What is the Red Lantern Corps?
By Jerry Whitworth
In Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and Kilowog must face an army of Red Lanterns out to kill every member of the Green Lantern Corps. But, what are Red Lanterns? In the comic books, the Red Lanterns are closely tied to the Green Lantern Corps and Sinestro Corps.
The planet Maltus is one of the earliest worlds to develop intelligent life in the universe. Over the millennia, this race grew and eventually split. One group went on to form the Controllers, a race dedicated to the advancement of science (regardless of the cost). The female of the species formed the Zamarons, representing the passion and love of their people as the remaining males became stoic and sought the very mysteries of the cosmos. This male component moved to Oa, the planet at the center of the universe, and became the Guardians of the Universe. The Guardians saw the universe consumed by chaos because of the actions of Krona, one of their own, and would bring about order. To this end they built powerful androids known as the Manhunters but their creation was flawed in that the Manhunters lacked compassion and took life without hesitation. Further, science came to be observed as an agent of order and magic that of chaos leading the Manhunters to make war on magic, committing genocide in trying to eradicate it. The last bastion of magic the Manhunters found was Sector 666 but before they could wipe out the final five beings therein (the hence called Five Inversions), the Guardians intervened. The survivors, seeking revenge, formed the Empire of Tears across three galaxies and waged war on the Guardians before being stopped and imprisoned on Ysmault. The planet would become off limits, none allowed to enter or leave. The Guardians would go on to discover Ion, the entity of willpower and the representative of green in the emotional spectrum, and employ it to empower the Green Lantern Corps, agents of worlds with power rings to bring about order and battle evil.
Several developments would affect the Guardians’ mission. The emergence of Parallax, the entity of fear and the representative of yellow in the emotional spectrum, would endanger life across the universe and the Guardians captured it, imprisoning it in the main power battery on Oa and thus making their agents weak against the color yellow. One of the Corps’ greatest agents, Abin Sur, traveled to the surface of Ysmault to try and save those that crashed upon its surface, coming across Qull of the Five Inversions. Qull intrigued Sur into listening to prophecies including the fate and whereabouts of those that crashed, of Sur’s demise, and the end of the Green Lantern Corps (“Blackest Night”). For Sur’s demise, Qull provided a self-fulfilling prophecy when the actions Sur made to save himself instead doomed him when he relied on a space vessel rather than the power of his ring. Abin Sur would infrequently return to Ysmault trying to seek help in preventing the Blackest Night. Another Inversion, Atrocitus, convinced Sur to break him free from Ysmault in order to lead the Green Lantern to Earth, birthplace to the Blackest Night. Instead, Atrocitus would break free on Earth, mortally wound Sur, and inadvertently lay the groundwork on Earth for the prophesied cataclysm. Sur’s replacement, Hal Jordan, would recapture Atrocitus alongside Sinestro, Green Lantern of the neighboring sector and Abin Sur’s best friend, and return the Inversion to his prison.
Sinestro, considered the greatest of the Green Lantern Corps, felt true order only came from removing freewill and liberty. He conquered his homeworld Korugar and ruled it with impunity. When Hal Jordan discovered this, he brought Sinestro to justice. The former Green Lantern was exiled to Qward in the Anti-Matter Universe, the Guardians’ greatest threat at the time. Sinestro convinced the planet’s Weaponers to craft him a yellow power ring, in reality tapping into Parallax in the same way his old power ring tapped into Ion. Sinestro would become the Corps’ most frequent foe and instrumental in some of the greatest threats to the universe, such as unleashing MadGod Sector 3600, but when he joined forces with the Anti-Monitor, freed Parallax, and formed the Sinestro Corps, he became the gravest threat to the Green Lantern Corps at that point. However, Sinestro chose the worst of the worst for his army, and with one of the greatest weapons in the universe at their command, the blood of the innocent were spread across the universe. This pain laid the groundwork for the Red Lantern Corps.
Atrocitus found strength in the rage of his loss and from blaming Qull for revealing the future to Abin Sur which forced the Guardians to extend the sentence of the Five Inversions. He was able to craft a red lantern power battery and beat Qull to death with it, using his former ally’s organs to power the battery and form the Red Lantern Corps. Tapping into the Butcher, the entity of rage and the representative of red in the emotional spectrum, Atrocitus turned his newfound power on the other Inversions in turn making Atrocitus the group’s sole survivor. Craving vengeance on the Guardians for losing his family and freedom and revenge on Sinestro and Hal Jordan for again imprisoning him, Atrocitus took advantage of the Sinestro Corps’ victims, granting them red power rings but taking away their free will. The Red Lantern Corps joined the ongoing War of Light involving the Green Lantern Corps, Sinestro Corps, and the newly formed Star Sapphire Corps (headed by the aforementioned Zamarons). Unlike the other three corps, the red power ring generally doesn’t permit energy constructs but instead is spewed from the mouth with intense power and a corrosive touch. The power of a Blue Lantern (formed by the Guardians Ganthet and Sayd) can neutralize the power and effects of Red Lanterns.