REVIEW: ‘Red Lanterns’ #34

(DC Comics, 2014)

Written by Charles Soule
Artwork by Alessandro Vitti & Jim Calafiore
Color Artwork by Gabe Eltaeb
Lettering by Dave Sharpe

Guy Gardner is one of those love him or hate him kind of characters, in fact I would say he is the quintessential archetype of that brand of divisive anti-hero, however the guy has more heart than most any of the cape clad crew members and ample fight to back up all of his badass boasting and in the hands of the right writer, Gardner can be one of the most charismatic yet simultaneously endearing and repulsive characters this side of space sector 2814. Since coming on board Charles Soule has slowly and meticulously developed Gardner within established parameters while broadening and deepening the character the whole time maintaining all the elements that have made Gardner the brash, sometimes mustachioed and mullet sporting malcontent we have all come to reluctantly adore. That is no easy task, in fact Soule seems to have struggled more with this character than any of the others he is currently working on. That is due in no small part to the bundle of contradictions that make up Guy Gardner and the delicate balance that must be adhere to in order to make this character work. Fortunately for us, Soule seems to have hit the target dead bang this time around.

This issue is the concluding chapter of the “Atrocities” arc that began just three issues ago but has encompassed such epic plot points that it reads like a huge summer event book. The action begins with the first panel; it picks up mid-battle as Guy’s ragtag band of Red Lanterns face a multitudinous militia of humans that have been turned into Reds by Atrocitus for the sole purpose of taking down the rightful Red Lanterns. Atrocitus is obsessed with usurping Guy’s authority as leader of the Red Lanterns but as it turns out Guy would gladly give up his claim to that power but he would never relinquish it to one such as Atrocitus .The action reaches a fever pitch almost immediately and maintains that level of intensity throughout the entirety of the issue. No one is safe and certainly survival is not a foregone conclusion for any of the combatants on other side; Soule does a fantastic job of keeping the tense, suspenseful action exciting and imaginative. The drama is likewise intense which is evident in the dialogue; these soldiers have chosen sides in a battle to end all battles but that is not to say that they all share an unwavering loyalty to the cause, there are knives galore just poised to be slid into an unsuspecting back.

The long range implications of the events in this issue are what make it so satisfyingly tense. The uncertain outcome and what hangs in the balance for not only the Red Lanterns but more specifically for Guy Gardner is the true focal point of this arc. Soule sets up a really interesting proposition for Gardner’s potential future. It seems to be Guy’s sincere desire to become the master of his own destiny, he is truly a man caught between two worlds, not just the Reds and the Greens but between two mindsets. Again we are back at that eternal crossroads where Gardner seems to live. This is an excellent piece of character development on Soule’s part; he gets to the heart of Gardner but does so in a way that allows us to see the inner workings of a complex individual, warts and all.

Visually, Alessandro Vitti and J. Califiore do a stunning job of bringing Soule’s narrative bristling to life with some electrifying imagery and spot on, pulse pounding pacing. The line work is organic and somewhat sketchy but this works really well in this case to enhance the kinetic energy created by the imagines. Gabe Eltaeb’s pallet of intense colors provides an atmosphere of crackling cosmic energy, particularly in the action packed battles and other-worldly environments.

Red Lanterns has been a progressive work, each issue building upon the last, developing and deepening the characters and their interactions in an authentic and genuine way. Charles Soule certainly has a full plate in front of him but he continues to impress with engrossing arcs, inventive plots and just plain well written and enjoyable stories. Red Lanterns may not be his absolute best work to date but if you enjoy fast action with captivating drama give this book a try, especially in light of recent events now is a good time to jump in. (3.75/5)

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.

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