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Charles Soule has a particular challenge with Red Lanterns seeing that the book has not exactly been well received by many fans.  In some respects Atrocitus and his brood should have been an instant hit, however for one reason or another that potential was never fully realized.  One sure thing I have to praise about Soule’s approach to this book has been his concise understanding of what the Red Lanterns are, as he puts it, “bad people trying to do good things by doing bad things.”  With this week’s Red Lanterns #21 Soule and artist Alessandro Vitti set a new course for the rage fueled corner of the Green Lantern universe and if this issue is an indication of what they have planned I think we are going to be in for an engaging ride.

Right away the stage is set for a renewal of the bad blood between the Reds and the Greens when Atrocitus discovers that the Guardians have been spying on him for a long time now.  The loss of intel drives Hal Jordan, the new leader of the Green Lantern Corps, to ask Guy Gardner to do the unthinkable so that the Corps can keep tabs on Atrocitus.  This really puts Guy in an interesting place as his long held feeling that he’s destined to play second fiddle to others creeps back into the forefront and by issue’s end the reader isn’t one hundred percent certain whether Guy’s decision to put on the red ring again is wholly to serve the greater good or an honest realization that it’s his best destiny.

Hal Jordan actually having a plan!?  What is the universe coming to!?

Issue twenty one stands out visually as well with Vitti’s art conveying an energy that this book needs to parallel the intensity of the emotion which drives the Red Lantern Corps.  Atrocitus looks fierce again especially when Vitti chooses to leave his sharply pointed teeth intact.  There are few panels where the flat teeth make an appearance but they are few in number.  I know it sounds like a picky thing but for some reason the teeth make a world of difference to how the character appears.  There seems to be a lot less dependency on visceral imagery to shock the reader and if intentional I think it’s a great decision.  Sometimes I think the reliance on gore to convey the brutality of the Red Lanterns desensitizes the reader so that when the creators choose to use it to underscore what should truly be a dramatic moment it comes off as just another gratuitous moment.  Vitti’s work in this issue does a wonderful job of supporting Soule’s script by clearly defining the emotions behind the dialogue and providing stunning visuals during the action scenes.

Whether Guy’s decision to join the Reds is noble or not is delightfully up in the air.

Something I think that all the new creative teams have done wonderfully well is to remind us that this is a continuation of the universe we all love so much.  The use of the “Mean Machine” from the previous run was a nice nod to the creators that came before and Soule’s writing of Guy’s internal dialogue during his struggles with Atrocitus show that he shares a clear understanding of what has come to define the character.  While Red Lanterns is clearly connected to the Green Lantern universe I praise Soule, and all the other new writers, for making sure that the reader doesn’t have to have read all the other books for what goes on in their title to make sense.  Hal’s new role is spelled out for the reader very naturally in case the reader has no clue what’s happened over in Green Lantern #21 even though it’s more than likely they read that book, too.

All the issues this month have done a wonderful job of bridging the gap for long time readers while remaining new reader friendly for anyone picking up one of the titles for the first time.   Red Lanterns #21 is a great re-introduction to the series for those who stayed away during Peter Milligan’s run on the book and for those of us who took that journey we are rewarded with a great reminder of the potential that this series has.  Four out of five lanterns.

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