Review: Green Arrow/Black Canary: For Better or For Worse trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, November 19, 2007

[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.
Collected Editions 2014 Comic Book Gift Guide
Get the Collected Editions scoop before anyone else -- on Facebook!

13 comments:

  1. Why would you want DC to have full issues in this trade over excerpts?

    ReplyDelete
  2. In my opinion, at least (and I neither wrote the review nor have I read the trsde), but it sounds like Bob was saying DC included only excerpts from some issues that might have read better if we got the full story, as with the Birds of Prey. How did you think it read?

    ReplyDelete
  3. It would be a lot more than 200 pages if all the stories in this trade were collected!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sorry for being a few days late replying and unclear in the original post. I think you can have bought this collection wanting either of two things:

    A) A representation of the good qualities of Green Arrow's and Black Canary's relationship leading to a logical culmination in marriage.

    B) Reprinting of some not previously reprinted materials from the histories of these characters.

    In the review I explain why I think
    the trade fails at A. So I was hoping for full issues from Grell's run on Green Arrow and Dixon's runs on the same and Birds of Prey and the solicitation failed to disabuse me of these hopes. If the collection had done this I would be more inclined to see it as a sucess at B.

    Since the collection achieved neither A or B to my satisfaction I gave it a mediocre rating.

    Cheers,
    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  5. Bob - did you see my comment on how many extra pages would be in this trade if we had full issues instead of excerpts?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous,

    If page counts were really an issue than DC should have cut out previously reprinted material like the Alan Moore story or the immense amount of stuff from vol. 2.

    And putting aside all of that, it is reasonable to expect DC solicitations to mention that some stories appear only in excerpts and to not falsely indicate Birds of Prey 88 would be included.

    Maybe I could have looked at the page count and then gone to the Grand Comics Database, dug out all the different page counts for the many different sized stories, done some division, and concluded that they couldn't cram all I was promised in the alloted pages, but damn it I'm a liberal arts major who hates math and when I'm giving DC $20 bucks I shouldn't have to worry about such things.

    Cheers,
    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  7. Bob, why cut out two of the best Green Arrow / Black Canary stories so we get more violent issues in DC history like Longbow Hunters 2?
    There was a reason DC stuck a "MR" logo on the 1st 75 issues of Grell's run.

    ReplyDelete
  8. First of all Night Olympics and the stories from vol. 2 may have Black Canary, but they're primarily Green Arrow stories. Featuring stories where the reverse is true or they both appear prominently would be good for a trade showcasing what's supposed to be an egalitarian relationship (and the fact that the collection didn't do this is a large problem).

    Second of all, they are hardly the best GA stories ever written. Night Olympics introduces some interesting concepts in the dialogue but is ultimately a barebones villain hurts hero's girlfriend so hero hurts villain story. Neither Smith's or Meltzer's runs were bad, but they were overhyped and featured stupid moments. For example why is Solomon Grundy in the Arrowcave, Jason Todd swinging around heaven dressed as Robin, etc.

    Third, I don't advocate including more Longbow Hunters as that series has already been reprinted.

    Fourth, what's so wrong about being violent and/or for mature readers? And even if there is something wrong with it, Volume 2 isn't exactly kid-friendly. I seem to recall a grandfather torturing his son, black magic and demonology, a couple serial killers, sex, a child prostitute, Ollie abandoning baby Connor, and lets not even get started on Winnick's run.

    I don't think it's wrong to include such things in a superhero comic (though it often is done poorly), and Green Arrow like Batman and the Question seem to me to be characters that can be dark and deal with hard topics in ways that say Superman or the Flash probably shouldn't.

    Cheers,
    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm looking for option A in this trade: a quick primer on why the wedding of Green Arrow and Black Canary is a logical next step. Doesn't sound like the trade necessarily delivers.

    Anon, I understand your concern about the more violent aspects of Green Arrow and Black Canary's history, but it's just that--history. If these issues represent turning points in their relationship, I don't think we can exclude them solely on the basis of violence.

    But I see the debate here is including the "best of" issues versus including the more representative samples; I imagine this is a difficulty the DC collections department has with a number of omnibi.

    ReplyDelete
  10. If we did all the stories from Longbow Hunters 1 to Green Arrow V3
    21 as full issues, there would an extra 100 pages added to this trade.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Anon -- I don't think Bob's advocating including the full contents of all of these issues necessarily, so much as including more issues here that haven't already been collecting elsewhere, and removing some that had.

    But no one person would have chosen the same contents for this trade as another, and everyone's going to have something they'd have like to seen. I'll probably pick this one up around the same time as the Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding hardcover; makes a nice companion piece.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Anon,

    I concede that including all issues as advertised would add a substantial amount of pages. I fail to see how that matters in regards to DC having a misleading solicitation, needing better content for this trade, or reprinting already reprinted material. I see those as the substantive issues involved in my review not the bloody number of pages.

    Cheers,
    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  13. Bob, you raise a few valid points here. I'd love to see collections of both BLACK CANARY mini as well as the regular series. If I'm not mistaken, the mini was called NEW WINGS, and both were by Sarah Byam & Trevor Von Eeden, makes a buy hands down for me at least !

    ReplyDelete