Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wednesday Comics: Rise of the Third Army (prologue)

I know that anyone who reads my Wednesday Comics column must be sick of how I always turn to Geoff Johns-related items. I can't help it. When the man is consistently good and creates some of the most exciting stories in comics, I gravitate in his direction.

Johns is kicking off a large cross over event in all of the Lantern books (GL, GL Corps, GL New Guardians, and Red Lanterns). This is something that has been building for a long time. Ever since they were introduced into comics, the Guardians of the Universe were the wise overseers of the Green Lantern corps. They were well intentioned, but cut off in their emerald towers. from the individual lives of the people they sought to protect. They were always big picture with no personal context. They have tried to bring order out of chaos.

Their first peacekeeping force were the robotic Manhunters. But they were corrupted when they came to the conclusion that since chaos comes from life, life must be destroyed. They then entrusted the safety of the universe to sentient beings who had great will power: the Green Lanterns. But they felt their control over their corps slipping away. The rise of the other Lantern corps challenged their dominance So the Guardians have reached this conclusion:

The problem with all of the Lantern corps is not just emotion; it is free will too.

There are two things I like about where this story is headed.

  1. This is not a leap for the Guardians. Johns has done a good job of slowly wedging this issue between the Guardians and their corps. Everything that they are doing makes sense from their point of view. What pushed them over the edge was when they saw how the will power of one of their Lanterns, Hal Jordan, overcame their safeguards to protect themselves. Jordan was able to use his ring to kill the renegade Guardian Krona. This put fear into all of the Guardians
  2. Thematically, I love them taking on the issue of free will. I sometimes will have a student ask why God doesn't just take away all sin from the world. I then ask how? The only way to do that is to take away our free will. If we are free, then we must be free to say no. Now God could have made us a bunch of pre-programmed robots who never break with Him. The universe would be a safer place. But it would have no love, because love is choice. I want them to explore the themes of safety versus freedom.

The Guardians are therefore destroying their GL Corps and giving rise to a Third Army that will be completely bound to the will of the Guardians. To power this new corps, they have unleashed a being that they imprisoned billions of years earlier called, the First Lantern. They have not revealed what the First Lantern looks like, so I'm guessing that he is someone from the Green Lantern mythos that we have missed or haven't seen in a while. I'm looking forward to a big reveal, which Johns loves to provide.

Also the Guardians killed Sinestro and Hal Jordan.

But before they “died,” the sent out a replacement ring that would not be guided by the Guardians The ring found Simon Baz. 

 He is an American Muslim who stole a car that happened to be filled with explosives. Suspecting terrorism, he is sent to Gitmo for interrogation and water-boarding until the ring finds him.

DC is on a big diversity kick. Alan Scott was turned gay. And now we have the first Muslim Green Lantern. In and of itself, this isn't good or bad. As I said with the Alan Scott issue, as long as the stories are compelling, I don't care. But if the choice of the character was done to “send a message,” I am less than enthused. The introduction of Baz has a montage of his life growing up, facing prejudice in a post 9/11 world. I don't mean to nit-pic, but Muslims are not the most targeted group for “hate crimes.” Jewish people are 5 and a half times more likely to be singled out because of their religion. Don't misunderstand, both are terrible. But since we don't generally view America as an anti-Semitic place, we have less evidence to call it anti-Muslim.”

If Johns' point is to highlight how an American Muslim may perceive extra bigotry and hate, then this is a valid story avenue. But if this becomes a commentary on how America treats Muslims, I fear that the story will suffer. The more that comics are filled with “social commentary” the more dated they become. John Lassiter said that he didn't want to bring political messages into any of his Pixar films because then it loses its timeless quality.

I did note that Johns is making this story a bit more personal. Baz was raised in Dearborn, Michigan, which is just outside Detroit, Johns' hometown. I don't know if he is drawing on any personal information from people in the area, but I find it interesting that he sets his new character in his backyard.

I also have to mention the great art by Ethan Van Sciver and Doug Mahnke. Both artists have made such an impression on the Green Lantern books. They both give great energy to the story with such kinetic visuals.

I am very curious where this story is going. It has been building to this for a while, so it needs to have a strong delivery.

And I believe that Geoff Johns can pull it off.

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