Saturday, June 1, 2002

The Mount - Green Lantern #150 - Continuity Nightmare?

Green Lantern #150 has finally proven Kyle Rayner's fitness to be a Green Lantern.

Why, you might ask? Was it because he committed some great acts of heroism? Well he did, but that's not why. Could it be because Kyle was responsible (you HEAT members in the back can stop laughing) for bringing back the Guardians and partly bringing about what will one day lead to the rebuilding of the Green Lantern Corps? Well, that was cool, but not what I was referring to either.

No, Kyle is officially a Green Lantern because now he has a confusing and contradictory background which has negated the meaning of some very fine stories.

Okay, maybe I am poking fun at it a little bit, but it seems to me that all the Green Lanterns of Earth seem to suffer from retroactive continuity gaffes more than any other group of heroes.

Consider the mini-series Emerald Dawn and (if we must) Emerald Dawn II. Ignoring the unnecessary darkening of Hal Jordan's character by making him a drunk driver, the story completely changed Hal Jordan's original history, which had him becoming an established hero before he was contacted by the Guardians. Emerald Dawn had a very green (no pun intended) Hal Jordan being taken in for training days after Abin Sur passed on the ring.

Guy Gardner also had his past changed by this story, somehow changing from a high school PE teacher in his native Michigan to a prison social worker in California.

Alan Scott, while having little of his own personal history changed, had had the exact nature of his power battery's creation change several times, going from being a magical device separate from the Guardian's creations to being a Guardian Lantern altered by the spirit of a dead GL.

Even John Stewart, who had his past before becoming a Green Lantern more clearly defined recently in GL 147 has had conflicts arise in his history. Once called an only child in some early stories, this latest retelling of John's origins gave him a younger brother (Damon) and a sister (Rose). A well-researched story, it refers back to John's abusive father and his living with his Aunt Loretta (and yet it doesn't mention his marriage to fellow Green Lantern Katma Tui).

Ironic then that after having written that story, Judd Winnick could falter on the history of the main character of his book, particularly considering the availability of most of the relevant stories in TP form.

The Strange History of Aaron Rayner according to Ron Marz

According to Green Lantern #58 and #76 (vol 3), Kyle was born somewhere on the East Coast of the United States. The family moved to Los Angeles soon after. Kyle's father, Aaron, was a military man and worked for an unspecified covert government agency.

Aaron abandoned Kyle and his mother when Kyle was almost three years old. Indeed, Kyle has some fragmented memories of playing with his father, though he can barely remember what he looked like. Aaron Rayner disappeared on a mission to Southeast Asia but was never listed as dead or MIA, suggesting that he was still alive but had never returned home for some reason.

He would remain unseen in chronological history until a story in Green Lantern Secret Files #2. Titled Keeping Secrets, the story was a retelling of Hal Jordan's origin that contradicted most of the events and timeline of Emerald Dawn I. Moreover, it wound up creating a link between two generations of Green Lanterns.

About 12 years later, Abin Sur crashed to Earth and gave his ring to Hal Jordan. Days afterward, before he revealed his secret to Tom "Pieface" Kalmaku, a man calling himself Ray White shows up at Ferris Aircraft with FBI credentials. He's shown up to investigate a UFO crash reported by the local farmers and would like the help of a local to make help him scout the area, even though he expects to find nothing. As the two drive around in the desert, they talk. "Ray" reveals that he has a military background like Hal, but he was in the Marines instead of the Air Force. He also refers to a wife and son that he abandoned because of his job and says his son must be almost 15.

The two find a debris trail which leads to Abin Sur's ship. Hal tries to pretend to be astonished but as Ray notes "honest men aren't usually convincing liars". Ray pulls a gun on Hal, admits that he is with the government but not the FBI and demands that Hal tell him everything he knows. The standoff is broken up by a Russian spy in high-tech armor (early Rocket Red technology?) who starts firing on both men. Ray is critically wounded but Hal uses his ring to protect himself and fight the robotic armor, cracking it open easily after knocking the pilot. He wonders about how to handle this situation, with Ray and "Ivan" both knowing his secret.

Ray solves half the problem by shooting the Russian spy and tells Hal that he will be dead shortly from his wound. Hal refuses to let Ray die, even if it would make his life easier and uses the ring to heal the agent. Ray asks for Hal's story and Hal tells him the minute details he knows about the ship, the ring and everything else. Ray says he'll keep Hal's secret if Hal lets him walk away and leaves the ship there for the government branch he works for to scavenge later. Hal destroys the ship, but Ray seems to shrug this off laughing at how Hal considers him a murderer but how he does live by a code and how he always pays his debts. He then says that in his business, the most valuable currency a man has is his real name. And in exchange for everything, he tells Hal his real name: Aaron Rayner.

Ten years later, Kyle Rayner would wear a Green Lantern ring, and having just returned from a journey in space, he would seek out the new Green Arrow (Connor Hawke) and ask him to come along with him on a search for his father Aaron. This story would be detailed in the very first next generation GL/GA team up, through GL 76-77 and GA 110-111. (It is also collected in the Green Lantern Emerald Allies TP).

Following a lead from Eddie Fyers, who remembered a guy named Rayner passing through his unit during the Vietnam war, the two young heroes journey to a small town in Nebraska. The trail from there leads to Desolation, a town once visited by Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen on their journeys searching for America. After a fight with the local law enforcement, the two are met by a man who Kyle thinks "looks like me plus 25 years and a cheesy mustache".

This man says he is Aaron Rayner and he is all but in charge of the town of Desolation. He tells Kyle about his joining the army and working his way into the "3 letter government organizations".

He then talks about how after Kyle was born and how he was offered a job that meant he could never come back and nobody could know what happened, not even his wife. He said that his sense of duty won out over love, and he hoped that by performing this job he could keep his wife and son safe. He recruits Kyle to help him put a communications satellite in orbit that will help them spark the second American Revolution by retaking the airwaves from "the liberal media".

It turns out the satellite is an "orbiting particle beam", Kyle's dad is working for a right-wing splinter group and the first target for the satellite is Washington DC. Kyle defuses the satellite after telling off his father and returns to find Aaron Rayner with a crushed chest, an injury sustained while trying to escape from his collapsing base. As he dies, the man Kyle thinks is his father says that he is actually Kyle's uncle Zachary, that he hasn't see Aaron in years and that he is probably dead.

The story ends, somewhere in Colorado, on a military base. A man just getting onto a chopper is stopped by a uniformed man and is handed a telegram which reads "Regret to inform you of the death of your brother. Condolences." This was confirmed as the first appearance of Aaron Rayner in Green Lantern Secret Files #2, under the profile for "Kyle's Parents"

When Kyle's mom first appeared in the comic (GL 88), Kyle told her of her efforts to find his father and the two argued about why Kyle would feel the need to find the man who walked out on them. It becomes very obvious that Kyle's mom has some definite issues about Kyle's father.

The last footnote of Aaron Rayner's life also came in Green Lantern Secret Files #2. At the end of Keeping Secrets, there is a flash forward to "a decade later". Sometime after Jenny-Lynn "Jade" Hayden moved into Kyle's apartment (GL #86), Kyle received an ominous letter reading "I know your secret" in green marker.

Very few solid facts are available about Aaron Rayner, but this much can be determined by the previous entries.

  1. Abanonded Kyle when he was a toddler. Kyle has definite memories of his father as a child.
  2. Remained active in some military capacity to this day.
  3. Had a brother named Zachary.
  4. He truly did leave his wife with little explanation.
  5. He knows his son's secret identity.
  6. Served in the Army or the Marines. In my opinion, more than likely it was the Army. Eddie Fyers was also an Army man in the Vietnam War and it's likely that "ex-Marine" was part of his false credentials as FBI Agent "Ray White".

The Strange History of Aaron Rayner according to Judd Winnick

In this month's GL 150, Kyle used his increased powers to track down his father. Winding up in Austin, Texas, Kyle found a man named Raymond Hauser who he said used to be called "Aaron Rayner". Hauser invites Kyle in and the two talk.

The first significant fact exchanged is that Aaron Rayner is also an alias and the man who fathered Kyle is really name is Gabriel Vasquez, whose parents immigrated into Texas from Mexico when he was a baby. Gabriel was an only child and his mother died when he was 14. Never having had much use for his father, he joined the Army fresh out of high school and was recruited in the CIA a year and a half later. He went into Deep Cover, posing as a weapons dealer in the IRA. It was while stationed in Ireland that he fell in lover with Kyle's mother. His cover was blown and he hurriedly left the country, bringing the woman he loved with him. They married and settled down in Washington DC, where he took a desk job. He goes on to talk about how Kyle was born and how he left a year later, being unable to settle down.

In most details, this story does match most of what we know of Aaron's Rayner past; a military background moving into a covert government organization; he met Kyle's mom in Ireland and brought her back and we even get a specific East Coast location for Kyle's birth. The only sore points, in fact, are the age Kyle was when he left (12 months as opposed to 3 years old) and the fact that Gabe was an only child.

How do we explain brother Zachary, then? More on that in a bit...

Would that it had stopped there, but Kyle recently gained telepathic abilities and he tests them for the first time on his father. It is there that he finds a stunning new development. It seems that Aaron/Gabe had little choice to go on the run and that he was not really working for the government when he abandoned his wife and child.

In truth, Gabe was quite happy to settle down with a wife and child, but his bosses wanted him to go back into Deep Cover. Gabe refused, and when the encouragement to assume his old position became more threatening, he packed up wife and child and went into hiding. Moving every 3 months over the next year (probably ending up in Los Angeles), the moving was tough on Kyle's mother. It was then that someone in the CIA, deciding that if they could not have him they would see him dead, leaked Aaron Rayner's identity and location to a past contact who had reason to see him dead.

Kyle senses that Gabe is lying to him for fear that Kyle would grow to resent his mother for having forced him to make the choice he made. Knowing that he could never save himself but that he could give his wife and son a normal life, Gabe came up with a plan. He beat up his wife and she went to the police, saying that she was leaving him and that he had become drunk and abusive and that she wanted him dead. This story would hopefully convince "the company" and all the other people gunning for him that she was of no value as a bargaining chip to him and they would hopefully leave him alone. He never saw her again and had been in hiding ever since.

Kyle and Gabe make peace and agree to keep in touch. As Kyle leaves, Gabe goes back into his house and flips through an old picture album with pictures of him and his wife in better days. He flips to the back and we see that the album is filled with articles about Green Lantern and Kyle's success as an artist.

Here is where we run into problems. Throughout the Marz run, Kyle's mother became quite violent whenever her husband was mentioned and she slandered him quite badly. However, this might be explained away by saying that she had become so used to having to keep up the façade of the outraged battered wife that she just did it out of habit. Or perhaps she really did resent him for leaving, even if it was to save her life?

In either case, this pales to the rather considerable gaffes caused by the revelation that Gabe has been in hiding from the government for 25 years. If this is true, then he couldn't well have been an FBI agent named Ray White who was investigating UFO crashes in Coast City 12 years after he disappeared into the night, could he? Nor would he be likely to be getting into a helicopter on a military base in Colorado and getting telegrams about a brother who was never born dying.

So how do we explain it? Well, we might consider the words of the narrator in GL 150, who notes, as Gabe looks at his photo album with tears in his eyes...

"Gabriel Vasquez is a man of many secrets. Even more than his son has found out today. Kyle Rayner's ability to read a person's thoughts is very new to him. Very raw. He could only see the images that were on top. The memories that were stirred. Or maybe Kyle just found what he was looking for and dug no deeper. If he had, he might have found out so much more. Gabriel Vasquez is a man of many secrets. He knows his son has a few as well."

Could it be possible that Kyle overlooked things with his newfound telepathic scan? Could it be that Gabriel is not quite as removed from the government as he claims? Could it be that this story he gave Kyle is all an elaborate ruse towards some darker scheme involving covert government organizations?

For now, it cannot be said. Perhaps this is the start of a plot where some shadowy organization will once again seek the last Power Ring for it's own uses, like in the early stories involving Kyle (GL 50-55). Perhaps Kyle will go visit his mother and get Gabe's story confirmed.

Or perhaps, it will be ignored and only die hard fans like me with too much free time on our hands will bother to worry about it and completely ignore the fact that we just got the beginnings of a new GL Corps back?

Only time, and perhaps the new GL Secret Files #3 due out next week (as of my writing this) will tell.

Until next time, may your clerks be friendly and your comics unbent.