Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Bullet Review: Red Lanterns #38

It was a decidedly non-Super week last week from DC Comics. And in some ways, it allowed me to look elsewhere for a bit. Sometimes it is good to break things up a bit and stretch my reviewing legs a bit more. And why not use it to look at books done by creators I like.

And so this is officially Landry Walker week here at Comic Box Commentary. I already looked at Danger Club #6. Today I'll look at Red Lanterns #38.

I read Red Lanterns during the Red Daughter arc and was impressed with the tone of the book. In that arc, the Reds seemed to be troubled souls who were trying to defend the universe from threats so no other person would feel like them, filled with rage at injustice. It was different than what I thought it would be ... a grindhouse comic of torture. While the Reds were definitely anti-heroes in the issues I read, there was this undercurrent of empathy. They wanted to spare people their fate. And as a result they were sympathetic. I felt sort of hopeful for this group, like maybe they could move on themselves.

When Supergirl left the team and the New God arc started, I left the book. But I wanted to see what Walker would do with the character, even if it is only for a couple of issues before the title is canceled.

There is definitely something of a tone shift here. This is about as bleak a comic that I have read in a long time. There is no hope here. Guy, who always seemed angry at himself, loathes himself. Even if this is a downbeat issue, it is of high quality. I felt moved by this issue, wallowing in the darkness Walker delivers.

Jim Calafiore is on art here and his inky muddy style works very well here.

We out far, looking at a hopeful image of a sun rising over the Earth. And we read how Simon Baz looked at Guy as a hero, saving many more than he has hurt. But the optimism of this opening sentiment is quickly dismissed. Guy thinks it is folly.

And then we head down deeper, honing in our focus to a city in flames. Guy is no hero. He lives in a word where cities burn and people die.

It is a nice progression of images and themes.

Sometime after Red Daughter, Atrocitus has infected a whole city with Red Rage but didn't give them any rings. As a result, the place became an abattoir, a place where enraged insane people are destroying everyone and everything. Relief corps are overwhelmed. And Guy feels so powerless, he initially sits in the destruction drinking.

But then that feeling of responsibility takes over. He uses his ring to read the minds of one of the anger-zombies and is overwhelmed with images of destruction and death.

I love the 'spoiler alert' that the world is screwed up.

But one image seems to be at the epicenter. Guy goes into the city to discover a place where the rage victims were being triaged. But without any clear ability to help these people, they were left to their own devices and turned on each other.

This is a vivid image. The bodies are piled on top of each other. Again, bleak. You can imagine that Guy might think that this is the base of humanity ... rage and violence and a compulsion to kill each other.

Drowning in self-hatred, realizing how he has failed, Guy decides he needs to help these people. An explosion of rage will burn them out, leaving charred carcasses.

So maybe to help them, maybe to punish himself, maybe a little bit of both ... Guy allows himself to be pummeled by the rage-infected crowd.

And this internal monologue is just profound. Somewhere along the way, Guy lost himself. He betrayed himself. And he can't get revenge against himself.

He feels he deserves this.

Heavy stuff.

And with that fervor, the zombies burn themselves out, leaving a city of remains.

This city of death is the Guy's world.

I love this framework sequence. We are back to the images from page one. But instead of pulling all the way back out to the sun on the horizon, instead of getting to the optimism, Walker stops us. We stop at the depressing image of a city in flames. Because there is no hope here ... there is no new day.

I read comics for entertainment. And I read a variety of books. They don't all need to be sunny. I like a sad story as much as a happy one ... if high quality.

This was a depressing issue. It shows how grim and blighted a world filled with super-powered amoral people would be. And it shows how living a life like Guy's could burn the goodness out of anyone.

It is a powerful and dark issue. Well written and well drawn.

Overall grade: A- (if you are in the mood)

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