In this instalment of The Hardcore Review I will be taking on the first 4 issues of Red Lanterns of DC’s The New 52, and I am NOT DRUNK. How is that possible you ask, well, I’m writing this at work, and I am pretty sure this would be frowned upon. Kind of like masturbating on an airplane. Thanks a lot Bin Laden!
In my mind possibly the sleeper hit of the relaunch, Red Lanterns, with the creative team of Peter Milligan and art by Ed Benes. Benes is famous for his work around Gen 13 and his tour of Birds of Prey which was written by Gail Simone. My first exposure to Milligan was Girl back in the mid 90′s from Vertigo Veritie along with Duncan Fegredo handling the visuals. Milligan would later go on to write mini series of Tank Girl.
The Red Lanterns were no doubt the most popular corps in the Blackest Night storyline from last year. They also inspired in the first series of Blackest Night figures, an Atrocitus that immediately drew large money in the secondary market. In fact, I had one on order from my comic book dealer Charlie Harris, who graciously kept the figure for me, in spite of myself not coming into the shop for some time. Charlie even told me that it was the last Atrocitus in the shop and he had been offered $50 for it. I told him, I would not have begrudged him if had sold it for that size of a profit. But Atrocitus proudly hangs on my wall, along with Earth 2 Superman and Red Lantern Mera with Dex Starr and Yellow Lantern Arkillo. The Blackest Night series of figures was some of the most detailed and best looking figures I have seen. But onto the book.
The artwork is gracious, although somewhat sparse at times. It reminds me of early Image art, with the lack of backgrounds in quite a few of the panels. And at some points it feels that some poses and faces are a bit rushed. But the is an amazing amount of detail in each of the characters. And Benes does a great job differntiating the emotions characters express as their non rage filled earlier selves (such as Bleez and Skallox). But Milligan’s word smithing is nothing short of amazing. His choice of vocabulary has me transfixed in ways I have not felt in some time. Books that are this well crafted are the reason I love this industry.
DC did an amazing job of employing some of the best teams to make sure the relaunch was successful. I have heard from one or two people who claim Red Lanterns will probably be the first of the New 52 cancelled. I don’t see how it could, as it’s on time (Jim Lee) and Milligan and Benes are probably the best creative team of the relaunch. Atrocitus commands the Red Lantern Corps, all while holding constant conversations with a dead Krona the being who killed all of Atrocitus’ people. For some reason, Atrocitus feels at peace talking with the corpse of his nemesis. Atrocitus has become a new type of vengeance.
He feeds on the rage felt by others, and acts upon it accordingly. By the second issue, Atrocitus has waged war on the universe and it’s inhabitants for their destructive ways. By issue 3 Atrocitus feels he needs a second in command to help keep the motley and ill tempered group in line. He choses Bleez, who’s origin is revealed as Atrocitus throws her into the Blood Ocean. The Blood Ocean inhances her intellect but during this, Bleez is forced to relive her beginings and tortured past. She survives, but just barely. Atrocitus and Bleez visit her assailants and deliver rage filled punishment upon the two who claimed to be victims of Bleez’s beauty. The two claimed they had no choice in their efforts to have her killed.
After helping Bleez gain vengeance on her “suitors” (read the story), Atrocitus gives chase to Skallox. Skallox is present during a potential coup meeting held by Bleez, and Atrocitus begins to get paranoid. Unable to make sense of the mashed potatoes that make up Skallox’s rage filled mind, Atrocitus tosses the horned Red Lantern into the Blood Ocean. Here we witness Skallox’s origin, which I can only assume will continue into issue 5. Finishing the issue has me salivating for the next. It also has me wishing DC did the blank sketch-able variants the Marvel is doing. I just love not only the Red Lanterns, but a plethora of DC characters.
The grade for this series, is the construct known as The Gangstas. Originally from Smokey Mountain Wrestling, New Jack and Mustafa moved to ECW in 1995, and began destroying tag teams. The combination of Mustafa’s power and more technical skills, and New Jack’s insane penchant for violence, and his ability on the mic, made The Gangstas a force that battled with every tag team from the Public Enemy, The Eliminators all the way to the Dudley’s. Getting color with almost every single match the wrestled in ECW this one was one of the worst, or best depending on how you think. The Mass Transit Incident involved a minor named Eric Kulas who doctored his papers to be able to wrestle in the place of Axl Rotten who wasn’t able to make the event. A lot of wrestlers in the locker room state that Kulas, who was billed as Mass Transit, who no one had heard of, was telling The Gangstas who he was going to be in the match. Later, according to New Jack, Kulas asked him to blade him, as he did not know how. During the match, Jack took his trusty instument, which he said was a surgical scalpel fixed to a thin piece of wood, and cut Mass Transit all the way across the forehead, causing Kulas to bleed profusely and have his father sue ECW. According to Kid Kash, Jack and Mustafa had to split right after. Jack was acquited of all charges.