Kyle Rayner continues to explore the strangest, darkest corners of the DCU and still can’t quite seem to get it right. Whether he’s tossing aside his ring on a hostile planet or awakening an ancient, eternal madness, Rayner’s early prediction that he’s not much of a detective certainly bears out. Though as an explorer: he’s still top-notch as far as I’m concerned. Justin Jordan removed the tour guide aspect of Rayner’s mission for the time being, and I think the timing on that couldn’t have been better. The New Guardians are still interesting and I’m glad to see they’re still in the book, but the premise of them being led around felt like its expiration was coming up, so seeing Kyle in a similar-but-different situation is a refreshing splash of cold water to this title’s face. The issue concerns mostly Rayner and a new entity he tests the limits of his unstable White Lantern powers on and the two of them are extremely well-written. Plus I'm a sucker for anything involving Lovecraftian imagery and themes. Kyle’s natural curiosity is definitely played both straight and funny, but the emphasis on the emotional spectrum that Rayner is attuned to is where the writing really shines. That and on the new character, equal parts pitiable and scream-yourself-awake nightmarish.
This isn’t Diogenes Neves’ first foray into New Guardians, but its his first time helming the title’s pencils, and his cartoonishly realistic style does a great job of highlighting the wild, weird world that Kyle winds up on, while keeping everything grounded and semi-realistic. Marc Deering’s inks bring clarity and verve to the issue, highlighting the horrors that Kyle must face and keeping everything distinct while Wil Quintana’s colors, as they always do, create a sense of bold, daring adventure. The art is tonally consistent with the previous issues, but there’s definitely a dark core behind them that suits this issue’s tone pitch-perfectly.
This feels like an issue at odds with itself. We got some amazing developments for Team Ferris/Rayner in the Annual, but those have been immediately put on ice. Absence can make the heart grow fonder, but this feels like it could very easily result in unfortunate derailment as the fondness was just starting to form. We’re also introduced to a character that seems like it could be the heart of its own mini-series or even crossover event, only to have it quickly resolved in the blink of an eye. I understand that there was a point to be made here and a new goal to be established, but I’d have loved to see Raga get at least one more issue in the story.
This issue takes the series in a direction at once foreign and familiar, and I’m already on-board. We still get the U.S.S. White Lantern (still no “Lantern’s Log, stardate…”, I AM WAAAAITIING!) and it’s clear that Carol Ferris the Guardians still have a role to play but seeing the two different foci is a nice change of pace. I’m just hoping we get to resume some of the unexplored storylines once they come back together, rather than returning to “status quo,” but I have faith in the creative team to make it compelling either way.