And now a word on Green Lantern

It looks like my fifteen minutes of fame will probably forever be my review of Captain America #602 which got picked up around a lot of places (and even quoted in a podcast).  It is the unfortunate curse of writers, however, to constantly see what they’ve written be misinterpreted.  My biggest complaint about CA602 (which even a lot of those “agreeing” with me missed) was this: America was founded on protesting against government, especially taxes.  So here we had an issue where Captain America is surveying (in preparation to fight) and critiquing an expy of the Tea Party.  Anyone else in the 616 universe?  Sure, that works from a story & logic standpoint but not with Captain freakin’ America.

(Then just to make the fridge logic worse, this was the Cap that was being played by Bucky at the time.  A Bucky that had just spent several decades under Soviet mind control as “Winter Soldier” so then it made you wonder if he was maybe still fighting some communist programming or something.)

It wasn’t that anyone stepped on my political toes (hell, that happens to me several times a day, they’re too callous to care any more), it’s that politics (like the parasite it is) had to go and warp the verisimilitude of a story and character involved.  (Note: this is why I also don’t tolerate things like “Christian” or “conservative” films/stories since they so very often end up warping the story & characters to shoehorn in the issues.)

Which brings us (finally) to the repeat offender of raping verisimilitude, the DC Universe. (yes, again)  I wasn’t even sure I was going to post anything on this, it all just reeks of cheap efforts to drum up sales.

This time it’s Green Lantern #0 which introduces the latest publicity stunt wearer of the green lantern ring.

The author on most days

Let’s split this in two parts.  First part, why this doesn’t work in the DCU. Page 1, a family sits, watching the towers fall on September 11th, 2001.

Wait, WHAT?  Look, it’s weird enough for comics to have this event take place in their universe.  However, while I mostly agree with madgoblin in the link, I think it’s at least somewhat excusable in the Marvel universe.  But in the DCU?  No.  NO!  First of all, from that ever helpful source, TV Tropes, we know that the DCU has not just Superman, but at least 5 characters matching his power levels and abilities.  You expect us to believe that all 6 of these characters happened to be busy at the time 9/11 went down?  Or, even if for some reason all the planes hit the buildings, that Flash wasn’t able to evacuate everyone out of the towers (at least) in minutes like he did for North Korea? (and that was a bomb dropping, he’d have so much more time – relatively speaking – this time)  Or what about the time Coast City was destroyed?  That was a death toll of 7 million.  (that took place in the 90s real world time, and since comic book time often runs slower, there’s no way of knowing if it was less than a decade before 9/11)  Or the time Imperiex attacked the world?  WW3 (of Grant Morrison’s JLA run) when the entire world was given superpowers to fight a god-killing sentient weapon?  Ok, you might say that’s now discontinuity with the reboot, but Coast City’s destruction isn’t.  The earth in the DCU has faced so many alien threats, it strains disbelief that humans would still fight amongst ourselves very much (and I’m a complete misanthrope), but that 9/11 would happen on a world where the odds are at least 1 of those 4 planes had a superhero on it or that it would spark the emotion we see on page 2 (vandalism, bullying, and security checks) makes even less sense.  Hell, we know the Joker has probably racked up a death tally as high as 9/11 and we don’t see clown colleges vandalized, mimes beat up or clowns held up at the airport.  And this is just the first two pages.

Then, we get the “crime” scene.  Main character “Simon Baz” steals a van that just happens to have a bomb in it.  He gets arrested, questioned, then interrogated.  Here’s everything wrong with pages 3-15:

  1. Again, he steals a van that “just happens” to have a bomb in it.  Seriously, how do you do that?  Shouldn’t car thieves like… check their targets just to be sure they’re not accidentally kidnapping someone or something?
  2. The investigating officers (who are both white, isn’t that racist?) don’t believe Mr Baz’s alibi.  Except… it’s not really an alibi, it’s more of a claim that he didn’t intend to blow up his former employer.  We, the readers, sort of know he’s being honest (well, no more context than we’re given) but c’mon, if ANYONE told you that they were just stealing a van, and it just happened to have a bomb in it, so they drove it to a place they knew was empty and it just happened to be a former employer, NOBODY would believe it (regardless of the suspect’s “profile”).  Well, you might give it a slight benefit of a doubt as it’s almost too stupid to be a lie…
  3. So the government, not getting any answers out of Mr Baz, step right to intended waterboarding.

    Why?
    No really, why does the government in the DCU have to waterboard anyone?  Ok, Martian Manhunter is out and about and probably doesn’t have time for a telepathic helping hand, but do you know how many telepaths that leaves on just earth?  That the government couldn’t even get ONE to come work for them just strains all credibility.  Why bother with waterboarding if you can just read someone’s mind???
  4. The awesome guys over at the dollar bin once had a funny as hell podcast called “Law and Order in the DCU”. (if I can’t find it soon, I’m going to see if I have it archived somewhere and upload it)  But it did make a good point about how screwed up the justice system probably would be in that universe.  Let me take a moment and throw out #2, maybe Mr Baz’s alibi does work, if he was mind controlled (again, probably more of those than telepaths).  Which just makes the waterboard scene even dumber since his mind was probably wiped.  But do they even bother checking on whether Simon was controlled by someone else?  Again, seems like something they should check on.

But let’s move on to our second part: why Simon Baz?

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: if you want to try and accuse me as having something against “diversity”, just don’t.  Don’t, even bring that up to a sci-fi/fantasy fan.  Not to someone who favored the Horde on World of Warcraft because the Alliance was filled with nothing but “human and human-esque” people. (at least until Dranei and Worgan)  I wrote a story featuring Japanese ninja werewolves and British cybernetic vampires.  Just.  Don’t.

And you know what?  From a writing standpoint, I like diversity if it is organic to the story and it helps the writer open more interesting plot avenues.  Three out of four green lanterns from Earth are white dudes, I don’t blame the GL writing staff for wanting to mix it up.  However…

  • This now makes FIVE green lanterns from Earth.  Sector 2814 (where we are) covers a portion of the universe.  There’s more inhabited planets than just Earth in our sector.  Why can’t one of them get a green lantern?  Well… there is actually an in-story justification for that.  I would prefer more cool space aliens, but they at least justify a person on Earth.
  • However, this gets into a major weirdness bit: why an ordinary human?  The key to the GL ring is “[you] have the ability to overcome great fear”.  All the superheroes on Earth, and none of them fit that standard?  Superman?  Batman?  Flash?  Wonder Woman?  Cyborg?  In the past they’ve worked around this issue some, but this time none so far.
  • Why an American?  Of 6 billion people on Earth (give or take, no telling how much variance is there) there’s NOBODY in any other country that can overcome great fear?  (Plus, it would have been entertaining to see the Earth lanterns having to use the ring-translation tool to talk to each other.)
  • Which brings us to: Why a man?  We’ve seen female GLs from other planets, why can’t one of earth’s FIVE GLs be a girl?  And this is where it really ticks me off.  Nearly two years ago now, a little event happened called the Arab Spring.  You’re telling me that a person from one of those countries, fighting to overcome the reigning government at that time has less fear to overcome than a Muslim in America who had to wash off some graffiti?  A woman who wanted to be able to drive and stood up to demand her right to do so can’t overcome great fear as well as Simon Baz?  No, I call bullshit.  Let’s be honest here people, bravery in America is cheap.  There are thousands, millions of Arabic Muslims out there who truly overcome great fear every day that are far more deserving of the green lantern ring.  Or maybe an Arabic Christian or Hindu.  If DC is really looking to show more of Islam, they could have one of the GLs convert which would then at least allow the story to organically explain Islam instead of the hamfisted preaching we’re probably going to get in coming issues.  (if anything, I extend my sympathies to Muslims because when these people try and write religion… it’s never pretty)

That’s… that is what really angers me deep down about this issue.  Marvel is the universe of Spider-man, it’s a bit more on the depressing side of things.  DC, however, is the universe of Superman.  It is more on the side of hope.  If they wanted to tie this new hero into a more “real world” event, they had two immediate choices: one sad, one promising.  DC chose to go with the event that shows the worst of humanity, not its best.

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Worthy quote:

The story is going to be accused of pandering, and that’s a fair enough accusation. The fundamental problem there is that mainstream comics don’t depict many Arab characters, and so when they do, the temptation is always to go straight for 9/11. When you do that, though, it reduces the character’s identity to something emblematic of race or culture, rather than that of an interesting individual, and it feels like you’re trying too hard to make everyone know “he’s just like everybody else! Really!”, which is the kind of thing that really shouldn’t need to be explicitly explained.

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(also, welcome to comic week, each day – except for MLP Mondays – I’ll be posting another thought or something related to comics)

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2 thoughts on “And now a word on Green Lantern

  1. Things like this make me glad I’m quietly ignoring the entire New 52. And they make me have absolutely no desire at all to ever stop ignoring it.

    And why do we need another GL, anyway?

  2. I hate cheap grace in comic books.

    Incidentally, you and I don’t do “diversity” the way they mean it. They mean “check of the right token characters to show how understanding we are;” we mean “these characters are really different, not the same stuff in a different package with, maybe, a few allowable options generally determined by the acceptable prejudices about that package.” (Women will be intuitive; disabled folks will be wise; a black character will be wise or street wise, possibly good with guns, hip, prone to clubbing; Asian people will be pushed to be smart and probably have martial arts and/or mystic arts; Arabic folks will have a Deep, Rich History, etc.)

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