So here’s the debut of DC’s latest Green Lantern, Simon Baz. We meet him on September 11, 2001, a young boy watching the Twin Towers atrocity on TV with his family. As the years pass, we see the climate of suspicion facing Arab Americans. And then it’s today, and Simon has stolen a van and is being pursued by police. That’s when he notices that there’s a timer counting down … the vehicle contains a bomb.
He manages to steer the van to a deserted factory and leaps out before the explosion. Arrested and sent to Guantanamo Bay as a terror suspect, he’s fighting back against an interrogator’s brutal assault when a Green Lantern ring appears, declares Simon to have the ability to overcome great fear, zaps him with green energy and whisks him away, unconscious.
This puts Simon on the radar of the Justice League, Amanda Waller and some blue monster. As Simon sleeps on a beach, his ring glows with a message. And out in space, Green Lanterns Sinestro and Hal Jordan are lost.
As this is his first appearance, it’s tough to assess what kind of a man Simon is – brave, certainly, given his resistance at Guantanamo (he has the word ‘courage’ tattooed on his arm, perhaps to inspire him). And he loves his family. But stealing motor vehicles? He’s not mugging anyone, but every crime leaves a victim; unless the GL rings are as twisted as the current version of the Guardians of the Universe, why pick Simon as a member of their intergalactic police force? Courage is good, but shouldn’t honesty – or, giving Simon the benefit of the doubt, good judgment – be a given?
This issue also introduces us to someone I’m guessing is a new character, Agent Fed, a name Simon properly notes as tautological – as a sub-editor by day, that rather endears him to me. Fed is in Amanda Waller’s favour, and his son died on 9/11, according to his obnoxious younger boss, Crippen (oh please!). There’s also Luis the torturer, who may wind up the first person to feel the glowing green fist of the latest Green Lantern.
The script’s not bad, but it doesn’t make me anxious to follow Simon’s journey. I found it hard to just settle into Green Lantern #0 as a story. DC’s media campaign – ‘Hey, we got a Muslim guy now’ – feels crass, risking that Simon will be an issue rather than a character. It’s fair enough to set out to illustrate that good men and true can come from any faith background, insultingly obvious as that notion is. But introducing Simon as a car thief and having him carry a handgun in promotional art muddy the messages somewhat. Oh sure, he’s been laid off from his job as a car engineer and needs money to help his single parent sister (betcha her kid is sick). And he’s holding a prison guard’s gun when hit by the Oan energy, so perhaps the sidearm becomes linked to him. But still, Simon’s a car thief with a gun. And he’s going to be wearing a rather sinister mask. I dunno.
I also dunno why the fifth Green Lantern from Earth has to be a guy – can’t the rings work with the human X chromasome?
And tying his origin to 9/11? While that may make Simon seem more real-world, linking heroes to non-fictional events is simply daft, as Marvel found after having Reed Richards and Ben Grimm fight in the Second World War and Tony Stark injured in Korea. You either have to occasionally update the references to more recent wars, or forget them. Given that writer Geoff Johns isn’t stupid, I suspect Simon Baz isn’t intended as a long-term deal.
Penciller Doug Mahnke draws Simon as a good-looking guy, and his storytelling shines, with three inkers not harming the overall look. I’d like to have seen the new Green Lantern in costume and action, but that was never likely in this age of drawn-out tales. What we do see on the page is compelling, especially the scene showing the arrival of the ring.
Well-crafted as it is, I didn’t enjoy this book enough to guarantee I’ll be back next month. I really don’t see why another male Green Lantern is needed – it’s not like the stunt background couldn’t be applied to a woman. And I’m not invested in current Oan events, into which this book wll be tying (I just want one GL book mostly set on Earth and not constantly feeding off the GL mythology). But I’ll watch for Simon in upcoming Justice League comics, and see if I take to him.