Red Lanterns Annual #1 came out this week, part three of the Atrocitus storyline. Sometimes comics gives you a surprising treat and this issue was one of those delights. Writer Charles Soule does something extraordinary here.
Sure, this is a high action annual with major brawls and violence. And yes he advances the plot nicely, setting up something of a showdown for next month's finale. But that is the ordinary. That is what should happen in this book.
But you know what makes the ordinary become extraordinary? It's that little extra.
Because there are two things that I enjoyed even more than the action and plot progression. One, he had Supergirl still act like she is part of the team even if she isn't wearing the ring anymore. And two, he includes really fantastic character moments. In fact, those moments were the highlights of the book for me, making these characters deeper and more relateable.
Miguel Sepulveda is on art here and does a fine job. I don't know why he needs to put Supergirl in heels. And I think I like his version of the prior Supergirl more than this New 52 one. But still, the art is solid here.
The plot involves a two front war.
On Earth, Atrocitus arrives with his handful of Red Lanterns, incuding the traitor Skallox, and decides to force Guy's hand by attacking. Atrocitus has his troops destroy the monuments and areas of Earth that Guy has bragged about to Skallox. So Baltimore, the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Canyon are all leveled.
To make matters more interesting, Atrocitus uses his own attacks to incite humanity into a rage. And then, somehow one of the Red is able to vomit up 1000 new Red Rings. Just like that, there are 1000 maddened and insane Reds flying around the planet.
I think it is an interesting commentary on humanity (and the New 52 Earth) that so many people are so easily recognized as being filled with fear.
The 'good' Reds decide to split up. Guy will take Bleez to Earth to defend his home. Zox will fly the Kalvaar to Styge Prime.
I love that Guy grabs command, tactically maneuvering the team according to his plan. So much for the 'team of equals' who each do what they want. I think it is a commentary of Guy and his leadership that he was make this group of rebels into something of a team. And I really love that Zox so easily recognizes it and accepts it.
I like this Guy.
Arriving to Earth, he begins to corral the insane new Reds. Guy finds Batman and tell him to tell the rest of Earth's heroes to back off. The Reds have this under control. It shows how sure he is of himself.
But even better is this nod to the famous (or infamous) 'one punch' scene from Justice League way back in the day. Could Batman drop Guy with one punch? 'Not in this universe, pal.'
Excellent ... excellent.
Of course, heroes aren't going to let Reds run roughshod across the planet. That includes ex-Red Supergirl.
I love this scene. Love it.
One, I like how Kara says that she was able to lose the red ring by simply letting go. She has shed herself of the rage that plagued her. I love it.
But even better, that little extra scene, where Kara joins the fight. She calls Guy 'Kid', his nickname for her, and tells him she is in. This isn't the loner Kara. And she hasn't turned her back on this team. And she has some affection, some relationship with Guy, a sort of mentor. Just perfect.
In the meantime, Bleez has gone to some group of aliens that the Reds befriended before I started to read the book. These Kormoraki have some sort of calming ray. Using their fleet of starships, they bathe the planet with the ray, temporarily soothing the new terran Reds.
Any information about this is welcomed.
Atrocitus isn't going to let that happen for too long. He heads to space and attacks the ships
Meanwhile at Styge Prime, Rankorr suddenly becomes coherent. It turns out the animalistic rage he was showing was nothing but a ruse. He frees himself from his cage and confronts Zox on the bridge, mortally wounding Zillius.
I thought this was a great and brutal panel.
But Soule throws in one more wrinkle. Rankorr is actually possessed, his body under the control of some snake-like other Red Lantern. When Zox gets attacked, Rankorr is able to final resist, regurgitate, and rend this thing.
I have to say, I wasn't expecting that.
And I have talked about how Bleez is my favorite character in this book, a tortured soul who both thrives on her rage but is plagued by it at the same time. I don't think she has always been portrayed so sympathetically or with such depth.
Here Atrocitus calls her out on it. The 'old' Bleez would have laughed a the blood shed and destruction. But this isn't that Bleez. This is a new Bleez ... but she still won't mourn Atrocitus' death.
I love the undercurrent of tragedy in her rage. Powerful moment here, recognizing who she was and now who she is.
And Zox? He knows he is dying. He tells Rankorr to abandon ship and goes on a suicide run, flying the Kalvaar into Atrocitus' new temple and lake of blood. It is a hero's death.
At the very least, he gets a nice moment to go out on, finally learning what a testicle is.
With his Reds and Guy's Reds (plus Kara) at a sort of standoff, Atrocitus' takes off to the other side of the planet. Both realize that it is the throng of Reds on Earth that will sway things. And so a mental battle ensues to see who can bring the troops into the fold - Atrocitus or Bleez.
Bleez is able to ensnare a handful. That means Atrocitus has an army. Nice cliffhanger.
So yes, a two-front war was waged with a series of action sequences. But it was the small moments in this book, adding depth to the characters and their relationships, that made this book a winner. Solid work by Charles Soule.
But with characters changing affiliation and dying as well as a crowd of new Reds, who knows what the Red Lanterns book will look like after this arc?
Overall grade: B+