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It’s no secret that I haven’t had the same enthusiasm for Red Lanterns as I’d like to have, but the book is still the first one I read for the week it comes out.  Part of that certainly from my bias as a Green Lantern fan, but the main reason is that I look forward to seeing if the latest issue makes the connection with me that I want it to.  The sixth issue promises to bring some of the plot threads together and it’s my hope that that we’ll finally be getting some cohesion and a solid direction for the series.

The Story –
Issue five ended with John Moore’s recruitment as the new member of the Red Lantern Corps and this issue opens with an inner monologue as we live through the transformation from his perspective.  John, or Jack as he prefers to be called, is unaware of what’s happening to him, but the words and actions of the police how beat his brother to death echo in his mind and trigger flashbacks to points in his life where Jack was bullied by others.  His attempts to warn the police to get away result in the horrifying death of one them as Jack struggles to communicate through his new rage-filled persona.  Taking to the sky John Moore begins to question what he has become as a result the changes he’s going through.

John Moore’s life is one that is one we can relate to, but is it powerful enough to warrant a red ring? 

On Ysmault the confrontation between Atrocitus and Bleez rages on and the moment that their tension has built to materializes when Bleez calls for new leadership.  Surrounded by his Corps Atrocitus is called out by Skallox, providing a moment of relief for Bleez who was about to be killed by her superior.  As the Red Lantern begins to explain  himself to his followers he suddenly realizes that he and they have somehow all been changed, hinting that Bleez may be infected them in some manner.

Atrocitus realizes something has changed, and not for the better

Back on Earth John Moore reaches out for a connection that might help calm the fierce emotions boiling inside him, flying to the cemetery where his grandfather is buried.  Rather than the peaceful solace he hoped to find the sight of the tombstone sends Moore even further over the edge until he finds a target to focus his now uncontrollable rage on, the man how killed his grandfather and indirectly brought about the death of his brother Ray.

Find the police cruiser transporting Baxter, John Moore attacks the vehicle and knocks it off the road.  Confronting the frightened Baxter John Moore uses his grandfather’s headstone to begin bashing the man’s head in when a familiar green light gets in the way.  The issue closes with Guy Gardner standing before Moore, telling the Red Lantern they need to have a talk – and that means fight in Gardner-ese.

John’s transformation and inner dialogue are the high point of this issue. 

The Writing –

I enjoyed getting into Moore’s head this issue and seeing how his humanity is struggling to stay alive on the slippery slope towards the inevitable consumption by his rage.  My assumption is that the fact that he’s human is making his indoctrination a bit different, and while that might sound like an easy way out I think it allows us to learn more about the Red Lanterns and how their transformation changes them.  I’m not sure why he needs to be called Rankorr other than the play on the word rancor – or perhaps an ode to the Star Wars beast.
The scenes on Ysmault remain a muddled mess to me.  We now have this battle for supremacy in front of the Red Lanterns as their main plot and the missing body of Krona, the stealing of the Red Lantern ring that led to Bleez’s appearance in New Guardians, and the other little subplots are still dangling threads that seem to be going nowhere.  
Apparently the Krona subplot will see an answer soon, but from my perspective the title just lacks focus, but I’ve been thinking about this a bit since reading the most recent issue and I’m wondering if this might just be intentional.  The thing about rage and anger is that it makes it very difficult to remained focused on any one thing for too long.  Is Peter Milligan intentionally trying to show us that the Red Lanterns lack the ability to control themselves effectively by moving between these threads without resolution as a way to illustrate how the rage controls the Red Lanterns more than they do the emotion?  Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part, but the Blue Lantern in me in hoping so.
The one thing I have to say about the choice of John Moore as a Red Lantern is that his rage isn’t very strong.  Sure a life of being bullied leads to a lot of pent up anger, I can relate to that, but I can’t help but think of a number of other situations that are very present in our world with much more power behind them and would have had more impact than what we’ve seen here.  
The Art –
I love Ed Benes for the most part, but I do think he continues to go out of his way for some gratuitous T and A that makes for more distraction than anything else.  As I read this issue one thing in particular also stood out to me and that was the lack of detail in so many panels.  So of that may be in the inking and coloring, but a lot of it is just backgrounds that have nothing in them. I also think that after seeing Atrocitus show up in the pages of Green Lantern: New Guardians #5 I really miss how ferocious and terrifying he used to look before we got this kinder, simpler Atrocitus.
What Do I Think?
This issue is better than most of the others in that I feel like we’re finally starting to see some direction for this title, but I remain concerned that this is all happening too late for the title.  Red Lanterns #1 sold well at nearly 74,000 copies and by the fourth issue that number dropped down to just over 50,000 and dropping, a signal that the book hasn’t found a stable audience yet.  The fifth issue was the number forty book for January so it doesn’t seem like it’s in trouble yet, but if the sales continue to fall something is going to happen to this book in the form of a creative shift or cancellation.
Issue six makes a step in the right direction in some ways, but fumbles over itself in others.  Three out of five lanterns.

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