Green Lanterns #15: A Day in the Life of Jessica Cruz
By Ethan McIntyre
Green Lantern has always been one of my favorite superheroes. The thing about Green Lantern, though, is that several people have borne the identity over the years, and I’ve never had a favorite among them.
Once I began reading comics (rather than just watching the cartoons and movies based on them) Hal Jordan started to become my favorite, with John Stewart close behind. However, fairly recently, a new Lantern emerged.
Jessica Cruz is a woman with intense social anxiety - when we first meet her, she’s an agoraphobic who hasn’t even left her house in years. At the end of the Forever Evil event (in which an evil version of the Justice League attempted to conquer the world), the ring of Power Ring - the evil equivalent of Green Lantern - sought her out as its new wielder.
Power Ring’s ring fed on its user’s fear, rather than their willpower; thus, it felt that Cruz’s anxieties made her the perfect host. Luckily, Cruz chose to use the ring for good rather than ill, and the Green Lantern Hal Jordan began to mentor her. While she often had to fight the ring’s dark urgings (it was possessed by the spirit of Volthoom, an ancient enemy of the Lanterns), she slowly came into her own as a superhero, culminating in her sacrificing her own life to protect the Flash.
However, the life claimed in the incident ended up being Volthoom’s, rather than Cruz’s. Her heroic efforts earned her a true Green Lantern ring, and she’s served as Earth’s newest Lantern ever since.
Jessica Cruz is a character that I’ve been interested in since her debut. I greatly enjoyed Forever Evil, and when Power Ring’s ring soared away to find a new host at the end of the event, I thought it was a cool hook. Meeting Cruz and seeing a character with those kinds of issues portrayed as a hero was awesome.
Best of all, after DC’s Rebirth initiative, she got to co-star in the new Green Lanterns series, which sees Earth’s protection fall to Cruz and fellow Lantern Simon Baz (who is himself relatively new to the role, though he’s been around a few years longer than Cruz). The series has been lots of fun so far; I love the dynamic between the two and how their relationship has evolved over several issues. What really sells the book for me, though, is continuing Jessica’s journey.
The book has wrapped up a few storylines already, and the recent issue #15 doesn’t begin a new arc - rather, it is a stand-alone issue about a day in Jessica’s life.
It may be my favorite issue of the series yet.
As I said earlier, Jessica Cruz has severe social anxiety - it’s so extreme that she sometimes can’t bring herself to leave the house. She also suffers from depression and feelings of inadequacy (particularly when it comes to her role as a Green Lantern).
The preceding issue, #14, was the finale of the Phantom Lantern arc, and in it, Jessica won a major personal victory by proving to herself that she deserves the Green Lantern mantle. She had spent a good deal of this storyline worried that she didn’t deserve the ring at all, or would fit in better with the fear-based Yellow Lanterns. However, when she put on the Phantom Ring - a special power ring that boasts the powers of every Lantern Corps - it determined that willpower was her strongest trait, confirming that she had earned her place as a Green Lantern after all.
Issue #15 begins with Jessica explaining to the reader her struggle with anxiety, noting that most days her greatest battle is simply getting out of bed. Throughout the comic, we see Jessica performing her duties as a Lantern and a member of the Justice League, but we also get her internal monologue - we see all of her insecurities,her fears that she’ll fail at a crucial moment. Eventually, she freezes up while fighting a supervillain and her partner, Simon Baz, has to rescue her.
Baz - who means well, but is not always the most patient guy - chides her for freeing up, and she explains that her anxiety got the better of her. That’s when the book’s most important exchange happens:
“I’m sorry, I thought you were better?!” Baz exclaims, referring to her breakthrough in issue #14.
As someone who has dealt with these issues myself, this really hit home for me. It’s all too easy to see someone who suffers for anxiety or depression on one of their good days and think they are somehow miraculously healed. That’s not the way it works.
These are serious illnesses. They do not disappear overnight. They don’t go away because you had a good day, or some epiphany, or whatever. They take work. Most of the time, there is no definitive “getting over it” - it’s something that a person lives with every single day. Yes, we can learn to deal with it, to prevent it from ruling our lives entirely - but every now and then, even the people who seem to have mastered their demons are still going to have a bad day, and suddenly all that negativity and fear and sadness comes rushing back.
“I don’t just ‘get better’ from this!” Jessica shouts.
From there, she explains the challenges of her condition, they have a small spat, and ultimately Simon becomes a more supportive friend - pretty standard superhero, power-of-friendship stuff... but the fact that the book addressed it at all is amazing.
It would have been very easy for the book to give Jessica her epiphany at the end of #14 and have that be then end of it - ta-da, she’s got her self-confidence back, no more anxiety. That’s how most stories in this medium go. Instead, writer Sam Humphries delved into the character and gave us a more realistic depiction of someone living with extreme anxiety, and I love this book all the more for that.