Surely everyone has heard of the Green Lanterns. Hell, someone even decided to make a bad movie about them. Bored with just the color green, however, DC decided to add all the colors of the rainbow to their Lantern lineup, each specializing in a different emotion. While love and hope are certainly wonderful, they don’t exactly scream “interstellar action.” For me, the Lanterns that were the most intriguing were the Red Lanterns, representing rage.
While there were initially quite a few Red Lanterns, beyond their leader, Atrocitus, none were given any depth during their collective first appearance. In fact, most were not even named before they disappeared into obscurity. This month’s D-Lister immediately caught my attention because he was essentially a floating brain with jellyfish tentacles. Stay out of the water, folks, as we welcome Ratchet to the D-List.
Created by Geoff Johns and Shane Davis in 2008’s Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns, Ratchet was a member of the Red Lantern army. Atrocitus used magic to turn rage into energy, and created an enormous power battery to energize the rings that his soldiers wore. He commanded them all to submit to their hatred, so the Red Lanterns decided to pick a fight with the popular kids.
The Reds battled both the Green Lanterns and the Sinestro Corps, but Ratchet only appeared in one panel, and was not even shown using any super-powers. The Red Lanterns had the ability to vomit blood that burned their victims, but with no apparent facial features, there wasn’t much for Ratchet to do. When the New 52 began in 2011, however, the Red Lanterns were given their own series, and I was happy to see that Ratchet was included. Though he wasn’t much more than a recurring image on a page, I had hoped that the creative team would do…well, anything with Ratchet.
At first, Atrocitus was the only Red Lantern with a high-functioning brain; none of the others could even speak in complete sentences. The Red Lantern’s base of operations was on Atrocitus’ home-planet of Ysmault, where there was a lake filled with blood. This lake caused any Red Lantern who entered it to relive all of the pain he or she had ever experienced, then emerge with all of his or her intelligence restored (that’s right, kids – forget books, bathing in blood makes you smart). Atrocitus chose only a few from his army to enter, and one of them was Ratchet. Finally, I got to see this monstrosity’s origin.
Ratchet was formerly a large-headed alien with a small body and multiple, squid-like tentacles. The people of his race lived solitary lives inside individual mechanical pods, accomplishing their daily tasks alone and only communicating via holograms. Though this effectually eradicated even the possibility of disease and crime, contact with others was illegal (very touchy of them, eh?). Ratchet had broken that law twice before, and longed to do so again. Since he wanted to meet others, he assumed that maybe others wanted to meet him too. He snuck out of his pod, but was quickly caught and sentenced to 80 years in jail.
Considering Ratchet had lived a solitary life, I assumed that spending time in prison wouldn’t have been much of a punishment. However, all of the alien’s tentacles were amputated, and when Ratchet attempted to starve himself in protest of his treatment, he was strapped down and force-fed. He had no contact, even via hologram, with living life forms during his time in prison, and eventually started to hallucinate. Ratchet was shown crying when a red ring arrived in his prison cell, and clearly, the ring drastically altered his appearance.
While his new look was certainly horrifying, Ratchet’s origin was quite tragic. Actually, he never appeared angry during his flashback, he simply seemed sad. Although he was considered a criminal, nothing about the guy struck me as evil, nor did he seem to harbor any anger towards his race’s justice system even after a seemingly unjust punishment.
With his faculties restored, a scary, new appearance, and a powerful ring, it was time to see Ratchet in action, right? Wrong. Though intelligent and faithful to the Red Lantern’s cause, Ratchet was never shown using super-powers, other than floating around and looking creepy. While it was awesome to see Ratchet in a comic book each month, I wanted the poor guy to shoot energy beams or at least sting someone on the leg (sorry, I think that’s profiling).
Guy Gardner took over leadership of the Red Lanterns when their army had dwindled to only a few members. Though a small team, they won the right to be the sole protectors of space-sector 2814 –the sector that included Earth. To celebrate this new responsibility, the team got drunk – except for Ratchet, who, instead of drinking, silently judged everyone (he and I have so much in common).
Though they were each monstrous in appearance, Ratchet never seemed to fit in with the Red Lanterns; any Red that was characterized seemed to be some form of a conniving degenerate. While those around him vomited blood to solve their problems, Ratchet opted instead to use his brain…his very, very large brain. In fact, he decided to put the Red Lantern’s new title as protectors of 2814 to good use with a mission to save an alien race. Ratchet didn’t like how the Green Lanterns waited for threats to arise before acting, and he didn’t want anyone to suffer needlessly on his watch.
A dictator with absolute power over his entire planet, the alien named Gensui had enslaved his people and was trying to harness the energy of a nearby star. Ratchet suggested that the team defeat Gensui and free the innocent citizens. Ratchet’s teammate, Rankorr, pointed out that there were only 6 Reds to battle a massive army under Gensui’s control. Ratchet retorted with a sense of confidence not normal for the quiet Lantern.
Finally, Ratchet was showing himself to be an assertive badass. Though the Red Lanterns decided that their small team would act democratically regarding decisions, it was wonderful to see Ratchet take initiative. I had a feeling that this brain would not only show off some strategic thinking, but maybe he’d actually participate in battle (or, at the very least, some tentacle-hentai porn). I was so excited.
Unfortunately, the team was promptly captured by Gensui’s death squads and surrounded by a force-field that acted as a neural-inhibitor. For those of you who don’t speak sci-fi, the inhibitor’s effects were similar to a tranquilizer. Gensui attempted to publicly execute the Red Lanterns, but Ratchet, unaffected by the inhibitor, slipped his tentacles out of confinement and covered his teammates from harm. Zox, who had remained on the Lantern’s spaceship, opened fire on the army, and the force-field was destroyed. The Red Lanterns returned to normal and quickly defeated Gensui and his army. Sadly, the wounds that Ratchet sustained while protecting his team were fatal.
Before the brave Lantern died, Ratchet explained that although he had felt great rage, he really just wanted to connect with others. He found that connection with his teammates, and as he passed away, he called his fellow Red Lanterns his friends. Guy posited that Ratchet was unaffected by the neural-inhibitor because of his rage – not rage toward Gensui, but because his friends were going to be harmed. Ratchet’s red ring flew away from him, and Bleez followed it, as she thought that Ratchet would not have wanted a dangerous, new Red Lantern to engage in any senseless killing.
Though a Red Lantern, and therefore assumed villainous, Ratchet was proof that appearances can be deceiving. His loyalty to Atrocitus was not because he wanted to hurt others, but the former leader gave Ratchet a purpose and a family; in his heart, Ratchet was still a good person. His final act was to use his team to free a race of oppressed people, and though it cost him his life, he was successful. Although he was never given a large role until shortly before his death, the final story arc in which he appeared spoke volumes about what kind of character Ratchet truly was. He didn’t use the red ring of rage to exact vengeance on those who wronged him, he used the ring to find companions and happiness.
To my knowledge, Ratchet has never appeared outside of DC comics. However, plenty of rage still exists within the DC Universe, and comic book characters don’t often remain dead permanently. Is my hope that Ratchet gets resurrected, because there are still plenty of potential friends waiting to meet him.