Saturday, October 15, 2005

Mystery Box Part One: Green Arrow 1-21

Ah, the summer of 2001. I was young and impressionable and I thought Mallrats was funny. I had fond childhood memories of Green Arrow's appearances on SuperFriends, but had never actually read his title.

This is, rather simply, because I was huge Marvel mark until around '96 or so, when I finally utterly stopped giving a damn about Spider-Man and migrated back to my childhood love of the Batman (it's an abusive relationship at best, these days). Morrison's JLA run introduced me to the new Green Arrow, apparently the young, blond, vaguely gay son of Ollie Queen, and I enjoyed him, especially when he fought the Key solo, using only his father's trick arrows.

So I did some research and found out that his pop had been blown up in an airplane over Metropolis while Superman looked on. Which doesn't do much for Superman's treacly arguments with Wonder Woman lately, but Oliver got better, so I guess the point's moot.

Which brings us to Quiver.

Quiver demonstrates a key flaw in having somebody famous write a comic book: They're edited with kid gloves. I know this sold like crazy, but that's a shaky defense for a ten(!)-part story that could've been done in four. Or about seven pages, really.

Ollie pops up in the alleys of Star City wearing rags and rocking a homemade bow, complete with a boxing glove arrow made with a bleach bottle. I won't get into the archery here, because I don't want MacQuarrie over at Suspension of Disbelief to get mad at me, but the whole thing's pretty suspect.

He's immediately adopted by a chubby, rich fellow who recognizes him and they move in together. Because Kevin Smith's so progressive, gay jokes ensue. Ollie's memory's shaky, but it's clear he's more the old leftie Queen from the seventies, not the crazy environmentalist bomb-bait Ollie of the nineties, and, accordingly, he busts out his old costume to go spray arrows at fat cats and such.

Smith then saddles Ollie with an underaged prostitute sidekick (who, thankfully, took a really scenic route to calling herself "Speedy," though she picked up archery right quick) and sends him on a long, dull adventure to find his soul.

The Demon's involved. And Batman. And the other Green Arrow. And another Green Arrow (in heaven, with Barry Allen and Jason Todd. Well, half of them are still there. Sometimes).

The pros: Phil Hester and Ande Parks on art is almost always good. Plus, even if the story drags on (and on and on), Smith's good for some snappy dialog. There's also a fight with Black Manta. Sure, it didn't move the story along (at all, really), but it was bucket-head Black Manta, back to normal (inexplicably) after a few years of being a really goofy actual manta. That's one of those fights you never even think to think about. It's just so unlikely and bizarre that it's nice to see it happen.

The cons: It's a freaking ten issue coming-back-from-the-dead story. It's rambling and boring and involves magic. And Parallax. That's strike one through, like, nine.

The Sound of Violence:

Oh, God. The villain here is a guy named Onomatopoeia. His gimmick is that he imitates the sounds he hears.

...threatening, no?

Look, sound doesn't work in comics. Seeing a speech bubble that says "blam" is two or three times as dumb as seeing the word "blam" written next to a picture of a gun going off. A villain who says "snap" is not scary, and having him kill a heretofore unknown smalltown superhero (and his wife) to put him over is just tacky.

In a universe where the freaking Fisherman is making appearances, I have to figure Onomatopoeia'll pop up sooner or later, but I don't think this guy even showed up in Last Laugh. Everyone was in Last Laugh. He sucks, and the story sucks.

Pros: Hester and Parks, again. Sure, the villain looks like a poor man's Bullseye, but they eke out a few good visuals. Smith writes a decent Hawkman, and any time Hawkman and Green Arrow hang out, it's pretty entertaining.

Cons: The villain has exactly no motivation. He also sucks.

Smith then left the book to hand in exceptionally late work for Marvel. Brad Meltzer took over, and we got the book's first (and, as far as I know, only) good story.

The Archer's Quest:

Before Meltzer loosed this mindwiping story on the unsuspecting populace, he quietly wrote a nice little Green Arrow story. Premise is simple: Ollie had a bunch of stuff hidden after he died so as to protect his friends, and he wants it back. It's a nice framework to look at the history of the character, and also gives an excuse to drag in some entertaining guest stars - Catman, prior to losing a big pile of weight, getting a dye job and learning to kick buckets of ass. The Shade, a character I love so much it's kind of creepy. Kyle Rayner, who gets more characterization in four pages than he did in the entire Rann/Thanagar War. Roy Harper, in his only appearance where I did not hate him. Superman. Meltzer's Superman is great.

Pros: It's a damned sight better than the entire series that precedes it. Also, Solomon Grundy is squatting the Arrowcave, and what should be the most one-sided fight in ever turns out being awesome. Art's good, story's good. If you read any recent Green Arrow story, read this one.

Cons: Judd Winick took over the title after this. And there was a story featuring the evil son of Abin Sur that I will not even discuss.

Next time in the Mystery Box: Aquaman and my man-crush on Will Pfeifer.

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