“Red Lanterns” #0 recaps an origin that is only a few years old. Yes, this is superfluous. It can be admitted that Peter Milligan, Ardian Syaf and Vincente Cifuentes do a good job of turning a recap into some form of a tale but that doesn’t stop this issue covering the same ground as two paragraphs on Wikipedia.
This issue opens so well, too. We open on a young girl on Ryutt yelling up at a Manhunter. It’s a cute moment that holds all the foreboding of every atrocity to come. Her father, Atros, leads her away and Milligan paints an image of blissful parenthood with all its complications. Once we leave this grounded tale of characters and descend into a world of charred bodies and intergalactic war, I have to admit my eyes glazed over. Every action and apparent emotion is so strong and over the top this ends up feeling like an homage to ’90s comics in all their terrible glory. It goes so far beyond eliciting a response that it simply dulls. This is the comic equivalent of performing delicate brain surgery with a very blunt mallet.
There is plenty of violent red war on these pages. Ardian Syaf and Vincente Cifuentes are well suited to this type of tale as they bring shadowy and cross-hatched figures to brutal life. Every character ripples with either extra muscles or slithery tentacles. None of the Five Inversions — the group of proto-Red Lanterns that decimate all they see — have lips, so they constantly grimace and gnash their many teeth. Every page drips in red rage and atmosphere.
“Red Lanterns” #0 is not the sort of comic that will lure in the casual reader. Unfortunately, it’s also the sort of product that scares away so many other potential readers because it confirms their worst fears about comic book content. This book is simple and violent. While it contains some underlying fun, it is mostly thin with content that feels like the layman’s inaccurate stereotype of a comic book.