Red Lanterns #15 is a continuation of the ‘Rise of the Third Army’ event currently spanning all four of DC Comics’ Lantern titles. I had high hopes for the issue after the compelling read that was RL #14. Atrocitus had travelled to Ryut to raise an inorganic battalion of Manhunters to stand against the ever increasing forces of the Guardians of the Universe. It occurred to me that this might not be as easy as it sounds, and sure enough Red Lanterns leader runs into one or two problems along the way.
The book does much to expand on the individual personalities of its cast. In recent months writer Peter Milligan has successfully taken the Red Lantern Corps from a collection of mindless super-violent slaves to a co-operative whose members bare distinct characteristics. They are bound together by rage and revenge but how the emotion affects them is often manifest in very different ways.
Unfortunately, as explored in my recent examination of ‘Rise…’, this is another book that does very little to push the event itself forward. The thrust of the narrative is engaged with two elements. The first follows Atrocitus coming to terms (again!) with the Manhunter’s genocide of his people, and using his blood magic powers in an attempt to control his android enemies. The second follows Rankorr on Earth in the company of Bleez were they are in pursuit of the man who murdered his grandfather. Rankorr spends most of his time trying to come to terms (again!) with his role as a Red Lantern. He meets his brother who has turned to alcohol, and also the policeman who he injured when the red ring first selected him.
As more of a by the way than an actual criticism I’d like you to take a quick look at that cover were Bleez has cut a swathe of destruction across a big American city, causing chaos for police SWAT team and local law enforcement. -- Doesn’t happen. Not even a little bit. I’m used to covers taking an artistic licence with the interior storytelling but this one I don’t get. Bleez is not the central figure in this story and the closest she comes to fulfilling the scene you are looking at is to grab one ne’er-do-well by the head in the English countryside. She’s not even particularly angry at the time (not for an agent of rage anyway). I’ll grant you there are two police officers looking on at the time. I mention all this as an aside really. Some people love their covers but for me they take a firmly second place to content and storytelling.
Elsewhere Dex-starr is still smarting from the punch on the nose he received from Stromwatch’s Midnighter back in issue #10 and is taking it out on anybody with a chin spike! And back on Ysmault the rest of the Red Lanterns speculate on why their power battery remains weak little realising the answer is below their feet. In what for me is the most exciting panel of the whole book, Miguel Sepulveda gives us a spectacularly spooky rendering of the Inversions that captures the horror of Kevin O’Neil’s original drawings perfectly. I have contemplated doing a commentary on Alan Moore’s Tygers here at Flodo’s Page for a while now and this great image has cemented the need in my mind. Geoff Johns, Tomasi, Milligan and the rest have taken a little piece of Green Lantern history and turned it into a legend… so watch this space.
Back at the RL ranch things aren’t running so smoothly either. Years before Atrocitous had stashed the bodies of the Manhunters in readiness for a time when he would have need of a fighting force. He uses the blood of a native predator to retrieve them. I took it that this creature caused Atrocitus to see hallucinations of his tortured past but I could be reading this incorrectly. In either case the Manhunters appear but they are lifeless. I have an issue with the look of the robots in Red Lanterns. Visually it seems that their faces have rotted away to reveal a Terminator type skull underneath, complete with rows of uncovered teeth. Please correct me in the comments below if I am wrong but surely the whole point of these characters being introduced is that there are 100% inorganic and therefore have no flesh to rot. In my mind they should look in the same state of repair as the day they were buried. I feel like Sepulveda’s effort to create dreadful images has led him in this case to overlook the basic premise of the story.
With the power battery being so weak Atrocitus has to use hemoglobin ripped from his own jugular to perform the blood magic that fires the androids up. He assumes they will bend to his will and so no-one is more surprised than the Red Lantern leader when instead they follow their previous prime directive, “No man escapes the Manhunters”. In the final splash page they pound him with energy blasts and we can see his skeleton outlined by his brute form. Alas, this isn’t the cliff-hanger it could have been considering we’ve already seen him in the vision from Green Lantern #11 leading the Manhunters into battle. I’m going to bet he wriggles out of this one faster than Adam West escapes a death trap at same bat-time, same bat-channel.
And that, as I mentioned above, highlights the whole problem I have with Red Lanterns #15 (and the #15 issues of the other lantern titles too); I was sold an event and I tweeted heavily about #ThirdArmy before it was published. I feel like I have helped over-hype something that is more of a continuing story arc than an event in the classic sense. The inclusion of the Manhunters is a great concept but I am eager to get into the thick of the action. Atrocitus’ role in this book could have been covered in a few pages and Rankorr’s could have been left for another time or, as is my preference, should have taken place several issues ago. At this stage, with only one more month to go, we should be up to our ears in evil minions and kicking some alien bad-guy ass from here to sector 3600!