Red Lanterns 0

Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Red Lanterns 0, originally released September 26th, 2012. Red Lanterns 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.

Shelby: The worst thing about grief is not the pain, not the loss, not the sadness; it’s how easy it is to hold on to. Grief is the gateway drug of emotions; it leads you to harder stuff, like sorry, despair, or rage. Grief is a passive, wallowing place, but rage is an emotion of action. A man who’s rage is so intense it burns away the grief which spawned it (as well as all other emotion) is a man who can accomplish terrible things.

The issue starts on Ryutt in the time of the Manhunters. Atros, as he is then called, is a family man, with a wife and two little ones. The tide turns, and the Manhunters go on their murderous rampage. Atros tells his dying wife he loves her, and cradles his daughter’s body in his arms. It’s actually pretty touching. After the Manhunters kill everyone else on Ryutt, the Four Demons of sector 666 arrive; impressed by Atros’ focused rage and ability to kill Manhunters with his bare hands, they bring him on board and become the Five Inversions. Incidentally, if anyone out there is looking to start a comic-book-themed, heavy metal novelty band, The Sixth Inversion would be a great name. ANYWAY after a few thousand years of blood and mayhem, the Five are crucified on Ysmault by the Guardians. Atros breaks free and kills his demon friends; from their blood, he forges the Red Lantern power battery and becomes Atrocitus, the first Red Lantern.

Anytime you’re dealing with one of the seven corps of the emotional spectrum, you have to wonder how it’s members can be so focused in their one emotion that it powers everything they do. Peter Milligan handles that pretty nicely; he shows us the moments in Atrocitus’ long past when all other emotions were burned from him, leaving only the rage. The first to go is hope.

Ardian Syaf is not pulling any punches with this one. The first victim on Ryutt is a child crossing the street, and for Atrocitus, hope dies with the last of his family. Seeing Atrocitus as just a regular father and husband is important to underline what the Guardians did with their Manhunters. Looking at the Four Demons, you could understand wanting to wipe the rest of their kind off the face of the universe: those guys are fucking scary. But before the massacre, Atrocitus was just a dude who, despite his horrifying teeth, just wanted to provide for his family whom he loved. No wonder he lost all hope at that point.

Speaking of love, it is the next to go.

I really like the way Miligan handled this. We want to believe that, deep inside Atrocitus somewhere, is a memory of the love he had for his wife. But when he uses the idea of love to get what he wants from the demon Roixaeume (and presumably do things I don’t even want to think about), then that last little remnant of love is destroyed. For a total sap like me, that’s almost as sad as his daughter dying in front of him.

Fear and compassion are the last gone.

It’s a pretty safe bet that Atrocitus lost all compassion centuries earlier. Milligan is showing us what would have been the ultimate act of compassion: sparing the life of a Guardian. Killing the Guardian accomplishes a lot for Atrocitus; not only does he delay the formation of the Green Lantern Corps, he also performs his first blood prophecy. Seeing the future is what burns the fear out of Atrocitus. If you know what’s coming, there’s no need to be afraid of it, but there’s also the simple logic of “it can’t be as bad as the past.” Atrocitus’ life has been terrible; what’s the point of being afraid of a future that couldn’t possibly offer something more terrible than what he’s already had?

This issue could have been a simple story that readers of Blackest Night already knew: guy’s family is killed, he gets mad, becomes a Red Lantern. Instead, Milligan takes the opportunity to look at what has to happen for anyone to become a member of the various emotionally-driven corps. It was way more interesting and thought-provoking than I expected. Patrick, I know you’ve been reading Red Lanterns, and I know you haven’t much cared for it; what did you think of this issue?Patrick: There are a couple fundamental problems with the regular Red Lantern series. One is that Atrocitus is a largely passive figure: he spends most of his time fretting about his corps’ eventual betrayal. The other major problem is that the pages are populated with scores and scores of mindless, plasma-spewing space-zombies. One of whom is hilariously over-sexualized (there’s a reason we get hits from people using the search term “red lantern bleez ass”). Trimming away all this fat brings the series down to its premise. And thank goodness. I can’t say that I was enamored with this issue, but as you mention, this one does give me something to think about.

You know what I find interesting about this book? Magic! And demons! And dimensions “two thoughts away from this realm!” That’s some level-9 crazy, right there. The history of the Green Lantern Universe always contains a little bit of mystical bullshit, but the second you introduce these Rage Lanterns, that level of bullshit goes up a couple notches. The narration mercifully doesn’t get into the details of how Atrocitus gains the power of prophecy from Roixaeuame (gross, by the way), but rest assured it’s magical in nature. I mean, he apparently generates the central red lantern power battery from using the special blood of the inversions. It’s insane, but it is kinda cool.

Ardian Syaf’s art goes a long way toward selling this thing. There are some grotesque creatures zipping around Sector 666, and its a fine line between a monster you can care about and a monster you can’t. Look at the way he unhinges his fucking jaw to bellow his rage in the image above. Too many artists treat the character as a blunt instrument – and I can’t imagine anything more boring than a Hate Monster that can’t emote.

And it’s not just his rage on display. Shelby, you did a good job of pointing out the various emotions that Atrocitus sacrifices in the name of revenge. It’s always bothered me that “joy” isn’t in the emotional spectrum, but we do get to see it on our Red Lantern’s face. Sure, he only experiences this joy when torturing a Guardian, but whatever.

Hey, what’s the deal with the tall Guardians? I know I’ve seen Krona as a tall Guardian during some of that War of the Green Lanterns flashbacky stuff, but I didn’t know that they were all tall at some point. The Zamarons are pretty tall (they look like they’re probably at least 8 or 9 feet tall), but those Guardians that were watching over the First Lantern seemed pretty small and Notromo (the Indigo Guardian) also seemed to max out at 5 feet. So what’s the deal? Hey, you know me: asking the important questions.

It’s sort of a bummer that this issue didn’t get me excited for this branch of the Third Army crossover. Both Green Lantern and New Guardians had be really excited for the next couple months. And while this issue was a nice relief from the stupid-fest the series had become, I suspect we’re just going to snap back into all of Milligan’s plasma-belching-anger-zombies habits.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

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