“Rage of the Red Lanterns” is sharp turn for Justice League Action after last episode’s slapstick goof-off. We get back to good old-fashioned superhero battles, and we get a peek into a rarely explored corner of the DC universe.
The Red Lantern Corps made their comics debut in 2007 as part of the “In Blackest Night” crossover event. Their appearance in Justice League Unlimited is unusual in that they’re such a recent development; usually this show goes super old-school.
Anyway, “In Blackest Night” got pretty silly (comics, you know), and ended up with a literal rainbow of Lanterns fighting each other across the galaxy.
The Green Lanterns had always been a sort of intergalactic police agency, fighting for justice with their high-tech magic rings. In the course of “In Blackest Night” and the War of Light that followed, though, this was retconned a bit. The Green Lanterns were just one of seven Lantern Corps.
Each one had their own color and was based around a different emotion. The Green Lanterns were all about willpower, Sinestro’s Yellow Lantern Corps were based on fear, and so on.
The Red Lanterns harness their rage to power their rings, and they’re also the best-known of all these new Lantern Corps. They’re not villains, exactly, but they’re not heroes, either. They might do good deeds, but they’re likely to do it as violently and with as much bloodshed as possible.
And now they’re in the DCAU. The Red Lanterns previously appeared in the CG-animated Green Lantern: The Animated Series, but that show was pretty much swept under the rug after a single season.
The version of the Red Lanterns we get here is particularly entertaining. They’re all fueled by rage and so, they’re pretty teed off most of the time, but we get a nice range of characterizations rather than the mindless fury that this group sometimes embodies.
- Atrocitus, the leader, is cold and calculating. He clearly hates everyone and would like nothing more than to rush in guns blazing, but he knows it’s not going to work. Instead, he’s willing to wait for what he wants, speak with his enemies, and even negotiate to an extent.
- Bleez, the second in command, is the closest thing we get to the blind fury of the comics. She’s capable of speech, but her entire being is directed towards immediate and constant battle.
- Zilius Zox, the ping-pong ball, falls in line with Bleez, literally bouncing off the walls in his anger. Zox is also the comic relief of the group, with his constant attempts to ingratiate himself with Atrocitus. If Atrocitus is Jafar, Zox is Iago.
- And then there’s Dex-Star the cat. He’s a cat. Cats are fluffy balls of rage, as everyone knows. He’s adorable wearing his power ring on his tail, and completely deadly.
- Skallox, the goat-headed alien, rounds out the group. He gets the short shrift in this episode, mostly standing in the background.
Contrasting to the Lanterns are Lobo, the other antagonist of the episode, and Batman. Although Wonder Woman, Superman, and Cyborg are present, this is really about Lobo and Batman.
It’s clear during the episode that both of them would make fine Red Lanterns, particularly Batman with his cold-blooded suggestion that they simply turn over Lobo to be executed.
“It’s not our justice, but it is justice.”
Meanwhile, we get a very different Lobo here than in previous appearances. He’s fun-loving and violent as ever, but it covers up a real intelligence. His scheme to pit the Lanterns and the Justice League against each other is just about the most complex plotline we’ve seen on this show.
And it works. He gets his magic artifact, he kicks everyone’s butt, and he looks awesome doing it. And really, that’s all Lobo ever wanted.
After a weak episode last week, “Rage of the Red Lanterns” is a reminder of how good DC can be. Possibly the best story of the show so far.
Fun Stuff and Great Quotes in “Rage of the Red Lanterns”
- Batman’s attitude during the whole episode is fantastic. They never say it, but he’s obviously pining after the “good old days” when it was just him, the Batmobile, and Alfred with a cocktail at the end of a long night.
- “I knew a day alone in the lab was too good to be true.”
- “This is why I prefer working alone.” (Superman shoots him a look.) “Sometimes. I prefer working alone sometimes.”
- When the Leaguers and Red Lanterns pair off to fight Lobo at the end, poor Skallox doesn’t get to partner with anyone. Batman ditched him for the cat!
- Meanwhile, Lobo’s just having a good time.
- “Can I get a cucumber water or something? I’m super parched.”
- “Princess Sparkle Rope! Ooh, cool band name!”
- “Not very neighborly!”
- Lobo really did win this fight. All he wanted was to have some fun with the Spider Gauntlet, and he sure did. He made a badass escape on his motorcycle, and then he individually kicked the butts of each of the heroes. Who cares if he gets caught in the end?
- This episode may foreshadow Lobo joining the Red Lantern Corps, something the comics has teased. He actually owns a Red Lantern Ring, but he hasn’t yet used it.
Voice actor Michael Dorn, who is no stranger to voice acting, aliens, and rage. He was Worf in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and has voice roles in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Adventure Time, The Lion Guard, and more.
Info & Trivia
- Atrocitus is the canonical founder and leader of the Red Lantern Corps.
- His home sector was slaughtered by the Manhunters, the robotic enemies of the Green Lantern Corps.
- Atrocitus is a jack of all trades. He’s a fearsome warrior, a brilliant inventor, and a shaman. Yes, a shaman. He uses his magic frequently in the comics, though we didn’t see it here.
- “I require the bounty hunter: Lobo.”
- “Good kitty.”
- “Only a fool fights in a burning house.”
Voice actress Rachel Kimsey, the voice of Wonder Woman.
Info & Trivia
- Bleez is the princess of a race of winged aliens. She was captured and tortured by Sinestro, who also cut off her wings.
- She completely lost her mind after her induction into the Red Lantern Corps, becoming essentially an animal with superpowers. Atrocitus used his magic to return her to sanity.
- As we see in this episode, she’s still driven by instinct, making snap judgments and rarely stopping to consider her actions.
- We don’t see it in this show, but her ring also turned her blood into acid. Like the aliens from Alien. Bleez is able to spit this at her enemies.
- “Let’s not be left out of Lobo’s destruction!”
Voice actor Armin Shimerman, another Star Trek alum. He was Quark in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In the voice acting world, he’s best known as Andrew Ryan, the villainous tycoon from the Bioshock video game franchise.
Info & Trivia
- Zilius belongs to the same species as Galius Zed, a prominent Green Lantern. He looks like a big angry ping-pong ball, too.
- He’s a minor character in the Red Lantern lore, but a memorable one. Zox has died several times, switched sides, and participated in the power struggle between Atrocitus and Guy Gardner. He also ate a member of the Sinestro Corps.
- “No! I demand vengeance!” Atrocitus glares at him. “Soon. Vengeance soon! I can wait, no problem master!”
- “With me, Cybert! To glory!”