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REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE SIGNATURE SERIES ATROCITUS
By Thomas Wheeler

I think it can be fairly said -- at least I would certainly say it -- that some of the most dramatic developments in recent years in the DC Universe, prior to the overhaul into the "New 52", about which I have no kind words whatsoever, took place in Green Lantern's corner of the DC Universe.

Here, we saw the discovery of the entire spectrum of emotion-based colors and powers, as Sinestro developed his own yellow-ringed, fear-based Corps, to counter the Green Lantern Corps. Here, we encountered Atrocitus, and his Red Lanterns, full of hatred and rage. We were introduced to Larfleeze, the greedy Agent Orange. Then, we saw the Star Sapphires build their own Corps, and watched as exiled Guardians Ganthet and Sayd created their Blue Lantern Corps, based on hope.

We saw the conflicts between these Corps, and we saw them come together during the Blackest Night, when Nekron and Black Hand used their Black Lantern rings to seemingly raise the dead to snuff out all life. These were some of the most masterful stories DC had produced in quite some time.

Fortunately, those of us who also enjoy Mattel's superb line of DC Universe Classics action figures, were able to enjoy any number of entries from these amazing stories, as they were rendered in plastic. The production of the live-action Green Lantern movie didn't hurt matters, either, as Mattel dedicated two special waves of DC Universe Classics figures to Green Lantern characters from the comics.

All of this, along with a Green Lantern five-pack from Walmart, gave us such long-awaited characters as Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, Star Sapphire, Arkillo, several members of the Sinestro Corps, and a few members of the Red Lantern Corps. Heck, they even gave us a figure of Dex-Starr, the cat who ended up among the Red Lanterns!

But there were a few significant faces missing. There still are. They still need to give us Larfleeze, the Orange Lantern, and Saint Walker, the most prominent Blue Lantern. But the most significant absence -- until now -- was most likely ATROCITUS, the leader of the Red Lantern Corps -- especially since the Red Lanterns have their own title at this time.

Sadly, Mattel's DC Universe Classics line has been brought to an end, and their future retail plans remain unknown at this time. However, Mattel has created a new outlet for these superb figures, now called the DC Signature Series. They're being offered through MattyCollector.Com, the same as their Masters of the Universe Classics figures.

And among the most recent additions as of this writing just happens to be -- ATROCITUS!

Let's consider the background of this character, and then have a look at his action figure, shall we?

Atrocitus (formerly Atros) is an alien supervillain and anti-hero in the DC Comics Universe. Created by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver, Atrocitus is an enemy of the Guardians of the Universe and Sinestro, their former Green Lantern.

He first appears in Green Lantern vol. 4 #25 in a two-page "War of Light" spread, and made his chronological first appearance in Green Lantern vol. 4 #29 as a prisoner of Hal Jordan's predecessor, Abin Sur.

When the rogue Manhunters rampaged through Space Sector 666, Atros was one of only five beings in the entire sector to escape death, having been forced to witness his own wife and daughter killed by one of the rampaging robots.

Renaming himself "Atrocitus", he and the other four survivors formed a terrorist cabal known as the Five Inversions, bent on the destruction of the Guardians of the Universe and all who served them, with Atrocitus serving as their leader. The Five Inversions performed a ritual which allowed them to peer into the future and discover the prophecy of the Blackest Night, which decreed that all life in the universe would end. Forming an "Empire of Tears", the Inversions attempted to destroy the Guardians, but were defeated and imprisoned on the planet Ysmault.

Some time later, Abin Sur began making periodic visits to Ysmault, and began to ask questions regarding the Blackest Night. Sur even went so far as to free Atrocitus from his imprisonment so that he could lead the Green Lantern to Earth, the prophesised birthplace of "the black" that would one day end the universe.

Taken to Earth by starship (due to fellow Inversion Qull predicting that Sur's ring would one day fail him when he most needed it) and bound by energy restraints created by Sur's ring, Atrocitus instilled fear in his captor, allowing the yellow impurity to seep into his willpower constructs and weaken them enough to allow him to break free. After slashing the Green Lantern in the chest, mortally wounding him, Atrocitus jumped from a point high in Earth's atmosphere to escape Sur's failing ship. Just in case you wondered how Abin Sur was wounded and had to pass his ring on to Hal Jordan. Nice way of giving the character some history.

After landing near an airbase, and killing an unspecified number of Air Force troopers, Atrocitus recited what would later become the oath of the Red Lantern Corps, and performed a ritual that told him the name of the herald of the Blackest Night: William Hand.

Atrocitus created a device using stolen gun parts that acted as a cosmic divining rod, and used it to lead him to Hand. Once he tracked down the human who, it was said, would play a prominent role in the coming of the Blackest Night, he attacked, and planned to take Hand's innards back to Ysmault.

Before his plan proceeded, however, Sinestro and rookie Green Lantern Hal Jordan intercepted him, spiriting William Hand to safety. Atrocitus used his newly-constructed device to sap the power from their rings, leaving them with only their wits to defend them from the master of the Five Inversions.

Sinestro was able to restore their rings' powers through his power battery, but Atrocitus still had the upper hand. Just as he was about to crush Sinestro with a power shovel, Jordan used his ring to blow up the yellow vehicle, which surprised Atrocitus greatly, as he believed Green Lantern rings did not work on anything colored yellow.

Defeated, Atrocitus was contained by Sinestro, and brought to Oa. He was later returned to Ysmault by Sinestro, where he prophesied that Sinestro's home planet Korugar would soon erupt into chaos and disorder. Through this act, it was implied that it was Atrocitus who planted the seeds of Sinestro's later fall from grace.

Years later, in the aftermath of the Sinestro Corps War, Atrocitus was seen forging a Red Lantern power battery, utilizing the power of rage. He said that his first new victim would be the one who called himself "the greatest Green Lantern": Sinestro, who had long since abandoned the Green Lantern Corps to forge a Corps in his own namesake. He also murdered Qull of the Five Inversions, a fellow member of the Empire of Tears and the one responsible for telling Abin Sur the prophecy of the Blackest Night (which caused the Guardians of the Universe to continue the Empire of Tears' incarceration on Ysmault, rather than transfer them to Oa's sciencells, closer to the enemies of the Five Inversions), by bludgeoning him with the power battery. In this way, the first power battery was christened with blood.

Atrocitus murdered the other members of the Five Inversions, using their blood to create red power rings, power batteries, and a Red Central Power Battery on Ysmault. Atrocitus soon donned his new red power ring, becoming the first Red Lantern. He recruited many other individuals from across the universe who possessed great anger and hate, including former Green Lantern Laira. Many of them had been wronged by the Sinestro Corps, and Atrocitus promised them that the Red Lantern Corps would eradicate Sinestro himself. He led his new corps in an assault against Sinestro while he was being transferred by some members of the Green Lantern Corps from the Oan Sciencells to his home planet of Korugar for execution.

The Red Lanterns interrupted a deadly fight between Sinestro's forces and the Green Lanterns, killing members of both sides without discrimination. Eventually Sinestro was captured and taken to Ysmault for execution, and Hal Jordan, who faced Atrocitus previously, was left for dead in space.

After bringing Sinestro to Ysmault, Atrocitus nailed the former Green Lantern to a huge symbol of the Red Lanterns to await his execution at his own hands. However, unlike the Guardians, who preferred a quick execution, Atrocitus wished to make Sinestro suffer first by taking revenge on everything he has ever cared about. His targets included Korugar, and Sinestro's previously unknown and hidden daughter, whose identity Atrocitus had learned through his blood prophecies.

When Hal Jordan and the Blue Lanterns arrived to recover Sinestro, Atrocitus revealed another prophecy to Jordan: that the Guardians will one day take his greatest love, and he will become a renegade once again because of their actions, although Sinestro believes that Atrocitus' prophecy could be a form of reverse psychology to instill fear in Jordan of his past actions under the influence of Parallax.

After rescuing Sinestro, the Blue Lanterns began to leave, but Jordan wanted to go back for Laira, whom Sinestro killed to save Jordan. In a burst of outrage, Jordan prepared to carry out Sinestro's death sentence himself, against the wishes of the Blue Lanterns. The rage that Jordan felt drew Laira's red ring to him, converting Jordan into the newest member of the Red Lantern Corps. Jordan attacked the Blue Lanterns and Sinestro, until Saint Walker managed to get a Blue power ring onto his finger. The blue ring negated the effects of the red ring, restoring Jordan to normal. Jordan then attacked Atrocitus, using the power of the blue and green rings to make the red one explode in his face. Defeated, the Red Lanterns retreated to the dark side of Ysmault, where Atrocitus performed another blood ritual, seeking to discover the location of the Blue Lanterns' homeworld.

During the Blackest Night limited series the Lost Lanterns came to Ysmault to retrieve Laira's body, but were opposed by Atrocitus and the Red Lanterns. During the conflict, several black power rings descended onto Ysmault, reanimating the bodies of Laira and Atrocitus's fellow Inversions. The reanimated Qull ripped out Atrocitus' heart; However, because Red Lantern rings effectively replace their wearer's hearts, the attack did not kill Atrocitus.

Atrocitus later appeared on Okaara to steal Larfleeze's power battery. However, Hal Jordan, Carol Ferris, Sinestro, Saint Walker, Ganthet, Sayd, and Indigo-1 save the two from Black Lanterns and stop Atrocitus. He was then brought back to Ryut, where his rage subsided into grief for his lost world. He agreed to help in the fight against the Black Lanterns, but promised to kill the Guardians when the conflict was over.

Following the Black Lantern central power battery to Earth, the Corps leaders combined their lights to form the white light of creation, which, despite Indigo-1's claims, failed to destroy the battery, instead making the force behind it stronger. Ganthet then duplicated the leader's rings, in an attempt to bolster their forces. The duplicate of Atrocitus' ring found its way to Mera, temporarily inducting her into the Red Lantern Corps.

When the Corps leaders and their deputies were being attacked by a Black Lantern Spectre, Atrocitus sensed the spirit's true nature despite being influenced by the black ring; an embodiment of rage and vengeance. Atrocitus desired to harness The Spectre's powers for his vendettas against the Guardians after the spirit is free from the Black Lantern Corps. When Parallax freed the Spectre, Atrocitus attempted to convert him into his own rage entity, but failed, the Spectre warning him that the true rage entity is not to be trifled with.

Following the defeat of the Black Lanterns, Atrocitus returned to Ysmault, and is soon after approached by Ganthet and Guy Gardner, who ask him to join them in an as-yet unidentified mission. Despite his utter hatred for the Guardians, Atrocitus agreed, sending the Red Lantern Bleez to assist Guy.

Sometime later, he appeared in New York City with the feline Red Lantern Corps member, Dex-Starr in search of the emotional spectrum entities. They killed several criminals in the subway, while sparing the remaining riders in the subway car. When he performed his blood ritual, it revealed to him the location of the entities except for Ion and Parallax.

Hal, Carol and Sinestro confronted Atrocitus for his murderous actions as he finished the ritual; however, Atrocitus justified them by claiming they did what they did to protect innocents. Carol confirmed Atrocitus's sincerity by detecting a spark of love in his heart with her powers that wasn't there during their previous encounter, only to have her words ignite his anger.

Enraged, Atrocitus blasts the trio out of the subway, and engages in combat. During the brawl, it is revealed that Atrocitus has learned how to create constructs with his powers.

Atrocitus finally locates the Rage Entity, known as the Butcher, who is about to possess a man whose daughter had been killed by a death row inmate. Despite the Spectre's attempts to stop it, the Butcher succeeds, killing the criminal. The Butcher then attempts to possess Atrocitus, revealing that Atrocitus had a wife and children who were killed in the Manhunters' attack. With the Spectre's help, Atrocitus wards off the Butcher and imprisons it within his power battery.

He returns to Jordan and the other New Guardians (prominent members from each Corps) just as a robed figure gained the upper hand in their fight. Catching him off guard with a burst of his napalm-acidic blood, Atrocitus vented his long suppressed rage against the Guardians upon Krona, knowing of his Maltus origins and how he was once connected to the Guardians of the Universe.

Currently, Atrocitus and his fellow Red Lanterns star in their own title -- frankly one of the few in the so-called "New 52" that's worth reading, since most of the Green Lantern titles are, at least to date, among the least altered in the DC Universe.

As to his powers and abilities, Atrocitus wields a Red Lantern power ring similar to that of a Green Lantern's, save that it is powered by rage rather than willpower. The full extent of a red power ring's powers has not been revealed, but it is stated in Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns that the red ring acts as their heart and pumps their rage-tainted blood out of their body through their mouth. While initially unable to do so, Atrocitus learned to create red light constructs after observing the other lanterns during the Blackest Night.

As with the other power rings, a rhyming oath is used to recharge them with the power battery. The Red Lantern oath is as follows: "With blood and rage of crimson red; Ripped from a corpse so freshly dead; Together with our hellish hate; We'll burn you all -- That is your fate!" Okay, so it's not exactly Keats...

Unlike the other members of the Red Lantern Corps, whose rings reduce them to being mindless raging beasts, leaving them unable to create and maintain energy constructs as do other Lanterns, Atrocitus is in full control of his mental faculties while wearing his ring and may not be affected in the same manner. Atrocitus can deliberately override the corruptive influence of the red energy on his followers by using his magic: he merely seldom chooses to do so

Atrocitus possesses superhuman strength and durability; strong enough to toss a construction digger and durable enough to withstand bullets.

Atrocitus's association with the Empire of Tears granted him a great deal of shamanistic magic, which he used to forge the Red Lantern rings and divine the location of William Hand.

Atrocitus is highly intelligent, able to construct the energy-draining device later used by Black Hand from simple gun and computer parts. Before the Manhunters destroyed sector 666, Atrocitus was a psychologist. Make your own jokes about that...

As contradictory as it may sound, the Red Lanterns are not incapable of producing a few laughs. In the first issue of their own title, Dex-Starr, the Red Lantern feline, goes after a starship full of hunters, who use sentient aliens as their prey. When the aliens look like they're getting the better of Dex-Starr, Atrocitus bursts upon the scene (and through the hull of the starship) and bellows -- "WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MY CAT?!"

It's sort of peculiar comedy, but I thought it was hilarious.

So, how's the figure? Outstanding, really. And more than a bit ugly.

Although basically humanoid, Atrocitus' face is entirely alien, and -- well, it's an old cliché, but one would rather have to say that it's a face only his mother could love, probably because she looks a lot like him. Atrocitus' entire sector may have been destroyed, leaving him as the only survivor of his face, but a Blue Lantern-induced scenario whereby Atrocitus was wearing a Blue Lantern uniform and being wed to a female member of his own species showed that regardless of how frightening he may look, he's pretty much a typical member of his race.

Atrocitus has light red skin, and is apparently hairless. His skin has a rather rough and wrinkled texture, and one would have to assume that it's rather tough. He has an angled, jutting brow, deepset yellow eyes, with no apparent pupils, a relatively small nose, large mouth, and what look like, as much as anything, four small craters on his face, two near his cheeks, the other two on either side of his jaw. Again, one has to assume these are simply typical features for his face.

Speaking of his mouth, it's wide open, and shows two rows of long, narrow teeth that would probably send a human dentist screaming from the room. This is something that's been a little open to artistic interpretation within the comic books, depending on who's drawing Atrocitus, showing him with either fairly narrow but not atypical fangs, to having more teeth than a piano has keys. I don't even want to think about what the diet of his people must be like, but I doubt they're vegetarians.

For the most part, Atrocitus is wearing a standard Red Lantern uniform. This consists of a costume that is mostly black, with a broad red band down the front of the chest and back to just below the waist. A ridged red belt is in place around most of the waist. The Red Lantern costume has angled red wristbands, and fairly high red boots, that come up to cover the kneecaps. The emblem of the Red Lantern Corps is visible on the chest, outlined in white with a black background.

Atrocitus has added a personal element to the costume, a very high collar that comes up almost to the top of his head, and wraps around the back, and which is connected to broad shoulder flares. On the figure, this piece has been separately molded and glued into place, and has been painted a very impressive metallic red.

Go ahead, try to find a decent metallic red paint in the average crafts store. I certainly haven't had any luck. I suspect Mattel did this figure the same way Hasbro does a lot of its red-metallic-finish Iron Man figures -- they put down a coat of silver and then paint transparent red over it. I need to remember that technique.

The belt has also been painted metallic red, as has the ring on Atrocitus' right hand. Speaking of his hands, they are not gloved, and they're just about as ugly as his head. The skin texture is the same, and each of his knuckles has the same strange little crater on it as can be found on his face. His nails, and his thumbnails are visible, are black, and fairly sharp. Apart from the obvious visual details, the structure of Atrocitus' hands is entirely humanoid -- four fingers each plus opposable thumbs.

All of the detail and paint work is superbly well done. Atrocitus also comes with an accessory. As one might expect, it is his Red Lantern Power Battery. Like the collar and belt, it is metallic red in color, but it's not just a repaint of a Green Lantern battery. It has a distinctive design to it, and the handle is designed to mimic the emblem of the Red Lanterns.

Of course, the figure is superbly articulated. Atrocitus is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.

Any complaints? No, although there are three points that I would like to address in a slightly critical manner.

First of all, there is Atrocitus' size. In the comics, he's a big guy. He's not on the level of Kilowog or Arkillo, but he's definitely above average. The figure -- isn't. It uses the same body molds as most of the other male hero figures. Now, in fairness, Mattel did use the larger chest that a small handful of heroes have been graced with, like Superman and Batman, which gives Atrocitus a bit more size, but he's still not really as big as he ought to be.

Now, conversely, I can understand how this would happen. To do a size-precise Atrocitus would have required a complete set of molds, that might not have ever seen use on anyone else. With the DC Universe line now an online-only product for the time being, that's the sort of money that Mattel just can't throw into it. So I understand. On the other hand, there are some body molds that are larger still, than Superman or Batman, such as the ones used for Martian Manhunter. Could they not have been brought into play here?

Of greater criticism, even though it doesn't really seem like it should be a greater issue, are Atrocitus' boots. They are merely painted on. I know for a fact that a set of molds exists where the tops of the Red Lantern boots were sculpted in detail, because they were used for the Skallox/Nite-Lik figure. Why were these molds not used on Atrocitus? Somebody just lose them or something? To be blunt, I consider this more a case of either carelessness or sloppiness, and it's something I find a lot less forgivable than the previous matter. Those Red Lantern boot molds should have been retained, maintained, and used for Atrocitus.

Third, a minor issue. His head's stuck. Now, granted, with that high collar, it's tough to get a decent hold on his head to begin with. But I managed, and gave it all the force I dared. The last thing in the world I wanted to have happen here was to end up with Atrocitus' head in one hand, and the rest of him in the other, and a broken socket for my trouble. But I honestly started to wonder if his head was even supposed to turn. It's things like this that make me glad they don't pre-pose the figures in their packages anymore.

So, if you get an Atrocitus with a stuck head, which seems to be, at least, above-average likely, know that the head IS supposed to move. How far you're willing to go to get it to do so is up to you.

So, what's my final word? Minor criticisms aside, I'm truly delighted to have this figure. When Mattel first announced the Club Infinite Earths program, and that two of the first figures were to be Atrocitus and Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, two characters that in my opinion were sorely overdue, I signed up as quick as I could, and I'm very glad I did. I now have both of those figures, and am extremely impressed with the results.

Let me add this, however. The Green Lantern universe still has a lot to offer. Larfleeze, the Orange Lantern, was in the works for the successor to the DC Universe Classics retail line, DC All-Stars, but the plug has been abruptly pulled on that. We need Larfleeze. I hope that he will eventually either turn up at retail, or be brought into the Signature Series. And although he hasn't been announced anywhere yet, the main Blue Lantern, Saint Walker, would also be a nice addition.

Meanwhile, we have the leader of the Red Lanterns at long last, and I am sincerely pleased to have him. I believe that any fan of the Green Lantern corner of the DC Universe will be similarly pleased.

The DC SIGNATURE SERIES figure of ATROCITUS definitely has my highest recommendation!