Review | Red Lanterns #1

If you’re familiar with the relatively recent rainbow-hued additions to the Green Lantern mythos, then you too were probably baffled about why DC would publish an ongoing monthly dedicated to characters as obvious as the rage-fueled Red Lanterns. But “be fair,” I told myself. “You never know.”

Now actually, GL writer Geoff Johns—who created the various additional corps, riffing off the longstanding existence of green and yellow power rings plus violet star sapphires—has done a more-than-decent job in developing Atrocitus, bringing depth to the red-skinned brute who created the Red Lanterns. (I even like the name, which has a nice Silver-Age-homage factor, balancing out the even-more-obvious Sinestro.) Although the character seems more suited as an ongoing antagonist than the star of his own book, I wouldn’t count writer Peter Milligan out, either. If anyone can do dark and twisted well, leavening the violence with significant themes, it’s the guy who gave us Shade, the Changing Man in the ’90s and X-Statix in the ’00s. And he’s got the germs of some decent plotlines here, including the foreshadowing of a human recruit to the rage corps.

But in the end, Milligan is hobbled here—first by Johns’s extremes choices regarding the “rules” of the Red Lanterns, and moreover by the dreadful art. It’s silly that only Atrocitus retains his mental faculties while wielding the ring; the rest of his corps lose their potential for characterization because they become near-mindless serial vomiters. Speaking of which: All that blood doesn’t make me queasy, but it does make me roll my eyes. Less is more, you know? Endless panels of Red Lanterns frothing from the mouth reduce the visual impact to nil. (Besides, it’s not actually supposed to be blood—it’s supposed to be napalm, which ignites a fire that burns wherever rage is present. It’s discouraging that DC editors can’t keep their own fictional world straight.)

But the crippling blow comes from Ed Benes’s pencils. Sure, his splash pages have a flashy “look at me!” quality, but that comes at the expense of his storytelling, which suffers from panel to panel. Worst of all is his anatomy. When Benes draws fan-favorite Dex-Starr (informally known as “Rage Kitty”), although he’s supposed to be an actual feline, he resembles a midget extra from Cat People. (If the two-page spread wasn’t bad enough, check out Dex-Starr’s arms in the truly comical Atrocitus pieta panel four pages later.) Two pages after that, Benes serves up the most dreadful of all gratuitous cheesecake poses with Bleez (who’s already running around in thigh-high boots, with garter straps attaching to her G-string). Here, she displays both ass cheeks and both tits at the same time. That’s why it’s been dubbed the brokeback pose: To achieve it, a woman would have to snap her spine.

Honestly, DC, some of your readers expect better.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)