Red Lanterns #6
It must be great to be a space crook in the DC Universe. The Green Lanterns haven't done anything but fight other people with colored rings for, seriously, half a decade. There are all sorts of other groups of colored ring teams out there who, likewise, do little more than fight other people with rings - or, you know, straight-up murder people by the truckload. (I still don't understand what exactly Sinestro was trying to do - if he's such a fan of law and order - when he gave magic wishing rings to thousands of serial killers.) So if you're trying to knock over a bank on Neptune, chances are good you can get away with it as long as the Green Lanterns are too busy fighting the Chartreuse Lanterns that week.
People have always used the police metaphor to describe the Green Lantern concept. If ever there was a time when the metaphor fit, it hasn't been for a very long time. All the Green Lanterns do now is A) fight each other, B) fight people who used to be Green Lanterns but who aren't any more, C) fight other people with differently-colored magic rings, and finally D) fight people who are pissed at their bosses, because their bosses are dicks who've been fucking with people for billions of years. So if you're a crook who isn't A) a Green Lantern, B) a former Green Lantern, C) a differently-colored Lantern, or D) someone who already got screwed over by the Guardians, you can pretty much assume you're in the clear. Because while the Green Lanterns pretty much have a lockdown on magic-ring related crimes, they don't seem interested in too much else. (And, really, they don't even have a great track record when it comes to magic-ring crimes, either.) The police metaphor doesn't work unless you want to believe in a cop show where the cops only chase other cops, former cops, cops in other precincts, and then have to spend the rest of the time trying to get rid of people who have a grudge against the Police Commissioner. Basically, it sucks to be a Green Lantern.
What I like about Red Lanterns is that the book does a great job of getting to the heart of why the current Green Lantern status quo is so gosh-darned silly. This is a book ostensibly about a group of aliens who have magic wishing rings empowered by anger and hatred, a group of badass monsters who want to deliver bloody justice to murderers and tyrants across the universe. In reality, the book is really about a dozen people sitting around this barren planet and yelling at each other about how angry they are, in between taking deep swims in an ocean of magic blood (not a metaphor for puberty, there is a literal ocean of magic blood) to clear their heads. This is pretty much the same formula that worked like a charm for Rob Liefeld, only at least his books actually featured some of the characters occasionally doing something. Here, there's this alien guy, Atrocitus, and he's angry because someone stole the body of this dead midget he'd been carting around so he could yell at (again, this is literally what is happening: Atrocitus is pissed because someone stole Krona's corpse from where he had it stashed before he was done yelling at it). And the problem is because Atrocitus pretty much has a case of 24/7 roid rage he is just incredibly paranoid and keeps yelling at everyone because he thinks they're trying to get him. And all his cronies hate him because he robbed them of their free will when he made them into magic-ring wielding rage-aholics.
So if we're going to keep up with the cop-show analogy: Red Lanterns is what happens when a bunch of rogue cops who really hate the guys in charge of the precinct want to bust out on their own and bring some raw justice to the streets, vigilante style, but they hold their meetings in the precinct rec room and can't really move past just yelling at each other about HOW MUCH THEY HATE CRIME, and BOY DO I HATE CRIME and they're lifting weights on the machines and pumping iron and sweating and talking about HOW MUCH ASS THEY'RE GOING TO KICK but really they never actually get around to leaving the rec room, let alone swinging through the neighborhood as vigilante badasses. They do a lot of meth and just get more and more addled. Then six months pass and you realize they're still just yelling at each other, and it's awesome, because it's terrible.
This is a terrible comic book that somehow managed to convince the world that it wasn't just an unoriginal pastiche of Robert Ludlum, John LeCarre, Ian Fleming, and Tom Clancy cliches pasted together from a hobby-shop kit. It's that last one that burns, right? Those who pride themselves on their taste in spy fiction probably suck the wind through their teeth like they got hit in the balls by a football at the mention of Clancy, but given the degraded state of contemporary fiction you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between good espionage fiction and crap. It's all just hard men who have to make hard choices to fight the bad guys in a world of endless grey. Except it's not a world of endless grey, it's still just the same superhero shit wrapped up in black leather - the bad guys are just the same Cold War leftovers with machine-toting gorillas in tow, and they even call America "the Great Satan" - which, you know, unless the Red Ghost is secretly Persian, that's not exactly something a Soviet would have said since, you know, the Soviet's weren't really big on religious language. (Seriously, that is just some sloppy, fixed-by-Wikipedia-in-30-seconds shit: Iran has called the United States, and sometimes Great Britain, the "Great Satan" in official government communications for a long time now. It's their thing. Are you telling me you can't tell Russians from Iranians?)
So Bucky's alive and that's great because he gets to spend all his time fucking the Black Widow which, uh, OK. I guess that's something you can hang a plot around? I think this book needs to go at that premise full-tilt - basically, the superhero comic for Henry Miller fans, Bucky travels around the world fucking women in skintight leather and then being emotionally callous to them.
I guess if you really like spy books - or, excuse me, not spy books, basically just Mack Bolan novels with a little bit of dirt over the camera lens - this is what you've been waiting for. Butch Guice is really hitting far above his weight class here - you can tell he's going for Steranko but he doesn't have 1/10th the design skill that Steranko did on his worst day. Basically what we get is a bunch of randomly jagged panels, a la late period Byrne, with human bodies splayed randomly across the panel gutters. And then put in a few close up shots of people that look like they were traced from Jim Holdaway - seriously, can we not talk about the debt Guice owes to Modesty Blaise, or does that go in the same box as "Michael Jackson magically turned white," shit we're not allowed to talk about in polite company even though everyone knows it's true?
It's an - at best - mediocre book with delusions of grandeur, as if being grim and quiet and having muted colors was somehow enough to dodge the fact that this is one of the most derivative books I've ever read in my life. (The colors are the best thing about the book, hands down.) I thought Brubaker had reached his Nadir of derivativeness with his Daredevil run, but I guess I was wrong: now he's playing his own greatest hits back at us, daring us not to notice that the cloth has grown so threadbare that we can't even pretend not to see the scaffolding anymore.