Lantern City is a gritty city surrounded by a high wall; the city’s class system is highly stratified, Killian Grey and his allies rule, the Guards enforce order, and those who remain slave away to provide food and other necessities to those above them. Sander, born in the poorest section of the city, is just trying to eke out a living and protect his beloved family; however, the Movement, led by his brother-in-law Kendal, seeks a better life for the lowest class. After a Movement meeting ends in the death of a Guard, Kendal convinces Sander to use the Guard’s uniform in order to infiltrate the Guards and gain intelligence for the Movement. Forced to sink or swim in his new situation, Sander must navigate dangerous political waters if he is to see his wife and son again.
Although Sander’s decision to infiltrate seems somewhat forced, the plot takes off into an exploration of this world and the dangerous political struggles at hand. The story is mostly focused on laying the groundwork, and, as a result, the pacing is a bit slower than one might expect. That doesn’t mean the story is uninteresting though. Because Sander frequently deals with situations as they come up, the reader learns about Lantern City’s machinations alongside him. Sander’s precarious situation leads to a plot that appears to unfold unevenly, but actually has a quiet danger running under the surface through the story.
Possibly Lantern City’s biggest draw is the illustrations. The illustrations’ strength lie in their ability to convey the strange, gritty world that is Lantern City. The artwork gives the world a grand sense of scale, and the little details of the world—such as posters of city ruler Killian Grey—effectively draw readers in and help to set the story’s tone. Colorist Chris Blythe’s gritty, dark colors effectively convey the city’s grimness.
Sander’s’ caring nature, awareness, and grit make him a character worth following. Another interesting character is Sander’s’ niece Lizel, who, despite making relatively few appearances, is a force of nature and will likely be a favorite among readers. Not all of the other characters are as well-rounded, but hopefully the creators will continue to flesh out characters and reveal more about the world of Lantern City as the plot progresses.
The first volume is a solid start, and Lantern City has the potential to be a strong series. Fans of rebellion tales, particularly Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series (which offers a similar protagonist), will likely be interested in Lantern City. Although the setting is grim and violent, the gore is not prominent, so the the publisher’s age rating of twelve and above is appropriate.
Lantern City, vol. 1
by Matthew Daley and Paul Jenkins
Art by Carlos Magno
Publisher Age Rating: 12+