52 Catch Up is a series devoted to looking at issues from DC’s New 52 and seeing how they’re faring now that they’re underway, why they’re worth reading (or not), and places we hope they will go in time.
Powered by rage and the red energy from the emotional spectrum of light, Atrocitus and his Red Lantern Corp. bring vengeance to those unable to seek it for themselves.
MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW
Previously on Red Lanterns: Covering Issues #1-#9
Atrocitus created the Red Lanterns many years ago after the Guardian Krona destroyed his entire race and rage consumed Atrocitus. Atrocitus’ sole goal in life was to destroy Krona, but the Green Lantern Hal Jordan beat him to it. With his rage dimming, Atrocitus confides in Krona’s corpse that he needs assistance in controlling the Red Lanterns. Among the savage, unthinking Red Lanterns, he selects Bleez to be his lieutenant and throws her into the blood ocean of their world Ysmault, forcing her to regain her memories and the full use of her mind.
Bleez is angry with Atrocitus for giving her back her memories, but the Red Lantern leader starts to show Bleez why having her memories back is a good thing. For one, she can now seek revenge on the Sinestro Corp. member who killed her mother, raped her, ripped out her wings, and left Bleez to die and the men who hired him. Bleez retains the ability to speak to the feral Red Lanterns, and it’s not long before Atrocitus starts to second guess his choice and wonder if Bleez is secretly plotting against him. Fearing betrayal, Atrocitus decides to endow three more Red Lanterns with intelligence and their memories: Ratchet, Zilius Zox, and Skallox. Bleez argues with him about his decision, but he takes her concerns as more evidence of her treachery. When Krona’s corpse goes missing, Atrocitus goes mad, nearly killing Bleez in front of the newly sentient Red Lanterns. Bleez insists it wasn’t her and suggests that Krona may be alive, but given Atrocitus’ irrational behavior, he is unable to enlist any help in locating the Guardian’s missing body.
Meanwhile, on Earth, Raymond and Jack Moore are grieving for their grandfather who was murdered by a man named Baxter during a mugging. Ray wants to firebomb Baxter’s house but is unable to convince his brother to join him. Several police officers catch Ray in the act and beat him to death when he starts to resist. Jack goes to Baxter’s house hoping to convince Ray to come home but arrives only in time to see life leave his brother. At that point rage consumes Jack and a Red Lantern ring chooses him, turning Jack into the Red Lantern Rankorr. Rankorr kills the cops and tries to go for Baxter but is stopped by Green Lantern Guy Gardner. Once a Red Lantern himself, Guy tries to talk Rankorr out of his rage and is surprised when Rankorr manages to speak intelligently, begging for help, and even goes out of his way to knock Guy out of the way when a car comes barreling towards him. With Guy distracted by the accident, Rankorr feels the draw of Ysmault and takes off for the Red Lantern world.
Bleez gathers Red Lanterns loyal to her, and the group starts to assault the spaceways, taking out a group of former Sinestro Corp. members, including Filo, the Sinestro Corp. member and target of Bleez’s rage. Back on Ysmault, Atrocitus comes across one of his first failed Red Lanterns, the creature known as Abysmus, who has eaten the body and is wearing the skin of Krona and has built up a small army of rejected Red Lanterns. As the two begin to fight, Rankorr arrives and starts to assist Atrocitus. Absymus impales Atrocitus during the fight and then slips away before Bleez and her Red Lanterns return to take control of the Red Lanterns from Atrocitus. While the Red Lanterns fight each other, Absymus destroys the Red Lantern battery core and Ysmault starts to break itself apart. Absymus and his minions escape while the Red Lanterns stop their infighting in order to ensure their group’s survival. Atrocitus insists the Red Lanters go after Absymus while Bleez and others insist that they need to find who is pulling Absymus’ strings, such as one of the other Lantern Corps and go out fighting them.
Avatars of Vengeance: The Red Lanterns as the mindless, rage-consumed savages hold little appeal for its own title, but the introduction of five more thinking Red Lanterns gives the group a good dynamic. When they’re not backstabbing one another, the group’s role as the vigilantes of the universe is really neat. Early on, there are several great scenes of Atrocitus getting revenge for those unable to get it themselves.
Tales of Sorrow: Each of the the six primary Red Lanterns – Atrocitus, Bleez, Rankorr, Ratchet, Zilius Zox, and Skallox – have a tragedy-filled backstory that made them Red Lanterns. Parts of these stories are shown when they review their memories out of nostalgia, are forced into the blood ocean, or are shown to us as the events happen. While none of these characters are likable, these flashbacks where each of them is wronged in terrible ways: where loved ones are murdered, or they are tortured, raped, and maimed, it conveys the source of their rage rather well.
Dex-Starr: They have a rage-filled, napalm-spitting, Red Lantern cat. While Dex-Starr is not a new addition in Red Lanterns, he’s still awesome. If the Relaunch keeps introducing cool cats like Soxx and Dex-Starr, I think there needs to be an all-feline team-up.
Red Lantern Politics: Infighting among the Red Lanterns is to be expected, but the “Will she or won’t she?” attitude of Atrocitus regarding Bleez becomes annoying and trite. When Bleez does finally enact her takeover, it’s done in more of a “Well, he expects it, so I guess I better make an attempt” fashion. Even when Rankorr shows up, the Red Lanterns first instinct is, “You’re new. We better kill him,” which I’d expect from the feral Lanterns but not the six thinking members of the group.
Fan Service: A little fan service never hurt anyone, but if I have to look at a picture of Bleez’s barely-covered a– one more time, I will be overtaken by rage and become a Red Lantern myself. Bleez is constantly contorted in the most horrible ways to ensure her a– is the center of every panel she’s featured in, fitting the stereotype of how female character are treated in comics.
Vengeance is Mine!: The Red Lantern battery core is destroyed, and someone is guaranteed to die for it. Given the number of Red Lantern characters, I have a feeling multiple people are going down for this one; it’s just a matter of who.
Rankorr: Unprecedented, Rankorr retains his sentience after becoming a Red Lantern and without the need for the blood ocean. Furthermore, Rankorr is capable of creating constructs using his ring, a skill not usually employed by Red Lanterns. Why are both of these the case, and what does it mean for the Red Lantern Corp.’s future? Given Guy’s past with the group and continuing investigations, what role will he play in trying to turn Rankorr back into Jack Moore.
Red Lantern Leader: If the Red Lanterns survive the current crisis, the group will need to go back to deciding who is going to lead the Corp. going forward. Atrocitus, the original founder whose power has been steadily weakening, or Bleez, who is as conniving as she is deadly.