Comic Series Review #2: Red Lanterns Vol. 1 (2011–2015)

I got so excited doing the first entry of this series that I had a hard time choosing for this time, but decided to stick to one of my all-time favorites - just for you DC fans! This review looks at one of my favorite series from the New 52 — Red Lanterns!

The cover of Red Lanterns #1 (November 2011), featuring Atrocitus and his Red Lantern Corps. Artwork by Ed Benes, Rob Hunter, and Rod Reis. Property of DC Comics, Inc.

Green Lantern will forever be one of my favorite DC heroes. It doesn’t matter if it’s Jon Stewart, Hal Jordan, or Kyle Rayner — the character overall is badass. I know for a fact that I’m in the minority when I say that I enjoyed Ryan Reynolds’ portrayel of Hal Jordan in 2011’s Green Lantern (although I still believe that he was born to play Deadpool). I’ve always enjoyed the major storylines surrounding the character and the Corps, especially the Green Lantern: Rebirth series from 2004–05 (not the current one following the New 52). However, none caught my eye more than the Sinestro Corps War and the Blackest Night storylines — of which both introduced the concept of different colored Corps’ such as the Blue Lantern Corps, Star Sapphires, and Red Lantern Corps. The idea of various Corps’ based off the emotional spectrum fascinated me, so you can imagine my excitement when Red Lanterns was announced as part of DC’s New 52 reboot.

While the Green Lantern rings are fueled by willpower, the Red Lantern rings are powered by rage. When a red ring finds a host with enough rage, it attaches itself to them and it becomes their lifeline by replacing their heart. Should they take it off, they could die. Their blood even becomes fueled with rage, and Red Lanterns are often shown regurgitating blood. Only occasionally do Red Lanterns speak and think coherently, especially after being tossed into the Blood Ocean on their homeworld of Ysmault (but this becomes far more common throughout the series). Like other Lanterns, they are capable of creating constructs — but their lack of clear consciousness often prevents them from doing so. They already sound awesome, don’t they?

An example of the rage-fueled speech of the Red Lanterns, where there is some form of coherence. From Red Lanterns #4. Art by Ed Benes and Diego Bernard. Property of DC Comics, Inc.

The series plot has various subplots within it, as do all comic series, but focuses often on Atrocitus and his struggles to establish leadership over his own Corps. He also has an obsesession with Krona’s dead body, and a badass cat named Dex-Starr. Interesting guy, am I right? It doesn’t just stop there though, as other Red Lanterns deal with their own personal struggles — such as Bleez and Skallox. Warning, there are spoilers below!

Other notable details are that Supergirl and Guy Gardner also joing the ranks of the Red Lantern Corps— with Gardner even hosting his own faction of Red Lanterns against Atrocitus later on. What stands out is the insight as to why some of the Lanterns have so much rage to begin with. What traumatized them? DC creates a background narrative for each, which I really enjoyed. Atrocitus’ family was slain by Krona’s Manhunters (hence his obsession with the Guardian’s corpse). Bleez was taken advantage of by Sinestro’s goons while in captivity, after she had been kidnapped from her homeworld. Dex-Starr was a normal cat from Earth who was abandoned after the death of his owner and thrown off a bridge (until his ring saved him by attaching itself to his tail). Okay, no more spoilers.

Notice the jagged text within Atrocitus’ speech bubble, adding depth to how the writers want us to imagine his voice. Also, don’t mess with his cat (Dex-Starr)! From Red Lanterns #1. Art by Ed Benes. Property of DC Comics, Inc.

Moving on to the visual side of things, the artwork of Red Lanterns is phenomenal! The character design is what I have become accustomed to in 21st Century comics, with heavy detail of all aspects — whether it be the characters themselves or background elements within each panel. The series has a very red-heavy color palette for a large portion of the setting, especially in panels taking place on their homeworld of Ysmault. Some may consider red too extreme, but it is truly fitting for this series. Red is the color that rage correlates with on the spectrum, what else is there to say? Ed Benes and the team of illustrators, artists and inkers who worked on this series did an amazing job! One detail that I feel is often underappreciated is the usage of the font for character speech to visualize how they sound. For example, Atrocitus’ speech bubbles are jagged — which, to me, hints at a deep and booming voice similar to that of the Cave of Wonders from Aladdin (which is actually who I imagined Atrocitus to sound like). Finally, this series has some of the best covers I’ve ever seen!

Overall, I have no complaints about Red Lanterns! The New 52 may have had its share of disappointments (such as that Lobo series, which I have to admit I enjoyed despite it not being the bulky biker-like Lobo) — but this series is definitely not one of them. If you are a fan of Green Lantern, or just looking for something new to start, I heavily encourage you to check out this title! I eagerly await the day DC does a second volume— if that ever happens!

To read the previous entry in this series, click here! To read the next review, please click here!



Husband, baseball fan, graphic designer, wannabe wine snob, comic book nerd, history buff, and everything inbetween.

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J.B. Shalley

Husband, baseball fan, graphic designer, wannabe wine snob, comic book nerd, history buff, and everything inbetween.