REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE GREEN LANTERN CLASSICS RED LANTERN NITE-LIK/SKALLOX
For decades, we have known about the Green Lantern Corps, an organization of interplanetary peace-keepers operating at the behest of the Guardians of the Universe. Their green power rings operate through the strength of the wearer's willpower, allowing the wearer to fire beams of coherent green light, and even construct objects of semi-solidified energy right from the wearer's imagination.
But one of the secrets of the Guardians of the Universe, revealed only recently, is that there is an entire emotional spectrum of color in the universe, with similar properties of power. A total of seven, including the Green Lanterns at the center, manifesting willpower. Of the seven, only two others were, until recently, known -- the yellow aspect of fear, as controlled by Sinestro, who went on to build an entire Sinestro Corps; and the violet light of love, controlled by the Zamarons, an offshoot of the Guardians, and manifested by their Star Sapphires.
The others recently -- excuse the pun -- came to light. The enigmatic Indigo Tribe, representing compassion. The Blue Lantern Corps, representing hope, as created by the exiled Guardian known as Ganthet. Agent Orange, better known as Larfleeze, representing avarice.
And the Red Lanterns, representing hatred and rage. Led by Atrocitus, the Red Lanterns cut a swath through both the Green Lanterns and the Sinestro Corps, as their leader has a grudge against the Lanterns, and Guardians, and Sinestro himself.
The presence of these other Lantern Corps has greatly expanded Green Lantern's corner of the DC Universe, and certainly made it an interesting place to be. With the live-action movie, two direct-to-video animated movies, and a forthcoming animated television series, it seems to be the perfect time to be a Green Lantern fan, something I've been for many years.
It's also not a bad time to be an action figure collector. Given Green Lantern's current prominence in the DC Universe, Mattel has seen fit to provide a couple of assortments of their popular DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS line that are specifically devoted to Green Lantern. This has resulted in several additional Green Lanterns, some Sinestro Corps members, Star Sapphire -- and some Red Lanterns. Unfortunately, this has not included Atrocitus, whom I still hope we will see in DC Universe Classics figure form in the near future. But we do have a couple of representatives of his Corps.
Several figures in the Green Lantern Classics series are essentially double-figures, coming with two heads and two sets of hands that can be changed back and forth to make two distinct characters. The Sinestro Corps members Low and Maash came this way, as did Green Lanterns Medphyll and Naut Kei Loi. And so have the Red Lantern Corps members, known as Nite-Lik and Skallox. This review will take a look at these two characters, and their figures.
But first, a little history on the Red Lantern Corps, with a little online research assistance.
The Red Lantern Corps was developed by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver, and debited in Green Lantern #25, in 2007. They were first mentioned during the Sinestro Corps War storyline. Foreshadowing the Blackest Night storyline that was yet to come, Guardian Ganthet reveals the Blackest Night prophecy to the four Earth-based Green Lanterns -- Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and Kyle Rayner. The prophecy describes a war of light between seven Corps powered by the lights of the emotional spectrum. Part of the prophecy reads, "A force of hate will rise as the Red Lantern is anointed in blood. The bearer's rage unfiltered and unchecked."
Before recruiting sentient beings to the Green Lantern Corps, the Guardians formed a robotic army called the Manhunters to maintain order across the universe. After eons of service, a glitch arose within the Manhunters' programming, leading them to believe that the only way of maintaining order was to completely eradicate the universe of all known life. Sector 666 falls victim to this new philosophy when the Manhunters slaughter all but five of its inhabitants. The five survivors become known as the Five Inversions; a terrorist cell bent on the destruction of the Guardians of the Universe. They are incarcerated on the planet Ysmault, where one member, Atrocitus, is so consumed by his rage that it results in the formation of the first red power battery. In a brief period of freedom, Atrocitus briefly escapes detention, during which he fatally attacks Green Lantern Abin Sur; but Atrocitus is returned to confinement by then-Green Lantern Sinestro. Atrocitus uses his power battery to bludgeon Qull and the other Inversions to death; however, he expresses more interest in exacting revenge on Sinestro.
In Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns, Atrocitus is shown in a flashback as having apparently formed a central power battery by using the blood of the other Inversions in blood magic rituals. The battery stands before a great lake of blood from which he forms his red power ring (crystallized by his anger), as well as other rings and batteries used to form the Red Lantern Corps. Harnessing the red light of rage, he sends his rings out into the universe.
However, upon accepting the rings, his recruits' hearts are rendered useless. Their blood spoils from within, forcing them to expel the violently flammable and corrosive material from their mouths. Additionally, the Red Lanterns are reduced to an almost animalistic state, with only Atrocitus appearing to be in full control of himself. Once Atrocitus assembles a sufficient force, he leads them on a mission to capture Sinestro who is being transferred to Korugar for his execution.
Coincidentally, the Sinestro Corps have similar plans and they launch an ambush on the Green Lantern escort to rescue their leader. In turn both groups are then ambushed by the Red Lanterns, who are able to take Sinestro captive by slaughtering Green Lanterns and Sinestro Corpsmen alike.
The introduction of the fully formed Red Lantern Corps continues in the main Green Lantern title, where Atrocitus brings Sinestro to Ysmault and intends to use his blood in another ritual. With the help of Saint Walker and Brother Warth from the newly formed Blue Lantern Corps, Hal Jordan heads for Ysmault to free Sinestro, due to Ganthet believing he has an important role to play in the approaching Blackest Night conflict.
Separating from his companions, Jordan finds Sinestro but is captured by the Red Lantern Corps. Just as Atrocitus orders former Green Lantern Laira to kill him, the Sinestro Corps also arrives on Ysmault to rescue their leader. Chaos ensues, but it's temporarily relieved upon the arrival of the Blue Lanterns. The two are able to keep the battling factions from destroying one another for a time, until Sinestro is released from confinement and kills Laira while Jordan attempts to calm her rage. Furious, Jordon's anger attracts Laira's ring and he becomes a member of the Red Lantern Corps himself. With his green power ring now inactive, Jordan attacks the Blue Lanterns and Sinestro. Saint Walker manages to get his blue power ring on Jordan's finger, which causes the red ring to explode when combined with the power of his reawakened green ring. Drained of power by Jordan's blue lantern abilities, the Sinestro Corps escapes. Wounded and seemingly beaten for now, Atrocitus and his own Corps also flee.
Atrocitus would later assist Green Lantern and the other heads of the various-colored Corps during the Blackest Night storyline.
Red Lanterns use red power rings, fueled by the rage of their users and those around them. Like other power rings, the ring covers the user in a protective aura which shields them from harm and enables flight. The power ring fires blasts of rage energy. The user's blood is replaced by a form of corrosive, rage-energized blood. The user can regurgitate this blood. The blood has the effect of bursting into flames of rage; the flames are so potent that they will burn even in space. The blood can melt through the constructs of other ring wielders, penetrate their personal force fields, and corrupt their rings, depleting their energy at an accelerated rate.
Though most red ring wielders are little more than beasts driven by rage, individuals with strong willpower are able to manipulate the energy to create constructs. The Red Lantern ring is unique in that the user can manipulate its base of power, rage. A Red Lantern can detect the rage in the heart of others and, by connection, the blood that pumps that rage. Those who face a Red Lantern already in a state of anger are even more vulnerable to a red power ring's attack, as their anger only feeds the attack and increases its destructive power.
However, the red power ring has also displayed a number of weaknesses as well. To wear a red power ring is to be overtaken by the red light of rage, reducing the wearer to act on pure instinct, driven to kill and destroy with little reason or forethought. To date, Atrocitus has shown to be the only Red Lantern still fully in control of his mental faculties, though a Blue Lantern can, at least partially, restore a Red Lantern's cognitive functions while retaining their Red Lantern abilities. However, Atrocitus intentionally set the rings to select beings who can't control their rage.
Also, a red power ring operates by expelling the blood of the wearer, replacing it with red light. As a result, removing a Red Lantern's ring will result in the wearer's death. However, a Blue Lantern's ring can reverse this process, freeing the wearer from the ring. The combined powers of blue and green rings can destroy a red ring. Also, if the heart of the wearer fills with love, who is the opposite emotion to rage in the Emotional Spectrum, the rage gets compromised and the connection with the ring breaks, instantly destroying the ring, but the light of a Blue Lantern is still needed to heal the former Red Lantern, because his/her heart goes into cardiac arrest by the lack of blood. To date, Mera is the only Red Lantern who was freed this way.
Like other Corps in the DC Universe, Atrocitus created an oath for the Red Lanterns to use when recharging their rings. As the other members of his Corps are rarely seen as being capable of speech, it's unknown how often they use it (if they're able to at all). The Red Lantern Corps oath is recited 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!"
Interestingly enough, the Red Lanterns have proven sufficiently popular that, as of this writing, they're going to be given their own ongoing comic series! While I'm sure it'll be an interesting title, I wonder what they says about comics readers, or even our society in general, that these guys get their own title as opposed to some of the other Corps...
Although there's quite a list of named Red Lanterns, at this point in time, only three of them -- Atrocitus, Bleez, and the feline Dex-Starr, have really been given significant backstories. There just isn't that much to say about the individual characters of Nite-Lik and Skallox, but I'll do the best I can as we look at their individual figures. Let's start with --
NITE-LIK - What we have here is the curious situation of a Red Lantern that was developed as a figure before he appeared in the comics. Now -- how's that possible? Simple. When this series of Green Lantern Classics figures was announced, the fine folks among the Four Horsemen decided they wanted to create a new Red Lantern figure of their own. He has since popped up in the comics, in Green Lantern #61.
Even his name, "Nite-Lik", is a bit of a play on Neitlich, the last name of the Mattel executive, Scott Neitlich, who oversees the DC Universe Classics line, as well as Masters of the Universe Classics.
One would hope that Mr. Neitlich does not physically resemble Nite-Lik. Actually, if you want a figure that does bear a facial resemblance to Scott Neitlich, you need the Eternian Palace Guards set from Masters of the Universe Classics.
One thing that both the Sinestro Corps and the Red Lantern Corps have given certain evidence of -- there's some very creepy and scary-looking alien races in the DC Universe. Clearly the DC Universe -- and I do mean universe -- is a highly populated place. And we've certainly seen that there's no shortage of relatively human-looking aliens out there -- Kryptonians, Rannians, Thanagarians, Daxamites, and others. But just as surely, there's some reasonably humanoid aliens that have some seriously bizarre features.
Nite-Lik, although relatively humanoid, in that he has a head atop a body, with two arms out to the side and two legs below, nevertheless is scary-looking enough so that if you put him in the Star Wars universe, he'd scare Darth Maul. The master of the double-bladed lightsaber and the scary red-and-black tattoo pattern would take one look at Nite-Lik, drop his blade, and take off running.
I'm not sure I even have the adjectives to describe this thing. He must have been drawn up by the design team at the Four Horsemen, and then sculpted into reality, pretty much without a lot of verbal description. And I can only imagine what the factory workers must have thought.
Nite-Lik has a head that is predominantly light blue. As best as I can describe it, it looks like a cross between some sort of not entirely human skull, and some sort of undiscovered sea life, probably of the type that spends most of its life in the inky depths and for good reason. I've seen enough National Geographic specials to know we've got some seriously strange stuff in our oceans, and that's the closest thing I can think of that might have been a visual inspiration here.
Towards the back of Nite-Lik's head are four flares that jut out to the sides, that as much as anything look like the equivalent of ears. He has two small, blank-white eyes, and a mouthful of long, uneven teeth. The top of his head almost looks split open, and is an ugly reddish purple within. This length of purple tapers back to two long, creased, snake-like appendages that emerge from the back of Nite-Lik's head, and then come up from under his arms and wind over his shoulders. Attached to these strange bands are various bones, the only remains of some of Nite-Lik's victims.
Nite-Lik's hands are as strange as his head. They're huge, with two long fingers and two thumbs each, each digit having a sharp black claw at the tip. The hands are mostly blue, but there are various "breaks" on the hands, that expose the reddish purple underneath. It occurs to me now that the blue sections of Nite-Lik's skin might well be some sort of sturdier carapace, while the purple areas are more like traditional skin.
At the base of the palm of each hand is a long -- something or other. Remember Scorpion from the Mortal Kombat video game? He could shoot a spear out of his hand to skewer his opponent. Nite-Lik has something like that. Dark red in color, turning to a lighter red at the tip, these hand-spears, for lack of a better term, are tipped with barbs and a claw-like appendage. Honestly, I don't even want to think about what they're capable of, but it's nothing pleasant.
Getting past the head and the hands, Nite-Lik's body is otherwise humanoid. The figure uses, for the most part, the same basic male body molds that most DC Universe Classics male figures use. This is a consistency I have always appreciated about the line. Better still, the arms and legs do not have the double-jointed feature that some figures in this line have been needlessly afflicted with, looking like heck and pretty well blowing the aforementioned consistency.
Nite-Lik's lower arms and lower legs are distinctive, however, in that there are sculpted tops to his wristbands and boots. Nite-Lik is, for the most part, dressed in a standard Red Lantern uniform, which features a red collar, tapering down in the front and back, red wristbands and boots, and a metallic red belt. Nite-Lik's head structure also includes a high, metallic red collar, with a ridged black section in the center. This separate piece also has the Red Lantern emblem in the center of the front, but it's often somewhat obscured by the criss-crossed head tentacles. The rest of the uniform is black.
Of course, the figure is very well articulated. Nite-Lik is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivels, knees, and ankles. The head and hand tentacles are flexible, but aren't bendies with wires in them or anything of that nature.
Paint work is excellent. Nite-Lik has some subtle brushed detail on the blue areas of his head, and he also has some dark green spots on the right side of his head, a few on the left, and on the backs of his hands. I don't believe these have any special purpose, other than perhaps just being some natural color phenomenon of Nite-Lik's people -- whoever or whatever they might be. The Red Lantern uniform is also very neatly painted, the metallic red elements being a good match for the non-metallic red, and the skeletal pieces attached to Nite-Lik's head tentacles have the look of weathered bone.
Nite-Lik is one of the creepiest action figures in my collection, but I have to say he's well made, certainly. He does, of course, have a Red Lantern ring, attached to the long first finger of his right hand, painted in a nice metallic red finish.
Now let's consider Nite-Lik's counterpart --
SKALLOX - When I purchased this figure, he was packaged as Nite-Lik, with the Skallox parts packaged within. It's possible to get this figure as Skallox, with the Nite-Lik parts separate, just as it was with the double-figures from the Sinestro and Green Lantern Corps.
Very creepily, Nite-Lik was posed in the package HOLDING Skallox's head! However, given Nite-Lik's bone collection, and Skallox's appearance, this could readily be construed as an honest mistake.
I find myself wondering if "Skallox" is a take on the words "skull ox", because that's certainly what Skallox looks like. I'm sure we've all seen the cliché of a western desert environment, out in the middle of nowhere, and there's the bleached skull of some long-deceased bovine plunked down in the dirt. This has been seen in everything from movies to comic strips.
Well, that's pretty close to what Skallox looks like, except somewhat less than an ox or cow, I'd say his head looks more like the skull of a really angry antelope. There's more deer than bovine here.
It's not a human-looking head at all, but in its own way, it's also nowhere near as severe as Nite-Lik. The head has two small eyes, set to the sides of the head, a long, narrow muzzle, a skull-like nose indentation looking like an ugly dark gash on the top of the muzzle, two narrow rows of teeth at the front of the muzzle, with fangs at the ends, and additional teeth set further back in the head, with a gaping hole between the sets of teeth that must have been a molding nightmare.
Skallox's head slopes back a bit, with two deer-like ears some distance behind the eyes, and then two long, pointed horns, colored in a very dark gray, emerging from the rear of the head near the top, and tapering back.
Skallox's skin color is more or less a flesh tone, but it somehow looks bone-like on the head. His teeth are an off-white. The sculpted detail is remarkable. Skallox's head looks weathered and almost leathery, but it's because of carefully sculpted wrinkles in the skin, not because of any weathering paint details.
Skallox's hands are relatively humanoid, with three fingers and a thumb per hand, and a dark, somewhat clawed thumbnail showing in hands that are otherwise clenched fists. Of course, Skallox has a Red Lantern ring, on the middle finger of his right hand, which has been painted metallic red.
Switching between Nite-Lik and Skallox is relatively easy. It's just a matter of swapping out the head and hands. Of course, when removing Nite-Lik's head, you also have to take the collar, and detangle the head tentacles from the body, so certainly caution is recommended. In comparison to the very extreme Nite-Lik, Skallox looks almost tame by comparison, but he still manages to be a pretty fearsome character. I wouldn't want to be on his bad side, and the average Red Lantern doesn't really have a good side.
Any complaints? Just one -- the legs were stuck at the hips. I'm sure this isn't the case with every figure, and thankfully, I was able to free them without breaking them. In the past when I've encountered this situation, they either don't come free, or the articulation point gets twisted to the point where it just breaks. This was a quality control issue that I thought had been dealt with, but it's been cropping up again, and needs to be addressed. This Red Lantern is one of the lucky ones.
Of course, if you want to have both Nite-Lik and Skallox in your collection at the same time, you'll need to buy two figures, which will leave you with spare parts for both. Still, it's not a bad thought to consider. I'd like to be able to do so, as well as with Sinestro Corps members Low and Maash, and Green Lanterns Medphyll and Naut-Kei-Loi.
So, what's my final word? I'm pleased that we finally have some Red Lanterns in the DC Universe Classics line. I am EXTREMELY hopeful that serious consideration is being given to doing Atrocitus, even though he would require an entirely distinctive sculpt because of his physical size. It would still be well worth it if it's made properly (no double-jointed limbs, Mattel!). Meanwhile, we have Nite-Lik and Skallox, as well as Dex-Starr, certainly impressive and frightening representatives of the most dangerous Lantern Corps of them all.
The DC UNIVERSE GREEN LANTERN CLASSICS figures of RED LANTERNS NITE-LIK and SKALLOX definitely have my highest recommendation!