Empathy Overpowered by Patriarchal Vengeance in Green Lanterns 31

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz travel ten billion years into the past are integrated into the foundational Green Lantern myth. They are “important” in every conceivable sense of the word. And while they achieve that import through battle and victory and all the usual superhero hullabaloo, it’s Jessica Cruz’ skills coping with overwhelming emotions and mental illness that earn them a place in the Green Lantern history books… or, it would if her empathy weren’t so easily overwritten by a history that refuses to change.

The best part about this is that writer Sam Humphries doesn’t give Cruz any kind of superhuman empathetic powers, but draws her strength from her own experiences struggling with anxiety. Everyone else is swinging construct-swords and throwing construct-cars and creating inescapable construct-chains, but Cruz subdues Volthoom by simply listening to him and encouraging him.

Of course, this kind of empathetic resolution in short lived with the little blue maniacs on the scene. The Guardians of the Universe storm in and enact their historically mandated 10,000,000 years of imprisonment and torture. Before they do, however, Volthoom takes mercy on the only person who ever heard him out (and her friend) and uses whatever Travel Lantern juice is left to spirit Jessica and Simon back to the present day Vault of Shadows. It’s no big surprise that the future hasn’t changed, and I can’t help but feel that twinge of longing for the world exemplified by Jessica Cruz.

The Guardians of the Universe has always been a handy stand-in for whatever tone-deaf and out-of-touch power structure the writer wants to criticize. It’s hard not to read the Guardians as aggressively patriarchal in this issue, as they insist on a history driven by vengeance rather than understanding. I hate that we have to gender something like “empathy,” but it’s true that the Guardian’s actions read as more traditionally masculine, and the opposite is enacted by a woman. We can carry that read back into the present, when Rami puts his utmost faith in Tyran’r to steal back the remaining five original rings, despite the fact that he’s 10,000,000 years out of practice.

In the end, Simon and Jessica are maybe just too excited to return to their status quo to consider the Guardians’ misuse of power. I mean, fighting injustice is one thing, but pancakes? Pancakes are another thing entirely.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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