The whole idea of a “Red Lanterns” book is a little perplexing. This is a group of characters where, except for their leader Atrocitus, higher thinking is not a characteristic. In fact, they’re described in the comic as being “wild, unthinking creatures.” What better subject for a comic, right? Add in that Atrocitus in “Green Lantern” was clearly presented as a villain, and this is a slightly problematic book.
Peter Milligan is trying to make the concept work, though. He’s recast Atrocitus as a non-divine version of the Spectre, using his power of anger to help dish out justice as he sees fit. It’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s an idea that you can at least hang an ongoing series upon. But if “Red Lanterns” #2 is any sign on how this is going to regularly proceed, it might not be enough to hold most people’s interest.
Most of “Red Lanterns” #2 takes us to a new setting, where soldiers kill innocent civilians and Atrocitus ends up enacting vengeance on the behalf of the little girl left behind. On the surface, it doesn’t sound like a bad idea. But the actual execution is slightly dull; the people being attacked are uninteresting, generic victims, as is Atrocitus’ vengeance. And while it’s supposed to lead into a big decision on Atrocitus’ part at the end of the issue, it feels like a bit of a non-sequitur leap from the bulk of the issue to its conclusion.
It doesn’t help that Ed Benes’ pencils are equally generic in “Red Lanterns.” While some recent Benes projects looked exceedingly rushed, these thankfully feel more full and formed, but still don’t hold any significant impact on the page. Aliens get colored geometric shapes on their faces to appear different, but they aren’t memorable afterwards. Page layouts are utterly standard, and Benes’ art doesn’t do anything interesting from one panel to the next. The art in “Red Lanterns” is the absolute epitome of unremarkable, and while that’s a clear step above bad, it fails to make an impression.
“Red Lanterns” appears to have a distinct destination in mind, but both Milligan and Benes need to step up the excitement or no one’s going to be around long enough to see where this is going. The idea of a “Red Lanterns” book is a tough enough sell as is; this book needs to hit the ground running instead of plod forward one step at a time. Milligan’s equally slow-paced “Infinity Inc.” from a few years ago died a quick death, and it’s hard to keep from feeling like this is on the same course right now.