Green Lantern 0

Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Green Lantern 0, originally released September 5, 2012. Green Lantern 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.

Patrick: John Stewart was a member of the United States Marine Corps, but he’s never been trained in counter-insurgency. Kyle Rayner was an artist, but he’s never done freelance work designing a website. Hal Jordan was a test pilot and just like the early astronauts, he wowed the world with his bravery in the face of the unknown. Whatever the relaunch did accomplish, it utterly failed to update the Green Lanterns of 2814. None of them are creatures of the 21st century. And it is in that spirit that we meet the newest Green Lantern: a middle-eastern born American citizen, who grew up in a post-September 11th America and who was laid off when his Dearborn, Michigan automotive manufacturer shut down in the economic collapse. Simon Baz is interesting less because he’s new and more because he’s current.

Simon’s out one night, stealing cars — because that’s what he’s been reduced to — when he discovers an armed and ticking bomb in the back of his most recent score. The police chase after him (it is a stolen vehicle, after all) and Simon knows all too well what it looks like as he’s speeding around with a bomb in the back of his van. Plus, that timer is ticking down with a persistent little beep. So he makes for the now-abandoned factory that once employed him so the bomb can go off with as little death and damage possible. But then the cops pick him up.

Three days later and it’s clear Simon’s no longer in police custody. A pair of federal agents interrogate Simon, insisting that he’s withholding crucial information about his terrorist plot to detonate a bomb on American soil. Things are about to get ugly (like water-boarding-ugly) when a particularly spazzy Green Lantern ring bursts through the walls and selects Simon Baz as its new bearer. The freshly minted Green Lantern escapes and the agents place a call to Amanda Waller. Cyborg and Batman intercept the call and start to wonder “hey, yeah, has anyone talked to Green Lantern lately?”

Leave it to good ol’ Geoff Johns to sort of ignore his own publisher-mandate for zero issues. This is effectively “Simon Baz: Secret Origin.” Generally, I’m pretty down on origins, but I love the ultra-modern factors that go into this origin story. It is remarkable how effectively the first two pages of this issue tell the story of growing up in world suddenly imbued with a fresh new breed of institutionalized racism. That first page in particular, where the Baz family watches the attack on the World Trade Center play out on their TV, is particularly effective. Perhaps it’s more testament to the power of the images of that day – I know they’re seared into my memory. With a heavier hand, the sequence could have been disastrous, but the page is presented without dialogue, the setting identified only as “Dearborn, Michigan. Then.” and a single image of the Twin Towers reflected in young Simon’s eyes.

So not only is Simon Baz poised to be a different kind of Green Lantern, he’s also going to be wearing a different kind of Green Lantern ring. We saw at the end of the Green Lantern Annual that Hal and Sinestro’s rings didn’t successfully merge before zooming off to find a new bearer. When the ring finds Baz, it’s still flipping out – zigging and zagging around the room and even interrupting its introduction spiel to announce “ERROR!”

It feels like it’s way too early to make any judgments about this character, or what his introduction means to the Green Lantern universe. I’m expecting most of the zeroes to charm me with stories from the past, but Green Lantern has no time for such diversions – we got a damn epic to tell. Which is actually sort of awesome. As a fan of Geoff Johns’ complete run on Green Lantern, I’ve seen a lot of Hal’s history – both his early days of ring slinging and his youth. Simon brings a freshness to the franchise that I welcome with open arms.

And that’s not to say that everything here is perfect. The agents spend a little too long just sort of talking about who Simon Baz is in the interrogation room for my liking. We get some clarification on his relationship with his sister’s family and  hints that he’s semi-responsible for his brother-in-law’s death, but a lot of that information is more touchingly teased when he calls his sister when he’s evading the cops. The one thing the interrogation does well is show that Simon’s a smart guy, compassionate guy… who also steals cars. Look, nobody’s perfect alright?

What’d you think Shelby? Has Simon done enough to make you forget about Hal and Sinestro for a damn second? OH SPEAKING OF – there’s a single-page epilogue to this issue that serves no other purpose that to assure you that Johns hasn’t forgotten about them. No idea what to make of that – though you gotta love the Charlie Pace “Guys, where are we?” moment.

Shelby: The title of this issue is “The New Normal,” and I was really struck by how quickly that title slams this new Lantern home. We are one of the last generations to remember before 9/11, one of the last generations to know what used to pass for normal; you didn’t have to arrive at the airport 2 hours early and your family could walk you to your gate, you didn’t worry that every unattended backpack was a literal disaster waiting to happen, and Arab-American citizens didn’t have to worry nearly as much about people being afraid to sit next to them on a bus. You know me, I love plausible superheroes; I want to be able to read a book and not only understand, but believe the world it’s set in. A grounded, realistic setting can give us more relateable characters, as well as make their fantastic feats that much more fantastic. Plus, I’m still a dumb kid at heart, I want to believe in magic and powers and heroes and monsters. What Johns has done with his simple introduction of Simon Baz is very elegantly brought Green Lantern into our lives, our REAL lives. I look forward to seeing how this new character, with his new normal that we all now live in, will affect the fantastic, alien-ridden, universe-destroying reality of the Green Lantern world. And if there is anyone who is not going to take any shit from the Guardians, it’s this guy.

I was also really impressed by the work Doug Mahnke did on the art in this issue. Patrick, you already brought up that incredibly powerful and simple panel of the Baz family; what really got me were Mahnke’s preference for narrow, tight close-ups in his panels. My favorite is this one of Simon simply looking at the police (and really, out at us), as the abandoned factory he accidentally car-bombed burns behind him.

The acting in that bottom panel is superb, especially considering how little Mahnke has to work with. With just Baz’s eyes, we see sadness, regret, resignation, all in that skinny little panel. Not only is all this emotion pouring out, it’s pouring out directly at us, the reader. Baz, this character so grounded in our reality, is sharing these emotions at us, involving us in his story. I did forget about Hal and Sinestro for a second, until I saw Sinestro in his clown suit trapped somewhere that is probably related to the Black Lanterns somehow.

Johns and Mahnke have done something really special with this issue. Green Lantern has been clipping along at a fairly quick pace these last few issues, but this issue still managed to kick things into a higher gear, as well as breathe new life into the franchise. I look forward to seeing how this changes not only the Green Lantern universe, but possibly the way writers and artists approach their characters across the DCU. This could kick off our very own new normal.
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?

22 comments on “Green Lantern 0

  1. There’s a lot to like in this issue. Baz’s past is laid out with remarkable efficiency in just two pages. I haven’t always been the biggest Mahnke fan, but the art here is just so good. I wonder if Baz’s story means more to me because of my familiarity with Dearborn. “Laid-off auto worker” and “Arab-American” are two key demographics in Dearborn, but because the place is so real to me, mashing them together doesn’t feel exploitative at all. I’m curious how non-Metro Detroiters felt about Baz’s back story.

    • I loved his backstory. Far from exploitative, I thought it was rather empathetic. I feel juvenile that it took a comic book to make me realize this ‘side of the story’ but I haven’t seen a better protrayal of the difficulties of growing up post 9/11 than presented in those first two pages. The car theif bit can be faulted by critics I’m sure but the more important thing will be what is done with the character moving on.

    • Drew, you and I talked a lot of exploitative origin stories when we used to write about Batwing. Could we have an African Batman that isn’t a former child soldier and AIDS-orphan? Sure we could – and it presents a weird view of the world that David Zavimbe plays to all those African stereotypes. Could we have an Arab-American Green Lantern that hasn’t been persecuted for his race and religion? I don’t think we can. That’s part of that racial and religious identity now. The book doesn’t make the claim that all Arabs are terrorists, just that that is an assumption they have to work against. Unfortunately, that’s totally true. Therefore Baz > Zavimbe.

      • I definitely agree, but just because something is true doesn’t make it not exploitative. The only glimpses we get of Baz’s past revolve around racial profiling, which strikes me as reductionist. Of course any character introductions done over two pages is going to be reductionist, but my question is: do we get more than just a stereotype from this introduction? I’d argue “yes,” but I could totally see someone disagreeing.

  2. What do you all make of the exchange between the agents? It is nice to see something other than a nameless fed brought in strictly to play the designated agent role, but I felt like these agents had a little too much personality. I couldn’t bring myself to care that this guy didn’t want to torture Baz and wasn’t interested in what he had done in his past. Initially I doubted that those characters were ever going to be seen again but I wonder if he will develop into an analog of Hal’s mechanic friend Tom.

    • With Fed working for Amanda Waller, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him again in the future. Him showing sympathy (kinda) for Baz but working for someone who seems very interested in bringing down superheroes makes for some really interesting future interactions.

      • I was just rereading GL 0 and I can’t agree with you two more. I can already see the scene play out in my head where (after many successful solo and JLA missions) Fed finally finds out that Baz is Green Lantern. Baz stares into Fed’s eyes waiting for a reaction but then Fed just walks away saying something like “Good job out there Lantern, better get some rest” or something along those lines. These two characters could eventually have a similar relationship to that of James Gordon and Batman. Gordon knows that if he ever found out that Bruce Wayne was Batman that he’d technically have to arrest Bruce, but he also knows that he could never bring himself to do it.

        • It certainly would be nice to see a more Earth-bound Green Lantern. Sure, I like all the outer-space nonsense, but there’s so seldom a reason for a GL to stick around on the planet. Remember how Hal just up and leaves the JL because “most of [his] work is off-planet anyway?”

        • Yup. This wasn’t always the case either. Kyle used to spend a lot of time on Earth before he got all emo and left Earth to get some *cough* space. Hal used to spend more time on Earth in his early days too. I forget where I read this but someone suggested that when Hal returns we’ll see him stay on Earth with Baz more while the other Earth Lanterns will stay stationed in space. I like that setup and their are certainly enough GL books to support these characters at this point.

        • Given Green Lantern Corps 1, I can’t really see John or Guy even wanting to return to Earth, so that totally makes sense. Hal has Carol, and Baz has his sister, but none of the other Lanterns seem to have much of an anchor on Earth to return to.

        • Exactly, John and Guy really seem to have lost any connection they may have once had on Earth. I’d say the same for Kyle but if you read Blue Beetle you would’ve seen that he still has an apartment on Earth! We’ve seen what happened to Hal in GL this year when he lost his apartment because he didn’t pay. But somehow Kyle manages to keep his. Bedard is no stranger to the GL universe so I imagine he was trying to say something about Kyle with this. How does Kyle make any money to keep up with rent? Does he go back to Earth more often than we think and do some freelance work on the side? Aaand there I go again looking way to much into things!

        • Well, I guess Fed already knows since he saw him get the ring. Or does he know? I’m just wondering what is the point of a full mask if the feds know he’s the new GL. I suppose they could put up wanted posters for him? But since he’s on a gov’t sponsored League maybe they just work things out?

        • Right, but Earth’s seen its fair share of Green Lanterns. Hal and Kyle’s identities are both unknown on Earth right? My point is, he might know that Bas is a new GL, but if you look to upcoming solicits, it looks like we’re heading into a 5-Green-Lanterns-of-2814 scenario.

          Or maybe still will end up being a sort of Batwoman-esque scenario where the government agency knows who the hero is and uses that information to blackmailing them in to working for the agency. Though, I hope not – I don’t like Batwoman working under the thumb of the DEO.

        • It could definitely end up that way. I just think our new GL is asking for trouble by working for the gov’t while being wanted by it at the same time. If it goes down that way.

  3. I said last week that I was officially excited for this character because he would have characteristics of both Hal AND Sinestro. And I think this issue shows that beautifully as Simon is clearly very mournful of his actions and realizes there are lines that he’s crossing but at the end of the day is still willing to do something illegal for the greater good of his family. I cant wait to read more!

    • It’s interesting how Hal’s brand of cocky impulsiveness is treated when it’s manifested in an Arab-American. Whenever Hal damages property, people kind of laugh and roll their eyes (and he usually manages to keep his job), but when Baz does it, it’s a matter for Homeland Security.

      • That could be one of Johns’ talking points with this character. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got into the thick of things with this character as he’s started off so strongly. I can’t believe how stoked I already am to see more of this character and to see what Johns chooses to explore with the obvious themes he has at his disposal.

        I am a such a big fan of Johns but I haven’t been nearly as thrilled with most of his New 52 projects as I am with GL. I have a feeling that I’ll be able to the same thing for JLA when that comes out considering that it will star Baz and his other creation, Stargirl, a character also very close to Johns’ heart.

  4. I’m all over this new GL, I think it was a terrific origin issue. First off, I guess we know why he wears the mask now – he’s most likely going to be on the FBI’s Most Wanted list as an “escaped terrorist” after these events, right? Second, without ever having been to Detroit, just knowing how much of this stuff comes from Johns’ own background makes the city feel alive for me… in the same way that I appreciate how American Werewolf In London was really shot in English countrycides and cityscapes, or how JAWS was shot on the actual ocean and not in a backlot… it just feels authentic to me. Baz also gives me something of a vibe that I relate to the Nicholas Winding Refn movie Driver, a cool and relatable professional criminal that I have definite empathy for. Here’s my big question: If he’s a merger of the qualities of both Hal and Sinestro, did he get their BEST qualities? And if so, will this make him the NEW greatest GL of all time? I mean that’s some series gene-pooling there.

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