This issue has an epic scope befitting the build that we’ve been experiencing since Guy Gardner seized control of the Reds and left Atrocitus to die. But before we can get to that, Atrocitus builds an all-new team of Reds under his thrall and attacks Earth, distributing rings at random and creating a legion of berserkers. That legion charges Ysmault where Bleez and Gardner have decided to make their stand. Charles Soule has a great knack for dialog and though there’s little of his sly, sardonic humor to be found in this issue. What there is are great characterizations, particularly Guy calling John Stewart just in case he doesn’t make it back. The battle between Atrocitus and Guy is also worth mentioning as having a fairly novel end to it, one that is narratively consistent and satisfying.
Both Alessandro Vitti and J. Calafiore return to end the arc they both worked so hard on and their art is a fitting and an excellent note to go out on. Calfiore has always had more of a knack for drawing the monstrous, alien faces that populate this Corps and the issue places him on pages that allow him to showcase that talent. Meanwhile Vitti handles the pages that tend to have both more human faces and more emotional impact, his attention to facial feature detail gives each moment weight. The action, regardless of which artist is handling the linework, is great with high-impact blasts and incredible kinetic force. It’s easy to follow and tells the story well. And of course I’d be entirely remiss if I neglected to mention regular colorist Gabe Eltaeb doing his usual best, making the colors explode off the page and bringing life to every panel as well as doing a great job unifying the two looks of the other artists. If I hadn’t known what to look for, I’d have scarcely been able to tell who drew what.
This issue is all over the place in terms of its content. We go from Earth to Styge Prime to Ysmault at a breakneck pace and trump cards are pulled from an endless array of sleeves along the way. Misdirects abound as we see Supergirl left on Earth to “help” in the wake of the Reds’ destruction, but also to ensure the human lanterns don’t go too nuts. But then we see them on Ysmault no worse for the wear and Supergirl nowhere to be found. The Judge finally enters play, but her ill-defined powers are used in such a way that I don’t understand how or why what happens happens. For such a fascinating character, she leaves the title rather unceremoniously, seemingly having only existed to act as one of the many deus-ex machinas in this issue. Skallox’s constantly shifting allegiances and attachment to Shadow Thief based on having known her for so little time are also ill-defined and the fate of that character left a bad taste in my mouth. These last several issues have done a great job defining and building these characters and this one, as well as the annual, does a messy job of tossing them aside.
This is an unfortunate note to leave an arc that I’ve otherwise been crazy about on. It’s not a bad issue nor is it a bad ending by any stretch, but Soule has done such an amazing job up until now with these characters that I couldn’t help but feel disappointed with how things resolved here. I’m still looking forward to seeing what he does with the future of the title, and I’m a huge fan of the changes he’s made to Gardner, but this wasn’t the strongest end to a great storyline.