Green Lantern #61
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke
Don’t let the cover fool you, it might say Green Lantern, and Hal might be on the cover, but he doesn’t appear once in the issue (well, save for a Brightest Day ad). This doesn’t hurt the issue though, in fact, not jumping focus back to Hal gives Johns the entire length of the issue to devote to Atrocitus and his quest to find the Butcher. Why does this work? Because Atrocitus on his own is actually a pretty interesting character. Unlike the other Red Lantern’s he (obviously) can control his rage enough to maintain control, and to give his actions purpose. He wants to claim the red entity, the Butcher, and protect it on Ysmault. Shield it from Krona and his capture of all the others, as well as make sure that whoever does become the host is worthy of that. Rage is all he has, all his fellow Lanterns have, and he can’t just let the entity go to someone who has an easily satiated rage.
The thing about rage though, in the DC universe, is something touched on during Blackest Night. The Spectre is God’s rage, God’s vengeance, and at one point Atrocitus assumed him to be the red entity. Thing is, Spectre isn’t going to take overly kindly to the rage entities hunt for a host, and this issue very quickly turns into Spectre vs the Butcher. It’s nice to see Spectre, and it seems like Johns uses him more than most DC writers, so it would just be a little bit nicer if Spectre didn’t get the crap kicked out of him all of the time. I mean, I’m not saying he’s jobbing, but the character just hasn’t evoked the fear of God that he should in a while. This is actually one of his stronger appearances after the past few years of whining and getting curb stomped, since he does do some awesome stuff here, but it’s getting to be a thing. Spectre is the fist of God, he shouldn’t be relegated to herding red bulls and punishing grief stricken fathers. The character needs an ongoing series, or a mini series, to just explore his motivations. Rebuild him and then issues like this will feel more natural, since the only thing we had to go off of for why Spectre even showed up is a few off mentions about not being fond of the Butcher.
Atrocitus carries this issue well, and it makes me want to see him get a little more focus than Larfleeze has been getting lately. Generally when we see Big Red he’s either yelling at Sinestro or Hal Jordan, or trying to kill Sinestro or Hal Jordan. Lately he’s been on a quest to find the Butcher, as well as forming his pact with Guy Gardner and Ganthet, but he hasn’t had a lot of action since the early issues after Blackest Night ended. We’ve seen him kill guilty individuals, the muggers in the Subway, the bus full of prisoners, and we have been given a clear view into his mindset. He’s a being of rage, not injustice, and given all that he’s been through he’s not one for the taking of innocent lives. He is able to justify his rage, and through conversations with the Spectre in this issue, as well as the Butcher itself looking deep into his being, we’re granted an even deeper look into his motivations. He’s not a selfish being at all, thinking about his Corps and other victims of rage before his own wants, and of course the fact that he doesn’t seek out the Butcher for power for himself. Despite his hate for humanity he even stands up to the Wrath of God at one point to protect the life of a single human, he even openly critisizes Spectre to his face, his methods and ability to truly do his job. He presents a valid argument to God’s Vengeance and is actually heard, and it’s a pretty awesome moment.
Doug Mahnke is a machine and I love it. He nails page after page, from big action to the most human of moments. There’s a page where a man is watching his daughters killers execution, and the man starts taunting him with his last words, and for as creepy as the killers face is, you can see the pain and rage mix in the other mans face. Mahnke has always been great with faces, and given the emotional elements that this book has been revolving around it’s a nice touch that he makes the people look like they’re feeling something instead of something flat. Spectre versus Butcher is awesome looking, to tackle the other end of the spectrum. He also does a pretty good job with Atrocitus, whose face really doesn’t lend itself to anything other than the rage that fuels him, and yet the eyes become the most telling part about him.
This issue is probably stronger for lack of Hal Jordan, as we got a chance to see Atrocitus shine in his own light, instead of as an antagonist or unlikely ally. While it doesn’t dig in deep to his backgrounds, or even really paint him as a good guy, it does give us a nice look at how his mind works through the actions he takes. He’s becoming more sympathetic and it doesn’t feel out of place, even if his upcoming actions will most likely rip the sympathy right out of us. He’s an intriguing character, and I would definitely like another issue like this about him in the future as the book moves forward with Krona and his capturing of the Entities. Come to think of it, Butcher might be the only one he doesn’t have.
Tags: Atrocitus, Brightest Day, Doug Mahnke, Geoff Johns, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Reviews, The Spectre