Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Red Lanterns 16, originally released January 30th, 2013. This issue is part of the Rise of the Third Army crossover event. Click here for complete Third Army coverage.
Drew: You know that feeling when you finish a good book and you just want it to keep going? The story is done, but you just like the characters and the world they live in so much that you just want to keep spending time with them. I get that A LOT. I tend to be more character-focused when it comes to narratives, so it makes sense that, in my head, every narrative becomes a hangout story — one where the lack of plot makes the only draw the likableness of the characters. Red Lantern 16 has the appropriate lack of plot to make a proper hangout story, but lacks the key component of even a single likable character. The result is a palpable waste of time, as unpleasant as sifting through a bucket full of flaming blood rage-puke.
The issue once again splits its time between a few sets of Red Lanterns. On Earth, Bleez is helping Rankorr kill his grandfather’s murderer. Of course, Rankorr is struck with guilt over this, but it’s not something that a little sexual propositioning from Bleez can’t fix! She wants his construct power, and offers herself in exchange for a little of Rankorr’s blood. He declines and flies away. Back on Ysmault, Ratchet happens across the Inversions, who are totally not dead, after all. Meanwhile, on Ryutt, Atrocitus wins control over the manhunters, and sics half of them on Oa. Atrocitus leads the other half to Maltus, former home of the Guardians, where he discovers some kind of ghost prison — home of the ghost of Krona.
That last development seemed like a big deal to me, but a little research revealed that Atrocitus has had A LOT of contact with Krona (or maybe just his body?) in the New 52. This essentially robs this issue of its only event, since we already knew the Inversions were back, and since nobody really gives a shit if Rankorr and Bleez are getting along. That leaves connecting the very obvious dots of Atrocitus activating the Manhunters in issue 15, and them arriving to maybe sorta save the day in the Green Lantern Corps Annual as the only consequential event of this issue. Hell, this issue manages to nullify the events of the last issue: Atrocitus makes such short work of converting the Manhunters, it’s a wonder that it ever seemed like a big deal in the first place. All it took was a little fairy dust — sorry, blood magic (because that’s less absurd) — and it was like they were always his personal security detail.
Without any plot points to hang our hat on, Milligan seems to be counting on our investment in these characters. Unfortunately, they don’t act so much as characters as empty vessels, spouting whatever emotions Milligan decides is appropriate for that instant. Take Rankorr’s post factum guilt about killing his grandfather’s murderer. He claims this isn’t about his enjoyment, but I was under the impression that this was the only reason he agreed to do this in the first place. Moreover, what exactly does he feel guilty about: killing a man in cold blood, or not making said man suffer more? One is marginally relatable, the other is totally psychotic. Milligan adroitly sidesteps this issue by making Rankorr totally impulsive, such that he only ever thinks about his decisions after it’s too late to affect them in any meaningful way. He also manifests this guilt in the most obvious, asinine way, having Rankorr generate a construct of his own Grandfather who accuses Rankorr of letting him down. It’s exactly as cheap as it sounds:
Something so stupid might be excusable if it was pulled off with the least finesse, but Milligan seems content to paint Rankorr’s grandfather as a totally vindictive asshole nobody in their right mind would ever concern themselves with pleasing. “How dare you not torture this person for me?”
Rankorr’s conversation with Bleez is no better. That she was willing to prostitute herself for a little of his construct power is abhorrent enough, but I’m actually more offended by her salesmanship. Rankorr actually looked open to the idea, until Bleez decided to seal the deal:
I’m glad that we’ve decided to drop this title, but the business with Krona again casts some doubt on just how inessential this title is to the overall Green Lantern mythology. It’s certainly not enough to make me read another issue of this garbage, but it does give me pause. What do you think, Shelby, is Krona going to play a leading role in the battle against the First Lantern?
Shelby: Oh my God, I don’t care. Milligan can’t seem to get anything right with this book. Not only is there no plot to speak of and nothing interesting at all about these characters, Milligan again shows us that he doesn’t know anything about the world he’s writing about. I try not to be too committed to pre-relaunch continuity, but this issue like the one before it is jam-packed with errors.
The Manhunters. Oh, the Manhunters. They were the Guardians’ first police force, deemed a failure after their lack of emotions led them to massacre an entire sector. They wouldn’t wait for orders from a leader, they wouldn’t hesitate. They are killer robots; they kill what they are programmed to kill. According to Milligan, however, they are more like a pack of wolves who rely completely on their alpha. Kill the alpha, you’ve proved you are stronger and deserve to lead the pack. This wouldn’t be such a sticking point for me if not for the importance of the lack of emotion in the Manhunters. It needs to be seen as a flaw, because it’s what lead the Guardians to create the Corps in the first place. Show the Manhunters thinking on their own, behaving and feeling, and you are undermining the formation of the Green Lantern Corps as a whole.
This one is a little nitpicky, but this issue has got me crabby enough that I’m going to point it out: The Inversions.
Generally, they are referred to as “The Five Inversions.” Because there are five of them. There are at least six of them in that panel, with the absent Atrocitus making seven. Again, this is a pretty big piece of Green Lantern history that’s been pretty carelessly handled. It was the Five Inversions who first prophesied Blackest Night to Abin Sur. Kind of a big deal, and Milligan can’t even be bothered to know how many of the demons there should be.
We’ve talked before how this is a difficult title to make especially compelling. If you make the Red Lanterns the plasma-spewing ragemonsters they are supposed to be, there’s no emotional hook to the story. If you humanize them, give them feelings and make them constantly narrate every time they do some fucking blood magic well they aren’t really Red Lanterns anymore, are they? Milligan may be trying to make something of this title, grow the Red Lanterns into something more, but in the end he just appears to not care about the characters to even get the basics right. If Krona and Atrocitus playing catch-up is going to have some sort of tie-in to the Wrath of the First Lantern, I’m just going to have to miss out.
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?