Who's it by?
Red Lanterns #1 is written by Peter Milligan and drawn by Ed Benes and Rob Hunter.
What's the history?
The Red Lantern Corp is a relatively young DC Universe faction, having made its debut in 2007's Green Lantern vol.4 #25. Creators Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver are said to have drawn inspiration from the Danny Boyle film 28 Days Later when developing the concept.
Like the other Lantern Corps, the Reds draw their power from the emotional spectrum through power rings. In this instance, the emotions they tap into are rage, hatred and anger.
The Red Lanterns are led by the formidable extraterrestrial Atrocitus of space sector 666, who stepped into the spotlight in Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns. Johns portrayed him as a tortured and vengeful character, whose origin is centred on the brutal murder of his people at the hands of the Guardians.
Atrocitus is a bitter enemy of the Guardians of the Universe and former Green Lantern Sinestro. He was also a key player in the 'Blackest Night' event.
Like DC's flagship Green Lantern series, Red Lanterns is in keeping with pre-relaunch continuity. The storyline picks up after the War of the Green Lanterns event and finds Atrocitus struggling to assert his authority on his fellow Reds.
Writer Peter Milligan is no stranger to dark ad edgy titles, having worked extensively on DC's Vertigo imprint in the past. He joined the series off the back of the Flashpoint: Secret Seven miniseries. Artist Ed Benes has drawn virtually every character in the DC Universe a dozen times over. He tackled the Lantern Corp not too long ago, providing illustrations for last year's Green Lantern #49.
The comic wastes no time introducing us to Atrocitus (and his faithful cat Dex-Starr). The angry extraterrestrial spends the opening pages making mincemeat out of a gang of sadistic aliens, and the remainder of the book in deep introspection.
The reader is given glimpses of the character's tragic past, and the ethos of the Red Lanterns and the origins of their powers are outlined. Atrocitus is floundering, having been denied his revenge against the Guardian Krona during War of the Green Lanterns, and fears losing control of his fellow Lanterns.
Several supporting cast members, such as the demonic-look Bleez, are introduced briefly but Milligan largely plays his cards close to his chest.
What's the verdict?
Red Lanterns #1 doesn't give much away. It sets the scene appropriately, providing background information on the Corps and shedding light on the protagonist's backstory; but it's impossible to tell which direction Peter Milligan is planning to take the series in.
Atrocitus has been fleshed out well. His continuous narrative paints him as a character with depth and complexity, rather than the one dimensional killing machine he could have been. His introspection is thought provoking enough to draw the reader in and generate intrigue around future issues.
The Corps leader doesn't spend the entire comic musing over his problems. Less than a few pages in he's already tearing a group of sadistic aliens apart with the help of his cat Dex-Starr (who has a six-pack for some reason). It's an obligatory action scene thrown in to hook the reader from the off, but it gives us a taster of the kind of bloody carnage that's likely to come.
On the down side, the other Red Lanterns are sorely under-used, and when they do crop up they're characterised as animalistic and obtuse. Bleez, at this stage, looks as though she's simply there to provide T&A, and the others might as well be mutes since they have no dialogue. Given that this is an introductory issue, it feels like a missed opportunity to introduce some of Atrocitus's teammates.
Ed Benes's artwork is rich in detail, though many panels are a touch on the overcrowded side. Pages are busy, packed with characters and otherworldly backgrounds, meaning that you'll get the most out of this one if you take the time to scrutinise every inch. Characters look bold and imaginative in dominant crimson tones, yet the prominent shots of Bleez's rear and an overemphasis on muscle tone are a tad cringe-worthy.
Red Lanterns #1 works well enough as a scene setter, but little of any real significance occurs. It's by no means a bad comic, it's just that there isn't much here to justify why a fourth title in the Green Lantern line was necessary. That said, there's plenty for Milligan and Benes to build on, so time will tell with this one.
> Buy the digital version of Red Lanterns #1
> Read our review of Green Lantern Corps #1
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