Where there’s red and green, there’s Christmas in July, specifically for Green Lantern fans.
A quick summary for you casual comic fans who hate fun and therefore didn’t read our preview of Red Lanterns #20 — The Red Lanterns are the enemies of DC Comics’ Green Lantern Corps, except their rings run on hate rather than willpower. Their leader, Atrocitus, has a personal grudge against the Corps because its leaders accidentally slaughtered his entire galaxy. But now those leaders–the Guardians–are dead, and the Red and Green Lantern Corps aren’t even sure if they’re still enemies (but…yeah, probably). Straightforward stuff, right?
The plot, at least, but the morality is about to get a lot less straightforward. This issue welcomes new writer Charles Soule and artist Alessandro Vitti as the book veers toward a deeper complexity. Previously, the Red Lanterns more or less had a revenge mandate tempered by Atrocitus’s sense of justice. The entire Corps was his private pain brigade, committed to destroying the Guardians who had hurt him. Now the Guardians are gone and with the wind out of his sails, Atrocitus realizes just how difficult his gang of rudderless hate-addicts is to steer.
His efforts to do so meet with some shock and defiance among his already depleted Corps, and with numbers dwindling, he’s in no position to turn away new recruits–especially one as gifted with a power ring as Guy Gardner.
Gardner’s been asked by fellow Green Lantern Hal Jordan to go undercover and re-enlist with the Red Lanterns as a mole. Given Gardner’s rage issues, and the fact that the red ring turns its user into a violent lunatic, it’s no small request–especially since Gardner had only just purged its effects from his system. But he heads to the Red Lantern home planet to see if Atrocitus is buying what he’s selling.
And that’s where the book finally takes on an element that’s often been missing from its run thus far: an engaging way to ride along with the Reds. Soule describes his vision for the book as “Bad people doing good things by doing bad things,” in the vein of Sons of Anarchy‘s gun-running motorcycle gang fighting even worse villains. Gardner’s presence gives this book its much-needed point-of-view character to triangulate between the reader and the monsters who headline the title. It’s also ripe soil to grow Gardner’s identity, as Soule digs up an old trait of the character’s to talk himself down in order to rile himself up. But with this new inner monologue, Soule digs a little bit deeper than previous glimpses, to expose the bedrock of his motivation. In doing so, he shows why an anger addict can still become a hero.
The two parties’ needs lace up very well, and the conclusion is going to change the dynamic for everything that comes. Additionally, after wave upon wave of crossovers, the Lantern books needed a moment to breathe and collect themselves. This is that. Mastermind writer Geoff Johns has just departed after tying a decade-long run up tight and forever redefining the Lanterns concept. By reaching back to characterization that preceded Johns’ run to further develop his plots, this is a great first step moves the series forward without abandoning what came before or wallowing in it.