What do you do when you are a good person, trying to do good, but grow weary of fighting a battle that is truly never-ending? What do you do when fatigue sets in? When you lose sight of all the good you have done, instead focusing on everything else that still needs to be helped? What do you do?
Red Lanterns #40 strives to answer those questions.
It shows us a Guy Gardner who has just about reached his limit. He is a good man. He is trying to purge the world of Atrocitus' plague of rage. But no matter how much he does, there is always more madness, more rage, more death and horror. And despite realizing that he will never be able to win this war, he plods on. He is broken man, despondent, exhausted, trying to do good but about to lose hope.
Landry Walker writes this brilliant issue looking at a super-hero burned out from the fight. This is the last issue of Red Lanterns and so why not make it a character driven issue, focusing on Guy, and giving us an open-ended finale. I worry if this gem will somehow be lost on the racks, the forgotten 'last issue' of a corner of the universe about the be rebooted.
There were parts of this issue that truly resonated with me. There are times where the grind is about to finally pulverize me and then suddenly I am reminded to keep my eyes on the prize.
And as usual, Jim Calafiore's thick lined is perfect for this book.
In the last three issues, we have seen Guy trying to root out all the pockets of rage left by Atrocitus. We have seen him wade in the abattoir of a destroyed town. We have seen him battle a rage vampire. Around every corner is some depravity, some reminder of how cruel and terrible humanity can be.
Even Guy realizes that wearing a Corps ring changes a person. Makes them someone different.
Being a Red, seeing all the things he has seen, exposing himself to this mad rage has changed him. Look at this panel with Guy sporting this mane of hair, those sullen eyes, that crazed grimace. He has seen too much and fought too long. He has been changed.
And who wouldn't be when day in day out you are exposed to scenes like this, a blood bath in an ice cream shoppe, a crazed elderly woman floating over carnage.
Who wouldn't grow tired of this fight if you knew the next round was going to be just as horrific?
He turns to his sister for some solace.
He is trying his best to rid the world of anger. He has been absorbing this rage. He is trying to save people. But all he sees is the next fight.
His whole body language, his unkempt appearance screams he is losing hope. He knows he has to keep fighting ... but how do you pick yourself up when life is pulling you down?
His sister decides that he needs a little tough love. That seems like the Gardner way.
But this is a bit of a 'pull yourself together' speech. He can't rid the world of anger because sometimes rage is a healthy response.
And calling Guy a pretentious jerk is cutting. When did Guy decide he had the right to speak for the world? Guy might always be a jerk. But pretentious? Never. He's down to Earth.
It doesn't work.
Instead all this rage that Guy has absorbed seems to overwhelm him. He is ready to release it all back to the Earth ... all of it and more. And with the world on the verge of being engulfed in madness, Guy sends his sister and the baby from last issue into a orbiting life pod.
The thing that got me here was the image of Guy on the pretaped message.
When was the last time we saw a clean shaven, crew-cutted Guy? That is a different Guy, one that hasn't seen what the current Guy has seen, hasn't done what the current Guy has done.
From space, Guy's sister still tries to help him.
He is attacking this problem wrong. You need to not dwell on the darkness, not be overtaken by it, not give in to it. Instead, help the world and see the bright side.
It all comes down to this one statement. 'Don't give up on yourself.'
And maybe ... just maybe ... this speech jars something in Guy. There is always hope. Before he lets the rage consume him, he needs to have hope in humanity. Of course he has hope. Otherwise, why would he keep fighting?
In a truly cathartic page, Guy vomits all the rage away, ridding himself of all of it.
That second panel is just sublime, just enough of a tint of blue in to give us that hint of hope.
With the rage gone, we see the Red Ring on the ground.
And then we see Guy again. Suddenly he is ... well ... he's Guy again.
And then we see the classic Guy smirk with hope to find a ring and use it for good. No more weariness. No more pain. No more rage. No more self-loathing. No more despair.