REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR, BLOCKED SPOILERS
Last issue brought a new Red Lantern into Guy Gardner’s flock, but this issue lets us know that she may not be here to stay. Dubbing herself Judge, she’s sure to be a great addition to the story one way or the other, but this tale doesn’t center around her. It centers around the Reds rescuing Rankorr after Atrocitus agrees to return him. Unfortunately, there was some fine print on that contract that could change the entire makeup of the war before it even jumps off. And of course there’s the matter of what to do about semi-new recruit Kara Zor-El and her involvement with a war that she, by rights, need not fight in. Charles Soule actually takes this issue in a much more serious direction tonally. The humor that peppered previous issues certainly isn’t gone, but it’s much more understated and the wisecracks are few-and-far between, but the more dire situation earns that shift. The situation is becoming increasingly grave and humor, even the gallows humor of Zox, would be out of place with things being what they are. Soule’s certainly earned the turn and it feels neither forced nor out of character for where the book is going.
J. Calafiore provides the linework this issue and does an admirable job. I absolutely love the way he draws the alien characters in this issue, from Atrocitus to Zox to Skallox, all of them have this grave hideous intensity that brings a sense of dread and ugliness to each of the freakish Reds. His lines are thick and defined, bringing characters forward from the backgrounds and putting the diversity of appearance on full display. The backgrounds deserve special mention as well, mostly because they’re presented beautifully in every panel. The only panels that lack backgrounds are ones where it’s appropriate (you’ll see what I mean when you read the issue, and that’s WHEN not IF) and I feel like that’s an underrated virtue. It gives the issue an incredible sense of place and Gabe Eltaeb’s colors are a huge part of that as well. From characters to backgrounds to effects, Eltaeb has a beautiful continuity of vision that makes the entire issue permeate a sense of heat and intensity. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Andrea Sorrentino’s absolutely GORGEOUS cover. I’m not sure what else I can say about it, it encapsulates the story in the issue without really giving anything away. It’s an amazing example of an “abstract” cover.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: I don’t like what happens to Supergirl in this issue. She’s talked out of being a Red Lantern by Guy essentially telling her it’s not her fight, and while he MAY be correct, it’s not really his call to make. It feels like she comes around a little too readily and just leaves on the eve of their greatest battle after forming a pretty strong bond over a relatively short time. While Guy comment that she’s not a weapon is a noble sentiment, if she wanted to stick around, it feels like she should have. Part of the reason this disappoints me so much is because I LOVE how Soule's been writing her and don't want that to come to an end.
I’m just not going to believe anything solicits say anymore, and while I think Calafiore does a great job with the visuals, he frequently works on the book, his human characters fall a little flat for me this issue. This includes Bleez as well, but his human faces and some action seems stiff and stilted, reducing their kinetic impact by a bit.
The good still far outweighs the bad and this is a great opening to the hostilities between Guy Gardner and Atrocitus. This is a storyline that’s been building since Gardner took over the Reds and, quite frankly, did a better job of it than Atrocitus. There are not just new pieces but new powers on the table, and we’re in for another great ride on this particular title. There’s scarcely been a better time to jump on this title than this issue.