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“Not in this universe, pal.”

For nearly a year now Charles Soule has been building towards something and that something is this week’s Red Lanterns Annual #1.  While it isn’t the conclusion to the Atrocities story arc, in itself unusual for an annual, it’s certainly one of the most powerful and wonderfully dramatic issues of this series since it began.  Never afraid to take chances, Soule delivers a spectacular script that both gives Atrocitus his balls back and takes away one of Guy Gardner’s.

The Red Lantern invasion of Earth is short lived, but it sets the stage for what has to be one heck of a finale.  I’ll admit that while I read the issue and saw the assault on Earth I kept saying to myself, “where’s Superman, where’s the Justice League?”, but decided in the end that such questions were only getting in the way of enjoying the ride that Soule’s script sends us on.  It’s not like we don’t get a couple of guest appearances that are both highly rewarding, including a panel that calls back to the infamous “one punch” incident between Bats and Guy yet reminds us that this is a different day in a different  universe.
Batman’s callback is one of many great moments in this book
The plot moves quickly between the battle in Sector 2814 and Zilius Zox’s assault on Atrocitus’ new home base on Styge Prime.  Zox really shines in this issue and has what I think are some of his brightest moments where the reader can’t help but root for him.  There’s a wonderful reference back to one of the first interactions between Guy and Zox back in Red Lanterns #22, providing an superb payoff in a scene already filled with intense action and drama.  Zox’s attack strikes a huge blow to Atrocitus’ battle plan and I really don’t know if he’ll ever achieve this level of heroism again.
Soule also makes a call back to the Kormoraki race that appeared in Red Lanterns #25.  They really didn’t leave a lasting impression on me as a reader, but thankfully they did to Guy Gardner who uses them to gain a tactical advantage against the former leader of the Red Lanterns.  Readers also learn what happened to Rankorr while he was a captive of Atrocitus and how he was turned into a mindless monster, an explanation which had me trying to find a clue that could have tipped me off in earlier issues.  In all honesty I couldn’t find a connection between what we saw and what we come to know here which I found to be a bit of a let down.
This probably doesn’t end great for either of them
Miguel Sepulveda provides some spectacular art in this issue and he really added a great deal to the experience in terms of creating the right tone and atmosphere.  His facial work goes to great lengths to convey the emotions on the characters and there are some really stunning visuals scattered throughout the annual.  Sepulveda did fall victim to one of my pet peeves repeatedly, however, by goofing up the Red Lantern logo on rings, and by repeatedly I mean a whole lot of rings with sideways logos.
Power ring emblems aside, Red Lanterns Annual #1 is a powerful book, serving as the penultimate chapter for a story that we will have to wait another month to see resolved.  Red Lanterns has become a fan favorite book under the direction of Charles Soule and I’m glad he was given the opportunity to use the extra page count to deliver a great story that a lot of readers are going to talk about for a while.  Four out of five lanterns.

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