Today, Mikyzptlk and Shelby are discussing Red Lanterns 14, originally released November 28th, 2012. This issue is part of the Rise of the Third Army crossover event. Click here for complete Third Army coverage.
Mikyzptlk: You know, I used to love Peter Milligan. Back in the day, he wrote X-Statix, one of the most interesting books that Marvel has ever printed. But then, Red Lanterns came a long and really hurt my appreciation of Milligan. Similarly, I used to love the Red Lanterns. They used to be one of the most interesting Corps in the emotional spectrum. But then Milligan came a long and REALLY hurt my appreciation of them. I’ve tried very hard through these 14 issues to enjoy Mr. Milligan’s “contribution” to the Red Lantern lore but even with the occasional rays of hope, I find his overall product to be a disappointment for the most part as he continues to illustrate his less than entire grasp on the core characters of the book. This is unfortunate not only for the sake of this book, but because the events of this book seem to be a fairly important part of the Third Army event.
The issue picks up immediately after the events of the last issue as the Red Lanterns continue to fight off the Third Army. Knowing their weakness, the Red Lanterns dispatch the Third Army quite easily. They take the remains of one the “Thirdy’s” in order to examine it. Atrocitus determines that they are a product of the Guardians and decides that they must be destroyed. Before they can amass an assault however, they must get up to full strength. Since their Power Battery is still recovering, Atrocitus figures they must feed it the blood of the guilty to make it strong once again. And then something really strange happens when a rat is turned into a Third Army monster. Yup, a rat monster. Anyway, the Lanterns take the ridiculous creature out with a combination of Atrocitus’ blood magic and a non-organic construct from Rankorr. This leads to an epiphany from Atrocitus that they need an inorganic army to fight off the Third Army. Fortunately, Atrocitus knows exactly where to find one, his own home planet! Rankorr will also be needed for this plan to work but is told that he must seek revenge for the one who angered him to the point of rage in the first place. This means a trip back to Earth. Atrocitus makes his way over to Ryut (because somehow the Red Lanterns can travel faster than ANY OTHER CORPS). He then starts to hallucinate (or something?) and starts to witness the massacre of Sector 666 all over again!
There is quite a bit going on in this issue and I’m actually on board with most of it for a change. If you take the bad, or perhaps misguided, characterization out of the mix, what we have is a group of Lanterns who have discovered perhaps the only weakness of the seemingly overwhelming force that is the Third Army. They then develop a plan to not only restore their once powerful Corps but to create an army of Manhunters to take on the rest of the Army. Milligan also uses all of this in an attempt to further develop Atrocitus and Rankorr in a way that fits neatly with everything else. So wait, what was the problem again? Oh yeah, the characterization. No matter how much I may be into the story, I just can’t ignore the poor choices Milligan continues to make with his characters.
My biggest gripe is with Atrocitus himself but the problems I have with him can be easily extended to how Milligan treats the entire Red Lantern Corps. Towards the beginning of the issue, there is a scene where Rankorr stares into the eyes of a Thirdy and hesitates to kill it. He’s not convinced that the process isn’t reversible but Atrocitus then strangles Rankorr and forces him to kill the Thrid Amy soldier.
Now, I’m down with Atrocitus wanting to take these guys out. They are clearly a threat that need to be dealt with. My problem stems from HOW Atrocitus “motivates” his Red Lanterns. Here, he’s just a bully and I find it impossible to want to root for the guy. I’m not sure if it’s even Milligan’s intent for me to like him, but since he seems to be the main protagonist I should probably like him a little bit at least right? I know Atrocitus is the leader of the rage-fueled Lanterns but I also know that he is more complex than he seems and is most certainly NOT a villain. Green Lanterns: New Guardians just recently pointed out that even though Atrocitus is fueled by extreme rage he is actually motivated by love. It’s clear to me that Milligan is either unaware of this subtle piece of characterization or he doesn’t care. Either way, it hurts my appreciation of this book quite a bit and I feel that this lack of understanding can be extended to the entire Red Lantern Corps.
Miguel Sepulveda’s art here is pretty gritty and it serves the grittier Red Lanterns. Even though I find his art to be a bit sloppy at times, he tells a clear enough story and his action shots are pretty straight forward. I wish he’d draw the Red Lanterns a bit less “villainy” but with Milligan’s scripting of the characters it’s understandable that he’d go that route.
I have problems with other things in the issue but I’m afraid I’ve taken up enough of your time already so I’ll just conclude with this image.
What Bleeze? Did you just say–? But that doesn’t make any–wait–WHAT? WHAAAAAAAAAAAT!?!?!? If that doesn’t illustrate how poorly Milligan understands the Red Lanterns then I don’t know what will.
Shelby, what did you think of all of this? Was there anything that you were able to appreciate here that I missed? Are you as bothered by the fact that some pretty important things seem to be coming out of this mediocre corner of the Third Army event?
Shelby: Oh man, this issue is so dumb. You are dead on the money, Milligan seemingly has NO IDEA how this Corps functions. Red Lanterns don’t exist to invoke fear; surprisingly enough, it’s the fear corps that does that.
As terrible as it is that Bleez doesn’t seem to know how her own shit works, I have a way bigger problem with Rankorr, otherwise known as “The Shittiest Red Lantern In Existance.” I guess I can get behind the Reds being able to communicate instead of being incoherent with rage; this would be a pretty tough book to read if that weren’t the case. But I cannot get behind the fact that a RED LANTERN, so filled with rage he literally VOMITED OUT HIS HEART AND REPLACED HIS BLOOD WITH BOILING PLASMA would feel any sort of compassion towards another creature.
That’s another thing, when Rankorr is back on Earth whining about how he doesn’t want to take pleasure in murder (What? Of course you do!), he mentions how his heart withered and died when he got the ring. No, it didn’t; you puked in up in rage. That’s the thing about Red Lanterns; their rage so consumes them there is literally nothing else keeping them alive. A Red Lantern without enough rage to power his ring is a dead fucking Red Lantern. I don’t know how Rankorr is still alive, he strikes me as way too whiny and not nearly angry enough. Does Milligan really not understand how this group works?
I could talk more about Atrocitus’ bizarre and unnecessary exposition as he tells us what he’s doing while he’s doing it, or how Dex-Starr hissing “Revenge! Revenge!” turns a delightfully dumb character into an actually dumb one, but I really don’t care. My heart has withered and died, and been replaced by apathy. I do think it’s super disappointing that this title is the only one in all of the Rise of the Third Army books making any progress towards defeating the Third Army. To have such clumsily-written characters discover not only the enemies only physical weakness, but also the weapon required to destroy them when the rest of the Corps’s still don’t even know what is happening really detracts from the epic grandeur of Geoff Johns’ story. Plus, it just kinda sucks.
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?