Today, Mikyzptlk and Spencer are discussing Red Lanterns 27, originally released January 29th, 2014.
Mikyzptlk: Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. Clark Kent and
Lois Lane Diana Prince. Ted Kord and Michael Jon Carter. The pages of DC Comics have been filled with romances of all shapes and sizes, but few have been more volatile than the pairing of Guy Gardner and Tora Olafsdotter. Have you ever been involved with someone that you know isn’t right for you, but you just can’t help but want to be with them anyway? Yeah, that’s Guy and Tora for you. While the New 52 reboot has left longtime fans of this on-again-off-again couple with questions as to the extent of their relationship in current continuity, Charles Soule seems ready to explore the couple that once was. Flaws and all.
While Bleez and Rankorr set off to discover the whereabouts of Ratchet’s ring, Guy, Zilius Zox, and Skallox head to Earth for some heart-mending and sightseeing. Guy leaves Z.Z. and Skallox on their own while he heads off to visit his old flame, Ice. And while that pun doesn’t really work in this context as I hoped it would, neither does Guy’s attempt to woo Tora. He tries to explain that he’s changed and that they should give their relationship another go, but she just isn’t convinced. The two are interrupted by a transmission from Z.Z. and Skallox, who explain that they’ve stepped in it with Shadow Thief. Meanwhile, on a seemingly deserted planet, Rankorr and Bleez discover exactly where Ratchet’s ring has gotten off to.
This will certainly prove to be problematic in issues to come. We’ve briefly discussed before about how Atrocitus has become emblematic of everything that used to be wrong with this title, and the threat of his return fills me with dread in a way I’ve never experienced in comics before. While Guy has been busy revolutionizing what it means to be a Red Lantern, Atrocitus has been lurking in the background threatening to ruin it all. What this really tells me though, is how much Charles Soule has gotten me to care about these characters in a short time, and I’m nervously amped up to see a favorable resolution to this threat.
But hey, that’s not really what this issue is about, right? Soule uses this latest entry to explore the reason why Guy has taken so well to the role of a Red Lantern.
For the majority of his existence, Guy has been characterized as the Lantern with a bit of a rage issue. That’s probably why it makes so much sense to see him in the role of a Red Lantern, and why we’ve seen him as a Red on more than one occasion. However, Soule really surprised me with the reveal that he ultimately decided to become a Red in order to master his rage, not fall prey to it.
This shows just how important characterization has become to this book, to the point that I can safely say that it is a part of the DNA that makes up Red Lanterns. Not only is this a great development to Guy’s character, but it is also analogous to what Soule has been doing to this book since he took over. Just as Guy is using the power of the red ring to take control of his emotional issues and improve himself, he is also helping the other Reds improve themselves by challenging the notion of what it means to be a Red Lantern. In this issue, Guy orders Z.Z. and Skallox to take in some Earth sights. In essence, he’s telling them enjoy themselves.
Of course, that didn’t exactly work out like Guy expected. The challenger speaking to the Reds there is Shadow Thief, and now Guy is going to have deal with this new threat. This isn’t just some fight though, Soule is using this as another opportunity to explore how Guy handles being a Red.
I love how Guy is lifehacking the red ring in an attempt to improve himself and his life. I’m not sure if Guy is going to be able to take on Shadow Thief without throwing a punch, but I’m excited to find out.
Personally, I’d love to see Guy and Tora patch things up, but at the very least, I’m happy to see a deeper exploration of their relationship in the context of the New 52. Justice League International was the last time we saw these two together, but it was implied that their relationship may not have been what it once was in previous continuity. I’m happy to see Soule seemingly ignoring this here, and I’m curious to see how he uses this relationship to further shape Guy Gardner and the future of this book.
So Spencer, what did you think of the latest entry of Red Lanterns? I’ve been digging this book so much since Soule’s takeover. Can you say the same? I didn’t get the chance to discuss much about what Rankorr and Bleez were up to in this issue, do you think there’s some funny business going on there?
Spencer: I haven’t yet had the pleasure to read Soule’s run on Red Lanterns from it’s beginning — which is unfortunate, not only because of its quality but also because I seem to be missing out on the context behind this issue’s most hilarious moment — but yes, I love what Soule is doing with this title. You’re especially right to praise his skill in developing character; it could be so easy to let most of the Red Lanterns remain faceless rage monsters, but Soule seems determined to make each of the Reds in this issue a distinct character, and both the characters and the book itself are so much stronger for his effort. It’s surprising how dense this issue actually is with character-building moments; every page gives us something, even if it’s just small moments like the Reds reacting to their statues or Z.Z. and Skallox saying that Guy coming from a “port town” explains so much.
Mik, you asked me about Rankorr and Bleez, and I think they might actually be my favorite part of the issue, and, again, it comes down to their characterization.
There’s something about the way Rankorr’s geniality and enthusiam bounces off of Bleez’s cold, dispassionate exterior that really appeals to me. There’s a great sense of humor to their interactions, not to mention a small possibility of romance, even if it’s clearly one-sided at the moment. Romance amongst Red Lanterns — how would that even work? It’s an intriguing avenue to explore, if that’s indeed where these two are headed. The likability of these two makes their stumbling upon Atrocitus even more horrifying; I don’t want to see anything happen to them!
Guy and Tora’s relationship is enjoyable to watch develop as well, although Mik already did an excellent job covering the reasons why. What interests me about their scene is Guy’s claim that he’ll take down Shadow Thief without fighting at all. In a way it comes across like a cheesy sitcom plot, ripe for disaster — there’s no way Guy can actually fight without fighting — and it also made me a little annoyed at Tora for expecting something like that out of a superhero; as a superhero herself, she should know that violence is necessary at times. Thing is, it isn’t violence in-and-of-itself Ice is opposed to, it’s the fact that Guy’s first impulse when faced with any impediment, no matter how small, is to lash out with violence. That makes me wonder if perhaps, just perhaps, Guy will be able to talk the Reds and Shadow Thief through their conflict. It’s unlikely, especially considering Thief’s xenophobia, but it would be a wonderful moment of triumph for Guy as both a person and a Red Lantern.
Alessandro Vitti and J. Calafiore split art duties this month, and fortunately, both artists’ styles are similar enough that the (frequent and seemingly random) switches between the two don’t throw off the flow of the story at all. Actually, I have a hard time figuring out which pages are drawn by which artist without checking the credits, which is a testament to how well these two artists’ styles work together; kudos to whoever arranged their team-up (perhaps Editor Chris Conroy or Group Editor Matt Idelson?). If I had to try to compare them, I’d say that Calafiore seems a little better suited to the more “human” characters and to more expressive faces in general. Vitti’s no slouch in this area either — there’s a wonderful panel of Tora on page 12 that packs a lot of meaning into just one shot of her face — but in general he seems much suited to the more dark, alien characters. Just take a look at that first image of Atrocitus Mik posted; the dark shading in his face makes him look even more intimidating than usual, which is saying a lot. Compare that, however, to the second image Mik posted; in its second panel Guy is supposed to be flustered, but the excess detail warps his expression, making him look more like he’s somewhere between frustrated and constipated. It doesn’t necessarily ruin the moment, but it surely distracts from it.
Still, it’s a small complaint; the art in Red Lanterns is more than solid and the writing is even better. I know, I know, we spend a lot of time seeming amazed by that, but us here at Retcon Punch also spent a lot of time being horrified by this book prior to Soule’s run, so I think our joy and amazement over this miraculous transformation is justified. I doubt the quality of this title is going downhill any time soon, though, so let’s move onto a different topic of conversation: how do y’all feel about Guy’s new ‘stach? Keep it civil!
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