It is always stunning to me how Peter Milligan, an author with such a deft hand in other books, is consistently able to make Red Lanterns such a silly book. Regardless of what is happening in the story, you always know that there is going to be one unifying theme present in every book: Everyone getting really pissed off. Of course, when everyone is getting pissed off it kind of takes away the impact that normally comes from someone flipping out. This has the presumably unintentional effect of making everything that happens completely over the top and needlessly melodramatic. I love it.
As I have attempted to make abundantly clear on numerous occasions, Red Lanterns is a series that I just cannot take seriously. I will say that there can be a bit more story progress now that there are a few Lanterns who are not mindless with rage and can actually talk, but a team of weird looking aliens unified by being really upset about stuff just does not seem like a valid story premise to me. Especially when they are led by a giant pink man with shark teeth and an adorable pet kitty cat. These characters really strike me more as recurring villains than as characters nuanced enough to deserve their own book.
It’s great that we get to see some back story for all the horrible things that happen to these characters before they become Lanterns and that is what this issue gives us. Unfortunately, this premise, too, is something of a struggle. You see, not all these characters endured what one might consider equal circumstances. At the end of the day, the circumstances of why they are pissed off are arbitrary. What really matters is just how angry they are and when the only way we can see that is a grunt in a colorful word bubble and a ring showing up it just becomes a matter of course instead of a defining moment of characterization.
Even so, these scenes are really the highlight of this book. Particularly that of Ratchet, the tentacle/baby/brain creature who spent twenty years in solitary confinement with his limbs chopped off. Basically, Atrocitus, get this, no, seriously, is upset about something. His Watcher corpse that he keeps on a creepy altar has gone missing. After acting like an abusive boyfriend to his second-in-command, Bleez, he tells her to pull a bunch of the other Lanterns out of their giant vat of blood soup so they can be smart and help him look for the Watcher, who is probably alive now. Then there is a very short scene where Dex-Starr, the aforementioned fuzzy-wuzzy kitty cat Red Lantern, comes over to Bleez, she says, “Man, I sure wish Atrocitus would quit beating the crap out of me for no reason,” and then Dex-Starr gets upset and bails. It is completely pointless. I love Dex-Starr.
Of course, this whole scenario would not be hilariously pointless if they actually did something, and Milligan knows that. So, by the time all kids are out of the pool, the book ends and I guess they’ll look for the guy next time or whatever. Instead, the last few pages are reserved for checking in on the two brothers we saw back on Earth periodically. I won’t spoil the “shocking revelations,” but the whole thing seems just as consistently silly as the rest of the book. I will simply say that by the end of it, we have our first human Red Lantern with an origin that makes no damn sense.
If you feel like spending money on a book that will make you laugh at how ridiculous the whole thing is, then you can certainly find worse choices than Red Lanterns #5. The art is decent and Bleez is doing sexy pose and brandishing her ass just about every other page. However, if you are looking for a decent story with some decent characters in a scenario that is not patently absurd, then this is just not the book for you.