Red Lanterns #3 Review

Of the four books in the Green Lantern family Red Lanterns is the red headed step child in more than the obvious play on color.  Nothing about the series has yet made any connections with the its three siblings and it does appear to be an outsider doing its own thing almost wandering aimlessly while the three Green titles seem to have a much clearer sense of direction.  That and the book not being anything like I imagined it would has made it more of a challenge for me to get excited about as I try to not let me expectation color my impressions. With the third issue hitting stands and a digital marketplace near you I’m left feeling that the title is finally moving forward, but I also find that it seems to be tripping over itself in doing so.
The Story –
Hurled into the blood ocean Bleez sinks to the bottom, the blood changing Bleez by opening up the channels of her mind and providing her the chance to gain more control over her faculties.  Atrocitus and the rest of the Red Lanterns stand by the pool awaiting her return with Atrocitus wondering if this will work to help to reign in his fellow Corpsmen.  As Bleez reaches the bottom we see the affect that her descent is having on her with her inner dialogue becoming more complex and we witness the moment that caused the rage that drives the winged alien – the slaughter of her mother by a member of the Sinestro Corps and her own violation by his hand.
The catalyst behind Bleez’s rage
Back on Earth we rejoin the two brothers, Ray and John, from the first issue whose grandfather was killed.  Ray is trying to get his revenge on the killer, but John thwarts his attempt, causing a fire when he knocks the Molotov cocktail from Ray’s hand.  The two brothers are as different as night and day, with John able to temper his anger but Ray is driven by rage and two men come to blows.
The safety of rage
Bleez emerges from the pool on Ysmault with enough clarity of thought to have already worked out that Atrocitus’ actions were driven by selfish goals.  Bleez reveals that the blind rage that drove her also shielded her from having to deal with the pain, and having it all resurface has apparently weakened her to the point of not being able to help Atrocitus deal with the mindless lack of control that the rest of the Red Lanterns have.  The moment reveals one of the interesting facets of rage, the ability it has to distract from feeling the pain that is behind such intense anger.  The two leave Ysmault for Bleez’s homeworld, Havania.
Through flashback sequences we see Bleez’s backstory play out with two of her potential suitors out to get revenge on her for being so arrogant and crushing their advances.  The two men speak of Bleez’s beauty to the Sinestro Corps members and goad him into making a play for her, using her past history to play on his pride that she would find him too far beneath her. 
Bleez dealt with the men harshly, but not by her terms and she declares that Count Liib and Baron Ghazz were just over reacting despite the coldness that we witness in the flashback.  Before revenge can be enacted on the two, Atrocitus takes Bleez to the her mother’s remains and she abruptly spits on the corpse, holding her to blame for all of Bleez’s misfortunes and the state that she finds herself in.  The two Red Lanterns leave to find retribution, making quick work of decapitating Count Liib.  Bleez wants to spare Baron Ghazz and leave him to live every day not knowing if it will be the one she comes for him, but Atrocitus will have none of that and plunges his hand through the Havanian’s chest.
The differences in approach between the two Lanterns are apparent with Bleez preferring to manipulate others and relishing in the power over them that it gives her, which her leader just wants to kill them and get it over with.  The issue ends with Bleez holding court over the rest of the Red Lantern Corps and Atrocitus wondering if she had manipulated him into throwing her into the blood ocean in the first place.
With his words Atrocitus foreshadows a struggle in the coming days to retain leadership of the Red Lanterns
The Writing – 
Perhaps the best thing I can say about Peter Milligan’s story thus far is that I’m enjoying the uncertainty of where this is going as well as the character exploration.  It’s pretty telegraphed that Bleez is positioned to challenge Atrocitus for leadership of the Red Lanterns, but how it will play out and whether or not Bleez is really manipulating the situation remains to be seen.  While I think the pace is a little slower than I’d like, I do like seeing this exploration of the Red Lanterns unfold and seeing that there is more there than one would think.
Where I get a little lost with this book is some of the inconsistencies and how it makes the story trip over itself to move ahead.  Examples:
  • If the power of rage is so powerful that a Red Lantern surrenders control over his intelligence as a part of induction, then how is it that Bleez would be able to plan a way to get thrown in the ocean – and if by some leap of logic or special ability she were able to do that why not just jump in there herself? 
  • And if Bleez was somehow able to manipulate Atrocitus through her veil of rage – doesn’t that diminish the power we’re supposed to believe it has over the Red Lanterns?
  • Continuing on the very nature of the Red Lantern Corps – if one does become unintelligible then how do we explain Dex-Starr’s ring translations in the first issue?  Things like “Sadist.  I hear the screams of your victims” is a stretch for a cat to begin with, let alone one controlled by the burning rage of anger.  Even if he got thrown in the pool at some point off panel it’s a little too Shakespearean for a feline.

And while I get the desire to show where future members of the Corps might be coming from, the whole subplot with John and Ray isn’t working for me at all.  The page and a half we get in this issue took me out of the story on Ysmault and to be honest I think it would have better to have put it in the beginning of the issue and then cut to the Red Lanterns for the remainder of it.  I don’t end up feeling any sympathy for them to get behind them as characters any more than I do with the revelation that Bleez was a cold cunning witch.

Not that I don’t think that the actions of Liib and Ghazz are excusable.  What makes both Dex-Starr and Atrocitus great anti-heroes is that you can find something identifiable in their plight and almost root for them despite the gruesome nature in how they achieve their results.  While I can relate to the anger of having a loved one murdered Ray’s bitter reaction doesn’t resonate with me and neither does John’s counterpoint reaction.
If I sound cynical about Red Lanterns I’m not, I just want it to be a great read, and it isn’t for me.  It’s not that I don’t like the book, but I don’t love it.  I’m in it for the long haul, however, so I hope my investment in the experience is rewarded down the road when we have a clearer picture of where Red Lanterns is going.
The Art –
Not to be snarky – but Ed Benes has got to be relishing the opportunity for the volume of T & A in this book more than a Power Girl / Black Canary team-up!  There seems to be more gratuitous camera angles in this series than any other so far, including Catwoman.  Not being critical here because in all honesty Benes knows how to draw beautiful women and play with those angles better than most.
But titillation aside everything else looks great with the exception of maybe Atrocitus, who I think looks visually less ferocious than I think he should.  That and the lack of background detail in a lot panels stood out to me as the only artistic weak points.
What Do I Think?
I said it earlier and I’ll say it again – I’m just in like with this book rather than loving it.  I think when held beside the standards being created by the rest of the Green Lantern family of books that disparity makes what I’m not loving more pronounced, but I am enjoying the Red Lanterns series.  I think the creative team is trying to find a way to write a book where most of the cast can’t carry on a conversation beyond guttural mutterings and grunts and Peter Milligan is working at trying to change that paradigm as much as he can with the great framework of the Green Lantern mythos.
That is perhaps the biggest flaw with trying to feature Red Lanterns in a monthly book – that the feral nature that appeals to fans about the Red Lanterns is precisely what holds it back from being able to a maintain a regular series without diminishing the qualities that make them so liked in the first place.  For that reason I’m giving the title longer than I normally might before pulling the trigger on it when there are so many books I enjoy more.  Three out of five lanterns.  
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About the author

Life long Green Lantern fan and co-host of the Podcast of Oa. I’m a Barbecue snob and aficionado of blues music. Hal Jordan is my co-pilot!

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