Nine months since it began, DC’s Rebirth can pretty much be called a resounding success. DC’s flagship titles have all been doing amazingly well since the rebranding. Detective Comics especially is a favorite of ours, but also Batman, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey… We could go on, but the point is, Rebirth is really doing something special. There is one title, however, that might be flying under the radar for some readers, and that title is Green Lanterns.
For some time now, The Green Lanterns have operated in their own weird little corner at DC. Mostly controlled in the modern era by writer Geoff Johns, Green Lantern stands apart from the rest of DC’s heroes because of its cosmic importance. The Green Lantern Corps don’t deal with the day-to-day street level activities that your Batmen and Batwomen of the world handle, nor do they always protect the Earth itself as does a Superman or Wonder Woman (though they have been known to do that on occasion). Green Lantern is a cosmic force for good, and as such, can get bogged down in some equally cosmic wackyness.
The introduction of the emotional spectrum of rings has made things even more complicated, with each color standing in for an emotion (Yellow for Fear, Blue for Hope, Green for Willpower, Red for Anger, etc). Getting into a Green Lantern book can seem like a daunting exercise for the uninitiated. Add to it the fact that the New 52 came and went, and the Green Lantern continuity didn’t even bat an eye. They just kept going like it didn’t even happen.
Back Down to Earth
That is what makes a book like Green Lanterns Rebirth such a special one. Green Lanterns (as opposed to its sister Rebirth title Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps) has dialed back the cosmic and brought it down to Earth. Green Lanterns is the book for people who don’t know Green Lantern canon (or don’t care to know) and just want to read about heroes being heroes. Of course, knowing doesn’t hurt, but that’s not what this book is about.
Green Lanterns tells the story of two new(ish) members of the Corps, and the ones tasked with defending sector 2814 (Earth). These are Simon Baz, an Arab American man from Detroit, and Jessica Cruz, a Latin American woman from Portland, Oregon. Simon is an ex-car thief who carries a gun, and Jessica is a “normal” woman with crippling anxiety.
This run has been a pleasure to read from the first. Jessica and Simon couldn’t be more different, but have been forced to work together. (Hal Jordan even combines their batteries—the source of their power—into one so they HAVE TO work together. What a jerk). They have had to deal with a Red Lantern attack, and face off against the berzerk Phantom Lantern, all while figuring out their powers and how to work together, and oh yeah, they are also the official Green Lanterns of the Justice League.
It’s a ton of pressure for these two, new as they are to superheroing. (Some might say “green” but we here at the Fandomentals would never dream of going for such low-hanging fruit.) Neither of them were groomed for life as a do-gooder. Simon was headed for a life of crime before his ring found him. For awhile he still carried his gun like a security blanket because he didn’t trust in himself enough to win by the ring alone.
Similarly, Jessica Cruz doesn’t trust in herself at all. She has anxiety that rears its head at the most inopportune times. For much of the first run, she can’t even muster the willpower to make a construct, the thing for which Green Lanterns are known.
Eventually, our superpowered odd couple come out the other side of a few harrowing ordeals, and are all the stronger together for it. Simon puts down his gun, and Jessica can make her constructs. But that doesn’t mean they have achieved perfection and are now the bestest Green Lanterns ever. Far from it.
This week, Green Lanterns #15 came out.
This issue is very special and amazing, and even if you’ve never read a Green Lantern comic before, we highly recommend it. You don’t have to have read the first two arcs of the series, because any references are minimal.
Diversity is a big deal in comics these days. In a medium dominated by the same white male faces both on the page and in the drawing boards and writer’s rooms, this gradual shift toward more diverse characters and talent has made for some amazing new stories. DC, Marvel, Image, you name a publisher, and all of them have seen some change for the better in regards to diversity. Green Lanterns is no different. Having a man and woman, both non-white, teaming up as some of Earth’s most powerful heroes is a big deal.
There is one type of diversity that doesn’t always take center stage, and one that’s a little tougher to nail down. That is neurodiversity. Not all characters can be Captain America or Superman, because they aren’t wired that way. Comics haven’t always been skillful in their characterization of mental disorders either, especially where villains are concerned, but that is a much larger conversation. Jessica Cruz is a rare positive example of this, and that is where Green Lanterns #15 comes in.
Jessica has anxiety. It’s been mentioned before, and has manifested in the heat of battle already in the series. She has somehow managed to rise above it and come out stronger, but it hasn’t gone away. In some ways it never will. This is the perfect formula for a Green Lantern book, and we can’t believe it’s never been tried before. Imagine: A hero with a power ring fueled by willpower, who can barely muster the willpower to get out of bed in the morning. Her internal battles are as compelling if not more so than any foe she could face as a Green Lantern.
A Day in the Life
The comic opens on Jessica lying in bed. It is difficult even facing the day, sometimes even harder than facing danger on a global scale. Her sister texts her to get out of bed. Simon hails her using the ring. (Rings can totally talk to each other, don’t question it). She manages to overcome her own thoughts of “you can’t handle it,” and she meets her partner Simon for breakfast. The whole time they are at breakfast, she is psychoanalyzing herself.
She has a sense of humor about who she is, but it still makes her feel bad, and she is afraid to trust Simon with her own doubts. She feels guilty for how her anxiety effects their partnership. She ponders the emotional spectrum, theorizing that anxiety must be “red plaid”, when the Justice League calls. Time to go superheroing!
During the battle, Simon seems in his element. He takes charge of the situation, and Jessica wonders how she is even there among these people who are basically gods. Just then a huge submarine is flying through the air about to crash into the city (It doesn’t matter why, just go with it). Jessica grabs the sub out of midair with her constructs, fighting against her own thoughts of failure the whole way. Amazingly, she manages to upstage Superman and Wonder Woman.
From there the Green Lanterns are called away to crisis after crisis, each time saving the day. Jessica theorizes that helping people is good for her because it takes the focus off of herself. Compared to their problems, hers don’t seem so bad.
Then, they have a run-in with a small-time costumed crook, a buffoon who should be a slam-dunk, and that is when Jessica’s anxiety rears its ugly head. Simon rushes in, but Jessica is glued in place, having a full-blown anxiety attack, afraid to do anything.
Simon pulls her out of trouble, but then they have words. “I thought you were better,” he says. He’s frustrated, and we can’t blame him. But as Jessica articulates, you never really get better. Every day is a struggle. Even when literally catching a submarine out of thin air is possible, sometimes getting out of bed in the morning still feels like the hardest thing in the world.
Here Comes the Feels
Jess takes herself off-duty to head home. She goes through her routines to get herself centered. Some music, a workout, petting the cat—these are what she needs now. Once more she is renewed. But even despite all that, the next morning she is back where she was, staring at her ring, unable to move. But she does. She fights her own negativity only to find that Simon has come to her this time.
And this, this is the part where someone started chopping onions somewhere because, the tears, omg.
Simon is there cooking her breakfast. He wants to understand, but he also wants her to understand that he is there for her even if he doesn’t know how to deal with it. He sees her fight, sees her win, and wants to help. Oh man. Give us a second.
Then the Batman calls, but we’ll get to that later.
So, So Good
Start to finish this issue was amazing. The art is as good as you would expect for a premier DC book, but it goes much deeper than that. The heroes are heroic, and the action is great, but it’s the little moments. The way the background colors shift to mirror Jessica’s anxiety level, sky blue for when she is doing ok, dusky pink for when she is losing it, and a dingy grey for when she is at her lowest. The expressiveness of the characters really capture their emotions. One page late in the issue is really powerful, when she is at her lowest struggling to get out of bed again, and inside her head is a wild green maelstrom of the previous day’s events punctuated by her own thoughts. “I can’t handle this, I can’t handle this.”
But she can, and she does.
Jessica’s personal journey through one day was as powerful as any heroic story arc we’ve read so far from this team, and it wasn’t even about her power. This was about her humanity, her vulnerability. We struggled with her through those opening arcs of the series, but it was never as poignant as this story, where she really let us in. To see the personal struggles that she goes through, we can’t even find the words. Some of us know people, some of us are people, who have these same struggles, and all we have to do is get up and go to school or go to work or take care of our homes, whatever it is we do. We feel the guilt of how we affect those around us, who only want to help but couldn’t possibly understand.
We are not superheroes. But we could be. We could be because Jessica can be. She struggles just like all of us, but with the help of friends, and by believing in herself, she can. She can do anything. She can catch a damn submarine out of the sky.
Some of us are Simon. Some of us see the people in our lives struggling, and we want to help. Sometimes our help doesn’t help. Sometimes we’re afraid that trying to help will make it worse. But we can’t give up on those we love. We do what we can and we are there for each other. That’s what matters. That’s what has made this team, this comic, so special.
We salute the whole DC team for creating this. This is what real stories, real characters are made of.
For real, even if you’ve never read a Green Lantern book before. Even if you never plan to read another one again after this. Pick this one up. It’s something wonderful.
Enter the Bat
One last little bit of comic nerdery, because what would a Fanfinites article be without comic nerdery. At the very end of the issue, the Batman calls, and says he needs the Green Lanterns in Gotham. He has seen how well they work together and he needs them for a special mission. And just about all of us here had a fricking fangasm because that team-up is going to be so amazing, you guys, we just can’t even.
Green Lanterns #15: A Day in the Life
Writer: Sam Humphries
Thumbnails: Tom Derenick
Pencils: Miguel Mendonça
Inks: Scott Hanna
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Tyler Kirkham and Tomeu Morey
All Images Courtesy of DC Comics