Friday, January 12, 2007

The once and future Queen - Part Two : The bad

Now it´s back to comics again. I don´t know if I will do an all video post again. I thought it would take less time but as it turned out that took just as long as a normal post about comics. So if I ever do another one depends on your comments ( you know that you can post comments, right ? ) or if I ever feel like it.

In my first post about Green Arrow I started to rant a little and I didn´t get to say all the things I wanted to say. So before we come to the ugly part of the Green Arrow series there are a few things I have to get of my chest about Mike Grell´s series. First of one of the best things in the series was the relationship between Green Arrow and Black Canary. Or more between Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance. Because Black Canary does not appear in the series for a very long time. Judging by the readers response a few readers thought that it took Dinah too long to get back to her alter ego. For my taste it takes her just long enough. When a person has a traumatic experience like Dinah had during LONGBOW HUNTERS it just takes time before they become comfortable again going around doing their superheroing thing. The transition from not being able to cope with it at all to the point where she becomes confident again was done very gradually and efficiently.

There are also some people who complain about the intimate scenes between Ollie and Dinah but this is a normal, adult relationship. Maybe there was a time where it was not possible to show what happens between a man and woman but that is definitely in the past. As long as it´s in good taste and not just there as reader service. Speaking about good taste : one of the most difficult tasks in comics is talking about important political or environmentally issues without becoming preachy and pointing fingers. Not so on this book. Mike Grell pulls it off with such ease it´s amazing. Not for one moment you have the feeling of some guy preaching on his soapbox.

Another underlying theme of the series ( beside the Robin Hood mythology ) is the art of archery and what makes a hunter. While the esoteric side of archery are more explored in the issues that continue the story of Shado the theme of Oliver being more a hunter than a normal superhero who is just reactive makes up some of the best issues. Because Mike Grell ( who to my understanding has some experience with archery ) sees the potential in this uniqueness and plays off it with scenes where Oliver uses his knowledge as a hunter to catch his prey - which for the most part is human. So intead of waiting for his opponent to strike he starts by studying him. Finding out what he hunts and why. Finding out where he hunts and when. And then finding out where he eats and sleeps. And then he just lays a trap and waits for his prey to get caught. Which not only makes total sense but when you begin to think about it you ask yourself : why has nobody ever thought of this before ? And this is how you recognise pure genius.

Speaking of Shado : her story is one of the best part of the book not only because of the story itself. But also because of the interaction between her and Green Arrow, her becoming the Ying to his Yang. They have really different approaches to shooting arrows which in turn shows how much philosophy can be behind it. The only thing that bugs me is that I never found out what happened to the child Shado and Ollie have.

So if you find any of this issues in the dollarbin just do what I did : grab as much of them as you can find. It´s totally worth it. This series has carte blanche in my book. It´s all good.

But, like we learned on Star Trek : Next Generation, all good things must end. Case in point : Mike Grell´s tenure as writer on Green Arrow. And let me tell you this : after Mike Grell leaves, the series turns into a complete different beast. Although Jim Aparo took over the art chores the stories were not of the same quality as before. The low point of the whole series was that terrible story that killed of Green Arrow. Now, I don´t possess the particular issues but to my knowledge Ollie was strapped to a bomb on an airplane. And the only way Superman could have saved him would have been to cut one of his arm off the bomb with his heat vision. Which for Green Arrow seemingly was a far worse fate than death. Because life would be too depressing for an one armed archer. So the plane exploded and that was the end of Green Arrow.

Is it just me or do superhero archers die in the worst and most ridiculous manner ? Okay, let´s take a closer look.

Hawkeye : when the Avengers have their worst day ever because the Scarlett Witch has a mental breakdown, who turns out to not possess the mutant power to affect probabilities but much rather the mutant power to rearrange reality because suddenly Dr. Strange destroys years of continuity proclaiming chaos magic as a total sham, a lot of Avengers bite the dust and Hawkeye flies to an alien spaceship that explodes because his quiver is on fire igniting all his explosive arrows and he is just to stupid to take the damn thing off to save his life.

Green Arrow : when terrorists manage to attach Oliver Queen to a bomb on an airplane, rather than getting his arm cut of Ollie goes down in a blaze of glory.

Yup, looks like not only DO writers hate archers, their demise always include pretty stupid stories, superheroes behaving totally out of character and flying things blowing up. And in the case of Green Arrow insult is added to injury because it´s Superman letting Ollie die. And that´s something I will never buy in a million years. Especially Superman would not let Ollie die. I mean we´re talking about the big blue, the one who cherishes life like no other. If he really could not have argued Green Arrow to let him be saved ( which I really doubt ) he would have saved him from himself. Because sometimes things look so bleak that the person in question doesn´t see a way out. And if you are a real friend you prevent that person from doing something really stupid. Like getting blown up by a bomb. Which Superman would have done.

And what about Ollie himself ? Somehow I can´t believe he would throw away everything he has - his friends, his relationship with Dinah and his whole life - just because he may never be able to shoot an arrow again. What about his sons ? What about Roy Harper ? There are other things in life even for a guy like Oliver. And it´s not like there are not other characters in the DC universe with artificial limbs, body parts or whole bodies. I mean, what about Cyborg from the Teen Titans ? You are bitching about loosing an arm ? One lousy arm ? Cyborg has two mechanical arms, two mechanical, that dude is missing half of his face...half of his brain now that I think about it. You never heard him going : dude, that´s just too much. Pull the plug, man, I´m just no use to anyone.

There are a lot of people who have lost a limb or two. Like soldiers or cancer patients or people who just had some sort of traffic accident. It´s not the end of the world and it is not the end of life. The whole idea just sounds so stupid to me. Like some people who think that they will not be granted access to the afterlife if they are missing body parts. It´s just another example that comics can be fantastic but when they are bad they can be really bad.

And yes, if you haven´t guessed it already we have now gotten to the " bad " part of the Green Arrow series. Because dying was not the end of the Green Arrow title. It seems that at that time a few superheroes were replaced by hollow, boring pretenders who only seem to have in common that they were younger than the originals. So like Kyle Rayner replaced Hal Jordan the same thing happened on the Green Arrow book where Oliver Queen was replaced by Connor Hawke. Who I always thought was the son of Green Arrow and Shado. Turns out that is not true and besides Dinah and Shado there was ( at least ) a third woman Green Arrow has exchanged body fluids with. Damn, this Oliver Queen fellow should have been called Horny King instead. Who knows how many illegitime children of him are on the planet right now ?

Connor Hawke grew up in a monastery ( probably to ensure he does not turn out like his old man ) and took over the mantle of Green Arrow when he got news of Ollies death. I never read many of the books, mostly because that sounded too much like ARCHER & ARMSTRONG from Valiant comics - only without Armstrong. The whole " naive young and innocent guy who grew up in a monastery where he became a martial arts master gets out in the real world and all the ladies fawn over him because of his boyish charms " spiel has been done to death in this series. So it didn´t make much sense to me to buy a comic that does the same thing - without Barry Windsor Smith doing the art. In my opinion you can skip the whole part with Connor Hawke and get right to the next highlight : Kevin Smith.

Known for cool indie movies and huge deadline problems on series like Daredevil and Spider - Man / Black Cat Kevin Smith resurrected the whole Green Arrow franchise. He brought Oliver Queen back from the death and rescued the comic book from comic limbo. The first two storylines by Kevin Smith are pure comic gold. Even with Phil Hester´s art. But to make up for this we got beautiful covers by Matt Wagner. Of course that could also not last for long. After Kevin Smith left Brian Meltzer took over who obviously has a deep love for Green Arrow despite the fact that I didn´t enjoy his issues much. To me the first story for Green Arrow by Brad Meltzer was just a nice roadmovie in comic book format with a really annoying ending. I don´t want to spoil too much ( yeah, good luck with that. the issues came out five years ago ) but when I read a long story only to find out in the end that the main character is a dick I feel cheated. That is not what I want to hear. Sorry.

So after that the stories became worse, the art became worse and I left the book. Until ONE YEAR LATER. Normally my younger brother is the one who buys all the comics by Scott McDaniel and I get to read his copies. But after the last three stints of McDaniel have become shorter and shorter he just felt it wasn´t worth the trouble so I got the issues because the story really intrigued me.

My brother really likes his art but for only six or five issues it´s just not worth it to put it on the pull list and then to put it off the pull list. Well, life is what happens while you are making other plans. So far Scott McDaniel has drawn 10 issues and the newest issue in Previews also announces art by him. Which would be more than a whole year. Yepp, just to spite my brother. But that will be part three of the big Green Arrow retrospective and I will cover that in my next post.

As a verdict the Green Arrow issues by Kevin Smith are required reading for any Green Arrow fan, the issues by Brad Meltzer are more of a hit and miss thing so you should check them out and see if you like them.

Now if you don´t want to have gaps in your collection you can buy the following issues but I cannot recommend them. The issues I read I can´t recommend because they are just too bad and the ones I didn´t read I can´t recommend because I just don´t know if they are any good. Maybe I missed some pretty intruiging stories with the return of Dr. Light to his old status and wanting revenge but who knows ? The covers by Mr. Jeanes look pretty cool - that´s for sure.

The Connor Hawke issues on the other hand have only interest for Green Arrow completionists.

So that´s all for today. In the next post we will examine what happens when superheroes tread on really dangerous ground : politics.

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