Okay, first things first... I have a confession I need to get off my chest. I actually dropped Red Lanterns after the first few issues. And I only picked it up again because #10 was the second part of a crossover which began in the pages of Stormwatch. I vaguely followed the intermediate books by flicking through the artwork in my local comic shop and then picking up the nuances of the plot via my favourite Green Lantern podcasts.
That being said, Red Lanterns is now back on my pull list in readiness for the Green Lantern universe crossover event 'Rise of The Third Army' beginning later this year. Red Lanterns #11 has its fair share of problems but it is not the worst comic book I've read in the last 12 months either. If you don't mind I'd like to get my negative comments out of the way first because I know they are no different to those already identified by comic fans throughout the book's run.
At times the art is inconsistent. In one panel Skallox is wearing gloves and in the next he is bare fisted. Bleez and Fatality share a page of dialgoue surrounded by a crystal that isn't created until the following scene. And faces aren't always recognisable as the same character from one panel to the next. Which isn't to say the art is bad because it most definitely is not. Miguel Sepulveda and Rain Beredo are apparently experts in the field of death and destruction; the double page spread of Ysmault ravaged by volcanoes and earthquakes is a true spectacle. And in the fight scenes we experience every slash, stab and punch in eye-watering detail.
My other gripe is that the various narratives at play felt very disjointed. It seems we are following four unrelated plotlines: Guy Gardner on Ysmault, Bleez on Zamaron, Atrocitus on his trail of planetary destruction, and Rankorr lost in deep space. We can only hope that Peter Milligan has a plan to tie these threads together later on. I get the impression Red Lanterns is written with one eye on collected trade sales in the future.
The issue opens with the Green Lantern Corps arriving on Ysmault to bear witness to its peril and immediately doing a 180 and heading into the sunset and out of the book.
We switch to Zamaron for the meat and bones of the issue, a confrontation between Bleez's rebel Red Lanterns and the Star Sapphire Fatality. It seems that in the time between issues 10 and 11 the rage fuelled lanterns were ambushed in a preemptive strike by the love-wielding Sapphires in the mother of all throw downs. It might have been nice to read this action packed battle as it happened rather than as a two-panel flashback but whatever. The upshot is that the Red Lanterns have been captured and chained below the violet central power battery. After a little bickering Bleez manages to rip her chains from the floor and starts flailing them around like Hawkman with his mace.
Bleez and Fatality trade blows in a fantastic skirmish which ends with the Red Lantern slashing both of their wrists and forcing their blood to mingle as blood sisters. Not to be misinterpreted as a show of solidarity, Bleez hopes that her blood will ignite the rage buried within Fatality and induct her into the Red Lantern Corps.
We are briefly introduced to a lost and lonely Rankorr coming to terms with his status as a Red Lantern before we are flung headlong into Atrocitus' violent pursuit of Abysmus. Sepulveda employs a great art device here with Atrocitus' flight path sweeping across panels depicting the destroyed landscapes left in his wake. He executes a local tyrant as he passes through and it's good to see he is not so distracted as to forget his Lantern duties.
Back on Zamaron the brawl rages on while Bleez and Fatality debate who had the most difficult upbringing (my vote is for Fatality but Milligan 's writing manages to draw sympathy for both combatants).
Cocooned in the Star Sapphire's crystal away from prying ears the warrior women share their inner demons. Despite being an avatar of love, Fatality's dreams are filled with a desire for retribution and Bleez admits that vengeful rage does not purge the pain she has endured. This is a great scene. It makes sense that these two, who recently fought side by side as New Guardians, should be able to move beyond the traditional antagonism of their respective Corps. Bleez unmasks revealing the stunning features she was renowned for in her previous life. This came as a shock to me. Although I couldn't say why, I had presumed that the Red Lantern was somehow scarred or deformed under her mask which could not be further from the truth.
In deep space Rankorr stumbles across the massacre of his fellow Corpsmen by Abysmus and resolves to avenge them. This may put him on a collision course with Atrocitus who discovers how quickly predator can become prey when Abysmus launches an attack on him in the book's closing sequence.
All in all this issue was a fairly difficult read with a few wonderful gems hidden in the middle of it. Milligan tries to give his characters some depth and this is successful for the most part. I feel I have learnt more about Bleez and Rankorr in particular. The problem is that the through line of the narrative is disconnected. Perhaps the writer is trying to squeeze the story into a shorter time frame than originally intended as the unstoppable Green Lantern juggernaut rolls on towards the Third Army.