[This review comes from Bob Hodges of the To the Black Rose blog:]
Green Arrow/Black Canary: For Better or For Worse collects Justice League of America #75, backups from Action Comics #428 & 434, Joker #4, Green Lantern/Green Arrow #94-95, backup from Detective Comics #549-550, & excerpts from Green Arrow: Longbow Hunters #1, Green Arrow vol. 2 #75 & 101, & Green Arrow vol. 3 #4-5, 12, & 21. It does not contain full covers (though several of the stories being backup features wouldn't have covers anyway), but does have an introduction by Denny O'Neil who penned JL of A #75 and GL/GA #94-95.
The intro is standard paint by numbers fare, but does feature O'Neil confessing that he does not remember why he brought Dinah Drake Lance (later retconned to be Dinah Drake Lance's daughter Dinah Laurel Lance) to Earth 1 in JL of A #75 and involved her with Oliver Queen. O'Neil also claims to have written Black Canary in Hard Travelin' Heroes as his ideal woman.
A tremendous amount of talent is on display in this collection as it features most of the important Green Arrow scribes (O'Neil, Elliot S! Maggin, Alan Moore, Mike Grell, Chuck Dixon, Kevin Smith, and Brad Meltzer) and many fine artists (Dick Dillin, Dick Giordano, J. L. Garcia-Lopez, Grell and Lurine Haines, Rick Hoberg, Rodolfo Damaggio, and Phil Hester and Ande Parks).
But despite all of these pluses, the collection remains mediocre at best.
First, though billed as a Green Arrow/Black Canary collection, in reality it is a Green Arrow collection. The stories may have both Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance, but they all are Green Arrow features excepting JL of A #75 and Joker #4, and in the latter Dinah Lance only appears as a street clothed hostage. Black Canary to date has starred in a 4-issue miniseries, a 12-issue on-going series, and around 100 issues of Birds of Prey. Were none of these relevant enough to include in the trade even as more excerpts?
Second, the trade ostensibly documents the build-up to the wedding of Queen and Lance, hence the title and release in the same week as The Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special. Nonetheless it does a poor job of laying the foundation for this marriage. The appeal of Green Arrow/Black Canary relationship is that it is an egalitarian relationship. Both dress up in costume and are excellent fighters, both are headstrong and stubborn individuals, both have had romantic interests other than the besides, and neither is dependent on the other to function as an interesting character. Yet apart from some of the latter excerpts, the trade presents no sense of equity in their partnership.
Almost all of the early stories (again excepting JL of A #75) feature Black Canary as a hostage or in some sort of danger with Green Arrow bolting in to either save Canary or avenge the harm done to her. Elliot S! Maggin has counterfeiters trying to blow up Canary's motorcycle in Action Comics #428 and a smitten Joker taking Dinah Lance hostage in Joker #4. O'Neil depicts Green Arrow not letting Canary accompany him on a dangerous mission in GL/GA #94 and Canary, upon following him anyway, is captured and used as a hostage to force GA to make an attempt on the president's life. Even Alan Moore has Canary shot by a random villian so a furious, avenging Arrow can chase the punk down to extract vengeance.
Not that all of these are bad stories, Joker #4 is entertaining and Alan Moore's "Night Olympics" plays with some interesting concepts in the dialogues between Arrow and Canary, and Arrow and the villain. Both stories have excellent Garcia-Lopez and Janson art as well. But none of these earlier stories (including the cutesy Action Comics #434 where Zatanna kisses Arrow in front of Canary) deal with the important quality of the Arrow/Canary relationship, unless you view Black Canary playing Maid Marion the hostage as the defining characteristic.
The later excerpts from Longbow Hunters and the various ongoing Green Arrow series are very good, but they undermine the need for the wedding as J. Caleb Mozzocco mentioned over at Every Day Is Like Wednesday. Highlights include Dinah explaining to Ollie why she doesn't want to marry him or have his kids after he proposes to her, Dinah breaking up with Ollie after she sees him kissing another woman (not Zatanna this time), Dinah's lingering bitterness about Ollie's philandering even when Connor Hawke brings the news of his death, and the finale of the trade where Ollie stops his second proposal plan when Dinah hints at what a bad idea it would be.
Finally, the trade feels mediocre, because its contents are such a cluster^@$%! (to imitate Judd Winick). The DC solicitation erroneously includes Birds of Prey #88 and does not mention that all of the later stories are appearing as excerpts. This is not such a big deal for Longbow Hunters #1 and the issues from Green Arrow vol. 3 since they are already collected in trades and only portions of these issues are relevant to this collection. But I was excited by the prospect of having full issues from Grell's and Dixon's runs on vol. 2, which have hardly been collected. The later stories are not the only ones duplicated from previous collections as JL of A #75 appeared in The JLA Hereby Elects... and "Night Olympics" appears in DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore.
I was excited by the prospect of this trade, since I really like both Ollie's and Dinah's characters and had hoped DC would see fit to trade more of their past material. But instead of this collection couldn't DC have put out both Green Arrow and Black Canary Greatest Stories Ever Told volumes to celebrate their wedding? Or if they really wanted to showcase more of Maggin and O'Neil's work on the characters DC could have put out a Green Arrow/Black Canary in the Seventies trade or continued Green Arrow's Showcase Presents line. Or DC could continue to trade important series for the characters like Grell's Green Arrow vol. 2 and Dixon's Birds of Prey.
The initial concept had me excited; the execution of the same dampens my enthusiasm so that . . .
Rating: 2 out of 5 boxing glove arrows or pairs of fishnet stockings.