Today, Mikyzptlk and Drew are discussing Green Lantern 14, originally released November 7th, 2012. This issue is part of the Rise of the Third Army crossover event. Click here for complete Third Army coverage.
Mikyzptlk: Simon Baz is so fucking real I JUST LOVE IT. He just seems like such an authentic character to me. I barely just met the guy but I’m already convinced of his motivations and his heroism. Much of this has to do with how well Baz’s background has been set up by the series writer, Geoff Johns.
We know exactly where Baz is coming from as a character and that that place is one of struggle. Beyond that though, Baz is just so damned straightforward and honest with everything he does, even when those things aren’t the most honest. When he was caught by the feds, he sat down and simply told them what happened. Even though he was caught red handed, he didn’t have to do that. He could have concocted some ridiculous lie in a vain attempt to hide the truth or he could have said absolutely nothing. Instead, he recognized the situation that he was in and just naturally came out with the truth. Okay, so he may have only told his sister, Sira, about the whole car thief thing AFTER he was caught, but at least he was doing it for the noble reason of giving financial support to his sister. However, you get the impression that he’s normally really open with her about everything based on what she says in issue 13.
We know that Baz feels guilty over what happened to his brother-in-law and that he’s been trying to make it up to his sister ever since. Even before he became GL, this character had a clear motivation that we all understood. Protagonists with clear motivations that the audience can understand and even support often make for a successful story. While I feel that Johns has succeeded greatly with Baz in that respect, I’m not so sure about the guest stars of this issue.
Before I get into that, let’s sum up the issue. It opens with the Guardians discussing recent events. They are pleased and confident that in a short time their Third Army will overtake the universe. Back on Earth, Baz has just been confronted by the Justice League. Things go pretty smoothly at first, but quickly escalate, leading to Baz making a break for it. Baz meets up with Sira and she says that she is proud of Baz for doing the right thing by looking out for the safety of others first. She gives him the address of the man that owned the van that Baz stole in the ZERO issue and he’s off. Back in deep space, the spiffily dressed Guardians discuss means of escape while over in the next room Black Hand commands the recently slain Reegal to RISE. Reegal explains some stuff that we’ve pretty much figured out for ourselves at this point so I won’t bother going into that here. Back in the land of the dead, Hal and Sinestro meet a mysterious, hooded figure who proclaims that Sinestro must pay for his crimes. Must be a pretty hefty fee.
Okay, so clearly there’s a lot going on in this issue. Overall, I think all of the separate plots are handled pretty well but what stuck out to me the most in this issue is our newest protagonist, Simon Baz. Take his confrontation with the League. He doesn’t even bother trying to take them on! Just like when he was imprisoned by the feds, he recognizes the situation that he’s in and he just naturally starts spouting out what he sees to be the truth. He knows that he can’t possibly take them on and he admits it. I really love Superman’s expression in this scene too, even HE can’t believe how honest this guy is being! Thanks goes to artist, Doug Mahnke. His art may be sloppy at times but it’s actually grown on me through the years due to scenes like this.
When I first read this scene, I assumed that Johns was going to play on our expectations of the old superhero cliche of heroes immediately getting into fist fights as soon as they first meet. Here, even though this scene does eventually lead to a confrontation, it’s written in a much more reasonable way…at least on the part of Baz. The reason I say that is because I’m not sure if I’m entirely convinced by how the Justice League reacts to Baz. Initially, they are suspicious, which is completely understandable considering this guy is wanted and all. My problem with how the League handled this confrontation is that Baz seemed to be pretty cooperative from the outset. In fact, everyone is pretty civil with one another even if they are on their guard. The problems begin when the League tries to remove Baz’s ring and they accidentally set of an alarm of sorts. This was completely out of Baz’s control but the Justice League immediately begins to go after him. I think this is a pretty hasty move on the part of the League, but hey, it’s a tense situation so I’m more willing to forgive this. What I’m not willing to forgive is the following scene.
Here we have the Flash telling Baz that he needs to think things through when he’s just COMPLETELY ignored Baz’s clearly heroic intentions. Why doesn’t the Flash think Baz’s explanation through? Overall, I don’t think that Johns does a terrible job with the Leagues characterization here as there were a few good moments, but they were easily the weakest part of this issue.
So what did you think Drew? Were you as troubled with the Justice League as I was and did it hurt your enjoyment of this issue? I didn’t go into this but what about the First Lantern? Those were some pretty interesting revelations no?
Drew: It’s interesting: I actually enjoyed the Justice League scene, mostly for how it contrasted the similar fight scene in Justice League 2. Granted, Superman (and the Leauge in general) is a much more well-known entity here than in the “five years ago” setting of those early Justice League issues, and the situations are largely different, but I appreciated how differently Simon approached the conflict than Hal did. I was particularly fond of Simon’s on-the-spot ploy to make dozens of identical car constructs to stymie Flash and Superman.
“Tricky” and “Smart” are not words we always associate with Hal Jordan, and I love that Simon is being characterized so differently. Watching Superman bust through more ring constructs wouldn’t have been particularly exciting, but seeing the ring deployed in new ways made for a great sequence.
Do we go from talking to chasing too quickly? Maybe, but as far as they know, Simon intentionally blew up that building, and now has one of the most powerful weapons in the universe. As Batman notes: Lanterns aren’t chosen for any heroic quality other than courage. Given the situation, I think their “pacify first, ask questions later” approach is totally warranted. Simon’s escape only makes him look guilty (as Flash helpfully points out), but he’s right to fear being detained once again with no lawyer, or really any basic human rights. It’s a situation where everyone’s actions make sense, largely because nobody has the full story. It’s a very relatable explanation for how misunderstandings can get out of hand quickly when everyone is making assumptions.
The larger lantern mythology stuff kind of left me cold. The more Johns explores the Guardian’s motives, the less they make any sense. For hyper-logical beings, you think they’d have a more compelling reason to brainwash/zombify every living thing in the universe than simply “we want it.” I get it: they favor “order” over “disorder” (terms which are never defined beyond their incredibly subjective nature), but why do they favor zombified life over death? Why is this solution better than simply re-releasing the Manhunters with the directive to kill everything? If they then wanted to repopulate the universe with Third Army soldiers, they could, but I’m not sure why they would. Their problem is that there is probably disorder happening somewhere in the universe that they can’t see, and they want to root it out because it bothers them, which is again incredibly subjective. In short, I don’t buy their motivations or their actions, so this whole event is kind of a hard pill for me to swallow.
I’m much more interested in what’s going on in the Chamber of Shadows with the Guardians and Black Hand. The very thought of the Guardian’s creating a prison so strong even they couldn’t beak out of it has a kind of charming, stoned-at-2-am faux-profundity that I can’t help but be entertained by. I’m sure they’ll all play a key role in the event, but I have no idea how they’ll get out, or when they’ll show up.
Ultimately, Mik, I think we agree on the main strength of this issue: Simon Baz. His characterization is so distinct and strong, it’s impossible to not root for him. He’s distinctly heroic, but unlike any of the other Green Lanterns out there (or not). I think the issue struggles when the focus drifts away from Simon — making it a shame that he was introduced in the midst of a mythology-heavy crossover event — but there’s enough intrigue to keep the momentum going. It’s telling that I’m more interested in who owned that van than I am in the machinations of the Guardians, but it’s also impressive that Johns could craft a character so lovingly in the midst of this event. I’m excited to see how it all comes together in the coming months.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?