When he took over Red Lanterns, it sounded like Charles Soule was initiating my own personal comics apocalypse. He was taking a book I cared little about and slotting in a character I actively disliked. However, he seemed to get at the heart of who Guy Gardner is, an eternal second-fiddle with the ego of a headliner, and not only acknowledge that, but use it to fuel a massive amount of character development. He also finally revealed Gardner's over-the-top machismo as the laughingstock it should be, rather than having everyone excuse, or even respect, it. Make no mistake: Red Lanterns is now Guy Gardner’s book, and I for one have been overjoyed to be wrong about my initial worries. But now with Lights Out and Relic carving a swath of pure terror across the galaxy, the Red Lanterns may ALSO be the only hope to stop the mad cosmic being as he can drain both rings and central batteries dry. The Red Lanterns' connection to Ysmault’s blood lake as well as spectrum energy being their greatest advantage against him. But when Hal Jordan shows up and demands Gardner fall in line, the undercover agent discards his previous ties and asserts himself a Red Lantern through-and-through. This leads to Jordan and Gardner going a couple of rounds (at this point, I’m starting to think it’s Hal’s fault for getting into all these fights…) before settling down and talking it out. Soule has taken a bunch of characters that I wouldn’t be able to tell you one thing about and, in absolute record time, given them personalities and even hobbies of their own. He writes Guy Gardner so well that I, a dyed-in-the-wool hater of all things Gardner (except when he was being written as a jingoistic parody), have grown to tolerate, even LIKE, the character. This guy knows his stuff.
The linework of Alessandro Vitti makes a welcome appearance here with his jagged outlines and harsh shadowing giving every character an air of understated viciousness, even the non-Red Lanterns. And while I was ready to take Bleez’s pantless costume to task for its cheesecakiness, there’s a shot of Hal Jordan that...well, I’ll just say Hal certainly has nothing to be shy about under his skintight costume either. It’s even front-and-center, saucily framed in the panel, so I’m going to call this one a wash and say well done, Alessandro! That aside, the characters have that same perma-scowl that’s made this book so consistently hostile in its tone, which works for a bunch of freaks powered by rage. Colors by the omnipresent Gabe Eltaeb are, of course, a delight alongside these sharp lines, as I’ve said before, color in these books is paramount as it’s always a central theme. So it’s a great thing having a veteran like Eltaeb because every page and panel looks gorgeous and springs off the page.
This issue is highly entertaining, but it feels like its spinning its wheels a great deal. We see Atrocitus and Dex-Starr lose the Red Entity they only gained in the last issue, which makes the whole thing feel like it was something of a waste last time around. All it’s served to do is put Atrocitus’ sights on Kyle Rayner, a person he already wasn’t terribly fond of. We get some good development in the beginning and at the end, but the rest of the issue feels like it could’ve been resolved in a few pages. I also wasn’t kidding about Hal flying off the handle a little too easily lately. I get that he’s under a great deal of pressure, but he’s now started brawls with both Kyle and Guy when he needed their help, and it’s a fine line to walk between him being headstrong and being a jerk.
Red Lanterns actually stands fairly well on its own, despite being a part of (yet another) Green Lantern cross-over. Soule has done a great job of having the Reds strike out on their own in very few issues, and the end of this issue makes it clear that, after the dust has settled, that may be truer than its ever been. I’m intrigued to see what this means for the future of the series, and this issue still stands up well enough, even if not terribly much happens and it cancels one of the most interesting developments from the previous issues, I’m still invested, and impressed, enough to highly recommend it.