04 May 2010

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Star City, Part XXII: Batman/Green Arrow: The Poison Tomorrow

Perfect-bound comic, n.pag.
Published 1992

Borrowed from the library
Read April 2010
Batman/Green Arrow: The Poison Tomorrow

Writer: Dennis O'Neil
Penciller: Michael Netzer
Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Colorist: Lovern Kindzierski
Letterer: Todd Klein

This short graphic novel unites Batman and Green Arrow to combat a new threat from Poison Ivy, who has indirectly poisoned Black Canary (lame) and will soon poison the entire planet. The story is pretty average, a lot of running around punching things while Green Arrow snipes at Batman, even though I don't think their methodologies are terribly dissimilar at this point in time. (If anything, Green Arrow is more "street-level" and brutal, given that Batman doesn't believe in killing and is in fact running around with Justice League Europe pretty publicly.) I've never found Poison Ivy a terribly interesting villain, and her co-conspirator here is even more boring. The story would get by, but it's let down slightly by Michael Netzer's art, which is exaggerated in weird ways, such as Batman's huge ears and Oliver's ridiculous handlebar mustache. Gotta love that last page, though-- pure Batman.

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Star City, Part XXI: Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters

Comic trade paperback, n. pag.
Published 1989 (contents: 1987)

Borrowed from the library
Read April 2010
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters

Writer / Artist: Mike Grell
Assistant: Lurene Haines
Color Artist: Julia Lacquement
Letterer: Ken Bruzenak

After years of feeling disaffected, Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance move to Seattle to start a new life... only to immediately be drawn into some mysterious killings. Of course. The plot here is convoluted, but that's not really the point of The Longbow Hunters, which is Green Arrow's emotional journey, as he transforms into a dark, urban hunter to fight this dark, modern world (it was the 1980s, after all). The worst of it is that Black Canary is kidnapped by a gang of thugs in the middle of an investigation and seemingly molested. It could easily be a case of women-in-refrigerators (and it very well might be), but as Meltzer does in Identity Crisis, Grell handles it so that it works-- it feels real and not gratuitous. I think it's a matter of Grell's fantastic artwork for the story, which completely matches his writing in tone, aided by some great coloring. This is a much less fun Green Arrow than the one of the early years, or of Kevin Smith's run, but it works fantastically nonetheless. Grell wrote another eighty issues of Green Arrow after this, and it's a dang-old shame that none of them have been collected.

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Star City, Part XX: The Black Canary Archives, Volume 1

Comic hardcover, 227 pages
Published 2001 (contents: 1947-72)

Borrowed from the library
Read April 2010
The Black Canary Archives, Volume 1

Story: Robert Kanigher, Gardner Fox, Dennis O'Neil
Art: Carmine Infantino, Joe Giella, Bernard Sachs, Murphy Anderson, Alex Toth

Collecting all of Black Canary's solo adventures, this volume mostly concerns the character we now know as Dinah Lance née Drake, mother of Dinah Laurel Lance, the Black Canary who ultimately became involved with Oliver Queen. The character is actually somewhat impressive for a 1947 comic book character: after her early adventures with the "humorous" Johnny Thunder, she acquired her own setup, a mild-mannered florist secretly fighting crime with her judo skills at night, much to the consternation of Larry Lance, private detective-- who could never one-up the Black Canary, nor get a date with her. It's an inversion of the good old Clark/Lois dynamic, and it works wonderfully for it. Except not quite: Carmine Infantino's introduction to this volume claims that Dinah Drake "spent much of her time yearning for a good lucking detective whose only interest was in her alter ego", but that's not actually the case; Dinah taunts Larry and never shows a sign that she's interested in him romantically. She's no milquetoast like Clark Kent can be! This unusual setup (and some sharp art) raises Robert Kanigher's twenty-two 6-10-page stories out of the repetitive rut they could easily fall into (see Showcase Presents The Green Arrow). The plots are typically contrived, but I enjoyed the tales nonetheless, especially once Johnny Thunder was nixed in favor of Larry Lance.

Two longer stories come from later in the Black Canary's lifespan, after Dinah Drake has married Larry Lance. "Mastermind of Menaces!" and "The Big Super-Hero Hunt" by Gardner Fox unite Black Canary and Larry Lance with fellow Justice Society member Starman in a pair of stories that are fairly enjoyable, especially the former one. These stories manage to balance all three protagonists well-- Canary isn't sidelined in favor of the male hero in Starman, and even Larry Lance gets to be a semi-competent detective for once.

The last story, "The Canary and the Cat!" by Denny O'Neil is the only one in the book about the second Black Canary... and it shows that O'Neil doesn't really get her character beyond the fact that she knows judo and is in love with Green Arrow. Would Dinah ever sit around thinking about how great Oliver is for fighting crime? Seems unlikely. "I'm an expert at judo... that's all!" she thinks. Geeze, what happened to your floral business, Dinah? Or your own crime-fighting abilities? She does get to kick some butt, though, and Alex Toth's stylized artwork is very nice to look at.