Or – “The Blood Puking Will Make For An Interesting Animated Series…”
When DC relaunched their universe last fall, they included a little something for everyone, from furthest reaches of their massive character library. Of all the relaunch titles, the one that appealed to me the least was probably Red Lanterns, a book that is paradoxically written by a writer whose work I have really enjoyed on other titles. With the fifth issue of the new order, I am ready to dip my toe into the sea of burning blood-vomit to see if my initial dismissal of Atrocitus and his minions was too hasty…
RED LANTERNS #5
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist(s): Ed Benes with Diego Bernard
Inker: Rob Hunter
Colorist: Nathan Eyring
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Previously, in Red Lanterns: Atrocitus has finally been brought down the being responsible for the death of Sector 666, Krona. With the man that fuels his rage gone, ‘Trossie has found himself in an existential quandary, filled with loathing and self-doubt, and far, far away from that fabled paradise in New Mexico where the air smells like warm root beer and the towels are oh-so-fluffy… Instead, he has chosen to create a second-in-command, giving Bleez (also known as “that sexy Red Lantern girl”) her mind back and overcoming the power of the Red Lantern blood-fury. Of course, giving your minions free will is always problematic, as the Robot Overlord will attest.
We open with a page that puzzles me, as Atricitus apparently loses the body of Krona (still a renegade Guardian of Oa), while the art leads your eye directly to a gratuitous display of Red Lantern Bleez’s bulbous Kim Kardashian buttocks. Ed Benes is an artist with whom I have a love/hate relationship, enjoying his general layouts while being bothered by the need to get cheesecakey (which was a major factor in why Brad Meltzers 2006 JLA relaunch was such a mystifying reading experience), and that tendency continues here, to the detriment of the story. Bleez’s Red Lantern uniform includes a 90’s style Psylocke thong, which makes it doubly uncomfortable when the monstrous and muscular Atrocitus starts beating her senseless for literally no reason at all. He sends her into the blood ocean (this whole book reads like a Dethklok lyric sheet) to seek out several of his other foot soldiers, as apparently Atrocitus threw them each into the Blood Ocean in order to return their minds and Bleez got out first. He again abuses Bleez on panel, causing me to wince inwardly, as Benes again lovingly renders her with a porn-star body as Atrocitus smashes her face into the ground.
Things get better as we get a little background on the Red Lanterns (something that they’ve been sorely lacking in, consisting mostly of characters who look cool in group fight scenes), giving each of the lost warriors a little soul to back up their rage. Ratchet’s story is particularly moving, but it’s framing sequence loses a lot of that emotion as the rest of the issue plods. Benes puts together some mean artwork, but the focus on Bleez hurts the storytelling greatly, while Milligan’s pacing takes it’s time with everything. Worst of all is a battle wherein Atrocitus fights a shadow creature that he believes to be Krona, a dark and muddily-colored bit doesn’t fit with the rest of the issue. Is it a flashback? A flash-forward? Sadly neither art nor words give us any clue, as we suddenly jump through space and time back to Earth, where a new Red Lantern is anointed in blood-puke after witnessing his brother seemingly beaten to death by police officers (who immediately disappear, as they don’t have sensuous curves or swollen hindquarters.) The Red Lanterns, it seems, are headed for Earth, and if the history of the Green Lanterns is any indication, this new Earth-kid will probably become the center of the franchise.
THE VERDICT: BLAARRRALUUUAAARRUUUGRRRGHHH!
The good news about this issue is that it isn’t nearly as awful as some dismissive opinions would have led me to believe. The backstories of Skallox and Ratchet are especially interesting, and Milligan is taking a very introspective tack in addressing these creatures of pure alien rage. He is, however, taking his sweet time to get there, as this issue is sloooooow going, and Benes weaknesses in storytelling don’t help. T&A is not a deal-breaker in and of itself, but T&A in a character who spends the whole issue getting slapped around the way Bleez does (especially one whose character backstory is one involving implied sexual abuse) comes across very badly. The new DCU has been called to task for its treatment of female characters in the past (*coughStarfirecough*), so this seems particularly egregious. Red Lanterns #5 doesn’t get a lot accomplished, and is visually confusing to boot, leading to a disappointed 1.5 out of 5 stars overall. It’s certainly not a dead loss, but there’s nothing here that makes me want to come back next issue to find out how our cliffhangers are resolved…
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: How much cheesecake is too much cheesecake? And do the constant buttshots undermine Bleez’ evil tough-as-nails blood-soaked alien facade?