After the success of Blackest Night and the surprising popularity of Dex-Starr, the Red Lantern Corps have garnered a certain fanbase since their creation in 2007. Seeing the audience they draw, and figuring that there could be a certain quality of stories if they were put in the right hands, DC Comics decided to give the Red Lantern Corps their own title when they rebooted the universe. Now part of the New 52, is Red Lanterns worth the chance that DC took, or does it flail miserably into obscurity?
Atrocitus is stuck. As leader of the Red Lantern Corps, his rage fuels him, keeps him moving. An unquenchable blood-lust is what drives him, but lately his rage has been waning. He feels that the rest of the Red Lantern Corps no longer respect him. The melancholy he feels prevents him from even searching for his life’s meaning. But he performs a blood prophecy using the blood of the object of his hatred, the mad Guardian Krona, and learns what the universe believes to be his true role.
From the beginning, Red Lanterns manages to grab readers. From the very first scene, involving Dex-Starr and a spaceship full of sadistic lizard-like aliens, readers quickly get a grasp of how different the Red Lantern Corps are from the Green Lantern Corps. The writing of that scene, and throughout the entire issue, is fantastic. Writer Peter Milligan (Detective Comics, X-Statix) lays out the history of the Red Lanterns easily for new readers without making it feel like an info-dump. As we meet Atrocitus, he is going through a period of self-doubt and questioning, an aspect of humanity that many people experience in their lives. Despite the fact that he is a violent, blood-thirsty ravager, this makes him seem relatable. While it may be strange to describe a Red Lantern as “relatable”, readers need something to grasp onto and if they are to continue reading the book; though DC could just make Red Lanterns a non-stop blood bath of a series, they chose to go the sensible route and focus on characterization.
Ed Benes (Birds of Prey, Gen13) provides pencils for the issue. Though Benes’ art is good, his characters seem a little stiff, with his more human figures often exhibiting the same facial expressions. He adds quite a bit to his figures, making them seem as realistic as possible while expressing his style, but at times, the heavy cross-hatching tends to distract from the experience rather than add to it. I do like the background renderings, where Benes opted to actually draw his backgrounds as opposed to taking an easy way out and just drawing a couple of heavy lines to convey a scene. If nothing else can be said about him, Ed Benes is not a lazy artist. (I also would pay for a print of the two-page splash of Dex-Starr floating through space.)
Despite being underwhelmed by the quality of the New 52 titles in the first two weeks, I am impressed by the quality of Red Lanterns. With my limited funds, I need to carefully select the books that I choose to collect, and so far, not many of the New 52 will be making the cut. However, if Red Lanterns continues on the track it’s going, I will definitely be adding it to my pull list.