Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion, an Allegory About ISIS and Syrian Refugees
Science fiction is best when it is a veiled allegory on modern society, our ills, our debates, and attempts to get us to think about these issues. The original Star Trek was infamous for this, such as discussing the Civil Rights movement while still entertaining.
In Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion, from DC Comics, writer Tom Taylor and artist Ethan Van Sciver deliver a fascinating tale that works not just as sci-fi adventure but also discusses (religious) extremism and humanitarian efforts surrounding refugees.
The story has members of the Green Lantern Crops scattered to the universe before the modern one and that universe is reaching entropy, it’s dying. As they search for their way home they face dying gods, and a world of desperate survivors attempting to find an escape and survive the collapsing universe. These aliens the Corps comes across are refugees seeking safety from worlds destroyed by the collapse.
When the first issue was released in January 2016 the United States (and some of the world) were focused on refugees escaping the Syrian war. You can find where the world stood here, here, and here, as examples. Presidential candidates did their best Sinestro impersonation and used fear of the refugees to boost their support.
But what’s very interesting is while Taylor could have the Corps just stand up to help these survivors no questions asked, instead time is spent debating if they should help, and what threats these refugees if they were to be brought into the modern universe. This was an echo of actual debates occurring at the time.
While some stand up to help without debate, others fear that these beings might bring disease, war, or more if they’re allowed to come to the shores of the modern world. While some parrot the talking points of the right, others take the side of the left.
And the debate has continued throughout the the three issues released so far. The first issue ends with the death of a member of the Green Lantern Corps. This has Guy Gardner, a character who has shown more conservative streak, blaming the entire refugee population for the action of a few.
It’s no coincidence that Simon Baz, a Muslim and recent addition to the Green Lantern Corps, is a voice of reason, clearly representing Muslims who are unfairly lumped with the actions of extremists perverting their religion.
But, if the allegory wasn’t clear enough, the Corps learn that they are going against a cult in a way, a stand in for ISIS, and these religious extremists seek all out war if attacked, echoing the debate about a possible ground war in the real world.
The third issue has the Green Lantern Corps split between finding a way back home and some taking the fight directly to Marniel. It should be no surprise that a “ground battle” doesn’t go well. This in many ways echoes the belief that ISIS wants a ground war as it fits their end of times world view and would possibly fuel support and recruitment.
The series is just half way through, so it’ll be interesting to see how much the allegory is kept up and in the end the “solution” that is found concerning saving the refugees. But, it’s clear, that while comics are there to entertain us, they also can, and are, used to question and debate our modern world.