Monday, October 28, 2013

Utterly Lackluster: Red Lanterns Volume 1: Blood And Rage Underwhelms the Fans!

The Good: Artwork
The Bad: Lack of genuine character development, Dull plot
The Basics: Moments in the b-plot of Red Lanterns Volume 1: Blood And Rage are all that makes the otherwise plodding narrative worth reading.

When DC Comics announced its ambitious reboot known as the New 52, the company had a lot of slots to fill in order to flesh out fifty-two comic books a month. While skeptics, like me, thought they were overextending themselves (something which has proven true as various titles have been cancelled and their replacement books have been similarly shitcanned), some of the titles had the potential to be truly exciting for fans of the DC Universe. The people who seemed to benefit the most were fans of the Green Lantern section of the DC Universe. In the buildup to the Blackest Night Saga (reviewed here!), the Green Lantern section of the DC Universe fleshed out with multiple new emotional Corps’s that offered a wider range of stories with characters who are motivated by other emotions than willpower.

One of the most intriguing new additions to the Green Lantern mythos were the Red Lanterns. Fueled by rage and led by the angry, blood vomiting Atrocitus, the Red Lanterns were a mindlessly evil force that never quite came to the forefront. Because Red Lanterns have been seen spewing napalm vomit and their only cure was also detailed in the brief stories they have been a part of (in this case, in order to save the life of Guy Gardner, the cure for Red Lantern “infection” had to be devised). Beyond that, the Red Lanterns were pretty fertile ground for writers working in the New 52 vision of the DC Universe. The first book, which contains the first seven issues of Red Lanterns is Red Lanterns Volume 1: Blood And Rage. Unfortunately, that book is a painfully dull book and does no service to Peter Milligan.

Following the War Of The Green Lanterns (reviewed here!), Atrocitus and his surviving Red Lanterns have returned to Ysmault. There, Atrocitus laments over the corpse of Krona and vows revenge upon the Green Lantern who killed Krona before he could. Atrocitus finds that having a mindless Corps is not all he needs it to be, so he dumps Bleez into the Blood Lake. That experience gives her back her mind, so she becomes Atrocitus’s equal.

Sadly for Atrocitus, that means he now has a rival for control of the Red Lanterns, one who sees that he might not be as full of rage as he ought to be. As Bleez antagonizes Atrocitus and Atrocitus works to free the mind of other key Red Lanterns, in the U.K. two brothers react to the murder of their grandfather. The calm Jack Moore tries to talk down his brother, Raymond. While Raymond plots revenge against the thug who killed his grandfather, Jack stands by while the police close in on his brother. The resulting police brutality leads Jack to transform into a Red Lantern. With Red Lantern Jack Moore fleeing Guy Gardner, on Ysmault, Atrocitus hunts down the force that stole Krona’s body.

The problem with Red Lanterns Volume 1: Blood And Rage is that Atrocitus has lost his rage. Rage, as one who might have experienced the emotion is likely to know, is an emotional state that is very hard to sustain. In the case of working out the kinks of the Red Lanterns, the mechanism to keep the rage going is essentially infecting the Red Lanterns with the napalm they vomit out and making them into mindless instruments of vengeance. That is a tough character design to write and for readers to want to read.

So, it makes sense that Atrocitus would be immune to the red vomit. In the process, though, Red Lanterns Volume 1: Blood And Rage focuses on a character who has lost his edge. Atrocitus does not exhibit much in the way of rage. Instead, he is an alien badass who looks wicked . . . and is phoning in the rage. Jack Moore’s snapping to become a blindly angry Red Lantern is more of a character journey than anything Atrocitus goes through in the book.

On the plot front, there is little to recommend Red Lanterns Volume 1: Blood And Rage. Who took Krona’s body is hardly a mystery and the answer to the question is peppered well throughout the book to make the end more obvious than audacious. Bleez, for her part, is a pretty generic antagonist and her part in the book lacks the gravitas that Atrocitus had in other books that featured him.

On the artwork front, penciller Ed Benes makes all of the characters clear. Unfortunately, he leaves little to the imagination. Ed Benes is clearly an ass man; every opportunity to put Bleez and the Green Lantern turned Red Lantern (I forget her name)’s ass in the panel and Benes takes it. It’s ridiculous and droll. The coloring in Red Lanterns Volume 1: Blood And Rage is decent.

It is not, however, a worthwhile book, which makes it surprising that Red Lanterns has survived in the diminishing (no longer) New 52.

For other books that include Red Lanterns, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Green Lantern: Rage Of The Red Lanterns
Blackest Night: Green Lantern
Brightest Day: Green Lantern


For other book reviews, please visit my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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