“Red Lanterns” #12 brings a close to a full year of really agitated, blood-spewing, magnificent hideously ugly characters. It also provides Atrocitus with some much-needed closure as he has a shocking final battle with the Red Lantern Corps’ equivalent to the Guardians’ Manhunters: Abysmus.
Peter Milligan sets Abysmus up as Atrocitus’ Jiminy Cricket and Captain Hook. True, Atrocitus has very little in common with Peter Pan, but in Abysmus, Atrocitus finds a challenge that both breaks the character down and clarifies his resolve. That’s as close as I can get to saying that Milligan makes Atrocitus a character I actually care about, because I find nothing redeeming in Ryut’s last native son. For that matter, Milligan doesn’t provide much incentive to like any of the Red Lanterns, including Zilius Zox and Bleez, both of whom conclude their visit to Zamaron. The only exception could be Rankorr, but he really just helps guide the narrative along.
Millligan’s story advances and the characters could be perceived as evolving, but they’re simply not characters I find interesting. The story around them is where my interest lies as Milligan delivers a pair of nuggets for future adventures, including a revelation from Abysmus that the Guardians may have it out for the Red Lanterns and some foreshadowing from Rankorr redirecting readers to the upcoming “Green Lantern” Annual. Abysmus declares the rage of the Red Lanterns — and Atrocitus in particular — to be a dead end, something I thought this series would be after four issues. While I was wrong in that assessment, the fact remains that there really isn’t much I find appealing about these characters. “Red Lanterns,” has become less about the characters and more solely about the spectacle.
Miguel Sepulveda’s artwork is perfect for the collection of oddities and grotesque actions that occur in this issue. That makes the story more palatable for me as I found myself marveling at the bizarre aliens and detailed outfits in “Red Lanterns” #12. The texture of the black portion of Atrocitus’ uniform is nearly tangible through Sepulveda’s collaboration with colorists Rain Beredo and Santi Arcas. Furthermore, Carlos M. Mangual adds depth and delineation to these characters through a plethora of word balloon styles, giving each of the hideous participants distinct voices.
With the plot seeds Milligan plants in this issue, the development of event and conflict becomes more apparent. Now that Atrocitus has been forced to embrace his greatest mistake, hopefully we can look forward to at least one issue that doesn’t include the Red Lantern leader whining about the tragedy of his past and instead celebrates as part of the galactic spectacle surrounding him and his Lanterns. “Red Lanterns” should be about battle and rage, not navel-gazing and pondering. I’m much more interested in conflicts like the one between Abysmus and Atrocitus than I am in Atrocitus once more reflecting on the day the Manhunters took Ryut.