With the dawn of DC Comics‘ Rebirth era, Sector 2814 (which happens to include a little planet called Earth) received a new pair of Green Lanterns dedicated to protecting it: Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz.
While the former has been a part of the DC Universe for a number of years now, having debuted in the early days of the New 52, Cruz is a relative newcomer to the Green Lantern Corps, though she’s spent the past year or so with the Justice League as the totally-not-evil Power Ring. But we’ll get into that a bit later. First, let’s run down the history of Simon Baz, her “Green Lanterns” co-star who wields a gun as well as a ring.
Simon Baz’s time as a Green Lantern started during a period when Sinestro and Hal Jordan were sharing a power ring that the former had split into two. While fighting Black Hand, the pair found themselves transported out of their reality. As their rings now believe Hal and Sinestro to be dead, they re-combine and, per their programming, search out a replacement to bear the weapon.
The ring settled on Baz in “Green Lantern” #0 (by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne and Mark Irwin), but it found him at a really odd point in his life. A factory worker in Dearborn, Michigan until the factory closed, Baz had become a car thief to help support his sister’s son (his sister’s husband was in a coma after getting into an accident during Simon’s time as an illegal street racer). The van he had stolen this particular day turned out to be about to be used as part of a terrorist explosion. Upon discovering this, Simon drove it to the factory he worked at because he knew it was now deserted. Nobody died in the explosion that followed, but as you might imagine, it was difficult to tell the federal agents who arrested him that it was just a case of really bad luck that led to him driving around with a bomb in a van. As a Lebanese-American, Baz’ race didn’t exactly endear him to some of the racist federal agents. While Simon is about to be tortured, the Green Lantern ring burst through the ceiling, picked Simon as a new Green Lantern, and the pair swiftly escaped.
In “Green Lantern” #13 (by Johns, Mahnke, Alamy, Champagne, Irwin, plus Tom Nguyen and Marc Deering), Simon met up with his sister. After hearing what happened, she told him that he needed to stay hidden. She recommended using a mask, and later in the issue, when he saw security cameras filming him, he instinctively gave himself a full face mask.
Right before Hal Jordan and Sinestro “died,” the pair had discovered that the Guardians of the Universe, the creators of the Green Lantern Corps and rings, had gone insane and were planning to replace their Corps with the twisted Third Army, a group of former GLs who had been molded them into grotesque automatons. Not only did Simon have that to worry about, he also found himself dealing with the Justice League, who naturally thought it odd that a wanted criminal now had a Green Lantern ring. The League investigated Baz in “Green Lantern” #14 (by Johns, Manhke, Alamy, Champagne, Irwin and Nguyen). But while Baz was happy to cooperate, Sinestro’s ring was less willing to help and attacked the League on its own, leading to one of the most enduring superhero tradition — the misunderstanding that leads to a brief battle!
Once he proved himself to the League, in “Green Lantern” #15 (by Johns, Manhke, Alamy, Champagne, Irwin and Nguyen), Simon’s sister helped him track down the identity of the man who initially stole the van. He had planned on it exploding under a train, killing hundreds. FBI agent Franklin Fed, however, showed up and was able to recognize that Baz wasn’t part of the terrorist conspiracy. This was just in time for the Third Army to show up, convert the terrorist to its cause, and almost absorb Simon and Fed. The pair managed to escape by blowing up the terrorist’s house using the various explosives on the property. Simon is then visited by Green Lantern B’dg (who happens to look like a squirrel), who enlisted Simon to help take down the Guardians. But first, as a sign of good faith, B’dg showed Baz how to use the Green Lantern ring to help bring his brother-in-law out of his coma, which Simon successfully did before heading off to battle the Third Army and the Guardians.
During this time, Simon also began carrying a firearm, under the theory that he wanted backup if his ring ever failed.
We eventually learn that since this was Sinestro’s ring, he recruited someone special when he “died,” someone Sinestro felt was capable of doing whatever it took to take down the Guardians, indicating that Simon is a bit different than your standard Green Lantern. After freeing Guy gardner, another Earth-based Green Lantern, he tried to bring Hal and Sinestro back from the “Book of Black” reality where they had been stuck since their encounter with Black Hand. It is important for Hal and Sinestro to get back, because the Third Army battle had released Volthoom, the first Lantern, who wanted nothing more than to torture the Guardians and destroy the GLC. Eventually, Simon joined with all of the other Lanterns to take down Volthoom in “Green Lantern” #20 (by Johns, Manke and many inkers).
Simon next joined the newly created Justice League of America, where he was recommended by Agent Fed.
In “Green Lantern” #29 (by Robert Vendetti, Billy Tan and Martin Coccolo), we learned that as part of his negotiations with the rage-fueled Red Lanterns who had staked a claim on Sector 2814, Hal Jordan had negotiated for one Green Lantern to remain on the planet. That Lantern? Simon Baz .
Simon has not played another major role in the Green Lantern comics until now, when he has begun work with a rookie Green Lantern, Jessica Cruz. Baz was in fact, predestined to work with Cruz since “Green Lantern” #20, Geoff Johns’ final issue of “Green Lantern.”
So that’s Simon Baz, but who is Jessica Cruz?
Jessica Cruz’s origins go back to the crossover event “Forever Evil,” where the Earth was conquered by the Crime Syndicate of America. One of their members, Power Ring, was the Syndicate’s evil version of Green Lantern. When he was killed, his ring went off to find a replacement, just like a Green Lantern ring. But instead of finding someone who had the ability to withstand fear like a Green Lantern, or even someone who could instill fear like a Yellow Lantern, it found someone who felt great fear. The ring settled on Jessica Cruz in “Justice League” #30 (by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Scott Hanna), a young woman who was so scared that she had locked herself away from the outside world for years, voluntarily cutting herself off from her family, friends and the rest of society.
In “Justice League” #31 (by Johns, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy and Keith Champagne), we learn that it is not just JEssica’s fear that drew the ring to her, but also her anger. She became a recluse because she was attacked and saw her friends murdered in front of her. As a result, she cut herself off from the world because she was afraid that the men who killed her friends would also kill her. The ring (which is basically an Earth-Three entity also known as Valthoom, though a different Valthoom from the one who was the First Lantern on this Earth) saw in her the perfect tool with which to annihilate Earth. She resisted, but the ring, in effect, forced itself on her.
Initially, the ring controlled her and made her an agent of destruction, but Batman ultimately helped her to overcome her fears and shut the ring down in “Justice League” #34 (by Johns, Mahnke and Champagne).
Still, the ring continued in its attempts to control her whenever she used it. Eventually, Hal Jordan showed up in “Justice League” #39 (by Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok) to help train her in an attempt to have her take control of the ring.
This seemed like it was to no avail, though, as during the Darkseid War, Valthoom took over not just the ring, but Jessica’s entire body! She found herself stuck inside the ring, watching everything unfold (even though Valthoom was temporarily on the same side of the League during the Darkseid War). However, after the deathly Black Flash was let loose, Jessica realized that the ring was not going to stop until it took a life. The Flash had been very kind to Jessica during her time with the League, so she did not want to see Barry die. With Cyborg’s help, she managed take control of the ring just long enough to seemingly sacrifice herself to the Black Flash in “Justice League” #50. However, as it turned out, while she intended to sacrifice herself, the Black Flash instead killed Valthoom! Her act of bravery did not go unnoticed, and the woman who was defined by her fear for so many years suddenly found herself the newest member of the group without fear, the Green Lantern Corps!
While everyone agreed Jessica was worthy of being a Green Lantern, it was curious that she was chosen for this particular Sector. As it turns out, someone or something realized Hal Jordan and the rest of the Green Lantern Corps were about to be busy with something so major, Earth was going to be left to just Simon, so it decided to add Jessica into the mix. Let’s just hope it all ends as well as “Green Lantern” #20 predicted it will!