In the past year, DC Comics has gone to great lengths to better relate to comic book readers from across the cultural spectrum in their new initiative, “The New 52.” Some changes include turning a formerly straight character gay, introducing new heroes from Africa, Asia and Europe, and creating new characters from more diverse religious backgrounds.
In “Green Lantern, Issue Zero,” this trend continues with the introduction of a new character, Simon Baz, who is an Arab American, born and raised in Dearborn, Mich. However, his family was ostracized as terrorists in a post-9/11 world.
Despite his anger toward Americans, Baz tries to make a decent living for himself by working at an automobile factory. However, Baz loses his job when the factory closes down, and he has to resort to grand theft auto to support his family.
His courage and will to stay alive allow Baz to become the recipient of a Green Lantern power ring, making Baz the new Green Lantern of Earth.
The ring is powered by a person’s will to act and is driven by that person’s conviction and imagination. With the ring on his hand, Baz joins the Green Lantern Corp., which is made up of more than 7,000 humans and aliens.
Writer Geoff Johns’ story is not only superb in its content, but it also draws from Johns’ personal experience. Johns is also an Arab American who grew up in Michigan, and he expressed during a reading at the Arab American National Museum that he and his family understand the racial prejudice that America has fostered toward his ethnic background.
Johns’ story in “Green Lantern, Issue Zero” shows the human struggle toward self-preservation at its finest; Baz is trying to live the American Dream, but because of prejudices he is treated as a second-class citizen. It is the ability to overcome hardships that makes the Green Lantern series enjoyable, but also relatable to those who have been treated unfairly.
Artist Doug Mahnke is able to move the story forward with his vivid and dark depictions of the nightlife in Dearborn, which contrast with the light that the Green Lantern power ring manifests. Mahnke is also able to show a full range of emotions through the simple, yet elegant, drawings of Baz’s interrogation by the federal agents that complement the depth of Johns’ story.
The only lackluster element to this issue of “Green Lantern” is that it does not move the story along fast enough in comparison to the pace that the series had been taking for the past year.
Baz is among the first of what is hopefully many changes to come to the DC universe. “Green Lantern, Issue Zero” is not just a story made for a comics fan, but a groundbreaking title that promotes a sense of unity and justice for people of any color.