Having just completed a major arc and then immediately taking part in Futures End, the Red Lanterns title hasn’t had a chance to explore the ramifications of the war with Atrocitus. With this week’s issue 35, writer Charles Soule is tasked with trying to provide readers with an issue which provide some sort of satisfying wrap up to his previous arc while still seeming to fit in with the new GodHead event.
This issue wrestles between both and while Soule does a good job of showing us where Guy Gardner’s head is at, but having to shoehorn itself into GodHead proves to be little more than a distraction and feels forced. Seeing Guy coming to terms with his actions and working on re-establishing a connection with Tora felt very natural and I like the character growth that we’ve seen in Guy even as he focuses his anger towards Shahkavat.
Soule uses Shahkavat’s ego to allow Guy to reflect on recent events, and serve as a target for Gardner’s rage
When The Wheel shows up the issue’s tempo pick up considerably, although as we’ve seen in the first four parts of GodHead these altercations between the Lanterns and the New Gods are short, one-sided affairs. Malhedron makes quick work of Shahkavat and both Guy and Simon Baz provide little more than a momentary distraction for him. Unfortunately the action is broken up by exposition that derails the build up of the action and seems out of place as The Wheel float idly while Baz provides Guy and the reader a little recap of the story so far. To make matters worse, the New Gods hastily retreat Earth when Highfather calls just as Malhedron and his squad are about to take possession of two more power rings. Given how effortlessly they were likely to disarm Simon and Guy it reads like a really badly conceived plot device to allow them to maintain their jewelry.
Simon Baz makes an appearance, if only to provide some exposition and take part in the issue’s action sequences.
James Calafiore provides the pencils for this issue and does a great job, especially with conveying the raw brute force of the fight scenes. His page layouts and use of larger panels for key moments of the battle emphasis the power that Malhedron wields. I do, however, think that the visuals of Guy on the beach in the issue’s opening sequence are a bit off base, making Guy look way too muscle bound. Sure he’s in good shape, but it looks like he’s been working out with Hulk Hogan.
Red Lanterns #35 does its best to move the series along its own trajectory while trying to do its part to propel the GodHead story further. Unfortunately neither effort is executed effectively enough to be rewarding and the result is a rather pedestrian issue. Readers could skip this issue and not have missed anything of seeming importance to the larger event, and regular readers of the series will find it a mostly empty experience by not dealing with the aftermath of the title’s previous story. Three out of five lanterns.