STORY: Geoff Johns
ART: Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy
I’ve been critical of Green Lantern as of late. Since DC’s relaunch, my favorite franchise has been swimming around, unable to focus on a path for Hal Jordan or Sinestro, the two main characters who should have a clear-cut direction more than any of the other Lanterns out there. And I still stand by my convictions; Geoff Johns has obviously been building toward “Rise of the Third Army” for a while, and in that set-up, he focused so much on the forest that he forgot to take care of the individual trees. Last week’s Green Lantern Annual #1 and this week’s Green Lantern #0 are a return to form for Johns on this series, as he employs the invigorating, character-driven storytelling that’s so ample over in Aquaman month after month. Green Lantern #0 focuses entirely on Simon Baz, the newest member of the Green Lantern Corps – or is he? In truth, the exact basis of his enlistment isn’t exactly clear, but that’s not really what this issue is about. Indeed, Johns takes his time this ‘Issue Zero’ to flesh out his newest Emerald Warrior before he ever receives the ring.
Baz is an Arab-American who grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, has two siblings, and whose life was turned upside down after the events of September 11, 2001. Fast-forward to the present, and we jump in with Baz in hot pursuit by the police after stealing a van, which he realizes has a massive bomb set to go off in less than a minute. He survives the bomb, but gets detained by the Department of Homeland Security. It’s a lengthy process – the suspected terrorist situation – that Johns mirrors by the amount of time he spends with Baz’s interrogation. Johns obviously has some opinions about the federal government’s treatment of only suspected terrorists, and it’s refreshing to see this expressed in a way that doesn’t necessarily demonize the government as much as it questions the way our Defense Department operates. During his questioning, it’s revealed that Baz worked at the decommissioned car factory that blew up when he drove the stolen van into the loading dock. At first, the significance of the location isn’t even hinted at. Baz is asked why he decided to blow up his old place of work. He’s asked if he has a vendetta against the United States. He’s asked who instructed him to blow up a car factory. The entire scene is poignant and cuts deep to the heart of the discrimination and fear that overwhelms out country and by proxy, our government.
It’s only when he’s about to be literally tortured that the ring finds it’s newest keeper. Baz breaks free of his captors grip and nearly escapes before having a gun pointed at his face. “Simon Baz of Earth,” the ring explains, “You have the — ERROR — ability to overcome great fear.” One simple word changes the nature of Baz and his identity as a Green Lantern forever. The ring’s simple error – that originated when Hal and Sinestro were literally murdered in Annual #1, and Hal’s construct ring remerged with Sinestro’s ring – could have one of a hundred meanings. It could be that Baz isn’t connected to the Green Lantern Central battery; it could mean the Guardian’s don’t know he exists; Baz could be the most powerful Green Lantern there is. It’s been quite a long time since Green Lantern was this engaging and visceral.
Already, Johns has established Simon Baz as one of the coolest new characters to hit DC’s ‘New 52’ since it began. Some might say that the newest Green Lantern hasn’t had enough page time to warrant a decision on his fate. But seriously, he’s freaking awesome.