When Sergio Leone described the personalities of his
three protagonists in Il buono, il brutto
e il cattivo he could not have known how apt it would become in summing the
single figure of Atrocitus in DC Comic’s Red
Lanterns. Atrocitus and his Corps dispense
a lethal, rage fuelled justice across the Green Lantern universe on behalf of
the victimised and abused. Herein, of course, lies both the good and the
bad. And the resulting devastation, much
like their leader himself, sure as heck ain’t pretty.
of this undeniable comparison I have elected to keep my overview of the story
brief and instead review RL #13 by looking at elements of the book in relation
to Leone’s famous movie title.
The issue is part of the GL crossover event ‘Rise of the
Third Army’ and the plot is simple enough.
On some distant planet two sisters are enslaved by marauding misogynists
for the purposes of serving their every physical need. The older sister is slain trying to protect
her sibling. The younger sister escapes into the care of a local lady only for
her husband to betray both of them to the hoard in hope of earning financial
reward. The women are sliced down by
Cord, the barbarian king, moments before Red Lanterns arrive and take bloody
retribution on all and sundry. The Guardian’s Third Army join the scene to
forcibly recruit the Red Lanterns (and anybody else in the immediate vicinity)
into their Army. Atrocitus notices that
their eyes have not changed during their horrific transformation and deduces
this to be their Achilles heel. He
plunges his thumbs into the eye sockets of their newest inductee, who until
moments ago had been the Red Lantern Skorch.
In the final heart wrenching panel the surviving sister is also subsumed
into the Third Army’s ranks.
** After a year of trudging through the angst of the Atrocitus
seeking affirmation of his goals we have finally jumped into some good old
fashioned story telling. In addition we
get something that you don’t come across very often in an on-going comic book series
- namely a beginning, a middle and an ending.
** The narrative placed the young sister, Taya, as the
central character for most of the issue and it was with relief that I discovered
Peter Milligan hadn’t the adopted obvious formulaic approach of having her wind
up becoming another Red Lantern.
** As the fourth chapter in the ‘Rise of the Third Army’,
Red Lanterns #13 works very well. We have witnessed the parasitic spread of the Army
take place gradually over theprevious three episodes. Now we’re invited to explore their disturbing
mission in greater detail. The tension
has been built up sufficiently and now it is ready to pop.
** The dialogue in this book continues to irk me a
little. For the most part the characters
talk as if they have just walked off the set of an English period drama. Even the neanderthalic villains of the piece annunciate
with all the clarity of a trained butler.
** The Thirdites (I made that word up. Feel free to use it!) weakness is in their
eyes. The seemingly invincible, ring-energy-proof
servants of the Guardians can be taken down in one with a swift chopstick to
the eyeball. They have gone from ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre‘ scary to
pretty lame. It’s reminiscent of the
Keepers in the first arc of the current Green
Lantern Corps book who were impervious to the all-powerful GL rings but not
to basic weaponry like lead bullets.
** There are too many narrative voices taking centre
stage. Three different characters, Taya,
Atrocitus and Red Lantern Rankorr each take a turn as storyteller in the text
boxes littering this issue. It’s a bit
distracting for a book that only runs to 20 pages.
** Miguel Sepulveda appears not to have received the
editorial memo explaining what the Thirdites looked like (see what I did
there?). Or rather he received and chose
to ignore it in favour of his own brand of over the top grotesque that suits
the tone of Red Lanterns so well. The creatures are positively skeletal here in
comparison to their depictions in the other GL titles brought out earlier this
month. Hip bones and rib cages are on
full shocking display.
** Carrying on in the same vein the transformation of a
regular person is handled very differently in this book. Whereas victims elsewhere are touched by a Third
Army recruit and shown to have their mouths seal over in the first stage of
their mutation, in this case a web fluid extends from their captor’s fingers
and wraps itself around their mouth and face.
I actually like the effect quite a lot but it is inconsistent with the
rest of the titles included in the ‘Rise’ event.
** Atrocitus rips King Cord’s head clean off his torso in
a bloody display fitting for the commander of a rage powered lantern corps. For gore fans like me it is a juicy delight of
So there you have it. Red Lanterns #13 shares a few great touches and woeful errors in common with the most famous of spaghetti westerns. However, while the book is certainly worth a read, it is never going to be a timeless classic.