Green Lantern: Baptism of Fire
Ron Marz, writer,
Darryl Banks &
Paul Pelletier, artists
(DC Comics, 1995-96;
collected, 1999)

When DC decided to replace the Flash with a younger, hipper model, the popular Barry Allen was given a heroic death saving the entire universe during Crisis on Infinite Earths. When DC wanted to do the same with Green Arrow, they played up his stubborn streak for a dramatic splash as he strived to save Metropolis from disaster -- and they brought him back to life (perhaps because his younger, hipper successor didn't catch on among readers the way the new Flash did).

But when DC wanted to replace the iconic Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, they didn't let him die a hero. They turned him into a heinous villain who murdered many of his comrades in the Green Lantern Corps, slaughtered the powerful Guardians who gave him his power and tried to remake the world in his image.

Needless to say, I wasn't thrilled with the idea of a replacement, so I gave the book a miss for quite some time. Recently, however, DC reprinted a volume relating some of Kyle Rayner's early days as the ringed hero -- and I decided to give it a try.

Well, he's no Hal Jordan, that much is certain.

This isn't a bad collection, but it's not outstanding, either. With so many good tales deserving a reprint, this one seems a little wasteful. We see Kyle grumping with other heroes, complaining about performing his duties, mixing it up with the Flash (who doesn't seem to like him very much), pissing off his girlfriend (the hero Troia, formerly Wonder Girl) when she catches him sketching a nude model in his apartment, and going off on a great quest to ask various heroes why they do what they do. Of course, he arrives in the nick of time in each city -- to louse up a sting by the Batman, to help Sentinel restore his wife, to assist Captain Marvel with a vengeful Egyptian spirit, to cooperate with Wonder Woman in netting a trio of nasty aliens and, finally, to make nice-nice with Troia and join a group of Darkstars (a poor man's Green Lantern Corps) to stop a world-destroying would-be god.

Nice, but not inspiring, and overflowing with too much angst, soul-searching and getting in touch with one's feelings of the sort that made the old Teen Titans series into an ongoing soap opera.

If you're an old GL fan and you're wondering who's the new guy with the ring, this book will give you an introduction. If you're a Kyle Rayner fan, you'll see here how he learned a bit of confidence in his early days of superheroing. Me, I'd prefer a collection of solid Hal Jordan stories to pass the time.

Oh, and a pet peeve here -- I realize that cover artists often go out of their way to draw scenes which have little or nothing to do with the story inside. This one, by Darryl Banks and Terry Austin, is a good example of what I dislike. The cover shows an anguished Green Lantern standing on a devastated landscape that is littered with the bodies of Batman, the Flash, Wonder Woman, Sentinel and Captain Marvel. Nothing remotely similar occurs anywhere in the book, and I have to wonder why the artists didn't think the story inside was worthy of their efforts.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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