This month marks the anniversary of the New 52 relaunch from DC Comics. However, instead of simply going ahead with business as usual and filling the comic shop shelves with #13s, DC is publishing issue #0s for every New 52 title still in print, from "Action Comics" to "World's Finest." The #0s will be stand-alone stories, according to Bob Harras, DC Entertainment Editor-in-Chief. “Some issues will tell the origins of a character or a team, or in some case where an origin has already been told, they will fill in the blanks in terms of questions readers may have about the New 52 DC Universe. Each of these issues promises to reveal something surprising.” Only 13 titles have been released thus far, but one book in particular deserves special attention on this particular day.
"Green Lantern" #0, released on September 5th, marked the arrival of a new hero in the DCU. His name is Simon Baz, and he is a Muslim.
Master "GL" storyteller and DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns has been a key factor in the success of the New 52, lending his talents to such titles as "Green Lantern", "Aquaman", and "Justice League." For this particular story, Johns drew upon his own life experiences to bring Simon Baz to the page. The character and creator share Lebanese ancestry and hail from the Detroit area, which boasts one of the largest and oldest Arab communities in the US. With the most recent "GL" arc leaving prominent Corpsmen Hal Jordan and Sinestro in a mysterious state of limbo, expect to see a lot of Simon in the coming months.
"Green Lantern" #0 opens with a very poignant series of panels, devoid of words, yet speaking volumes through the art of Doug Mahnke. It's a scene to which every American can relate as it depicts the Baz family captivated by the image of the burning World Trade Center on their television. Through this depiction, the reader sees that Simon has been affected by these events just as much as anyone else. However, it is the following page that illustrates the true ramifications felt by the Arab community as the Baz family endures hatred in the form of vandalism, violence, and profiling over the next 10 years.
Up to this point, Simon Baz is quite unremarkable. However, when we catch up with him in the present, we find him behind the wheel of a stolen van and pursued by police. It doesn't take too long for both Simon and the reader to learn that this was the wrong van to steal. The resulting arrest puts Simon directly under the microscope of both federal and international authorities as they accuse him of having terrorist connections. It is through this scene that Geoff Johns creates a sympathetic character, despite Simon's illicit actions. Stealing cars was his means of getting money for his sister, a single parent. Simon, himself, is a laid-off automobile engineer. It is the interrogation that sparks a series of events resulting not only in the unexpected appearance of a particular Green Lantern ring recently separated from its owner(s), but also Simon earning the attention of both Amanda Waller and the Justice League. While we never see Simon in a Green Lantern uniform by the end of the issue, we are left with the mystery of what drew the ring to him.
There has been plenty of vehemence regarding a Lantern ring choosing a Muslim, but if there is one group known for its diversity, it's the Green Lantern Corps. When you can bring together an intergalactic peacekeeping force made up of men, women, giant pig guys, trees, squirrels, bugs, microorganisms, and Guy Gardner, there is no tolerance for petty bigotry. We are the Corps. Through Simon Baz, Geoff Johns can and will show that character isn't defined by your religion, skin color, or culture. Car thieves don't usually become superheroes, but Johns clearly has a plan for Simon in the future of "Green Lantern", especially with Hal Jordan MIA and the "Third Army" arc right on the doorstep.
"Green Lantern" #0 is a well-timed comic, and I hope the new and young readers that the New 52 was intended to reach will welcome this character with open minds. To paraphrase a quote from one of OTF's recent interviews, "He’s a Green Lantern, first and foremost. Secondly, he happens to be of Arab descent."
Green Lantern #0, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Doug Mahnke, is on comic shop shelves and available for digital download now.