Review: Green Arrow/Black Canary: Family Business trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, March 23, 2009

I very much like the concept of what writer Judd Winick's trying to do on Green Arrow/Black Canary, shown in the first volume and reiterated in the second, Family Business. In practice, however, I wish what I found to be an interesting idea developed in a story that had a bit more content to it.

Judd Winick positions the Green Arrow/Black Canary team firmly in the midst of the DC Universe, in a way that's only logical for two married heroes whose friends and family are all superheroes. In the first volume, Green Arrow shouts to Superman for help (he shouts "Clark," for that matter), escapes from captivity in a boat tricked out by Batman, and encounters nearly the entire Justice League at the hospital bed of his injured son Connor. In Family Business, Batman and Green Lantern appear as a matter of course; Green Arrow and Black Canary barely blink when a surprise DCU guest star emerges from a cryogenic capsule half-way through.

In this way, Winick illustrates how Arrow and Canary are true citizens of the DC Universe. This is a concept I like quite a bit, one that I think is more meaningful in the new post-Infinite Crisis kinder, gentler era where all the superheroes get along and regularly work together without much fuss. That Green Arrow and Green Lantern are friends is long-established, and so it makes sense that Green Arrow would call Green Lantern when he encounters a group of renegade aliens; ditto that they'd consult Batman for a case involving Ra's al Ghul's League of Assassins. It gives the book variety, color (benefitted by Cliff Chiang and Mike Norton's art), and joy that makes the book a fun read.

Unfortunately, Winick doesn't move this volume of Green Arrow/Black Canary past the benchmark of a "fun read." The story starts out intriguingly enough, with the comatose body of former Green Arrow Connor Hawke stolen by forces unknown, but the intrigue very quickly peters out. Arrow and Canary engage in some minor espionage, but the story quickly becomes about them fighting-then-teaming-up-with a generic upstart teenage hero, and then against a generic team of super-villains purporting to be the League of Assassins. There's a lot of just plain fighting here, on big colorful pages with wide open panels and brief dialogue -- in short, a bunch to look at, but not a lot to read. That the whole thing, in the end, turns out to be a misunderstanding doesn't help matters; I'd rather skip the misunderstanding and jump to the plot.

To his credit, Winick appears to try to explore the conceit of Green Arrow/Black Canary as a story of married superheroes. On paper, this essentially involves Green Arrow yelling at people and Black Canary trying to teach him to control his temper, but at least Winick is going there. I'd like to see more of this in this title, making it greater than just a Green Arrow title with Black Canary joining in; this might involve giving Canary a bigger role, ultimately, than just being the one who reins Green Arrow in when he gets too belligerent.

Special credit goes out to DC Comics Collected Editions editor Bob Joy (we at the Collected Editions blog don't recognize these people often enough, who work DC's collections). I don't know for sure if this was Bob's decision or not, but the previous Green Arrow/Black Canary volume, The Wedding Album, ends it seems in the middle of an issue -- you can't tell from reading it, but the happy ending at the end of The Wedding Album actually becomes a cliffhanger a few pages later, and those few pages are instead reprinted in Family Business. This makes The Wedding Album and Family Business both feel like complete stories, whereas letting the issues run as is would have interrupted the flow. Whether this was Bob Joy's decision or someone else, it's that kind of foresight that makes the trade paperback-reading process so much fun.

[Contains full covers.]

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