RED LANTERNS #32 written by Charles Soule with art by J. Calafiore is a comic that, as a first time Soule reader, did not disappoint.
So this Charles Soule guy apparently sure does write an impressive amount of comic books each month, and yet I’ve managed to not read a single one of them so far. One of my friends has been telling me for a while now that this is one I should look into. Not to give too much away before the meat of the review, but I can see why this guy is writing so many ongoing super hero comics.
Right from the first word bubble this issue had me hooked. It starts out with a guy (Guy Gardner in this case) talking in absolutes about a rescue mission to take back a brother-in-arms. Apparently this is a plot that really pushes my buttons because I immediately started pumping my fist. Fallen comrade? Desperate mission to take back one of our own? Mission that absolutely can’t fail because he’s OUR BROTHER? I don’t think I ever need any other type of storyline. Soule does a great job of presenting what is so awesome about this set-up without overdoing it by giving this comradeship just enough focus.
This is part one of a four issue arc, and Soule does a really good job here of setting up who the main characters are, why the bad guy is doing what he is doing, showing us his plot and traps, and having the heroes make significant advances through the plot points. It really moves right along. There’s no dawdling or wasting or decompressed storytelling. Supergirl is in it as a newer member of the team and is well used as a way to get some exposition out of the way without it feeling forced. There’s a lot of standing (or hovering as the case may be) around and talking about what’s going on, but it actually feels in service to moving the characters and plot forward. Plus he even squeezes a fight in there.
I think one reason I didn’t mind the hovering around talking portions was because of Calafiore’s staging of the scenes. There’s a couple of dutch angle panels in here showing the characters floating from below that work nicely to break up the standard eye-level panels. I’m also a fan of the scratchiness of the art. It’s a little bit more scratchy than an average comic without going overboard. The deep blackness and heaviness of the inks really go a long way here. It does a great job of showing that this comic is a little bit rougher and darker around the edges than most of these things without falling all the way over that cliff into grimdark edginess.
As much as I praised Soule’s pacing and laying out of all of the plot elements, there were a few places where he didn’t pull the curtains quite far enough and we got too big of a peak into the inner workings. Specifically, there’s a scene where Guy Gardner has a ridiculous, out of the blue argument with Supergirl and makes her leave the team. “Go away, this isn’t your fight!” “I don’t want to leave! This is my family!” “You’ve got to find your own way in life.” “This is the way I choose.” Next page: “Where’s Supergirl?” “I made her leave.” WHAT? It’s like Soule needed her gone from the story for a few issues before she (presumably) flies in to save the day at the end of the arc, but couldn’t come up with a clever way to actually facilitate that.
There were a few places I could have used a little more exposition as well. At one point a character takes down another by taking a blast from a giant spaceship’s giant laser cannon. Both characters are left charred looking like corpses, but somehow still barely alive. A “Good thing her powers of_________ protected her enough to survive” would have been appreciated. Also, Gardner, Supergirl, and the baddie, Atrocitus, get the lion’s share of the character moments here. With Supergirl presumably off the stage for next issue I hope there will be more room to find out more about some of the other characters.
There’s nothing truly special about this comic, but it does a really competent job of being another issue in a monthly superhero comic book. There’s more than enough here to get me interested in the series, and I’ll probably be going back to see what all I’ve missed. This is a good one.
Pick up this comic if you like wicked goatees on characters who don’t traditionally have them, ink heavy art, or all for one and one for all.