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DCD Blackest Night
by yo go re

Fanboys are a capricious lot. The Sinestro Corps War was generally regarded as one of the best stories of 2007, but in no time at all, tearing it down became the cool thing to do. After all, you're only cool yourself as long as the things you like are unknown to the masses. What's the lantern color for being a pretentious dickhole?

Gathering beings that possess great anger and hate from across the universe, the Red Lantern Corps is dedicated to destroying Sinestro and the Green Lantern Corps. Atrocitus, who is responsible for the death of Abin Sur, was the first to forge a Red Lantern power battery and power ring, utilizing the powers of blood and rage.

Atrocitus follows the grand tradition of GL enemies that was started by Sinestro - namely, alien villains with names that happen to be slight tweaks of english words that also do a perfect job of describing their personality. Sinestro was a threatening creep with ill intentions; Atrocitus is a cruel and horrible space demon. Sure, a name like that isn't terribly inventive, but it tells you all you need to know about the character before you even see him on the page. Someone tells you "Atrocitus is coming," you don't think that means it's time to get out the accent pillows and potpourri.

This figure is part of DC Direct's Blackest Night Series 1 toys, and was sculpted by James Shoop. Discounting the Hal Jordan exclusive, this is the first Red Lantern toy of any sort, which is appropriate since he is, as the bio states, the first Red Lantern there was. He killed his friends and used their blood to create his battery. He's a big, strong character, so the toy is bulky and stands 7¼" tall. The edges of his uniform are raised, and there are three angled ribs on each side. He has a large armored collar covering his shoulders and neck.

Atrocitus hails from Sector 666, one of only five living beings to survive a total purge by the Guardians' Manhunter robots. We can only assume that all the members of whatever unknown species he is on whatever unknown planet he comes from all share his ghastly looks. He's like a flayed skull, with deep-set yellow eyes and long, sharp fangs. It's not just his head, either: the hands have the same muscular/skeletal look, with large hollow knuckles. His ring is sculpted in place.

The paint is handled well. The body of his suit is matte black, while the red is metallic. His shoulder pads are more of a brick red, while is skin splits the difference between the two (tending more toward the dark armor). The edge of his white teeth gets a bit blurry, but since the contrast between that and the red is so high, it's not much of an issue. The Red Lantern symbol tampographed on his chest is crisp, though it is slightly off-center.

The only accessory included in the (hateful) clamshell is Atrocitus's red lantern. It's the same mold that Hal Red had, with a free-swinging handle and translucent "gems" inside the lantern's openings to suggest internal energy. He can't actually hold the lantern, but you can dangle it from his fingers if you're careful. Articulation is typically lacking: balljointed head and shoulders, hinge elbows and knees, and swivel wrists and hips. The prototype photos clearly showed the figure with a waist, but no, no such thing. The wrists are severely impaired by his gauntlets, and the elbows bend inward, making them basically useless without bicep swivels. Thanks for maintaining an even keel of mediocrity, DCD!

We also get a translucent red disc base with white paint delineating the Red Lantern symbol. It's the only one of the seven symbols that doesn't have a circle in the center - instead, it's set lower, between two tall spires. Clever design, that. Why? Because all that rage makes users unbalanced. Actually, the entire Red Lantern Corps is based on the movie 28 Days Later - that's why they work their powers by vomiting blood on everybody.

It's been a longass time since I've bought a proper DC Direct toy (for the purposes of this discussion, the Watchmen ones don't count). Basically, you can count on any given Mattel DC Universe figure to be a better value than any given DCD figure, so why spend more money to get less for it? I chose to get Atrocitus because the odds aren't very good that Mattel will ever get around to him, and I think it'd be cool to have at least one of every Lantern color. The only disappointments here are the same you'd see on any DC Direct toy, but are all ones that could be fixed by a better company.

-- 11/21/09

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