DC character, but also because he has tenure there, has proven value as a member of an ensemble cast, and quite frankly, because nothing else is being done with him and he’s too good to go to waste. Kyle and Wally have been kindred spirits since the former was introduced, sharing the whole successor to Silver Age icons deal as well as a certain demeanor that appealed to my generation, so in a perfect world I can’t see why both shouldn’t be sitting pretty on the Watchtower, but let’s deal with the guy I haven’t talked as much about this time around.

There are four Earth-based Green Lanterns at the moment, and three books in their franchise, leaving one guy the natural odd man out.

My personal least favorite GL, Hal Jordan, has the good fortune of being written by Geoff Johns, who has the uncanny ability to craft gold around even the most unlikable of leads—though I’m well aware plenty of people like Hal—and he’s also got Ryan Reynolds playing him in a movie this summer, so he’s sitting pretty in the catbird seat as star of the lead Green Lantern title. While Hal was a Justice League stalwart for many years, most of his generation has cycled out at this point, and the last thing anybody needs is the current face of the franchise looking like an elder statesman, so him doing his own thing is for the best right now.

Guy Gardner was an awesome and essential part of Justice League International and I’ve always been curious to see how he’d function in a more traditional League line-up, but frankly his personality may be a bit too big for the average team setting. He deserves his own book and is nicely carrying Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors right now; if Justice League: Generation Lost gains a well-deserved ongoing birth of some sort, Guy would certainly be an in demand guest star or late addition there.

Ostensibly, Kyle Rayner and John Stewart share the lead of Green Lantern Corps, with Ganthet and others thrown in for good measure. Of late, however, there seems to have been a resurgence among writers as far as a desire to flesh out Stewart’s character—I’m all for this. There is a lot to explore when it comes to John Stewart. The military man who is socially enlightened, the lost loves, the guilt of letting a planet die, that time he was a Darkstar, that time he was crippled—all fertile ground perfect for a book like GLC where he can share the spotlight with a few lesser players but not get lost in the shuffle of an A-list team.

That leaves us with Kyle, who’s way too solid on his own to be John or Guy’s sidekick, but also unlikely to regain top billing from Hal anytime soon.

So put him in the Justice League.

Grant Morrison got a lot of good years out of Kyle being the rookie Leaguer trying to live up to the shadow left by Hal Jordan. With the nearly fully cycle rotation of the League now being filled with newbies and claimants to legacies like Supergirl, Starman, Dick Grayson as Batman and so on, the once neophyte Green Lantern would have a new role as the young veteran who has been where these guys are. As the more iconic figures return—because you know inevitably they will—Kyle becomes a bridge between generations much in the same way Wally was for him when he started out.

Kyle has always been a wish fulfillment character in my opinion more so than anybody else in the Green Lantern franchise. Getting handed a magic ring is basically a modern day take on the Aladdin fable and one that’s perhaps easier to buy into as a fan because you don’t have to be born with superhuman abilities or be on a mad vengeance quest because your loved ones died; as implausible as Green Lantern’s origin is, strangely enough it’s one we can picture happening to us because it doesn’t rely upon predetermined conditions or personal tragedy, you just have to be in the right place at the right time. Despite that, Hal Jordan and even Guy Gardner or John Stewart were still somewhat removed from the average dude since they were selected based on their unflappable resistance to fear; Kyle Rayner became a Lantern literally because there was nobody else and Ganthet happened upon him in an alley (I know there have been debates and retcons about this, but I choose to keep reading it as it was originally written based on my own preference). That Kyle turned out to be a good guy and a great hero without being inherently built for it like Hal made him infinitely more relatable—at least for me—because here was proof that given the right opportunity, anybody can prove to be a champion.

Taking all that into consideration makes Kyle Rayner even cooler as a member of the Justice League. With Hal in there, it’s just another square-jawed alpha male joining the herd; Guy is the malcontent; John is a bit of a cipher; Kyle is us blessed with a chance to be great and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with guys like Superman not because he was destined to, but because he earned it.

Kyle’s an insecure, sensitive artist and also a romantic, all stuff that plays great in a team environment; heck he’s already dating another in a line of hot alien chicks at the moment, but two of his former ladies are on the current League and he’s just the kind of character who seems to have instant chemistry with everybody around him. He’s great as the best buddy, as the workplace crush, as the “little brother” and so on.

For these and many other reasons, Kyle Rayner deserves to be and would be a great fit in the Justice League. Would I love him and Wally West to have their own solo books? I suppose I would, but for some reason, right now I’d like them both in the JLA more. I like the idea of the League being a showcase for those “lost” characters too old to be Teen Titans but who can’t be the alpha members of their fraternities because of the legacy nature of the DC Universe. I dig the League being a hipper group of characters who were once sidekicks or big in the 90’s all grown up like Dick Grayson, Wally West, Kyle Rayner, Donna Troy and maybe even Connor Hawke.

My buddy Sean T. Collins talks about the need for the Justice League to be filled with icons, and I agree with him, but I think if the characters are named Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, etc. anyways, it’s not so much important who’s under the masks. Let Hal Jordan and Barry Allen get the exposure they need from their own books and let the guys who carried the ball shine as cornerstones of the team they’re too busy for right now. A lot of people prefer the Big Seven League because it feels important, but there’s the pitfall of the characters not being able to develop outside of their own titles, but here’s a great opportunity to have your cake and eat it too.

So there’s my pitch: Put Kyle Rayner back in the Justice League. Oh, and while you’re at it, Wally West too, please.


KentL said...

I really believe that everyone (or most heroes) should be in the JL. I liked the concept that JL Unlimited went with. The big guns (specifically the big three) pretty much lead and are always involved, while other characters rotate in and out as needed.

Right now, I feel like JLA is broken. DC goes in this weird cycle where they realize the Justice League is broken, they fix it, and then slowly let it break again. Repeat. It's weird. With the JLU model, they can rotate characters in and out in a natural storytelling way. This also gives writers the ability to use the characters they want.

Kyle was not a character I was interested in until Morrison got a hold of him in JLA. Morrison did it right. He kept the focus on the big guns, but moved secondary characters in and out when he needed to.

Joe Vince said...

Given the state of the DC universe, you could have a JLA with icons AND a younger lineup.

I think you could have an interesting League with Wally, Kyle, Dick (as Batman) and Donna Troy (with more of a Wonder Woman identity/costume). Throw in Supergirl, Connor (I have no clue what his status is right now) or Roy (after he gets another image rehab) and maybe Plastic Man for a bit of fun and you've got an interesting little team to play with that also has some name recognition.

And it doesn't mean you couldn't have a Big 7 League, either, one that only gets together for the really, really big threats.

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