For me perhaps the most exciting part of the year of Red Lanterns was seeing that glimpse of the rest of the Five Inversions in last month's issue twelve. That part of Atrocitus' backstory has been what I've been the most hopeful about seeing since the series was announced and with this month's zero issue we get a little more background on Atrocitus' history and how it ties into the Alan Moore "Tygers" story from Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 (1986). The zero issue fills in the blanks and weaves Atrocitus into the fabric of Moore's original story fairly well and while it falls a little short of what I'd hoped to see, it provides some new information that makes the inevitable return of the rest of the Inversions all the more interesting.
The Story -
The issue starts with the Manhunters standing ground on Ryutt, silently observing the planet's inhabitants, but to Trakka, Atrocitus' daughter, the emotionless faces are not quite as devoid as everyone perceives. Claiming that the Manhunters hate them Trakka returns home with her father not long before the Manhunters launch their assault on Sector 666. As the attack unfolds we watch again as Atrocitus' family and everyone else on Ryutt is destroyed, but Atrocitus somehow manages to stand as the lone survivor.
|Apparently nobody can cook orbs like Atty's Mom.|
Some time later Qull and his sister Roixaeume arrive on Ryutt along with Orphram and Dal-Xauix and they discover Atrocitus there and, after explaining that they too have survived the onslaught, recruit the tortured soul by convincing him that harnessing his rage for vengeance is better than allowing oneself to be consumed by it. Out of this the Five Inversions are born as are a war of retribution against the Guardians.
Through the conflict the Empire of Tears was created, a three-galaxy wide domain ruled by dark magic, but even though Atrocitus has found a place where he belongs he is driven to be something more, but the rest of the Inversions will not perform a ritual needed to elevate Atrocitus to that level. Seducing Roixaeume, Atrocitus gains from their union the ability of the Blood Prophecy and he uses it along with the blood of a Guardian prisoner he kills to see an image from his future - him reciting what becomes the Red Lantern oath as he stands over the corpses of the rest of the Inversions.
|The birth of the Five Inversions and the Empire of Tears|
As the Guardians emerge victorious over the Five Inversions they are imprisoned on the planet Ysmault, what was their base of operations in the Empire of Tears. During the battle the Guardians have created the Green Lantern Corps and Abin Sur proved to be a major factor in the defeat and capture of the Inversions. Some time after the events from "Tygers" Atrocitus manages to break free from his confines, fueled by the memory of his blood prophecy. Killing Roixaeume and then the rest of the Inversions he spills their dark magic tainted blood which empowers him to become the first Red Lantern and he builds the central power battery. Using what's left of their blood Atrocitus gets one more prophecy, the future where he leads the Red Lanterns.
The Writing -
What really worked for me in this issue was how well Peter Milligan dove tailed these events neatly into Moore's story while leaving it as a completely valid piece of the continuity. I also enjoyed seeing more about the rest of the Five Inversions even though the visuals my imagination created when I read through the section where Atrocitus seduces Roixaeume still haunt me.
What troubled me about this issue in particular was the ending. It seems like the beginning and middle of the issue had all this room to breath and then the ending was rushed so quickly that important things are completely overlooked. We see the Five Inversions captive in a relative wasteland on Ysmault and suddenly Atrocitus kills Qull with a red lantern that comes from nowhere. Somehow Atrocitus manages to forge the central battery and a ring from rock? And why did he choose a ring and a lantern at all? The lack of detail undermines the script and results in an ending not worthy of all the good work done to get us to this point. I'd rather have seen the assault on Ryutt downplayed a little to gain some more panel space to fill in the more intriguing points of this story.
The Art -
Ardian Syaf has done wonders for this book and his work on this issue looks spectacular. He manages to not only capture the look of the Five Inversions but he makes them look even creepier and more demonic than ever. Their eventual destruction at the hands of Atrocitus while brief deftly captures the raw brutality of the act as he gains wrings the life out of them one by one.
|The art team does a great job of conveying Atrocitus' raw brutality.|
One thing I was left wondering, though, was why Atrocitus is the only being we see on Ryutt who has no lips? It looks a little strange, especially as he chomped on his dinner and I half joked to myself that perhaps the lack of lips and the chewy food his wife prepared was the real reason for his anger. It may seem like a little thing but it definitely stood out to me as I read the issue.
What Do I Think?
Red Lanterns #0 is a good book, but one that could have been great had we had either a tighter script or more pages to see the ending played out properly. I really liked how the Green Lantern mythology was incorporated into the story, but the rushed final act robs the reader of a satisfying conclusion which brings the book's rating down a notch for me. Three out of five lanterns.