Red Lanterns #32 came out this week, the last issue (presumably) that Supergirl will be a member of the group. Writer Charles Soule and artist Jim Calafiore spin another great chapter in this book which continues to impress me.
I am probably going to continue reading even without Supergirl. I never thought I would say that.
My preconceived notion of this book was that the team was a bunch of snarling, vomiting thugs. That this was a poster child of the new 52, a gore-fest for people who like that sort of stuff. Instead, Soule has made this team a bunch of tortured souls, dealing with their power and trying to move forward rather than gleefully embracing their rage and regurgitating on the masses. These are surprisingly complex characters, especially Bleez. I assumed she was simply eye candy/cheesecake - especially given the Ed Benes panels posted everywhere. Instead she is someone trying to steel herself against the pain inside her.
Moreover, Soule really has shown us the best Kara since the reboot. She is passionate and impetuous, as someone of her age should be. But she is also caring and loyal. And her heart seems to be in the right place. Perhaps best of all, she has been accepted and loved by the Lanterns, people who recognize her for how great she is. Especially Guy.
I said it before, Calafiore is a great choice for this title, grimy and thick-lined, perfect for the rage and shadows and imperfections of this team. Just great stuff.
Last issue Bleez limped home, just surviving an attack by Atrocitus on her and Rankorr. Guy makes the decision to bring the attack to the ex-leader of the Lanterns and save Rankorr. There is this wonderful loyalty and familial feeling to this team as Guy unifies them. I especially love how he tells Supergirl not to rush in.
That is tactical (something Guy brings to the team as well) but also big brotherly. I loved this mentor relationship and hope it becomes something permanent in the DCU.
In that destroyed hut, Rankorr is chained and insane, back to the snarling frenzy of when he first donned the ring.
In the old switcheroo, Atrocitus has headed to Ysmault. He has his own acolytes, meaning there are 2 warring factions.
One thing I like about Atrocitus in this book is how much he is an evangelist of rage. His words sound like an old-school homily, bringing people into the faith. There is an evil charisma about him.
Meanwhile the Reds try to deal with the out of control Rankorr. And I find it interesting that Kara needs a primer on Red Lantern history.
Her words are powerful here. You can almost sense her fear, that somehow this could happen again to her. Remember how anguished she looked when first under the influence of the ring. I am sure she doesn't want to go back to that.
This is a great panel to show Calafiore's take. The thick lines. The shadows. The rough terrain. It all works.
Bleez releases Rankorr. She doesn't think one of them should be bound like a beast. But overcome by this rage, Rankorr can do nothing but attack. And the first victim is Kara, crushed between two red energy hammers.
Again, it might sound paternalistic, but I love how Guy leaps to Kara's defense.
Now there is a great scene coming up between Kara and Guy. And that scene is nearly perfection. But this exchange might be my favorite in the book.
As I said above, Bleez has become such a wonderfully nuanced character, in pain, trying to be better, trying to spare people the rage she feels. In the panel before this, she talks about how much self-loathing she has, how she acts strong hoping she will believe it herself. It is powerful, to see her open up.
And then she asks Rankorr to find himself.
For one second, she seems to reach him, as he pauses ... only to have the rage take over again.
With little other choice, Bleez grabs hold of Rankorr, immobilizing him, allowing Zox to blast them both from the Lantern ship in orbit. The blast nearly kills them both, incapacitating them.
The crew scoop up the injured and head back to Ysmault to find it in ruins. The blood lake is tainted, the power battery destroyed. And then Guy decides to talk to Kara alone.
He tells her that it is time for her to find her way. This Red Lantern life ... this Red Lantern feud ... is nothing she should be part of. It is time for her to grow up. Yes, she has been accepted. Yes, she has felt rage. But it is time to grow up a bit and move on.
Remember, this is the first place, the first people, that Kara has really latched on to. Look at her body language. She doesn't want to go ... but she also doesn't seem to truly want to stay. This isn't a long term life for her.
And then Guy says something wonderful. He tells Kara that she is better than all of the Reds. She can make something of her life. She is strong.
How crazy is it, in this topsy-turvy New 52, that Guy Gardner is a better mentor, better judge of character, better father figure to Supergirl than Superman has been.
And with that, the two hug. She tells him to not call her kid, but it isn't a yell. I think she liked that nickname. It was a sign of affection and inclusion.
Look at the pain Calafiore puts on their faces. Guy looks completely forlorn.
This is an unhealthy place for Kara. She needs to move on. Short term this has been great. Long term it would be a disaster. She heads to Mogo ...
Why hasn't there been this sort of moment with Kal in the 2 plus years of the New 52.
And so ends Supergirl's time as a Red Lantern. Well, almost, we know that after this tearful farewell, Tony Bedard has her head to Earth. I suppose we will see her throw of the ring on her own, without Mogo's help and that will be a powerful moment for her. But that 'about face' to Earth does diminish this moment a bit.
But there is business to attend to. Atrocitus must be found. And war must happen. We go from sad 'older brother' Guy in the last panel to this determined and enraged Guy here.
There will be a reckoning ... and I am intrigued enough to want to stick around.
So ... in the end ... I think I have to call this Red Daughter story a success. And that amazes me. I still don't think it needed to happen. The same sentiments that Supergirl showed here could have happened in the first issues of her book. The nurturing mentoring that Guy did here could have been done by Kal. Unfortunately, the first 2 years of Supergirl's own book brought her down the road of isolation and angst and anger (specifically at Superman) that this sort of drastic catharsis and redemption was the only option left. And this story did that. It brought out some of the optimism and heroism in Kara, showed her she can adapt and love.
The characterization of the Reds is also strong in this book, particularly the pain that Bleez is weighed by as well as Guy trying to bring some order to the Red chaos. And it is that characterization that will keep me coming back to this book.