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Last month the first issue of Red Lanterns ranked fourth on my list for the Green Lantern family of books with my chief criticism being that the issue felt like it was all background information and very short on actual plot.  With this week’s arrival of issue two I was looking forward to getting to the driving narrative for the series, but while this second issue gives us some exploration into the changing nature of Atrocitus’ rage, I’m still left wondering what the first arc is going to be about.
The Story –
On Ysmault Atocitus is still deep in contemplation as he ponders the nature of rage itself and trying to come to terms with his own anger and fury which has changed now that it’s target, Krona, is no more.  Something in Atrocitus is changing as he begins to question how rage works and how the vast amount of anger in the universe competes for his attention.  Addressing the corpse of the dead rogue Guardian, Atrocitus recounts the tale of Ghan IX, a planet embroiled in vicious conflict between the planet’s residents and the Yuevers.
Flying over head on patrol, two Yuevers spot a group of Ghanians below, but in their blind need for revenge for fallen comrades they confuse the children with firewood as adults with weapons and mow them down with their guns in a bloody display of power killing all of them but Rixx, a small girl who was hiding in cover.  Her anger at the loss of her friends leads her to cry out, gaining Atrocitus’ attention. 
The situation in retrospect is a complex one where rage begets rage and Atrocitus questions how anyone can determine which is more worthy than another.  Atrocitus quickly dispatches with the two killers but not before showing one of them the true nature of their violence.  Rixx is further traumatized by the site of the additional carnage and the doll she clutches reminds the Red Lantern of his own child killed so many years ago by the Manhunters.  However Atrocitus’ appearance and actions cause her to fear him and she runs away.
Atrocitus ponders the weight of rage
The blind anger of the Yuever pilots and the rage of Rixx cause Atrocitus to realize that their emotion is far more complicated that he previously thought and that he’ll need allies that can think beyond their rage rather than simply react to it.  With that the Red Lantern makes the decision to make one of his Corps nearly his equal and the issue ends with the promise that we will find out who in the third chapter.
The complexity of rage
The Writing –
Peter Milligan tackles the complexity of the harshest emotion and all the pain and hurt it can cause while continuing to show us the depth of character of Atrocitus.  The problem is that the storytelling is far too decompressed for it’s own good, spending so many of the panels on the Ghan IX story that the overall plot doesn’t advance fast enough.  And like the two Earth bound men in issue one, there is no payoff for Rixx which leaves me feeling a bit let down.
Where issue one felt like a preview, the second issue feels like a first issue to me.  There’s part set up and character exploration with the promise of a more engaging plot with the next issue which would be fine if this were the launching point, but being two months in I’m disappointed that we still don’t have what seems like any kind of forward movement.
The Art –
Ed Benes is doing a great job so far on this title, although I do think that in trying to make Atrocitus look a bit more like the protagonist in the book he’s lost some of the ferocity that has made him one of the most popular creations of the John-era of Green Lantern.  Other than that it’s hard to find fault with anything artistically in this book and the art is one of the high points for the series thus far.
What Do I Think?
I’m still sticking with this title and hoping that the plot jumpstarts next month.  While I’m all for character exploration and deep thought, I want to put the book down after reading it and felt like something happened in the span of those twenty or so pages.  And I don’t get that with Red Lanterns #2 despite enjoying digging below the visible surface layer of Atrocitus and the complex issue of rage.  In the end the good art and so-so story telling makes this a three lantern issue.

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