RED LANTERNS #33, written by Charles Soule with art by Alessandro Vitti and colors by Gabe Eltaeb, is a quiet issue at the worst time.
RED LANTERNS #32 was the first issue I read of this series, and the first comic from the prolific Charles Soule that I had read in general. It impressed me with how well it set up all the pieces of the story arc it was starting and definitely left me excited for the series and wanting to see more. In comparison to that, the new issue just feels like it’s spinning its wheels waiting for the annual to drop next week.
Alessandro Vitti here keeps some of the aspects of J. Calafiore’s style, lending a continuity to the look of the book despite the artist change from last issue. In particular, the inking style is the same with lustrous blacks and and rough, heavy inking in some places, especially the edges of Guy Gardner’s hair. This may be a weird, small thing to talk about, but I also like the way he draws clothes, especially Guy’s uniform. I just dig that high collar. There’s also this group of toughs that come in at the end to get in a fist fight with John Stewart and Guy, and I really dug their designs as well. They had a really cool look for a group of characters that was only going to appear for two pages.
In the plot, one of Guy’s Red Lanterns goes off and gets himself captured by Atrocitus (who is wearing some pretty gnarly preacher robes now by the way). He comes off as really weak and ready to betray his team. On a second read through though, there may be hints that he has a different plan. I like this ambiguity. If I had read more issues I’d probably have a better sense of the character and what exactly he is up to, though. The big cliffhanger ending is a great set up for next week’s annual as well.
A lot of this issue is Guy and John sitting around at a space bar catching up. Now, there’s nothing wrong with hang out, catch-up, character bonding scenes in comics: when they are done well and come at the right time. This one comes in the second issue of a big storyline, stopping that story’s momentum, and it doesn’t really do much for the characters either. John disses the Red Lantern’s power emotion, rage, as being empty and useless, so Guy tricks those aforementioned snazzily dressed toughs into starting a bar fight with John. Guy joins in and asks, “Angry yet?” John replies, “Maybe.”
After the fight, Guy asks John for help with the Atrocitus situation. John says he can’t,and Guy leaves. And that’s it. That’s half the issue right there. Through the power of one small bar fight Guy teaches John to respect rage, and then confirms that the Red Lanterns in RED LANTERNS are going to have to take care of their Red Lantern problems by themselves. Also the fight, the one real action scene in the issue, is kind of dull. None of the staging has any sort of life to it. Also, with the art, I don’t know if it’s down to the colors are the pencils or what, but something about the faces sometimes seem off. Like they don’t quite go with the rest of the picture.
In the other part of the issue, some stuff happens, I guess. That description should give you an idea of how enthusiastic it made me. One of the Red Lanterns feels really bad that one of the others is stuck in rage mode and is being kept in a box. Another says some vague stuff. That first Lantern tries to help the imprisoned one, which gives it a chance to attack her. Another Lantern shows up to save her. I think. It was a little unclear what was actually being done. I guess I’ll have to get the annual RED LANTERNS ANNUAL #1 next week to find out what’s going to happen!
After last issue’s strong start to my RED LANTERNS reading experience, this one left me really cold. It didn’t make me question my particular choices in life like some of the series I cover, but it sure didn’t take long into the issue before I wanted to be doing something else.
Buy this issue if you like two men commiserating about their failed love lives, high collars, or you’ve just got to have one more comic book with John Stewart and Guy Gardner.