(DC Comics, 2014)
Written by Charles Soule
Artwork by Alessandro Vitti, Jim Calafiore
Color Artwork by Gabe Eltaeb
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Charles Soule is without a doubt the hardest working man in comics. He is certainly prolific but more impressive than the sheer volume of his creative output is the quality of the work he produces. Soule is impossible to classify as any one type of writer because his work runs the gamut from the political sci-fi thriller of Letter 44, to the super-natural musings of Swamp Thing, to the humor infused super heroics of Thunderbolts all the way to the romantic adventure of Superman/Wonder Woman, this guy can do it all and do it all well. I was fortunate enough to speak with Charles at last year’s Baltimore Comic-Con and besides being one of the nicest guys I’ve had the sincere pleasure of meeting; he was extremely candid when I asked if he had any concerns about following Scott Snyder on Swamp Thing after Snyder’s lengthy Rot World arc. Soule simply expressed his desire to tell good stories that people would enjoy and to respect the characters. Looking back on that meeting I would say he has done that and so much more. He has become something of the industry’s “go-to” guy, most recently Soule was tapped to take over the upcoming Inhuman series from Matt Fraction at Marvel.
Soule’s work on the Red Lanterns series has been some of his darker offerings however he departs from the heavier tone of previous issues with a slightly more humorous tale in issue #27. Although Red Lanterns is very much a part of the Green Lantern Universe and current New 52 continuity, the book holds a rather unique position in the overall scheme of things. The Red Lanterns are somewhat removed from the mainstream. Guy Gardener and his corps of rage addled, plasma hurling, red ring slingers have risen to the top of the Lantern franchise, owing much of that popularity to an unorthodox group of miscreants and the imaginative plots, dynamic characterizations and overall brilliant writing of Charles Soule.
The unusually lighthearted story of this issue is predicated on something of a somber note. After losing Ratchet in battle defeating the oppressor Gensui, the team is in need of a diversion. Guy decides to take Skallox and Zilius with him on a trip to Earth while Bleez and Rankorr go off in pursuit of Ratchet’s ring which is now in search of a new bearer. Upon their arrival in Guy’s Earthly hometown of Baltimore (which happens to be mine as well) Skallox and Zilius express their burning desire to find some super-powered challengers with whom to brawl, so the three travelers become two as Guy gives them an itinerary and his best wishes for a safe journey. Guy then makes tracks to Norway where he is reunited with his on again of again love interest Tora aka Ice. The reunion is one of the issue’s highlights; Soule has a talent for writing dialogue, moreover relationship dialogue between super-heroes. His penchant for finding the voices of these characters is uncanny, the words ring true without a hint of pretension or disingenuousness. Of course this is not unfamiliar territory for Soule, if you have been reading his extremely entertaining Superman/Wonder Woman series you know just how well he handles this type of material. However Guy and Tora are a very different couple with a volatile element that is not present in Clark and Diana’s relationship. That precariousness is what Soule taps into here with explosive results. The reunion is a bitter-sweet occasion, poignant and frustrating in their self-imposed incompatibility.
Meanwhile Skallox and Zilius run into Shadow Thief who is more than willing to give them the fight they are looking for however they may very well have bitten off more than they can chew. Bleez and Rankorr are likewise unpleasantly surprised on their quest to find Ratchet’s vacated ring. This issue is so good, it truly has a little bit of everything we love about comic books; there are larger than life characters on perilous quests, snappy quips and impossibly witty banter and even a goodly amount of romantic misadventure. Charles Soule is in that class of writer with Mark Waid, Brian Bendis and Geoff Johns, the consummate storytellers. Soule can take the existing tropes of a genre and build a heartfelt, character driven drama that feels authentic. He is as gifted a writer as we have working in comic books today but more than that he is a genuine storyteller.
Visually, Alessandro Vitti is perhaps more well suited to the darker narratives in this series. This is predominately due to his emotionally charged line work which has a tendency to be gritty and not as clean. However I really do like his work particularly his take on Guy’s new look in this issue. The weirdly shaved quasi-marine haircut is gone replaced by a shaggy quaffed and mustachioed Gardener straight out of a 1970’s police drama. Vitti gets some help from Jim Calafiore in this issue. It’s not a jarring transition when the two artists trade off so it works fine for me. I found the collaboration to be quite successful giving the book a unified appearance and a sense of cohesion throughout.
This issue is indicative of why this book deserves a vast readership. Soule, Vitti and Calafiore deliver a top notch story with dynamic visuals. Red Lanterns has been a book that I look forward to reading ever since Soule took the helm. I recommend it whole-heartedly, in fact this issue, while maybe not a perfect jumping on spot, could easily be read and enjoyed on its own merits. (4.75/5)
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.