Last month, DC and Geoff Johns introduced Simon Baz, Earth’s newest Emerald Warrior. For the most part, Green Lantern #0 was an intimate look at the life of an Arab-American man wrongly suspected of having committed a terrorist act. Baz was given real character flaws and a relatable backstory; his decisions are educated by his own experience. It was a bold decision to bench and replace Hal Jordan, the most popular Green Lantern ever, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t need to be done.
I love Green Lantern. It’s a fact. Nowadays, I can chalk up my original piqued interest to Kyle Rayner, the then-current GL when I started really getting interested in comics. Plus, I was a rabid doodler as a child, and Kyle’s deeply creative and ornate constructs made me see how a Green Lantern ring was the coolest tool in the known universe. While I love Green Lantern, Hal Jordan embarrasses me.
Maybe ‘embarrass’ is too strong a word—I find Hal to be unnecessary, overused, underdeveloped, and chronically egotistical. Geoff Johns did the GL name a favor in 2004 when he brought Hal Jordan back to life in Green Lantern: Rebirth. Not only was it going to be awesome to have one of the Silver Age’s best heroes back, but it meant that Hal now had to be written into the modern day and all the baggage that comes with it. Unfortunately, the years have not been kind to Hal Jordan, who’s been mostly used as a prop in Johns’ master plan concerning the Green Lantern universe. Because so much goes on in GL world so often, there has never been time for writers to give Hal any sort of personality—he’s perennially stuck in his 1970s persona, and that comes to the detriment of the characters in the narrative and the readers.
Simon Baz is already more interesting than Hal “I don’t have any real problems” Jordan. Though the Green Lantern ring helped him escape Guantanamo Bay last month (never thought I’d write that sentence), Baz is still on the run from the Feds. The same Feds who are now more keen than ever on locking Baz down. Even President Barrack Obama makes a quick cameo to inform Amanda Waller that a superpowered suspected terrorist is running loose in the world and how that’s unacceptable.
Geoff Johns has learned a lot from writing Hal Jordan over the years. With Simon Baz, Johns seems to be deliberately pacing the story, taking the time to better develop Baz before throwing him into the deep end of superhero work. And since Hal was simply going back to the status quo when he was resurrected, Baz’s tale more similarly reflects Kyle Rayner’s struggle to understand the vast power bestowed on him with little to no instruction as to how it works. First Kyle, and now Baz, have come into possession of their rings during times of huge turmoil for the Guardians of the Universe and the Green Lantern Corps. For Kyle, it was Parallax and his rampage that left the entire Corps and all the Guardians dead, while Baz has to deal with the Guardians going insane and attempting to eliminate the Green Lantern Corps with a frightening new army of hive-mind drones set to ravage the galaxy. Kindred souls, huh?
Thus far, Baz is a great character—he has a sense of morality and honor, he appreciates and respects his family, and he wants more than being a laid-off car factory worker. Baz and his sister meet this issue, and the conversation between them reveals how much Baz does just to atone for his past sins. It was Baz’s pridefulness and irresponsibility that hurt his sister badly. Of course, part of Baz’s character is his Arab-American heritage, something Johns is running with by writing in social commentary into these issues. In Green Lantern #0, there were obvious observations about the prisoner torture laws that exist for our military and how these laws aren’t always justified. This month, however, Johns takes a more personal approach to the situation when Baz’s sister, Sira, is laid off from her job simply because she’s Arab. It might come off as preachy, but it’s a reality hundreds of thousands of people deal with each and every day.
Where Hal Jordan had no family so to speak off, Simon Baz has a family that is at the forefront of his thoughts. Immediately after escaping incarceration, Baz seeks out his sister, if for nothing more than simple sibling comfort. He doesn’t know what to do with the ring (would you?) and he just wants help understanding what his life is going to be from now on. And while it would have been much easier to simply write the family members as helpful and well meaning, Sira not only (seemingly) stabs her brother in the back, but twists it before letting go, which sets up this month’s cliffhanger.
Green Lantern #13 may not be the first chapter in “Rise of the Third Army” that we were all expecting, but it’s an issue that deftly navigates a new character through a crucial time in his experience being a superhero. The manual for this situation has been thrown out the window, so it’s up to Baz to figure things out for himself, and that’s leading to engrossing, truly interesting stories about a man given a ring and no helping hands. At every turn, Baz is betrayed or hurt, and it’s starting to become apparent that his Green Lantern career may be based on this drive to make a stand against the betrayal.