Writer Charles Soule made a bold move in dethroning Atrocitus in his very first issue of his Red Lanterns run, but two issues in and the once and future leader of the Red Lantern Corps is once again in the spotlight thanks to one very loyal and savvy tabby. That spells major trouble for Guy Gardner, especially when he learns that his one way out his mission has gotten a whole lot more complicated thanks to Relic’s destruction of the Blue Lanterns over in Green Lantern: New Guardians #23. The third kick to the groin comes via the eavesdropping Bleez, who discovers Guy talking with Hal Jordan via his power depleted Green Lantern ring.
Soule does a good job in playing off of Guy’s conflicted nature as he makes the decision to abandon the Reds, but his call for Hal to extract him and the realization that he may have no road back provides a great tragedy to what could be Guy’s greatest fall when the Butcher fueled Atrocitus makes his return with Guy clearly in his crosshairs. The scene between Atrocitus and Dex-Starr are well done and helps add a layer of complexity to them as does his work to provide dimension to characters which are a challenge to not make single minded monsters.
Atrocitus’ interactions with Dex-Starr are some of the best parts of the issue.
It is though a double edged sword and the argument can be made that this in fact weakens the Red Lanterns, reducing their imposing nature by showing that the beings fueled by nearly uncontrollable amounts of rage have soft underbellies. There’s a fine line which Soule is managing well but he does need to be wary about making the characters appear soft.
The Butcher’s state parallels what we’ve seen in the other avatars of the emotional spectrum and Soule does an effective job of making sure we know that the great bull of rage has a date with the rest of his fellow entities, sidelining the being by merging him with Atrocitus. Visually the amalgam of the two is exactly what I’d hope it would be, full of rage and fury as a demon from Hell. Hats off to both Alessandro Vitti and Jim Calafiore for their combined effort this issue.
If Guy thought the frying pan was hot, wait until he experiences the fire.
The timing of the cliffhanger ending of this issue is unfortunate as readers will need to wait until October to see these subplots join up to provide Guy Gardner with perhaps his greatest challenge to date. I sort of wish that Soule had kept the focus solely on Guy and the Red Lanterns this month, using the panel space to further flesh out the cast and build to the inevitable confrontations a little slower, but I’m still happy with the issue nonetheless. Red Lanterns has made strides in improving over the widely panned first run of the series. Issue 23 is perhaps a half-step forward, but it is still better than a great deal of what we’ve come to expect from the under-performing series. Red Lanterns #23 earns three out of five lanterns.