One of the most ignoble protagonists in the entire DC universe is Atrocious, the leader of the Red Lanterns, who have their own line in the New 52.
For the uninitiated, the Lanterns of various colors all rely on different strengths within the wielder (the more famous green rings rely on Willpower to function).
The red rings function through hate and desire for vengeance. Essentially, the more wronged a person is, the stronger the power of the red ring becomes.
However, the ring and its powers tends to dumb down the wielder. Meaning, it blunts their intellect as a way of blunting their pain, which makes them more effective.
Their stories are those of anti-heroes in the purest sense. They are avenging angels seeking out other beings in the universe who are feeling intense hatred or need for vengeance. They destroy those upon whom vengeance is wished, seemingly whether or not they deserve it. They never capture or sway, only kill.
When the new book opened, we see Atrocious, the only Red Lantern with real intellect struggling to control the squad of Red-clad warriors. He spends the first couple of issues pontificating and narrating, telling and showing the audience, in no uncertain terms, exactly what he is about. Atrocious sees his cause as just, and in some ways it is, though he goes about it wrongly. He places the proper sympathy in the audience for his position, for his difficulty in leading the band, and the essential loneliness associated with being the only person with any intelligence among the Red Lantersn.
In the third issue, he sends one of the other Red Lanterns, Bleez, a shapely woman with skeletal wings of fire, through the process that allows a Red Lantern to regain her lost intellect. Bleez then remembers, recalling who she is, and why she wears the ring.
Now Atrocious has help, and a companion, but is she also competition for power over the Red Lanterns? What would strife in such a violent organization mean? Will more members be allowed to regain their intellect?
The future of the Red Lantern corps is in question, and the reader is left unsure of what would be best for the universe. As bad as Atrosious is, would a Red corps under Bleez be even worse?
I’m left a bit confused by the time-line, as Bleez is also a charater in The New Guardians, and in that one, she is still dumb. Hopefully, this issue will be cleared up soon.
The book is doing a very good job of making me, as a reader, question the way I look at and root for heroes. Sure these Reds are ‘super’, but are they heroic? Is what they do a needed function of the universe, trimming away violence and hatred at the base – or are their methods something best left in the barbarous past?
Red Lanterns #3 can be picked up wherever you buy comics, including the comiXology store.