Charles Soule has completely reinvigorated my interest in this book and this issue makes it official. Bringing Guy Gardner in as a double-agent who may, in fact, be in far too deep was just the beginning. The real key lay in making the Red Lanterns more focused and more personable as opposed to a ravening force of wild rage as their original intent seemed to be as sort of cosmic Spectres: agents of vengeance and the harshest kind of justice imaginable. They’re not precisely villains, so they should have nothing to repent for, which is what issues before Soule took over seemed to lose sight of, having them reduced to “repentant villains.” Now with Guy having taken Atrocitus’ ring as well as the ship of a pirate named Barg, the Red Lanterns have a new leader and a roof over their heads. Some of them are certainly happier about this than others, but regardless, Soule writes them all with very distinct, individual personalities and voices. This was another flaw previously: all the characters had very similar voices that radiated generic rage. While that rage hasn’t been reduced in the slightest, disparate personalities have begun to emerge among the different Lanterns, and even a bit of backstory here and there. Even the diminutive Dex-Starr (a rage-infused cat...so, you know, a cat) and Atrocitus are developing in unprecedented, and adorable, ways.
Alessandro Vitti and Jim Calafiore trade off artistic duties, practically alternating pages, with Gabe Eltaeb keeping the coloring consistent across the entire issue. I enjoy this book for how completely alien everything looks, and I mean that word in more than just the characters. Ysmault looks like a completely different world than what we’re used to and the locations Atrocitus and Dex-Starr travel to are likewise bizarre and twisted. That is definitely not meant to downplay the cast of characters, some of the strangest beings ever put to paper and one of the highlights of the book across the board. As always, Eltaeb’s colors deserve special notice in a book where the color red is of obvious and massive significance, he still manages to keep it varied and interesting with a great sense of both explosive action and amazing vibrancy.
A lot of DC books leading into Villain’s Month have left off on massive cliffhangers, but this is definitely one of the most egregious. There’s some great build up in this book, but almost no payoff and it feels like the A-Game is being saved for next issue, which won’t be until October. It’s not that this title is insignificant, at least two developments happen in it, but it definitely feels like the issue BEFORE things become incredible.
This is still the best Red Lanterns has ever been, and this is what I always wanted from the book, so I find it hard to be TOO mad that it engaged in a bit of pattern holding. Soule is still writing some of the most interesting characters in the DCU and the art, despite being split between two pencil/inkers, is appropriate and fit the title’s needs just fine. They’re also JUST similar enough to be a smooth transition, though not a flawless one. If you’re following Red Lanterns, this is definitely a must-buy, but for everyone else, I’d recommend waiting for the trade (though you should DEFINITELY pick that up) and I personally can’t wait until this story resumes in October.