Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Green Lantern 15, originally released January 23rd, 2013. This issue is part of the Rise of the Third Army crossover event. Click here for complete Third Army coverage.
Patrick: At the beginning of this issue, Simon Baz takes a thorough tongue-lashing from (adorable) veteran Lantern B’dg. The little guy is all about the accusatory questions: “Who are you?” “Where’s your lantern?” and, my personal favorite:
But Baz isn’t bad; he’s just new to the position. Everything from fighting bad guys to trusting his powers to meeting the Justice League is new to him. And in a medium so caught up in what is old — and especially caught up in the task of making old things new again — it’s interesting to see what such a fresh character is capable of.
After they’re clear of danger, Baz abandons Agent Fed — and thus abandons any chance at clearing his name — in order to seek out all-important Answers. Baz and B’dg wind up at the Coast City Cemetery, where they’re able to retrieve two things: 1) Baz’ lantern, which triggers the twin “help me Obiwan Kenobi” messages in Baz’ ring, and 2) The Book of the Black, which B’dg tucks nicely in his purse for safe-keeping. Both Holo-Hal and Holo-Sinestro urge the new ring bearer to Stop the Guardians, each offering their most trusted friend in the universe – Carol Ferris and Arkillo respectively.
But before any of that outerspace junk can happen, Baz stops by his brother-in-law’s hospital room and uses the Green Lantern ring to bring him out of his coma – a feat B’dg had claimed (and continues to claim even after it happened) was impossible. Okay, now it’s time for space adventure? NOPE. The volume on the TV gets cranked up like 50 notches, and our heroes hear that Guy Gardner is in trouble. So, we’ll get to outerspace eventually, by way of Baltimore.
When we first met Simon Baz in September, I made the claim that he is was a modern Green Lantern – there to replace the outdated models that seemed to spring from a world that doesn’t really exist anymore. Baz is a product of his time and culture, all of which exist right now and in real life. This is all still true, but I left out an important part of his character – this identity is new. And I mean that holistically: save the logo on his chest and the ring on his finger, there’s nothing old fashioned about Baz, inside or outside the narrative. The ideas get a little more abstract — and quite a bit more sensitive — so bear with me.
First, there’s the issue of Baz’ race and religion. Take a look around the American-entertainment-landscape and you will see devastatingly few people like Baz. Unless of course, they’re terrorists. I read a lot of criticism of this character when he came on the scene that it was racist for Johns to take the story of a Lebanese Muslim living in Michigan in a post-9/11 world and immediately introduce DHS agents that suspect him of being a terrorist. But that’s not who the character is, that’s what the world he lives in is. Further, we see in this issue that Baz isn’t going to let suspicions that he’s a terrorist define him – it is decidedly not the story that Simon Baz is interested in taking part in.
Also, do you realize it’s been almost 20 years since Kyle Rayner was introduced? That means there hasn’t been a new Green Lantern from Space Sector 2814 since 1994. So even though we razz Geoff Johns for creating YET OTHER Earth Green Lantern, it’s actually been kind of a while since the last.
But the newness that excites me the most is the in-narrative newness. Baz has never been trained in ring-slingin’, and B’dg is too darned busy being adorable to provide him with proper instruction. Rather than making him a terrible Green Lantern, it means he doesn’t have to adhere to the Green Lantern rules. Green Lantern rings can’t heal people? Baz just made it heal someone. Green Lanterns revile Sinestro? Baz isn’t so keen to drink that kool-aid. Green Lanterns have urgent business fighting an undead army in space? Cool, Baz will be right there – he’s just got to stop in and say hi to family first. Green Lanterns don’t carry extra weapons?
Johns is crafting this wonderful outsider persona, that will fit nicely among the other weirdos in Justice League of America.
But that’s most of what this title has become in the last 5 months: an introduction to Simon Baz. There are occasional cutaways to Guardians rubbing their hands together and laughing maniacally, or Hal and Sinestro holding hands and skipping through limbo like old pals, but this story arc is all about Baz. Johns has a history of aggressively cutting between discrete groups of characters, but that’s largely been missing from this run. Tellingly, nearly every panel in this issue contains Baz’ face – it’s only in the epilogue that we leave him. But check it out: there’s never any Baz voiceover narration. The classic crutch for getting to know your superhero is totally absent. It is a patient introduction of this character, and all of his personality traits are conveyed through his actions. I may find myself asking when they’re going to get to the fireworks factory because we’ve seen so very little little of the Third Army (this is where we were supposed to show up if we wanted to see the Third Army, right?), but at the end of the day, this kind of character study has more lasting value.
The notes at the end of the issue inform me that we’ll be following Baz into Green Lantern Corps 16 and now, with this exhaustive groundwork laid before us here, I’m ready to see the man in action.
Shelby, I got caught up in a couple layers of abstraction here, so I neglected to mention… basically everything that isn’t Baz. Hey, how about B’dg? He’s fucking weird, right? Is it too goofy to you that he can talk to squirrels? How about Baz getting frustrated at the two messages playing and one time and demanding that the “good guy” goes first? Or, if you’re feeling up to it, how about Tomar-Re making a Dead-Zone cameo?
Shelby: If the only thing we get out of this whole Green Lantern event is Simon Baz, then it’s worth it. I love everything you have to say about Baz as a truly new character for this universe. His problems are problems we recognize in the world around us, and you all know how much I love comic books with characters I can relate to in a realistic way. I think the most realistic thing about Baz is the gun. You and I know a Green Lantern doesn’t need a gun; hell, John makes gun constructs all the time. Baz has every weapon at his disposal, as well as a Lantern to charge his ring with hiding where he can get it at almost any time, but he doesn’t trust it, doesn’t believe it. You know why? Because it doesn’t make any sense. If a talking squirrel told me I didn’t need to bring a gun with me, I’d say, “sure thing, sweetheart” in the most patronizing way possible while checking the safety was on before holstering every gun I could get my hands on.
I find I forget about everything else happening in this universe. Oh yeah, the Third Army. Right, Hal and Sinestro are trapped in the Dead Zone. First Lantern, sure thing. All I want to know is how is Baz getting on? I think this is the Geoff Johns book I am most enjoying right now, and it’s because of what he’s done with Baz. Johns has become known as “the man with the big ideas” around the non-existent Retcon Punch offices for his huge events and epic, cinematic story arcs. It’s easy to forget that Johns has done some great character work; both the Hal and Barry Rebirth stories made me love both of those characters. I’m looking forward to all these events and arcs and minis finishing up, so Johns can sit back and build on this complex and contemporary character he’s created, and I can reap the rewards.
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?