When DC announced that there would be a fourth title in the Green Lantern family my first thought was an anthology book focusing on different members of the various Corps of the emotional spectrum, giving characters who might not have enough panel time the chance to be further developed. What DC announced was Red Lanterns by Peter Milligan and Ed Benes starring Atrocitus and the rage fueled members of his band of followers. This past week the first issue hit the stands, setting the stage for what may turn into a revolt by Bleez and the rest of the Corps against their leader.
The Story -
The book opens with a scene of torture in sector 666 which is interrupted by everyone's favorite rage kitty, Dex-Starr. The feline engine of destruction sensed the violence being perpetrated and has responded by taking out harsh justice on the tormentors who have taken great pleasure in causing others great pain. Dex-Starr is a little outnumbered, but he causes a world hurt just before Atrocitus shows up and lays waste to all of them. But something has changed for the main Lantern of rage and as he takes the sadists apart he seems a bit melancholy, noting that he rage within him has lost some of its fire and he is making the motions more than feeling the fire that has driven him for so long.
|Hell hath no fury like a rage filled cat|
The scene transitions however briefly to Earth where a couple of street thugs attempt to mug a war vet, but like so many of that remarkable generation the elderly man chose to fight back against the wrongs being foisted on him. But this time age defeats resolve and the old timer is left bleeding and unconscious in the alley...a high cost to pay for a cellphone.
|The fuel of Atrocitus' rage|
On Ysmault Atrocitus and Dex-Starr return from their encounter in space and while the feline Red Lantern recovers from his woulds Atrocitus breaks up the fighting amongst his followers. Bleez manages to question Atrocitus' leadership, managing to express herself long enough to question why Atrocitus would ever believe that beings fueled by rage could ever stop themselves from fighting among themselves when there's no one else to focus their rage against. In addition to Atrocitus seemingly being unable to accept the very nature of his followers, Bleez scoffs at the notion that Atrocitus can just order them about.
Atrocitus internally questions the change in himself and how this could be perceived as weakness and cause his followers to stop fearing him - and the likely fatal consequences associated with that notion. The Red Lantern heads to the corpse of Krona and we relive the source of Atrocitus' initial rage, the destruction of life on Ysmault and, more importantly to Atrocitus, the murder of his family and how his revenge on the renegade Guardian was spoiled by Hal Jordan.
Back on Earth a young man named John arrives at the hospital where his brother Ray is sitting beside the now deceased body of the elderly man we saw earlier. John didn't arrive in time to say goodbye to their Grandfather, who we learn was more of a father to the two. John has an almost cavalier attitude about the loss of their patriarch, but Ray has taken this far harder than this brother, with this incident sparking a great deal of rage. In the background we see the mysterious cloaked woman watching on as this bit of foreshadowing comes to a close.
|The seeds of a rage in what may be a new Red Lantern are planted as our mysterious woman looks on|
|Mutiny is brewing|
With the fever of rage rekindled in him by a fever pod, Atrocitus plunges his hand into the lifeless body of Krona, using his juices to make a prophecy of blood. Gazing into his future we see scenes of brutality from across the galaxy and the need for retribution for those injustices gives Atrocitus the new meaning he's been looking for since the "War of the Green Lanterns". But as we see the Atrocitus' anger renewed the issue ends with Bleez instilling rage for Atrocitus in her fellow Red Lanterns, fueled by the her sense of the weakness that Atrocitus has become a weaker being.
The Writing -
I'm not familiar with Peter Milligan's work, but this issue makes it very clear that he gets what the Red Lanterns are all about and he's found an organic way to create some divisiveness amongst the Red Lantern Corps that could take the series in some intriguing directions. I love seeing Dex-Starr so having in action right from the beginning made me very happy.
However I have to admit I didn't care for the retread of the assault on Ysmault by the Manhunters and I found it to be an ineffective way for me to relate to Atrocitus. While it serves as a good primer for those who are new to the characters, there just wasn't enough there for me to feel anything for him other than knowing what I already know. So I found that section left me wanting for something better.
Likewise the scenes with John and Ray didn't do anything for me, mainly because they seemingly go nowhere here. I realize that these events will pay off down the road in subsequent issues, but as a first issue they felt like an unwelcome intrusion and distracted me from really getting into the Red Lantern part of the book. And with the rest of the book I felt like this was a preview for a series rather than a first issue of one just because it read like it was completely a set up for what's to come with no main plot of its own.
The Art -
Ed Benes is an amazing artist who sometimes gets a bad rap for his over endowed women and lack of distinction with his female faces. However this issue showcased his strengths in my mind and I enjoyed every panel of this first issue. Yeah, there is a gratuitous butt shot of Bleez or two, but they don't do anything to take away from the issue at all. And after the first issue I'd have to say that the art was the better part of the book so far.
What Do I Think?
As a lantern fan I'll buy this book pretty much as a given, but it's not high on my list of my favorite post-Flashpoint titles. It's only the first issue, however, and as much as this felt like it was one hundred percent setup I'm still engaged enough to want to read the issue out of genuine interest and not blind loyalty. Three out of five lanterns.