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Sunday, September 09, 2012 

GL's zero issue reeks of 9-11 trutherism

The more info that becomes available, the more this zero special for GL is beginning to look like an embarrassment. In this review on ComicBook.Com, the answer to who may have built the explosive device found in the van Baz stole is given:
There’s not much else here in terms of meat for the story, other than the not-particularly-shocking revelation that Amanda Waller may be behind planting a bomb on Baz, or is at least somehow messed up in his life before the ring ever came and found him.
And Amanda Waller is a government agent, and was depicted as the director of the program for running the Suicide Squad in the series of that name that ran during 1987-92. However, at that time, she was anything but a villainess, and there were a few heroes who'd worked with the Suicide Squad who got along better with her than the villains did. Why did I get the feeling I was not going to like the revelations of just who put together the bomb? This is basically an allusion to some of the most tasteless notions of Trutherism and anti-American conspiracy theories, that the government is responsible for terrorism and not jihadists.
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.
Well if they'd characterized him as a Christian or any non-Muslim background, then it would be a lot easier to say he's like anyone else, and to accept his introduction. That he's of Arabic descent is not the problem at all; it's just his religious beliefs that really are.

The AV Club's article about this mess is more biased than the previous one, and tells the following:
The title of this issue’s story is “The New Normal,” and if this is going to be the defining tone of the next year of New 52 stories, the DCnU is about to become an even darker place. There’s no joy in this comic, beginning with a series of scenes showing how difficult Baz and his family’s lives have become since the 9/11 attacks. After the opening page featuring a young Baz watching the second plane hit the World Trade Center, there are three panels set five years apart: 1) Baz as a child, washing graffiti off the Islamic Center of America the day after 9/11; 2) Baz fighting to protect his sister when they’re attacked on the street; 3) Baz undergoing a “routine” inspection at the airport. That last one is especially important, as one of the security guards asks the now-adult Baz, “What are you afraid of?” The idea of an Arab-American being chosen as the Green Lantern because he’s able to overcome great cultural fear is an inspired one, but the majority of sympathy for the character is condensed in two pages so that Johns can set up Baz as a suspected terrorist.

Baz is a resident of Dearborn, Michigan, home to more Arab-Americans than anywhere else in the United States and a major hub of the American automotive industry. Baz is a car thief, but he’s doing it to help his sister and her son after the death of his brother-in-law. For some reason, Baz has decided to steal an oh-so-desirable plain white van, which just so happens to have a bomb in the backseat. Upon discovering his explosive cargo, Baz calls his sister, who works in the Dearborn Office of the Secretary of State, directs her to a stash of money in a safety-deposit box, and begins to apologize for his involvement in the death of her husband. That’s when the police start ramming the vehicle from behind and Baz decides to drive it into the closed automobile factory, jumping out of the van so that he can be arrested and detained at Guantanamo Bay.

#0 is certainly successful at reinvigorating the Green Lantern title, which has been enjoyable but becomes increasingly bogged down in its own mythology: Every plot development seems deliberately geared to be provocative and Important-with-a-capital-I. It gets to be a bit much when Baz gets a bag put over his head and is brought to a room to be waterboarded, but luckily that’s when the Green Lantern ring shows up to break Baz out of prison.
Just what we need for a leftist-leaning bias, an allusion to criticism against "torture" and even waterboarding at Gitmo! That aside, it's hard to understand why we're supposed to feel sorry for or excuse the lead for becoming a car thief to support a sibling who's already got what's usually a well-paying job in a government office. There certainly is quite a bit of hostility, subtle or otherwise, to security procedures at airports here, and implying that non-Muslim Americans are literally violent. On top of that, I'm not sure why we're supposed to view a man who resorts to car theft as someone who's overcoming fear, why he's doing something that could cause trouble for his family if he's caught for it, or why the police try to ram the back of a stolen vehicle.

So as these further clues given tell, this story is pretty negative to Americans, one of the most blatant of its kind to date, and worse, it even has traces of Trutherism injected for bad measure. So Johns really has gone off the deep end from a political perspective.

As far as I know, the reason why Baz's brother-in-law died was because Baz took part in a street racing derby and had an accident that caused the in-law's death. It sounds peculiarly reminiscent of the story from much reviled Emerald Dawn miniseries, where Hal Jordan went for a drunk drive and got his own brother paralyzed. Johns sure seems to be drawing some influences from some of the worst moments in GL history as non-inspiration for the setups he's using here.

Update: Five Feet of Fury's Kathy Shaidle spoke with Menzoid Mornings on the Canadian Sun TV network about this story:

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Yeesh. Johns has really sunk to a new low if that's the type of story he comes up with.

Well done, my DC editorial overlords.

At least, this post linking to Kathy Shaidle made my day. She's awesome.

Plus aren't power ring wearers supposed to be pure of heart? If he's a criminal, that isn't exactly what I would call pure of heart.

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