Monday, May 1, 2000

All I Have To Do Is Dream... - Green Lantern #121-124 Review

Written by Ron Marz
Pencils by Terry Banks
Inks by Don Davis, Cam Smith, Greg Adams and Andy Smith

(WARNING: Spoilers Contained Within)

Back in GL #120, HEAT members everywhere had a field day at the end of the issue. Kyle had been surprised and shot and for months comic boards across the net were treated to endless complaints of "The ring has a fail safe that prevents its users from being wounded." Well, Hal's ring did. It's been shown time and time again that Kyle's ring doesn't have that feature.

It was shown that Kyle's landlord Radu has known for a long time that Kyle is Green Lantern. And various people did say "Oh, Kyle's so stupid for not being able to hide his secret identity better". Actually, I think all that proves is that Radu is a lot smarter than most of the people in Metropolis. Think about it, Jimmy Olsen has worked with both Clark Kent and Superman for ten years now…. and never even thought about all the many times Clark Kent disappeared and Superman showed up. Radu managed to figure out Kyle's identity by accident, going on only two things; the fact that Green Lantern was the guy who showed up each time a supervillian tore up his apartment building and the fact that Kyle's girlfriend looked a lot like that Darkstar woman… and they were both named Donna.

But then the piece de resistance was when Kyle was tended by the best healer he knows…. Donna Troy. Wait? Is that Donna? Her skin looks awfully Green to be Donna… oh good Lord… Can it be possible? Can it truly be possible that that idiot Ron Marz can't even remember which heroine is which anymore!!! Oh, what a horrible horrible writer…. why doesn't DC fire him?? Oh, Kyle is evil… Kyle is bad…

Yes, there were people blaming Ron Marz for what was apparently a coloring mistake…. or was it a mistake? It turns out, the combination of Donna's body with Jade's skin coloring was a rather clever bit of foreshadowing the next few issues….

Part One: New World

When Kyle wakes up, he finds himself in a strange bedroom. He looks out the window and sees other Green Lanterns flying around… and all the buildings have Green Lantern insignias on them. What's more is that Jade (who dropped Kyle like dog doo sometime back when he admitted he was uncertain as to his feelings for Donna Troy some months back) is in his bed, acting very friendly for an ex-girlfriend. In fact, she says they're married. Groggy as he is, Kyle very quickly realizes that something is not right… one way or the other. Jade very quickly tells him that they got married, Alan Scott helped Kyle to find a way to get his ring to copy itself like the old Silver Age ones and that Kyle rebuilt a new Corps on the planet of New Oa. In other words, everything that Kyle has wanted to do with his life in the last thirty issues or so and screwed up has actually come to fruition… so why doesn't Kyle remember any of it? The two agree to keep Kyle's apparent memory loss a secret until they have time to think about it more deeply, the two having just gotten an important summons from Ganthet, the last Guardian.

Ganthet asks them to check on a missing Green Lantern who has not reported to him in some time, suspecting that the Controllers may be responsible for his disappearance. They assemble a team to go with them, made up of Senn Rendle (a Durlan shapeshifter), Shraash (a legged whale-man), Tomar-Bor (a young Xudarian who sees himself as Kyle's "Kid Lantern") and a jellyfish like creature with an name that cannot be said by anyone who is not of his species: so they just call him Lenny.

The six arrive at the planet and begin to search for the lost Lantern. Jade and Kyle find him… impaled on a firey staff in a tomb. They turn around to see Effigy; a young man given the ability to create and shape fire by the Controllers. Effigy stuns Jade with a fire blast, forcing Kyle to chase after him alone. Kyle manages to knock Effigy down for a second, during which time Effigy refers to Kyle as "Amnesia Boy." Kyle begins the chase again, wondering how Effigy knows about his apparent memory loss, only to run into a whole Effigy Corps….

Part Two: Stand In The Fire

The Effigy Corps is a bit of a sightgag for long time Green Lantern readers. Among the various members, empowered by the Controllers with the same fire controlling powers of Effigy are Fatality (the Green Lantern hunter), a Manhunter robot, some of the old Darkstars who had working suits after GL 75 when the Darkstars all but quit… even Sinthia, Grayven's Henchwench from his attempted invasion of Rann in GL 75.

Anyway, a massive firefight ensues (pun very much intended) between the Effigy Corps and Kyle and Jade. Thankfully, the other four GL Corps Members show up and hold off the Effigies long enough for Kyle to snare Effigy and the six to make good their escape,

Back on New Oa, Kyle wants to question Effigy more about his apparent amnesia, but Ganthet refuses, saying he can handle any questioning that needs be done. Later that night, Kyle sneaks into Effigy's cell and talks to him. He asks point blank if what is going on is real. Effigy responds, "No, of course it's not real." He then tells Kyle that he can't tell him what really is going on unless they get away from New Oa, because the place has too big a hold on him there. Kyle reluctantly frees Effigy, and after fighting through the new Corps, they go into deep space. Once there, Effigy reveals himself as a part of Kyle's subconscious. New Oa and everything in it is a whole world created by Kyle's imagination: a dream of everything he wishes his life was. Something has caused Kyle's conscious mind to revert into that world and is trying to get him to live in that world while ignoring the reality. His subconscious was aware of the fact that this world wasn't real, and Effigy was brought forth as a symbol of that message, since Effigy himself is a symbol of what Kyle might have become had he gone down a different path. Effigy creates a fiery door, Kyle steps through and wakes up screaming in bed with a shocked John Stewart looking on.

Part Three: In Control

John begins to explain that Donna had to leave to deal with some Titans business and that he was called in to watch Kyle. Kyle begins to tell John about his dream and then he recalls that right before he fell asleep, he was seeing Donna with green hair and skin: perhaps his subconscious attempting to make him happy by combining the two women he loves and illuminating the problem of having to choose one.

Kyle then begins to fall in and out of a series of flashbacks of alternate worlds, realities and dreamscapes. We see the JLA fighting him as he dresses in a Parallax style costume. He wakes up again, and tells John about the latest dream. John speculates that it's possible the Controllers are manipulating Kyle's mind, having both the power, the opportunity (they blasted Kyle with some unknown ray when he fought Effigy some months back) and the motive, since they would love to see the last of The Guardian's Servants disabled forever. Kyle decides to go find the Controllers and find out what they are up to. After falling into another dreamscape (where we see Jade and Kyle dressed like a warrior and princess from an Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars novel), John tells Kyle where he thinks the Controllers main base was when he was a Darkstar.

On the way to the base, Kyle has another hallucination, this time of Hal Jordan flying alongide him to help in the fight. As he clears his head, he is attacked by Effigy, but Kyle notices that his newest enemy seems different: "The lights are on, but nobody's home." Kyle quickly determines that The Controllers did something to Effigy that gave them more control over his mind. However, the same process that turned the formerly hot-tempered Effigy into an obedient servant also made him more listless and easier for Kyle to quick think his way around. After beating Effigy, Kyle blasts his way into the Controller's main room and says "Let's Talk".

Part Four: Control Freak

After shrugging off a new illusion the Controllers tried to force on him (he was tipped of by the fact that wheelchair-bound John Stewart was walking), Kyle asks why the Controllers did what they did. Quite simply, the being Kyle calls Effigy was the test for the Controllers new brand of footsoldier that they would use to institute total universal order. When they encountered Kyle fighting their prototype and winning, they determined that he might be a threat, so they infected Kyle with a mental corruption that would take his imagination and turn it into a prison, sucking his consciousness into his fantasies. Kyle is then zapped into unconsciousness.

When he wakes up, Kyle's ring has been taken and he is strapped into some part of an assembly line: a machine that changes beings into Effigies. The Controllers decided that since Kyle's willpower was too strong to be easily dominated for long by the "corruption", he'd serve them much better as an Effigy slave. Kyle is naturally not happy about the idea and pulls himself free of the wires hooking him up to the line. One of the Controllers tries to trigger a hallucination in Kyle, but this time it doesn't work. "Give someone a little poison a couple of times… eventually they become immune to it. Whatever that gunk you put in me is, I've learned how to resist it."

The stunned Controller commands the Effigy troops to be released on Kyle. Running like mad, Kyle knows he has no chance of finding his ring before the Effigy clones catch up with him. Trying a long shot, Kyle closes his eyes and tries to will the ring to come to him. The gamble works, and Kyle proceeds to easily destroy the machines the Controllers use to make their slaves. When an angry Controller asks an Effigy why it did nothing to stop Green Lantern from destroying the gestation chambers, the servant replies "We were not instructed to do so."

To even up the numbers problem, Kyle creates energy duplicates of Jade and the other Lanterns from his first dream. With the numbers a bit more even, Kyle's makes quick work of the Effigy Corps, forcing the Controllers to admit the battle lost. But they tell Kyle that next time they will not underestimate him so greatly and that as formidable as he has proven himself, he is just one man. The issue concludes with Kyle flying back to Earth, his thoughts turned toward making the dream a reality… finding a way to copy the ring…. get Jade back… build a new Corps.

I was prepared to really hate this arc. I really was. The hero trapped in a fantasy world of his own making idea has been done to death and done much better (Alan Moore's "For the Man Who Has Everything" and the Batman:TAS episode "Perchance to Dream" come to mind). Also, most of the first part of the story seems to have been contrived to put Kyle back in the position of "the new guy who has no idea what he is doing", something which far too many writers (Marz especially) seem to rely upon. In other books, such as Titans #6, Kyle is shown operating on his own with great efficiency.

In JLA, Kyle has even been shown taking positions of command and leadership in the field! (see my review of JLA: World War III elsewhere in this issue for more on that)

It is rather sad when in a character looks better in other people's books than in his own and it's doubly sad here. I also wasn't too fond of Effigy being made into a mindless "Borg" for the Controllers. He was a pretty good villain with a lot of potential and personality. Hopefully the new management will bring him back, free of the Controllers hive mind influence.

That said, despite the fact that we've kind of seen this whole plot before and that Kyle is still getting cast as the hot-headed rookie after all this time, I really did like this arc. Of course, I like any story that encourages the idea that free will and imagination will beat conformity any day of the week. But on reflection I think that I'm don't like this story for what it is, but for what it sets up: A new beginning with a newly changed, stronger Green Lantern. Because the idea of a Kyle Rayner who is fully aware of his legacy and is going to find some way to rebuild the Corps again somehow…. well, to quote Kyle at the end of the arc…. "I might not know that the future holds… but I can't wait to see where we go from here."

My vote: 7 out of 10

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