11 December 2009

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Star City, Part XI: Green Arrow / Black Canary: For Better or For Worse

Comic trade paperback, 199 pages
Published 2007 (contents: 1969-2003)

Borrowed from the library
Read November 2009
Green Arrow / Black Canary: For Better or For Worse

Writers: Denny O'Neil, Elliot S! Maggin, Alan Moore, Mike Grell, Chuck Dixon, Kevin Smith, Brad Meltzer
Pencillers: Dick Dillin, Dick Giordano, José Luis García-López, Klaus Janson, Mike Grell, Lurine Haines, Rick Hoberg, Rodolfo Damaggio, Phil Hester
Inkers: Dick Giordano, Klaus Janson, Rick Hoberg, Joe Giella, Frank McLaughlin, Vince Colletta, Terry Austin, Robert Campanella, Ande Parks
Colorists: Julia Lacquemont, Lee Loughridge, Guy Major, James Sinclair
Letterers: Todd Klein, Ken Bruzenak, Steve Haynie, John Costanza, Sean Konot

At the time that Green Arrow and Black Canary were getting married, DC released this anthology, collecting the highlights of Oliver and Dinah's relationship over nearly forty years of comics. It has a rather nice introduction by Denny O'Neill, where he explains the genesis of their relationship and its appeal to him.

The book falls into two distinct halves, though more through accident than design. The first half is stories from the 1960s and 1970s. These stories are typically short and fun, and feature both Green Arrow and Black Canary... but not exactly their relationship, as they're more just stories both characters happen to be in. For example, "In Each Man There is a Demon!" (written by Denny O'Neil, art by Dick Dillin & Joe Giella) is simply narrated by the two of them (though it is important to their characters for other reasons). "The Plot to Kill Black Canary!" (written by Elliot Maggin, art by Dick Giordano) has Black Canary confess her love, but it's a one-page coda to an unrelated adventure. Most of the stories in this section do short shrift to Black Canary, too: despite her own status as a superhero, Green Arrow is always rescuing her. I don't understand why in "A Gold Star for the Joker" (written by Elliot S! Maggin, art by J. L. Garcia Lopez and V. Colletta) she simply stands around and does nothing while the Joker wreaks havoc: she's a judo expert and possesses a canary cry, for goodness sake! The two-part "Lure for an Assassin!"/"Terminal for a Tragedy" (written by Denny O'Neil, art by Mike Grell & Vince Colletta) has Black Canary trying to rescue Green Arrow for a change... but two minutes later she's captured by the villains and held hostage to make Green Arrow co-operate, so she sits out the rest of the story. Surely the Black Canary ought to be written differently than Lois Lane, yet she's just a damsel is distress. If you ignore that component, they're decent stories in the goofy way comics were in the period, and the art is usually strong. The Joker one was probably my favorite.

The second half of the book is stories from the 1980s through the 2000s. The tend to take a different tack, focusing more directly on the relationship between the two characters and treating them both like competent superheroes. The first of these is "The Hunters" (written by Mike Grell, art by Mike Grell and Lurine Haines), which shows us the moment that Dinah reveal to Oliver she doesn't want to have a child with him. But it's only part of "The Hunters", showing us the flaw of the second half of the book: there's not a single whole story or even issue in it. In some cases this makes sense, even when it's irritating to have some text filling the gaps for you: most of "Membership Has Its Privileges" (written by Kevin Smith, art by Phil Hester and Ande Parks) actually has nothing to do with the relationship. But in other cases it's annoying: "Auld Acquaintance" (written by Mike Grell, art by Rick Hoberg) does seem to be about their relationship, and it looks like Black Canary even saves Green Arrow from danger for once, but who knows, as half the story has been replaced with a two-paragraph synopsis. But even when you know it's justifiable, it's still annoying to read. I think my favorite in this half of the book was either "The Hunters" (wish we'd had more of it, though) or what we get of "Run of the Arrow" (written by Chuck Dixon, art by Rodolfo Damaggio and Robert Campanella), which has a great scene where Connor Hawke goes to tell Dinah about Oliver's death.

The relationship between the two characters is one I didn't know a lot about (Black Canary appeared very seldomly in the 2000s Green Arrow series), and I was glad this book existed to fill me in. But it didn't do so in an entirely satisfying fashion.

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