Red Lanterns #33 Review

on July 25, 2014

I honestly haven’t been following Red Lanterns regularly, but whenever I’ve looked into the title under Charles Soule’s and Alessandro Vitti’s guidance, it has always been interesting, which is very surprising, because the Red Lanterns aren’t a concept I usually find compelling. This issue continues the trend of offering a pleasant read, even if there are some concerns with it. Red Lanterns #33 is part two of the “Atrocities” storyline, which, from what I can discern, is essentially about a power struggle among the Red Lanterns.

Therein lays the first red flag. I have a problem with the tired concept of Lanterns fighting each other. For a very long time, former Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns beat Lantern wars so far into the ground that subsequent creative teams made stories about how the universe is tired of the Lanterns’ gang wars.

Though the overall backdrop of this story is beyond redundant, Soule and Vitti redeem themselves by doing really great work with the characters.

The setting for most of this issue is a really cool interstellar bar.

I really like this issue’s setting, which is an interstellar trading port with a busy bar filled with eye catching aliens. This place has a lot of character. The design of the port is great, and I like how there are a bunch of ships flying around it to make up space traffic, which creates a sense of activity that one would expect a port to have. Green Lantern #30 also featured a trading port, but its noticeable lack of traffic dumbs the setting down. I like that Vitti and Soule think of such details. It helps to build a world that is easier to get immersed in.

We see Guy Gardner reclining in the bar, and he looks like someone who’s got a lot on his mind. I like the new look for Guy Gardner, and I actually prefer him as a Red Lantern. It seems like a natural progression with the way it’s been handled, and Soule writes the character better than anyone I’ve seen in years. Fans haven’t raised a fuss over the change, either, so even those more invested in the character than I am generally think it’s cool.

John Stewart arrives at the bar and Guy is surprised he showed up. Guy says that his first instinct was to talk to Hal Jordan instead. This leads to a great bit of sequential art and writing from Vitti and Soule when John expresses his discontent over Gardner thinking about confiding in Hal Jordan instead of him. We see Gardner sit there and crack a smile as he gives away that he’s just messing with John, and the two have a drink together.

The interaction between Guy Gardner and John Stewart is really well done. For a while, the stories have been saying that John and Guy are great friends, and there have been moments that have shown their friendship, but I was never totally sold on the relationship. Under former Green Lantern Corps writer Peter Tomasi’s pen, there was just never any strong chemistry between the duo, which is a shame, because John and Guy were the main characters of his run. Charles Soule gets across a believable and comfortable feeling of camaraderie between the two characters as they sit down and have a heart to heart.

Charles Soule does better at showcasing a convincing bond between John Stewart and Guy Gardner than former Green Lantern Corps writer Peter Tomasi ever did.

John wonders what all of this is about and Guy decides to fill him in on why he called him there. Guy’s explanation also serves as a rundown for readers of Green Lantern Corps (like me) who may not regularly follow Red Lanterns, but are coming over to see what John is up to.

Guy explains that the Red Lanterns have broken into two factions. One is led by Guy Gardner, and the other by Atrocitus. They are feuding and Atrocitus’ faction has taken the upper hand by poisoning the Blood Lake at the Red Lantern base planet of Ysmault and wrecking the Central Power Battery there. Somehow, he’s also made Red Lantern Rankorr lose his mind and revert into a nonstop berserker rage. As Gardner explains the situation, the narrative zooms to Ysmault where we see all this for ourselves.

Bleez is really worried about Rankorr. Zox and Skallox are aboard the Red Lantern ship scanning Space Sectors in an effort to find Atrocitus. Skallox seems to be losing faith in Gardner, but Zox believes Guy will come back with help. Zox goes to relieve Bleez’s shift of watching Rankorr as Skallox scans his home Sector, 718. Vitti and Soule do excellent with Zillius Zox. His look and dialogue make him an instantly lovable character.

Zillius Zox is instant win. Vitti and Soule have an incredibly good grasp on their characters.

When Zox is gone, Skallox opens up ring communications with… someone. He tells them he’s found Atrocitus, and the person on the other end asks if Skallox is “sure he wants to—“and Skallox says he is. We don’t know who that person Skallox was communicating with is. It doesn’t seem like it could be Guy Gardner because he’s in a conversation with John Stewart. The story continues with John and Guy as the Green Lantern tells Guy of the Corps members who ask about him and how he’s doing.

Then John asks the question he’s been wondering for a while. He asks Guy why he went over to the Reds, pointing out that they’re monsters driven by an unproductive emotion – Rage. Guy admits he wanted revenge on himself, and John can’t understand that. Guy asks how John is doing, perhaps sensing the Lantern is troubled, but John says he’s alright. Guy has noticed John stealing glances at a pretty alien girl with feline and human qualities who bears somewhat of a resemblance to Fatality.

This is the first time we’ve seen John since the traumatic events of Green Lantern Corps #33, in which his girlfriend was revealed to be an evil shape-shifter, and Soule brings out John’s personal problems by having him be reminded of his old girlfriend by another girl who looks like her. It’s very interesting, and something that probably a lot of people can relate to. I’m glad Soule didn’t ignore the goings-on of GLC in this title.

John is reminded of Fatality when he sees an alien girl in the bar with some similar traits. John is always a sucker for those alien girls.

Guy asks if what happened with Fatality makes John mad, to which John replies that it doesn’t because anger isn’t constructive. Guy counters, saying that sometimes you’ve got to burn everything down in order to rebuild, after which he excuses himself to the rest room.

On Ysmault Bleez stabs herself in the arm to give Rankorr her own blood, believing that is what he needs to get better, but when she tries to offer it to him, the wild Red Lantern uses the opportunity to attack her. Zox arrives and beats Rankorr back into his confines. He tries to contact Skallox for help, but it turns out Skallox has secretly left Ysmault to go to his planet of Styge Prime where he finds a new blood lake with a massive Red Lantern Chapel in its center.

Atrocitus and his cronies capture Skallox. They plan on executing him because he joined Guy Gardner, but Skallox begs for his life and claims he wants to join Atrocitus’ new Red Lantern cult. He is thankful that Atrocitus killed some enemy of his and wants to express his gratitude. Atrocitus decides to spare Skallox.

Back in the bar, John Stewart is unexpectedly attacked by three large and angry aliens, claiming that they heard he’s been saying stuff about them. John says he didn’t say anything and goes on the attack. Gardner casually appears again and asks John if he needs a hand and John welcomes the help. During the tussle, Guy asks if John is angry and John admits that he might be.

After the fight, the two Lanterns are hurt and exhausted, but Guy knows that John feels better about what was bothering him afterwards, since the release of battle allowed him to blow off some steam and clear his head. John pieces together that Guy sent those aliens to beat him up as a way of showing him that rage has its beneficial uses.

Once that point has been made, Guy gets to the real meat of the matter and asks John for help against Atrocitus. The Red Lanterns control Space Sector 2814, so if Atrocitus beats them, he’ll have Earth – John’s home planet. The Green Lantern understands Guy’s predicament, but says he can’t help. Essentially, Red Lantern problems are Red Lantern problems, and since the Reds are not allies of the Green Lantern Corps, the Green Lanterns will not get involved in their infighting. John offers Guy the invitation of returning to the Green Lantern Corps and leaving the Reds behind, but Guy is loyal to his people and won’t leave them.

While there are interesting moments between characters in this issue, not a lot happens to move the plot. The climax of it is a bar fight.

The story closes with Atrocitus summoning oodles of red power rings from the blood lake to find new wearers, which will leave Guy and his team at a huge disadvantage.

This story is basically of two guys talking in a bar about their current situations, and then there’s some other stuff that you won’t totally understand unless you regularly follow this title, and it pretty much boils down to Lantern squabbling. Even so, Soule has a very natural way of depicting these characters that is entertaining to read, and he’s built believable bonds between them that other writers have failed to do. It’s interesting that Guy Gardner’s part doesn’t seem to progress the plot at all. He beseeches John for help, but John just turns him down, leaving Guy in the same position he was in before the issue began. On the other hand, this is an evolving story, so what happened here may very well have ramifications down the line. Perhaps John will come to Guy’s aid. We’ll see.

The art of Alessandro Vitti is not a particular favorite of mine, but it is very fitting for this title. It’s got a harsh, edgy quality that suits the characters and theme of this book, so in that sense, it definitely succeeds. As previously mentioned, his work on the alien characters and the environments is also impressive.

Good character interactions, an engrossing atmosphere, and fun dialogue make this issue worth checking out, but It seems like it’s biding its time for the Annual to hit next week, and the overarching plot of the story is rather stale.

3.0 out of 5 stars.

Read Green Lantern Corps #33 Review.
Read Green Lantern Corps #32 Review.