I have no real intro to this review. I’m sorry, but I don’t, because I want to cut to the chase here. In this issue, the Red Lanterns get high.
Well, not literally. They don’t actually smoke actual marijuana or anything, but yeah; they’re high. Let’s go to the beginning here. After the events of the last issue, the Red Lanterns are trying to take down a cruel dictator on an alien world. Surrounded and outgunned, they begin to make their escape, but they get trapped in a blue energy field that mellows them out. This “Neuro-Blocker Field” is used to pacify slaves when they get uppity, and for the Red Lanterns, it makes them act like stoners, but without the munchies or hallucinations. It’s very funny.
In Rankorr’s defense, Stalin did have a pretty amazing mustache.
This is definitely what will make or break the book for a lot of readers, and one cannot be told how to feel about it. Some may find it overly goofy, that Charles Soule’s writings for all of these characters has gotten too casual. It could also be argued that stuff like this is why Soule’s take on Red Lanterns works. In Peter Milligan’s run, the Red Lanterns didn’t have much personality beyond being angry. While, yes, being really angry is their whole shtick, none of the Lanterns in any one corps can be characterized as feeling only one thing. Saint Walker has shown determination in addition to hope, Carol Ferris has shown hope in addition to love, and even Larfleeze has shown anger as a result of his greed. None of the emotions on the spectrum are really all-encompassing so much as just dominant on a case-by-case basis, and while Soule’s interpretation of the Reds is a far cry from what we’ve seen so far, it makes them actual characters. Is showing the Red Lanterns as a bunch of lackadaisical giggly dudes, even as a result of neurotechnology, weird? Yes. Is it bad? No. It’s very humanizing.
And again, considering their normal demeanor, it’s really, really funny.
Of course, this isn’t all that happens in the issue. We get actual plot progression thanks to Zilius Zox and Ratchet, and the book actually has a very sad and powerful moment in it when the Reds aren’t in the Neuro-Blocker field. Just because it’s fun doesn’t mean the book can’t be dramatic.
J. Calafiore’s pencils and inks are, for the most part, good. Characters all look distinct (which admittedly isn’t very hard when they’re all aliens of different species), everybody’s on model, all the special effects look nice, and the action is fun. However, there is a slight sketchy, ugly quality to the artwork which, while it would’ve worked back during Milligan’s run on the series, doesn’t quite match the tone of Soule’s more light-hearted writing. Still, in those rare moments when things do need to look ugly, it looks absolutely incredible. Throw in Gabe Eltaeb’s colors, and everything looks as it should.
Atrocitus is the secondary protagonist of the series, currently presumed dead by the Red Lanterns and trying to gain control of the corps back from Guy. Really, his plot is just boring. It’s all been him flying around space while Dex-Starr does all the work, and now Dex-Starr’s dialogue creates this almost weird, unnecessary dynamic. Dex-Starr doesn’t really have anything important to say or contribute, with the exception of him actually giving Atrocitus a pep talk in an earlier issue. It just doesn’t work. Atrocitus is still very serious, and that’s good. He should definitely be part of the book, but right now his adventures just aren’t interesting. You have him meet a giant Red Lantern, and while that should be incredible, it’s just kind of anti-climactic. Atrocitus needs something to do, but it’s just not working right now.
Overall, this is still a very entertaining book. At the very least, it’s good for a laugh, and even without that, there’s some powerful plot moments here. It’s not perfect, and depending on what you think of drugs and drug humor, your mileage may vary, but it’s worth reading all the same.
Red Lanterns #26 is available for $2.99 USD from digital and physical retailers. At least, it should be, depending on how your comic book store operates during the holidays.