Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: Red Lanterns #30

I can admit when I made a mistake. I was pretty sure that the Red Daughter arc and Kara as a Red Lantern storyline was going to be awful. And I internally cursed about Charles Soule thinking up the idea to begin with. But ... so far so good.

I will say my usual caveats. I am unhappy that Kara was dragged so low that only a Red Lantern arc could purge her and rehabilitate. And, as always, it is the end of this arc, the redemption of Kara into a likable positive hero, that is the key for me. I reserve the right to denounce this if the intended goal of making Supergirl less bitter and more heroic doesn't come to pass.

All that said, Red Lanterns #30 came out this week and it had some great Kara moments. While I think Superman/Wonder Woman suffers in its characterization, Soule seems to have a great grasp not only of the Lantern squad but Supergirl as well. Last month we saw her question some of the methods of the Reds. This time she asks if she should remain an Red. But there is also depth of the other Reds. Whether it is Bleez' distress or Skallox' lack of conviction or Zox' strength of conviction, these are individuals, not a bunch of snarling lunatics.

The artwork remains perfect for the tone of the book too. Alessandro Vitti and Jim Calafiore both contribute to this issue. Their inky thick lines work wonderfully with the story.

We start in sector 775 on the planet Primeen where we are introduced to a young girl named Sheko who hasbecome the youngest judge on the planet. Flash forward decades and you can see that time has eroded her once lofty sense of her position. There isn't justice on this world. Justice can be bought or manipulated in the court. When she decides to finally stand up for her principles by finding the world's prince guilty of heinous violent crimes, she is gunned down by her own bodyguard.

I could see where this was going. It is clear that she will be a new Red Lantern, born of rage out of this affront to justice. But I thought it was great to hear this back story as it shows that rage can spring from many seeds. Sheko is a 'good' person. She has ethics and morals. And yet she can succumb to rage and become a Red Lantern. It is fascinating and again elevates this corps above the presumed rabid beasts they were sometimes portrayed as.

And this sort of deep look into the psyche of the Reds continues with Bleez.

Sure she is filled with rage. But there is also sadness here. And maybe a hint of self-loathing. Bleez is upset that Rankorr is presumably dead from their battle with Atrocitus, Dex-Star, and the new Red Lantern they were teamed with. She also questions the justice of the universe if she and Zox remain alive while Rankorr is dead.

I have to admit I loved this bit of pathos here. I didn't expect it. And this attitude mirrors Kara's nicely. Inside Supergirl is rage. But also grief over losing her planet. And maybe some of the self-hatred that comes with survivor's guilt. Bleez suddenly becomes a sounding board for Supergirl.

Bleez also is elevated to a sympathetic character. I though she existed only for cheesecake, as a 'bad girl'. Now she has much more depth. And there is even more in this issue.

Bleez thinks the Reds should go after Atrocitus and try to save/avenge Rankorr. Guy thinks the Reds need to hunt down the extra 7 red rings floating around the universe. It is a battle of will and leadership. And the Reds don't believe in leaders. They are true libertarians.

But when Bleez tries to head back on her own, Guy pulls out his trump card. He calls Kara in to block Bleez' path. I like how Guy is trying to keep the Reds on track. No anarchy. Maybe more like controlled chaos.

And I like this shot of Kara, strong and smiling. And somehow the color scheme of this outfit works better than the red panty-shield on the classic New 52 costume.

As for Sheko, she is filled with rage over the mockery of justice that exists on Primeen. She is a red and she is angry. And with no blood ocean to calm her, she is in pure judgment mode. No one passes muster.

She carves a bloody path of death and destruction across the planet.

Again, I like how Sheko went from good soul worn down by hypocrisy to crazed Red Lantern. And frankly, this is what I thought all the Reds were like. This is a far cry from the more nuanced rage we see in the Ysmault crew.

Back on Ysmault, while Guy and the others scan for the 7 other rings, Bleex and Kara have a heart to heart.

It is the best scene in the book.

Bleez talks of suffering as a Red. While you may thrive with the rage, you also are in pain, wondering what life have been like if you refused the ring.

She seems more sad than mad here. She wonders why Kara would have accepted the ring. And Calafiore shines here. There is clear anguish on Bleez' face.

It is blunt and powerful. If Bleez ... a 'successful' Red ... is in such pain, who would accept the offer to join the Corps.

Again, my fear was Kara would be a vomiting mindless feral beast. Here we see there is more to the Reds than just crazed anger.

Their talk continues.

I really love this line from Bleez. For her, the Reds exist to make sure no one else feels so much rage that they would accept a ring. They exist to make sure there are no more Red Lanterns. That is noble ... to want a universe free of that righteous fury. Wonderful stuff.

And even better is Kara just outright asking for Bleez to be her friend. There is an odd warmth and understanding here ... again unexpected. And greatly appreciated. These two are kindred spirits.

Still, if Kara can ask Bleez for friendship, someone she barely knows ... why couldn't she ever ask the same of Kal?

That friendship and mentorship pays immediate dividends.

When Zox' scanners pick up the Judge, Guy mobilizes his entire Corps to intercept. The planet's military fires on them. This isn't a surprise. They wear the same symbol as Sheko who is incinerating everything in her path.

Their attack enrages Supergirl. But before she can lash out at them, Bleez tells Kara to calm down. This isn't a 'vomit first, ask questions later' group. There is a time to fight. And there is a time not to fight. It is a great moment as Bleez teaches Kara to control her rage, to think before she acts. That is amazing ... unanticipated.

And the art is excellent. You feel Kara's rage in that first panel.

Unfortunately, it isn't just the Judge that Guy and his forces will face. Atrocitus and Dex-Starr are also there.

Now that is a nice cliffhanger.

I have to say, I was very impressed with this issue. There is very good characterization here. Writer Charles Soule makes everyone feel three-dimensional, in particular Bleez, Kara, and Sheko. These Reds are more than monsters. They are individuals; and they have way more going on than just rage.

And I have to say, the Supergirl stuff was inspired. More than even in her own book you got that sense of redemption and growth here. Really wonderful stuff.

And, as I have said before, the art here really suits the tone of the book. There is an inky griminess to this book which suits the Reds perfectly. And if Alessandro Vitti isn't available, Jim Calafiore is a great stand-in.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

I still don't like this story arc. I think it sets a bad precedent that they had to alter Supergirl's personality to fit the story. That means that if Soule and Bedard play all their cards right and get absolutely everything perfect, they'll end up exactly where they started before this arc began. We've seen Kara be unnaturally angry before, but that was always thanks to the crossovers.
I've heard the writing in this is supposed to be good, but I can't believe in a character who's a different person from arc to arc.

Thomas Hayes said...

This issue was great. The book is always great but I really liked this one for the intro of the Judge and the Kara/Bleez scenes. If Soule's busy schedule ever takes him off Red Lanterns it's going to be a big loss for DC.

As much as I think Tony Bedard is doing a decent job on Supergirl right now, it's going to be a real stretch for him to try and live up to this book. Red Lanterns is so damn good every month and it makes the Supergirl book look pretty ordinary by comparison now that they're running in parallel. He'd better pull out all the stops next issue, because right now for a Supergirl fan this is the essential book to be reading, with her own more of a satellite to the main attraction. That is the real risk of Red Daughter of Krypton lasting too long - Supergirl itself would become a redundant read. Once they get this story to a decent and worthwhile conclusion they should give a little denouement in #34 in August, and then start something unique in October after Future's End month. If it can't maintain its own identity and all her good moments are happening under Lemire's pen in JL United where has eight other characters to work with, then I can't see the readership holding up.

Martin Gray said...

Amen to everything, this was a wonderful issue. I really liked the Kara/Bleez business, the rest of the Reds are great, and the judge's story was sad, and compulsive.

I hope that having made a friend in Bleez, Kara remembers that she already has a friend on Earth, in Siobhan.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

I hope that this depth of characterization is mirrored in Supergirl. And I hope she sees in Siobhan another kindred spirit.

But all this depends on DC/Bedard keeping the book on track - making Kara heroic and relatable.

Bartiemus said...

I am loving this story arc I think it is the best thing going in DC at the moment due to it's smaller focus.

That being said once Red Daughter has finished up the Supergirl book needs to be able to breathe on it's on and find it's own identity.

I'm hoping now that Kara is on Justice Leauge United there won't be any cross overs for a long time hell Kara doesn't even have her own place on Earth yet.

Last point at least DC seems to care about the character now since she is appearing in more and more books so the future looks bright for her.

Saranga said...

I have been really enjoying the Red Lanterns issues. Like you Anj, I don't approve of the angry direction for Kara, but the book itself is really good. It helps that Kara isn't a mindless rage monster in all the pages, which is testament to the creative team's abilities.