Thursday, September 15, 2011

Comics Review: Red Lanterns #1 Is A Very Good Read

UK-based writer and co-creator of webcomic "Death Boy"
Ian Austin, returns to give his review of the DC new 52's "Red Lanterns" #1!

Ian will be contributing more comics reviews in the coming weeks!


Between Dex Starr, that terrific oath, and Atrocitus having a fantastic story, I've been fascinated about this title for months. Especially as the first inklings of this comic started pre-reboot. So it's something that has been examined from multiple angles, and was still pushed for an ongoing slot.

It also cements the Green Lantern verse as something to be reckoned with. Which is interesting, given how wide-reaching space is. The possibilities are certainly there for some interesting story avenues.

That said, I'm not a huge fan of anti-hero comics. So despite liking the Atrocitus character, I still had some reservations about this comic. Even if, as The Spectre noted, Atrocitus was on a holy mission.

And there's ALSO the Krona factor. The being who is responsible for the death of Atrocitus's family is dead. Doesn't that mean his mission is over? Well, I guess I (and we) are about to find out.

Well, it starts with some blue Aliens, torturing something human-esque for kicks in Sector 666, being terrorised by Dex Starr - a good kitty who vomits acidy blood.

And immediately, we see the Atrocitus character in every available element. He shows rage defending Dex Starr, yet his narration comes across as lost and is followed by a heartwarming act of compassion towards Dex Starr, or 'my cat' as Atrocitus calls him. The final stage is Atrocitus telling the Red Lanterns not to fight, suggesting a father like nature to his dealings with these children, few of who are capable of any emotion beyond rage

Then we switch to Atrocitus saying that, in many ways, he and Krona are lovers.

... .... ...

Well, there's a thousand slash fictions launched. It's a brave choice of dialogue in these politically correct times, as Krona is dead and Atrocitus vomits blood. The actual point is that Atrocitus feels he's binded to Krona, that the rage he feels kept him going to kill Krona... and now that Krona is gone, Atrocitus finds his life has no purpose.

From here comes the kicker...

Atrocitus was a psychologist on his home planet. This puts everything into a sad perspective. Now we know Atrocitus was determined to know how beings worked and to help them understand their emotions and fears. When his entire world died, Atrocitus shied away from understanding to condemning - someone unable to quantify his grief. This places him into a similar position to Batman, except Atrocitus wasn't fighting for an ideal. Rather, he was fighting his own self-loathing at his inability to save the world.

There's also survival guilt. Atrocitus was a father who watched his family die, sharing eerie parallels to both The Punisher and Flashpoint Batman. To make matters worse, this was back when the Guardians were incapable of emotion.

With the end of this issue, Atrocitus steps up to the plate. Instead of rage for what happened to him, his rage is for the state of the universe. It's a classic trope, the idea formulated in Westerns of the savage man who comes to town to save it from itself and when it's done isn't welcome in the new society. If the Green Lanterns enforce law, the Red Lanterns are vigilantes fighting the dregs.

There's also the threat of a Red Lantern revolt.

As a first issue, I found this fascinating. There's a lot to take in given how Atrocitus as a character goes all the way back to Geoff Johns Green Lantern: Secret Origin. We have to be brought up to speed with a plethora of backstory, delivered by one of the few writers to pen Atrocitus since he was introduced. It also requires some skill to make Atrocitus relatable, while keeping his central character beats the same as they were.

Peter Milligan manages it well. I found this a skillful read. The pacing is quick, the writing adept, the exposition oddly natural and the complexities of Atrocitus fascinating. He's a contradiction, and has sprung to life in a way that bodes well for the future. Credit must also go to Ed Benes and Rob Hunter for making this feel adult without being grotesque to the point of unreadable. One problem I had with Detective Comics was the sheer shock value of the ending, whereas here the feel is of a classic horror variety - violent, but not hilariously cheesy.

So while it's not the best title I've read in the DC 52, it's very good. And does Atrocitus solid fan-service.

I rate this: 4/5

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