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The most recent issue of Red Lanterns brings the Wrath of the First Lantern to its midway point and while it hasn’t been filled with nearly as much righteous animosity as the title would have one believe it has provided some interesting exploration of our cast of characters.   Issue eighteen continues that trend, spotlighting Atrocitus and Rankorr as two beings that have a lot more in common than the red rings they wear.
The Story –
Volthoom arrived on Maltus last month and unlike his most of his previous encounters the First Lantern has decided to play with Atrocitus a little bit, offering him a choice as to how his reality will be written in history.   Showing the Red Lantern what his life would have been like had the Manhunters not attacked we come to understand that Atros would have eventually become the ruler of his people, succumbing to the power he wields. 

Back on Earth we observe Rankorr on a picnic with the young woman he rescued last month and through his internal dialogue we see him question when the right moment would be to drop his disguise and hope that he will still be accepted for the man he once was before the red ring landed on his finger.  Returning to Maltus we discover that in this alternate timeline Atros has become a despot, killing anyone who questions his absolute rule, including his wife who is executed.  Volthoom feeds on the despair of Atrocitus as he realizes that his life would not have been the happy reality he’d imagined it would have been.
Returning once again to Rankorr and his predicament on Earth, John Moore makes an attempt to be honest with his new lady friend, but before he can reveal himself Bleez appears and forces the situation to come to a head, scaring away the human woman as Moore’s disguise fades from existence.  Meanwhile we learn that Atros is ultimately assassinated by his own son in this alternate reality.  Volthoom continues to toy with Atrocitus’ emotions and offers the Red Lantern the choice of which reality he’d prefer. 
Liar, liar, body’s on fire!
With Atrocitus choosing to have all of Ryutt destroyed by the Manhunters Volthoom takes possession of the “Great Heart”, claiming that it has become much more than a repository for the emotions cast off by the Guardians of the Universe and will provide him the remaining power he needs to control reality.  Before disappearing Volthoom reminds Atrocitus that he chose the fate of his own people and no longer has anything to be mad about.  Seeing himself now as the root cause for the destruction of his own people Atrocitus ends the issue by issuing an order to the Red Lanterns to hunt down and destroy him as the responsible party.
The Writing –
Peter Milligan wisely chooses to avoid the formulaic structure found so far in the Wrath of the First Lantern and instead comes up with a neat twist on a Morton’s Fork plot wherein Atrocitus is given the choice between two unpleasant options.  It underscores how tragic a figure Atrocitus really is, destined to live a doomed existence either by the actions of the Manhunters or his own failings.  That he’d choose  a fate where he remains a victim is pretty messed up considering that with the alternative at least most of his planet would survive. 
The beginning of his end?
It’s interesting to compare Atrocitus’ story to John Moore’s since both men are trying to hide their true selves – in John’s case it’s from his lady friend and with Atrocitus it’s almost like he’d hiding from himself, desperate to cling to the image of himself as a righteous victim rather than seeing  himself as the inflicter of pain on his own people.  However in the end it’s just John who is forced to come to terms with what he has become.  Bleez said she would become his greatest enemy and surely her actions this issue will be the catalyst for a lot of drama in the issues to come.
We are now at the halfway point in this final story arc for the creative teams on the Lantern books and while it has been a little slow moving there is some plot advancement in this issue with seeing that Volthoom continues to lose some of his translucency and with his acquisition of the Guardians’ emotions it will be very interesting to see how he appears when we see him next.  I still toy with the idea that Volthoom is a Hal Jordan from another Earth theory with his white hair the first repercussion of his exposure to the white energy of creation.  We’ll see if it pans out or not, but for now this is still the theory I’m subscribing to.
The Art –
Miguel Sepulveda really nailed it this issue with perhaps the exception being the scenes where Atros ends up looking a little too much like the Red Skull for me. 
While the vast majority of the artwork is great, this part screamed Red Skull a little too loudly for me.
What Do I Think?
Red Lanterns has been panned by quite a few reviewers in the past, myself included.  This particular issue is an interesting study in human nature and as Milligan’s run nears its end this feels much like the beginning of closure.  With Atrocitus calling for his own head I’m wondering if he will indeed survive to lead the Red Lantern Corps or if his self loathing and his past with the Inversions will literally catch up to him.  Four out of five lanterns.

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