I was looking forward to Green Lantern Corps #25. As a guy who digs John Stewart I was pretty excited to read a story about John in some solo action. And maybe it was my raised level of expectations but Green Lantern Corps #25 did not live up to what I wanted it to be.
The story did start out with a pretty huge demerit. John Stewart, the Marine, is the least interesting version of the character. If you had to take anything from the Justice League animate series to transfer onto John Stewart, why would you take the most boring aspect?
The comic version of John could have become involved with a fellow hero, like Vixen. Or possibly a fellow Leaguer, ala Hawkgirl. Or maybe John could have been allowed to remain “the Green Lantern” of the Justice League. Or perhaps John could have inherited the leadership qualities of his cartoon counterpart.
But no, the powers that be opted to make John a Marine, which conveniently corresponds with Hal Jordan’s military roots, making John all the more an imitation of his predecessor.
And then there’s the flashback issue in Green Lantern #25. The issue itself is a flashback to Zero Year, six years ago in The New 52 Universe. But within that flashback is a flashback to twenty years ago, when John Stewart was a kid. And within that flashback is a flashback to decades prior when John’s mom was a kid. Seems kind of convoluted, no?
But my real gripe with Green Lantern Corps #25 is the characterization in the furthest flashback, which tells the tale of how John’s mom got into activism. The set up of the story is that in her neighborhood a party was thrown for some guys coming back from Vietnam that was broken up by the cops because of a lack of a liquor license. And John’s mom sides with the cops.
A young Black woman, between the ages of 7-10, in Detroit, in a Black community, doesn’t see anything wrong the cops busting up a party thrown by her neighbors.
Never mind that this is taking place in the 1970’s and that historically, the relationship between Black communities and the police has never been that great. Ignore the fact that, generally kids ideas of things are formed with the help of their parents (and John’s maternal grandparents are shown to be against the police at least on this issue.) My issue is why are her parents, who again, are vocally against the cops here, conceding to their preteen daughter that there wasn’t a liquor license? What parent explains all sides of an issue, especially a volatile one like this?
Back to the story. The cops try to arrest the transgressors, but the community is outraged and won’t let them. Again, note the community is against them, which sort of implies that the relationship between the cops and community is at a breaking point. The cops run away and the rioting begins. The National Guard comes in and John’s mom feels that they’ll save the day.
Now, I’ve never been in a riot. But as a Black guy, if I were in a situation where a riot were going on around me, I wouldn’t be afraid of the rioters. I’m not a business owner and the aren’t rebelling against me. In that situation, I’d be more afraid of whoever was coming to quell the riot, because even though I’m not rioting, I’m pretty sure I’d resemble the rioters and would thus be a target for them.
But for some reason, this young girl is comforted by the sight of troops and tanks in her neighborhood. Fine.
However even the troops can’t stop the riot. One day while walking home young Ms. Stewart witnesses rioters getting arrested and she’s glad. Let’s stop right there for a minute.
First off, she’s walking home during a riot? If she’s scared enough to find comfort in the military presence, one thinks she wouldn’t be out during the chaos. Secondly, she’s glad the rioters were getting arrested? Chances are the rioters are people from her community, possibly even her neighbors. They are people she’s passed on the street and probably knows, but her sense of right and wrong is so strong that she’s willing to overlook that connection and brand them wrong? Give me a break.
Eventually there’s a curfew declared. Once again, young Ms. Stewart and her parents are out walking around, before the curfew, when they are detained by cops. The cops plan on holding them until the curfew, so they can arrest them. But one of the soldiers back from Vietnam witnesses it and shames the cops into letting them go. Mind you the cops are white and the soldier is Black.
So you have cops, drunk enough on power to detain a family with a child in order to arrest them, and they back off because a lone serviceman calls them on it? They flagrantly disregard the law but they respect his uniform?
Give me a break!
I can buy aliens with magic rings, but you expect me to believe that a) a young Black girl is going to have an opinion that runs counter to the majority of her community and b) that a Black guy in the 1970’s is going to be able to question the actions of white cops and not suffer a horrible beatdown? Nope.
I’m not saying that Van Jensen and Robert Venditti aren’t capable of crafting a solid story. They aren’t aliens or superheroes but they do a solid job of detailing the exploits of the Green Lantern Corps on a monthly basis.
But I am saying that if that story or even that segment of a story had been written by a Black person, it would have been a better story and a more believable one. There are nuances in the Black community that white people aren’t privy to. So a white person writing a story about civil unrest in a Black community, especially about the relationship between a community and the police that patrol it, is pretty offensive.
Van Jensen and Robert Venditti got this one totally wrong. It’s a story that sounds like it’s written by white males and it carries a certain degree of idealism that rings false, especially for the era that it’s supposed to be portraying.
So that’s what irked me about Green Lantern Corps #25.
I’m glad I was able to get that off of my chest.
Well, it’s Wednesday, so that means there are some fresh new comics waiting for you at your friendly local comic book shop. Go buy some!
Tags: Green Lantern (John Stewart), Green Lantern Corps, John Stewart, Robert Venditti, Wednesday Comments, Zero Year