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Green Lantern Jo Mullein

Stranger in a strange land is how author N K Jemisin described Jo Mullein in a brief interview that appears in the Far Sector trade collection. It is of course an apt description by the character’s creator though not solely for the epic City Enduring at the farthest reach of the Guardians space sectors to which the rookie Green Lantern finds herself on her first assignment and where she will find herself depending on the goodwill of others while working to solve the first murder case this fantastic civilization has had in five centuries of peace, ostensible or not. The price for this peace was for every citizen to be subjected to the Emotion Exploit, genetic technology which dampens emotions.

The City Enduring is a strange land indeed. Constructed from the remnants of two home worlds and wreckage of space ships, designed as a Dyson Sphere to draw energy from the star it encloses. It is home to three disctinct races, the Nah, keh-Topli, and @Ats, who are collectively known as the Trilogy. The latter group solely being artificial intelligences. Their existence on their native planets was often tenuous at best till each was manipulated by a fourth alien race into fighting one another. After the destruction of their worlds the survivors were faced with hard truths and left to come together for the common good or almost certainly face extinction.

Where does Mullein come from? Born and raised in the “big city” of New York City whose “bright lights” often don’t coincide with reality, Mullein is one of three children and grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons followed by Westerns and Kung Fu movies. The stress of being hardworking people but still barely getting by while Mrs Mullein is ignored for a significant promotion (while having already done the position’s work) puts too much strain on them and they file for divorce. Jo is seen leaving Divorce Court in lower Manhattan on September 11th just as one of the Twin Towers is hit.
Father and daughter jump into the mayhem to rescue people. Their efforts that day and recurring racist incidents she and her family encounter on a regular basis will lead Jo the the conclusion that sometimes a person has to become their own hero. With an acceptance letter from Princeton and an offer from the military, Mullein chooses the latter with a stint in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Text and art leave the exact setting ambiguous. Disillusionment leads her back to Princeton and then to the Police Academy, graduation, and becoming a rookie cop who had the moral compass to report her partner for beating up an innocent man. Her burgeoning police career ending abruptly in the fallout of a friend tagging her in a BLM post on social media.

The night Mullein is fired she finds her life changing dramatically again while drowning her sorrows in a bar and a woman approaches her with a job offer. After some initial confusion is cleared up Mullein listens to the woman, in reality a Guardian of the Universe from Oa, and her proposal to become a Green Lantern. Mullein accepts and soon finds herself in the City Enduring.

Mullein draws upon her cumulative lived experiences, in addition to those mentioned above, heightened by her keen awareness of herself and how society and government functions for and against groups of people depending on race and class and the intersectionality of both and education and training to guide her words and deeds as a Green Lantern. She is extremely resourceful, fulfills her obligations and duties, and tackles situations she finds herself even when they’re not of her own doing.

Jo is someone who is in control of their emotions when necessary and impulsive when other times call for it, an ability that intrigues, confuses and alarms Syzn of the Cliffs. Syzn’s mixed reactions come from close observation. She is a Peace Accountant, the equivalent of a police captain. She shares her home with Jo and they had a brief relationship which didn’t meet Jo’s needs. Jo also was attracted to Marth of the Sea and had sex on at least one occasion. Staying true to character, Jo remained clear eyed about Marth and his flaws rather then blinding herself because of his charm and sexiness. Both Syzn and Marth are Nah.

Mullein’s power ring is unique in that it recharges itself incrementally instead of relying on an independent battery. The design also draws on the user’s willpower to live with fear compared to the standard requirement that Green Lanterns be fearless. Consider the stress and fear members of the Black community have internalized over generations as they just try to live their lives.

Jo Mullein first appeared in Far Sector #1. Mullein had relationships with Syzn of the Cliffs, By The Streaking Ice and Marth of the Sea in issues #2 and #6 respectively. Both Syzn of the Cliffs and Marth of the Sea first appear in #1. He is one of the three Council members.

Mullein appears in the current volume of Green Lantern (2021) written by Geoffrey Thorne with art by ChrisCross, Tom Raney, Marco Santucci, and Mike Ateyeh.

Created by N K Jemisin and Jamal Campbell. Cover art by Jamal Campbell from the cover of Far Sector #1. Additional art by Marco Santucci and Michael Atiyeh from Green Lantern #8 (2021).

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February 9, 2022
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