DC’s line of #0 comics is launching, and you know what that means: it’s Sass O’ Clock here in Review Land!
Naw, I kid. We’ll look at this as objectively as possible, with only mild spoilers to some of the details surrounding our new Green Lantern.
Written by Geoff Johns
Illustrated by Doug Mahnke
PROLOGUE TO THE THIRD ARMY! – The introduction and origin of a surprising new Green Lantern! – Where are Hal Jordan and Sinestro?
To say that the “Green Lantern” franchise has become Geoff Johns’ pet project is to put it lightly. Despite already having an establish career at DC Comics, it was his work in “Green Lantern: Rebirth” and the subsequent ongoing that really put his name on the map to a wider audience, despite fantastic runs on “JSA,” “Flash” and “Hawkman.” Johns’ take on the mythology surrounding the Lantern Corps was refreshing and engrossing, and it began to elaborate on a sea of potential that had somehow never been exploited until that point. Weaving a story over the course of five years that culminated in “Blackest Night,” it’s safe to say that Johns is the definitive writer of the Lantern Corps for our time.
And yet, things began to fall apart. “Blackest Night,” transcending from a Green Lantern story into a company-wide event, quickly devolved into an incoherent mess of Action Moments and little to no follow through of major events (unless you remembered to buy all those tie-ins!). The subsequent “Brightest Day” was perhaps even worse, trying to capitalize on what worked in “52” and ending up as a pitch ground for several books that a) took different directions anyway thanks to the New 52 Initiative and b) weren’t very interesting regardless. “Green Lantern” has simply plodded through a series of stories that seem like the basic pitch for them was, well, what else could happen? Oh, I guess the Green Lanterns could fight themselves, and Krona, and then Sinestro can be re-instated. The inspiring take on the massive overhaul of a C-List Franchise into an A-List one was seemingly gone, with the A-List Franchise reverting to C-List Quality.
You would suppose, then, that this is where Simon Baz comes in. In the age of the New 52, very little has been done in the way of doing anything ostensibly new. Oh, sure, there are a few exceptions to the rule, but for the most part it’s the same old heroes doing variations of what came before with no real new characters sticking. However, for all intents and purposes it seems like DC and Johns want Baz to stick around as a potential reflection of a company’s values changing over time, and that’s where “Green Lantern” #0 comes in. DC has a rich history of legacy characters and mantles being passed on, and while Johns has seemingly always been against legacies (what with bringing back characters like Hal and Barry to their former roles) it was only a matter of time before he passed the buck from Hal onto someone new.
If only the issue felt half as earnest in quality as the idea sounds on paper.
So the issue introduces us to Simon Baz. For those who aren’t familiar with him already, there’s a few things to know about Baz: he’s an American man from Dearborn, Michigan of the Muslim faith, and after 9/11 (which, for the record, didn’t happen in DC’s old continuity, which brings up some weird thoughts related to “Flashpoint”) had to deal with anti-Muslim behavior in America throughout his life. This in turn led him to grow up to be a car thief, which is where our story — ‘The New Normal’ — begins. That, ladies and gentlemen, is Simon Baz, and thanks to a weird error happening in the Green Lantern ring from last issue after Sinestro and Hal are defeated, he ends up being the new Green Lantern of Earth.
If there’s one singular problem that affects Baz in this issue, it’s that he at no point feels genuine. Here’s the thing: for all intents and purposes, Baz seems more like a designed poster child for some new diversity push from DC, except that there is seemingly some kind of disconnect between Johns and the rest of reality. The big thing about the issue is that Baz has to deal with being labeled as a terrorist, but the way that this issue is dealt with is by having Baz blow up a building (accidentally) and then reiterate that he is not a terrorist for the next ten pages of the book. The problem here is the same that Johns has with “Aquaman”: we’re being told, but never really shown. It’s a first issue so obviously there’s some wiggle room to give a guy a break here, but Baz isn’t really developed as a character so much as he is developed as an idea. We want to root for him for a number of reasons: we’re sick of Hal Jordan, we want something new, new characters are inherently cool, etc. However, we don’t actually have any reasons to root for him other than he happens to be the lead now. There’s nothing about Baz that sets him apart from any other paint-by-numbers hero except that he’s being stamped with the same burdens and responsibilities that Marvel is giving to Miles Morales with hopes of ramping up diversification.Continued below
Of course, the real kicker here is simply that Simon Baz is not Miles Morales. Both Marvel and DC are making very public moves to expand and diversify their line by making changes to A-List heroes, and Baz and Morales are both the reflections of this. Morales is instantly likable because he feels real; here is a character that looks like he could fit directly into our world, and he’s clearly a reflection of the youth of today to the same extent that Peter Parker was. Baz, on the other hand, is a reflection of post-9/11 paranoia in the worst kind of way. He seemingly plays into every bad stereotype, even if it’s all an accident, and by not really learning anything about him versus what he isn’t, we’re delivered a barely fleshed-out concept for a character that DC was clearly hoping would make a good marketing tool over an engaging character. After all, the idea of Baz is still intriguing — he basically sounds like the anti-Hal, which is an entertaining notion, and he’s different so therefore he’s “cool.” It just so happens that there’s nothing there to latch onto, unless you’re a fan of stealing cars.
Th other big problem to Baz is his design. Mahnke has been on the title with Johns for a long time and has certainly developed a style with Alamy, of which this book is no different. In fact, if this were any other issue of “Green Lantern,” there would likely be no complaints. However, the evolution of Baz as shown in the first few scenes of the book seemingly defy logic. With the given information, it would appear that Baz was 12 or 13 when 9/11 happened, which means he is roughly in his early 20’s at the oldest “now”, which is younger than I am. However, again, in an attempt to bolster up the idea of him versus reflecting what he ostensibly is, Mahnke delivers a man who looks to be closer to his early 30’s at the youngest, which either means that this book takes place far beyond 2012 (which is assuredly conceivable) or that I am an incredibly youthful-looking 25 year old. Considering most guys my age can still get away with playing teens in TV high school dramas, this just seems like an incredibly foolish oversight that could have been avoided if over reliance on history wasn’t introduced as part of his origin.
It’s such a shame that this issue isn’t stronger. Simon Baz should be the Hot New Character of 2012, and this issue should blow doors down. And yet, “Green Lantern” #0 is yet another example of the low standard of quality that the DCnU seems to have all around. It really isn’t that bad when looking at some of their other offerings, but it’s also not good either; it simply exists, a set of stapled pages sitting on stands in comic shops and select bookstores around the country as a firm reminder of what DC and Geoff Johns currently are. In time Johns may regain his mojo and Baz may grow to be a very endearing character within the DCnU — but between that horrendous cover and the subpar sequence of events that are contained within the issue, your $2.99 will be much better off staying in your wallet for now.
Final Verdict: 4.0 – Make Mine Miles