In this single page, DC Comics has completely erased Kyle Rayner’s origin.
I guess it was silly to expect Kyle to survive the reboot unscathed. After all, most of his contemporaries (Connor Hawke, Wally West, etc.) no longer exist. Neither do most of his ex-girlfriends (Donna Troi, Jade). With the new compressed timeline, Kyle shouldn’t even be a Green Lantern. But the fact that he is one, and that he was given his own title (one he shares with representatives from the other Lantern Corps, but still) made it seem like maybe his history was for the most part intact. This page changes everything.
Kyle used to be the “Last Green Lantern”, the lone person entrusted with a power ring after Hal Jordan went mad and wiped out the entire Green Lantern Corps (or, post-“Rebirth” retcon, was possessed by Parallax and forced to destroy the Corps). Kyle was the Torch Bearer, the one who kept the fire burning until the Corp could be restored. He was the one who used the power of Ion to resurrect the Guardians of the Universe. He helped bring back Hal Jordan to life.
But in this flashback to Kyle’s early days in the uniform the Guardians seem to be alive and well (and some of them are female, something that originally didn’t happen until Kyle brought them back to life). Kilowog is training rookies, which means there is still a whole Corps of Green Lanterns. But if Kyle is just another recruit, and the Guardians and the Corps are still around, does that mean Hal Jordan never went evil? Is that entire part of DCU history just gone?
I don’t know who Kyle Rayner is anymore. I don’t know how or why he was chosen to join the Green Lantern Corps. I don’t know what his early career was like (except that his girlfriend Alex was still murdered and stuffed in a refrigerator; surely DC could have retconned that particular story element). This is no small thing, as Kyle has been my favourite character since I started reading comics. Now that character is just… gone.
The most frustrating part of this development is I’ve really been enjoying “New Guardians”. For the first time in nearly a decade, Kyle has a purpose. In the early issues it was to unite members of the different Corps. Now, with the ‘Rise of the Third Army’ storyline that’s crossing through the Green Lantern titles, he’s trying to harness the power of all the spectrums.
I guess in time we’ll learn more about how Kyle came to be the fourth Green Lantern from Earth. I don’t mind so much that his past as been re-written (the same has happened to Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch in “Firestorm”, which is one of my favourite New 52 titles), it’s the way it was handled — a year into the reboot, in a one page flashback. The zero issues DC did a few months ago would have been a perfect opportunity to revise Kyle’s origin. The way it’s handled here, it feels more like the writer just wasn’t aware of Kyle’s backstory.