I expressed my cautious optimism for the new Green Lantern, Simon Baz, when I reviewed Green Lantern #0 three months ago and I can now assuredly say that his arc has gone off the rails. Structurally, Green Lantern #0 had a much tighter focus but Green Lantern #15 is cluster-bombed and offensive wreck of comic book. Allow me to make this clear, I like Simon Baz. I like that he is trying to capture the terrorist that planted the bomb in the van he stole, even when a fugitive on the run from both the federal authorities and the Justice League. However, one revelation irreversibly soured me on this arc. The terrorist that “set” Simon up? He is a white male and presumably a survivalist or part of a militia judging by the arsenal in said terrorist’s basement and the “an American hero” comment he makes in the issue is equally frustrating.
Before anyone accuses my statements as racist, that is not my intent. My issue with this comic book is that it reinforces “us vs. them” mentality I see in today’s race relations. European males maintained a political and cultural hegemony for centuries, I get it; I know that there are more than enough homegrown terrorists in Middle America as evidenced by Adam Lanza’s killing spree in the recent Newtown tragedy. Geoff Johns scraped the bottom of the bottom of the barrel when he used the “angry racist white man” stereotype in Green Lantern #15 and it shows. Personally, I was hoping that the terrorist(s) in this issue were Muslim Arabs. Not because I believe all Muslims and Arabs are terrorists but because I believe that Johns wasted an opportunity to rise above petty politics and show Simon Baz as the hero he can be.
Martin Luther King Jr. said nearly a half century ago, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” My main issue with the “us vs. them” mentality is that it leaves no room for the subtle grays in between. There is good and bad in every human regardless of race, ethnicity, or creed and it is through our decisions where reveal the true content of our character. While Simon Baz is a car thief, he also cares deeply for his family, feels a deep sense of responsibility over his mistakes, and places the safety of others over his own needs. Had the terrorists he was searching for been Arab-American, I believe that his better traits would have shone through his skin color and he would have risen above the negative stereotypes associated with his community. However, Johns chose the intellectually lazy route that I see has grown prevalent in mainstream American culture. Just like one cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong, one cannot valorize a minority by demonizing the majority. I find it unproductive in any meaningful dialogue.
The lack of focus in Green Lantern #15 only exacerbates the problems I see in this issue. In addition to the Simon Baz arc, there is also the Hal Jordan/Sinestro subplot and the subplot involving the Guardians of the Universe and the First Lantern, which do not receive much attention because only so much plot can fit in twenty-two pages. With the supposedly cosmic scope of Green Lantern and the Guardians’ scheme to extinguish free will in the universe, Simon Baz’s storyline feels forced and extraneous to the Rise of the Third Army “event.” That is also my biggest problem with Green Lantern and its sister titles, everything feels like a build-up to the next intra-line event. In the span of five years there was Sinestro Corps, Blackest Night, Brightest Day, War of the Green Lanterns, and now Rise of the Third Army, which feels like the build-up for the next big crossover. Personally, I have had enough of this nonsense, Green Lantern is not enjoyable as it was earlier in Geoff Johns’ run and it has gotten formulaic to the point of repetition, the race/ethnic relations undertones make it insulting.
In some ways, I believe the drop in quality is endemic to what I see in the New 52 (and the Marvel Now initiative to a lesser degree.) Despite, the repeated claims that this reboot is a “fresh” new start to the DC Universe, most of it is stale as week-old bread and buildup to Trinity War feels like the same intra-company crossover, but that is another rant for another day.