20 April 2010

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Star City, Part XIX: Showcase Presents The Green Arrow, Volume One

Comic trade paperback, 527 pages
Published 2006 (contents: 1958-69)

Borrowed from the library
Read March 2010
Showcase Presents The Green Arrow, Volume One

Writers: Dave Wood, France "Ed" Herron, Robert Bernstein, Jerry Coleman, Bob Haney, Gardner Fox, John Broome, Dick Wood, George Kashdan, Bill Finger, Jack Kirby
Artists: Jack Kirby, Roz Kirby, George Papp, Lee Elias, Mike Sekowsky, Bernard Sachs, George Roussos, Neal Adams

This volume collects every Green Arrow comic printed between 1958 and 1969 (including those in The Green Arrow) in black and white. Though a nice idea, such an undertaking quickly reveals that these old Silver Age comics were never designed to be reprinted, as they quickly grow stale and repetitive: there are some fifty-nine comics of 6-7 pages here, all of them ending with Green Arrow and Speedy being resoundingly smug. The writing is by a variety of folks, but Lee Elias provides the majority of the art, which is good, aside from the fact that I want to punch his "cherubic" Speedy in the face.

There's a weird number of stories about Native American tribes who still practice "the old ways"; I'm assuming this is because obviously all Indians practice archery, so our hero fits right in. What makes this even weirder is that in "The World's Worst Archer!" we learn that Speedy used to live with an old-ways Indian tribe... a fact never mentioned before or since, though it would have been relevant on any number of occasions. Later stories are a little bit more sensitive towards this, though "The Wrath of the Thunderbird" has a character unquestioningly assert that the reservation system has done nothing but good for Native Americans. Also weird is this volume's depiction of women in the person of the lovely Miss Arrowette, whose arrows are of course all feminine (the hairpin arrow, the powder-puff arrow, the lotion arrow, and so on), but can't cut it because crime-fighting's too dangerous for a woman. Right, Oliver-- I see that it's not too dangerous for your thirteen-year-old ward. She returns a couple times, though, and eventually gets a story where she's able to hold her own and help GA in solving a case, rather than hinder him.

The best stories are the ones that actually have some room to breathe, and thus include a plot-twist or two. Toward the end of his run, Green Arrow began receiving ten-page stories, the strongest of which was the nicely surreal "The Land of No Return". Even better, however, were his appearances in The Brave and the Bold alongside the Martian Manhunter and Batman. My favorite story was "The Senator's Been Shot!", which sees both Oliver Queen and Bruce Wayne contemplating giving up their secret identities-- Oliver so he can use his financial wealth to do good, and Bruce so he can go into politics. They don't, of course, but it's nice to see the characters wrestling with any kind of moral quandary, and Neal Adams's fantastic art and layouts make what could have been a still-somewhat-conventional story fairly edgy in tone. Coming at the end of the book and the end of the Silver Age, the changes this story brought were a long time in coming.

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Star City, Part XVIII: The Green Arrow

Perfect-bound comic, 71 pages
Published 2001 (contents: 1958-59)

Borrowed from the library
Read March 2010
The Green Arrow

Writers: Jack Kirby, Bill Finger, Dave Wood, Ed Herron, Robert Bernstein
Artists: Jack Kirby, Roz Kirby

This volume collects all the Green Arrow stories drawn by Jack Kirby before he went to Marvel and co-invented the Fantastic Four. It's just eleven six-page stories, not exactly a lot of a reading-- or very complicated reading. At that length, there's scarcely even room for plot complications. The writing of only one of the stories is officially credited to Kirby, but Kirby disciple Mark Evanier's introduction reveals that he usually rewrote the stories as he drew them. The most Kirby-esque one is the two-part "The Mystery of the Giant Arrows"/"Prisoners of Dimension Zero!", where Green Arrow (and sidekick Speedy) are plunged into another reality where everyone is a giant... including a very familiar crime-fighter called Xeen Arrow. Nothing here stands out very much, aside from GA's ridiculous original origin story, "The Green Arrow's First Case". Who keeps a diary on a cave wall?

Green Arrow has gotten flack ever since Quiver for the boxing glove arrow, but what reading this story revealed is that it is one of the least bizarre arrows in GA's arsenal. In these mere eleven stories, he deploys the heli-spotter arrow, the ricochet arrow, the mummy arrow, the boomerang arrow, the rain arrow, the cable arrow, the cocoon arrow, the jet arrow, the firecracker arrow, the balloon arrow, the parachute arrow, the rope arrow, the short-circuit arrow, the acetylene arrow, the aqua-lung arrow, the two-way radio arrow, the fountain-pen arrow, the dry-ice arrow, the flare arrow, the two-stage rocket arrow, the siren arrow, the tear-gas arrow, the smokescreen arrow, the machine-gun arrow, the fan arrow, the net arrow, the ink arrow, and the greatest of all, the fake-uranium arrow. And that's not even counting arrows from other sources, such as the charmingly stereotypical Green Arrows of other countries, or the people of 3000 A.D., who send GA hi-tech arrows. But you do have to admire the single-minded worldview of these stories: there's not any problem that can't be solved through the deployment of the appropriate arrow.

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Star City, Part XVII: Green Arrow: Year One

Comic hardcover, 152 pages
Published 2008 (contents: 2007)

Borrowed from the library
Read March 2010
Green Arrow: Year One

Writer: Andy Diggle
Artist: Jock
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher

The latest version of Green Arrow's origin sees billionaire playboy Oliver Queen, always looking for something to fill his empty life, dumped off the side of his yacht by his conniving chief of security. Andy Diggle has a good grasp of Oliver, showing his evolution for layabout to man-with-a-mission very well, yet also showing that (in the best heroic tradition) Oliver was Green Arrow all along. The plot is decent, though uncomplicated-- but when were origin stories ever about plot? China White is a great villain in name and visual appearance, but uninteresting in actual execution.

What really takes this story from above average to excellent is the artwork by the oddly-named Jock, who succeeds in communicating the intensity of Oliver's experiences time and again, and in realizing Diggle's script with ease. David Baron's colors are also fantastic. By the end of this story, you believe that Oliver Queen is ready to return to civilization and kick some butt in Star City.

I do want to know how Green Arrow makes the transition from jungle fighter to street patroller, which is just as potentially interesting as this, but that story seems to have never been told, at least not in the modern continuity.