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Red Lanterns #13 is the first of four “Rise of the Third Army” issues that ties this corner of the Green Lantern universe into the larger story being told between October and January.  While not picking up on any of the plot threads started in last month’s Zero issue this installment introduces the Third Army into the mix as reveals a potential weakness in the seemingly mindless pawns of the Guardians of the Universe.

The Story – 

On the planet Arhtky a family is torn apart by the anarchy loose on the planet.  A vicious warlord by the name of Cord takes ownership of the last remnants of the family and finds pleasure in using the two sisters as slaves for both menial labor and, well the other kinds of pleasure men find in attractive nubile young women.  When one sister is killed the other, Taya, plots her escape. Taya’s tears of rage raise the attention of Atrocitus and Red Lanterns on Ysmault who depart to exact their brand of justice.

Taya’s journey is compelling and tragic

Taya finds temporary refuge with a couple surviving in an uneasy marriage in the middle of the woods, but the next morning when Cord and his men arrive looking for Taya both she and the man’s wife are betrayed by the man who gives both the women up to Cord for money.  Both women are struck down and as Taya lie there in a pool of her own blood the Red Lanterns arrive and they easily avenge the injustices of Cord and his band.
The Third Army leaps into action against the Red Lanterns and Atrocitus finds his army ineffective against the  latest threat from the Guardians.  Rankorr, Bleez and Atrocitus manage to survive the attack, but another member of the Red Lantern Corps falls victim to assimilation as does Taya.  As the issue comes to a close Atrocitus learns that the eyes of the Third Army seem to be a weak point and it appears that the members of the Third Army are hive mind like, sharing the pain that each feels.

Skorch’s appearance and quick death carry no dramatic weight and downplays the seriousness of the threat at hand

The Writing –
It seems like the Third Army story almost intrudes on Peter Milligan’s direction for Red Lanterns given the way that the zero issue teased the return of the rest of the Five Inversions, but the way that this issue is crafted I get the impression that we’re meant to understand that particular threat is brewing literally under Atrocitus’ feet.  Issue thirteen should sound familiar to previous issues – we witness someone suffering tremendous cruelty which draws the Red Lanterns to it, but this time two new things change some of the variables in what is arguably an all too familiar formula.  For one thing Taya cannot become a Red Lantern since their central battery is not back to full strength and secondly the Third Army arrives and really upsets things.

While the state of the once tainted battery is a good bit of continuity, the arrival of the Third Army seems rather forced and too coincidental.  While I found myself taken in with Taya’s story and found her end rather tragic, the somewhat hyped “a Red Lantern will die” proclamation falls very flat with the death of a character who appears here for the first time.  The reader has no connection to Skorch so there is no loss when she is assimilated.  I thought that Peter Tomasi was very brave in sacrificing Vandor to the Third Army, giving the reader a loss that carried some weight with it and illustrated the stakes of this new threat.  Milligan would have been wiser in following suit and choosing either Zilius Zox, Skallox or Ratchet to die rather than a “red shirt”.

This story calls for bolder choices in who to make the fodder for the Third Army

I’m not sure who’s decision it was to reveal a potential weakness for the Third Army this early in the conflict, but unless it is a red herring it seems a bit premature to so us how easy it appears to be to take these beings out of action.  I’m hoping it’s not as easy as poking their eyes out and when I read it I suddenly had an urge to see the Green Lanterns create Red Ryder BB Gun constructs to shoot the eyes out of the Third Army.

The Art –
I half wonder if the artists on the Green Lantern books have a running contest with each other to see who can make the Third Army the creepiest.  Miguel Sepulveda does a great job not only with the unnerving appearance of the Third Army, but throughout the book he does an admirable job telling us what’s going on visually and capturing the visceral nature of the events in this issue.  When you can ignore the word balloons and follow the story from cover to cover and know what’s going on it’s a sign of an artist who is on the top of his game.  While I’m still not keen on Atrocitus’ lack of pointy teeth it’s truly the only critical thing I can say about this book from a visual standpoint.

It seems a little early in the narrative to have the villains weakness revealed, but perhaps not all is as it seems

What Do I Think?
Issue thirteen of Red Lanterns is a bit of a hit and miss for me.  The initial story was very compelling but once the Red Lanterns showed up it lessened the issue for me, and it shouldn’t be that way when you like the parts of the book that don’t feature the titular characters.  Writer Peter Milligan seems to get a lot right when he’s free to create things that are all his own, but struggles sometimes.  Bolder decision making is needed when it comes to crafting a story that is as epic in scale as the “Rise of the Third Army” should be.  The art carried this issue in my opinion, but how this issue fits into the larger narrative will be a greater indication of it than how I see it from my current perspective.  Three out of five lanterns.

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