Friday, 4 July 2014

Red Lanterns, Volume 4: Blood Brothers Review (Charles Soule, Alessandro Vitti)

In his book Supergods, Grant Morrison talked about two kinds of superhero writer: the missionary and the anthropologist. The missionary goes in and says “you’re doing everything wrong” and rewrites everything, the character, the world, etc. – a good example would be David Goyer’s screenplay for the Man of Steel movie. The anthropologist studies and lives in the world before contributing something to it that’s fitting for the character and their world – a good example would be Morrison’s All-Star Superman, arguably the best Superman comic ever written.

I think there should be a third category that blends those two types together in one: a writer who goes in and changes up the characters and their world but in a way that’s in keeping with the spirit of the title – a good example of this is Charles Soule’s first Red Lanterns book, Blood Brothers.

Atrocitus discovers the Green Lanterns’ listening device hidden in one of the Reds and destroys it. Without a way to monitor them, Hal Jordan asks Guy Gardner to become a Red Lantern and be his new spy in the group, which he reluctantly agrees to. He and Atrocitus fight, Guy wins and takes Atrocitus’ ring while the defeated and near-dead Atrocitus is taken away by Dex-Starr. Only Guy actually likes being a Red Lantern more than he did being a Green and decides to stay that way.

As a Red Lantern, Guy starts making changes. He does away with the role of leader and makes the Reds an anarchic group of individuals; he gets them a ship as their headquarters rather than accept the barren wasteland of Ysmault, the Reds’ home planet, so they now have beds to sleep in and a bar to relax in; he changes their crap chant from the bad poetry it was ("With blood and rage of crimson red, Ripped from a corpse so freshly dead, Together with our hellish hate, We'll burn you all-that is your fate!") to the simple and effective “We’re Red – You’re Dead!”; he even manages to get the Green Lanterns to hand over policing duties of Sector 2814 (the sector of the universe that includes Earth) to them!

Soule’s changes to the Red Lanterns are all vast improvements over Geoff Johns’ original creations, which were sub-par, rushed and unimaginative, while still retaining the unmistakable essence of the Reds. Also, in having Guy embrace his dark side, he makes him a less annoying and more compelling character.

Most of the book is Soule re-arranging the Red Lanterns, with a side-story featuring Atrocitus and Dex-Starr looking for a red ring, followed by an uneven two-part story that sees the Reds destroying a kind of alien Hitler, so I can’t say the book is an amazing read but it’s more of a necessary one to first establish and then springboard from. Also included are the Green Lantern crossover issues where the various Corps fights the giant scientist called Relic who’s trying to stop the universe’s light from being depleted. If you read Green Lantern, Volume 4: Dark Days, you’ll have already read these issues.

I haven’t been interested in reading Red Lanterns since the first volume but picked up this fourth because of one thing: Charles Soule. And, while it’s not his best book, it’s a good start to making this difficult series appealing to a broader audience and there are parts that are quite good. So long as Soule’s writing, I’ll keep reading Red Lanterns and, after all the re-laid groundwork of the series, I’m curious to see where he’s taking the series next.

Red Lanterns, Volume 4: Blood Brothers

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