Wow. So, is this issue doing what I think it’s doing or did I get some wildly misprinted issue? Please, correct me if I am wrong. I would love to be wrong about DC Comics going the suspected terrorist route with their big debut of am A-list Arab-American character. Because that would just be kind of awful.
Oh. That is what they’re doing here. Okay then.
Meet Simon Baz. For the record, he’s not a terrorist. He’s just a man of Arabic descent, but we’ve apparently not moved past the point where that still means terrorism. Suspected or otherwise. So, the story puts Simon in one hell of a coincidental situation that allows Geoff Johns to throw him in Gitmo and follow the terrorism track.
Are we still telling this story? I’ve already seen this dozens upon dozens of times in television, movies and books since 9/11. This may have been a noteworthy or interesting thing for DC to do several years ago, but at this point, it has been done to death. Actually, DC did this themselves in a more low-key and effective way just before the New 52 in the last couple of issues of Power Girl by Judd Winick. Now, it’s really just an offensive stereotype at this point. Maybe it always was. But today, there’s no redeeming value to be found in the endeavor.
The real shame here is that there really is something interesting to Simon Baz. A criminal getting chosen by a Green Lantern ring? That’s a great new slant on the concept that almost warrants the existence of a fifth human Green Lantern. Almost. It doesn’t really matter, though. Rather than flesh out that aspect, the terrorism angle drowns it out much like how Simon predictably gets waterboarded later in the story. Yeah, we have to endure the tired cliches of enhanced interrogations and everything. The issue even begins with 9/11 imagery. Seriously?
Okay. Let me try to get away from my major disappointment with the terrorism angle for a moment. There is more to the story. Not much more, but there is more to discuss. For instance, is there any need or room for a fifth human Green Lantern? Does Simon Baz bring enough that is new to the table? This issue doesn’t make much of a case for him. It’s too occupied with the mind-numbing terrorism business. There are signs where it seems like Johns is teasing the case for Simon’s ability to overcome fear and all that, but the story stops far short of actually getting into that much as it falls short of playing up the criminal element of the character. Obviously, Johns has room to flesh out Simon in future issues, but that really isn’t the point. This is the origin issue right here. It’s not supposed to be an origin story arc. This is the introduction, and I find myself not really having a good feel for Simon or why he would be chosen by that power ring.
And that’s not to mention that Simon isn’t simply the fifth human Green Lantern. He’s the fifth male American Green Lantern. Way to mix it up.
As I read this origin, the strange thing that crossed my mind is that this really shouldn’t be a Green Lantern origin. Like I said, it doesn’t do much of a job at establishing the fearless aspect of the character. But it goes beyond that. What does get established say something other than Green Lantern to me. The blue-collared nature of Simon’s past work at an auto plant. His skills as a driver. His current profession as a car thief. The strained and distasteful setup that puts him on the run from authorities.
Dude. Simon Baz should be the Flash. What’s he doing in green?
As for being a zero issue, this really isn’t. Geoff Johns being Geoff Johns, he gets to ignore whatever he wants at DC. He continued on like the New 52 relaunch never happened, and here, he continues on with his story like this is issue #13 instead of a zero issue. It’s almost a shame too. I know Johns already got to do his retelling of Hal Jordan’s issue with the Secret Origin arc a couple years back, but a little Abin Sur adventure would have been cool, especially with recent revelations about him.
I do wish I had better to say about this issue of Green Lantern. It fails as a zero issue by virtue of it not even trying to be one. The potential of Simon Baz is buried under a suspected terrorist angle that really makes no attempt to be unique from the billion other times this has been done. That’s without even factoring in how disappointing it is for DC to link their high profile Arab-American character to terrorism at all. What little of the character is allowed to shine through does little to justify him as a new Green Lantern in a cast of Green Lanterns that is already too overcrowded in the context of the New 52. Aside from some quality art by Doug Mahnke, this issue falls short in every respect.