When we last left our intrepid, red avengers, they’d just walked into a carefully executed trap and now they find themselves at the mercy of a tyrannical king using the most unlikely of weapons: a beam that causes the victim to become placid and content. Since the Reds are fueled by their rage, this renders them effectively harmless and unable to fight. Charles Soule has a real knack for writing very serious characters with just enough wit to keep them interesting without sacrificing the sincerity at their hearts (no pun intended) and unlike his work on Thunderbolts, there’s nothing satirical going on here, just good, old-fashioned characterization with a dash of wit to give the characters some verve. And verve is certainly what was missing from the first several issues of this series. The Atrocitus sub-plot also finally shows signs of bearing fruit and only occupies a few pages in the issue. We also get a shockingly dramatic moment with some incredible emotional content.
Jim Calafiore’s linework is solid, rendering this bizarre, diverse cast with thick, smooth lines that bring plenty of definition, but physical and emotional, to the proceedings and Gabe Eltaeb is, as always, at the top of his coloring game on this, a book that definitely needs a strong hand to color it. This issue is definitely heavy on the action and the artists to a great job of keeping it fluid, which is all the more amazing for how prodigious and defined the linework is. It could come off as stiff or overly posed, but rarely does.
There are still small pieces of this issue that don’t make a great deal of sense to me. How the villain that sprung the trap on the Reds survived isn't really answered and the storyline also wraps up just a little too quickly and neatly and I wouldn’t have minded seeing this go on for another issue. This is especially true of the B-plot, and while I’m happy to see it finally payoff, it happened just as abruptly, especially after the introduction of what seemed like it would be a very significant character. Both storylines, while still entertaining, felt a little more like wheel-spinning that would have fit in better before Lights Out when we were still getting to know Guy Gardner's leadership style.
The award for Most Turned Around Book in 2013 (not a real award) goes to Red Lanterns, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not sure how it happened, but a book about a bunch of outer space monsters that vomit acidic blood on their enemies became rote and dull. Ordinarily I don’t like shoehorning humans into alien stories (it feels like a cheap way to get someone the audience can identify with), particularly as this book already had one of those, but the combination of Charles Soule and Guy Gardner seems to be just what the book needed. This storyline may not have been the most epic or groundbreaking, but it set a great foundation for what the tone and tenor of this book can be.