As I mentioned before, I am away from home this week for some higher learning. I thought that would mean a delay in this week's reviews. But I discovered that there was a comic book store within walking distance of the University. And needing a break from the intense educational experience, I hoofed it there to pick up two books to sate my need for a little escapism.
Red Lanterns #31, by Charles Soule and Alessandro Vitti, was one of the books I picked up and continued the impressive Red Daughter arc. I have said over and over that I don't like the fact that DC dragged Supergirl so far down into despair and rage that becoming a Red Lantern was a natural extension. And I still feel that way. But the truth is Soule (and Tony Bedard) talked how this arc was a transformative and redemption arc for Kara and so far that has been true. I don't think I have read a more consistently positive and heroic Supergirl in the New 52. Yes that rage ... that fire ... is still there but she is controlling it. And that metal tempered by fire, it is making her into a stronger girl of Steel. I am really enjoying this.
And that is high praise ... because I came into this ready to hate this arc.
I don't like that we came to this. But so far this story is a winner, especially for Kara.
I have sung the praises of Alessandro Vitti before. He is such a natural choice for this book. His art is the perfect mix of detail and grunge for this material.
As I am away from my usual tech, apologies for latter panels, pics rather than scans.
Remember that the current arc has the Guy Gardner led Red Lanterns (including Supergirl) trying to rein in The Judge, the immensely powerful new Red laying waste to her home planet of Primeen. But Atrocitus is also looking to recruit the judge.
In Supergirl #31, I loved the scene where the Judge read Supergirl's mind and declared her innocent. It was powerful. And it was another brick in the redemption foundation, adding Alura as a role model of strength and perseverance.
I am trying to figure out if this scene with Atrocitus makes that scene more or less powerful. The Judge does the same trick to Atrocitus, finds his deeds terrible (even if he doesn't) but says she can't judge him because he isn't from Primeen.
So how/why did she judge Kara. Is she so innocent that she felt she could declare it? Or is it made less meaningful because the Judge didn't execute Atrocitus? Thoughts?
Unlike the sulking, brooding, angst-ridden we got in most of her solo title, since Red Daughter we have had a proactive, 'let me help', thinking Supergirl. With the 'good Reds' trying to figure out how to immerse the Judge in the Ysmault lake blood, Kara says she can handle it and flies off.
This is the sort of Supergirl I like. She is a young hero. She wants to help. And she acts quickly ... sometimes too quickly. She is still learning.
But it is clear from early on in this issue that Guy is a bit paralyzed. He is trying to figure out just what to do. I like that Supergirl decides to act rather than wait.
And I love her solution ... even if is messy. She takes the tank of lake blood and rips it open over the city that Atrocitus and the Judge are in. The blood rains down.
I am new to the Red Lantern world. I was under the impression that you need to be immersed in the lake. Is a spring shower enough exposure? Have we seen this before.
This is a great panel by Vitti ... visceral and powerful.
But this solution doesn't exactly work. While the Judge seems to collapse, Atrocitus is able to control the blood, gaining power from it, and making it into a maelstrom.
This might be my favorite panel of the whole book. Guy's Reds don't know what to do with this blood tornado. But Supergirl, maybe feeling a bit guilty because she gave Atrocitus this weapon, again leaps forward and says she can fix it. Once more, proactive, heroic, thinking of what is right.
But this line saying that Atrocitus needs to pay for creating the Reds. That's pure character gold. It shows Supergirl isn't embracing this. She doesn't like the existence of Reds. She wants the villain to pay.
It shows me that, given the opportunity, she would leave this life.
Or am I reading too much into this?
This is the learning Supergirl. While I like her leaping to action, she is still young and learning. She is making mistakes. Her way to fix the blood storm is to ignite it with heat vision. The result conflagration sets the city on fire!
And the Reds give her some tough love. This is another great scene!
First Bleez tells her she needs to grow up. She can't give into the ring; she can't just fly off on an impulse. It is a lesson. And friend or no friend, Bleez needs to teach it.
And Guy adds more. It isn't enough to be angry. You need to be angry for the right reasons. The Supergirls I have loved have all been fierce, angry at injustice and anyone trying to hurt someone. Maybe this Supergirl needs to learn that too. She can't be a tempermental kid anymore. (Love how Guy calls her Kid.)
But I still wish it was Clark guiding and teaching as a family member.
Luckily Guy's gang are able to use 'magic' to will the blood whirlwind away. A bit easy and odd, but I guess I'll roll with it.
With the fire out and the blood gone, all that is left is a showdown with Atrocitus and to see who the Judge will join. But Atrocitus has an ace in the hole. He has Rankorr. And he will return Rankorr if Guy allows the Judge to join Atrocitus.
I like what Soule does with the Judge. She doesn't have enough information about either side to judge who she should join. And she needs to judge herself on the harm she has done. She removes herself from the game, going off for self-reflection. We just met this character but somehow that feels completely appropriate for her. (It also removes a powerful Red from the board ... keeping the status quo.) Still, that is good characterization.
But finally, after a whole issue where I think Guy either sat back or simply reacted (rather than acted), he finally shows some of that fire.
He reminds Atrocitus that despite everyone who has gunned for him, he is still around.
That is pure Guy. And I love him staring down his enemy. Perfect.
The two groups of Reds separate. Their fight will happen some other day.
Despite stopping the Judge, the resulting fallout is a devastated Primeen. Even some of the moves they made (like Supergirl igniting the blood) added to the mayhem. With the conflict over, the Primeen citizens beg the Reds to leave.
Look at Supergirl frown when she realizes that despite her effort she isn't one of the good ones yet. But this is a frown. Not a scowl. No a glare. Not a sulk. This Kara wants to be a good one and is disappointed if she isn't. I don't think this will discourage her. I think this will motivate her. And with Guy and Bleez there to sort of set some rules, it seems like she will grow.
I know I concentrated more on the Supergirl portions of this issue. But this was just another step on her journey to re-enter the super-hero world. And despite liking the camaraderie, I don't think she is too thrilled about this life as a Red. I don't think she imagined this would be her. She wants to act, help, be good. And while this life can get her there, it won't lead her there easily.
I have to applaud Charles Soule for giving us this Kara, dealing with her loss initially through rage but growing too, maybe moving away from it. And Bleez, the Judge, even Guy - all those characters feel well-rounded and real.
Add to that some very compelling art by Vitti (he really draws a fantastic Supergirl) and you have a winning issue.