Lantern City is written like a television series. You have a show runner, Trevor Crafts, his support team, Matthew Daley and Bruce Boxleitner, and then you have your episodic writers, Paul Jenkins, Matthew Daley, and Mairghread Scott – with Matthew Daley working on each of the issues with Jenkins and Scott. Carlos Magno’s art keeps it cohesive with colors by Chris Blythe. Why this approach is taken, I’m not entirely sure. It doesn’t seem to add or detract from the telling of the story.
It’s a somewhat fleshed out world. The rich and militaristic live above the city in the Grey, the workers live below them where the military comes to harass the workers and keep them basically as indentured servants, fearful of anything resembling free thought or action, and below that the underground.
With any situation like this, there is talk of an uprising. Our reluctant hero, Sander Jorve, against his best judgment, goes to a rally and things go terribly awry. So awry he has to disguise himself as a Captain of the Guard and infiltrate the Grey to keep the guards off the scent of the murdered guard whose identity he took. In doing so, he leaves behind his wife and child. There’s no other way, they proclaim, and yet it feels like there could be a number of other ways.
The story moves pretty swiftly from beat to beat, held together by a workable string of logic. As things happen though, you don’t really feel the stakes elevate. Our reluctant hero finds himself reacting to everything with almost the same level of urgency.
I found the characters themselves to be fairly basic, scraping the surface. A short way into the afterward by Trevor Crafts, he speaks about this story being about love. In the first four issues, this theme doesn’t seem to be a part of the bones of the story or world, and that’s where I think the series missteps. It’s so concerned about creating difficult situations for Jorve to get out of that it doesn’t take the time to weave the theme into any of the situations. Yes, our hero loves his family, but what protagonist father wouldn’t? What makes Jorve special? Why should we feel the need to follow him on this journey?
The most interesting twist is when he has to pretend to be the husband and father to someone he doesn’t know, that the now dead Captain was helping. We barely get to know them or what they want other than it becomes another set of situations Jorve has to take responsibility for and deal with. There are a lot of interesting situations like this that are given just enough attention to exist and nothing more beyond that. And Sander Jorve is hustled around from one situation to the next, never given time to develop beyond whatever basic need he requires at any given time.
I do like the art and the Steampunk-style world is kind of cool, but when Jorve descends into the underground, I was a little let down that the visual palette stayed exactly the same. The underground looks exactly like the rest of the world, each moment looks exactly like that last.