Review: Green Arrow/Black Canary: Enemies List trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Writer Andrew Kreisberg transitions Green Arrow well from the end of Judd Winick's run to the beginning of Kreisberg's, enough so that I actually breathed a sigh of relief about the new team taking over this tricky title. Well, I breathed too soon. In terms of Green Arrow himself, Green Arrow/Black Canary: Enemies List isn't a poor story so much as it just doesn't reach out and grab me; in terms of Black Canary, however, Kreisberg seems unfortunately to fall into a bunch of the same traps as writers before him.

My biggest complaint about Enemies List doesn't involve the characters themselves, but rather a far-too-decompressed plot. To sum up in a sentence, a woman that Green Arrow saves goes mad and begins picking off his enemies, before trying to kill Green Arrow in a murder/suicide pact. This takes five of the book's six chapters, including a rather run-of-the-mill showdown between Green Arrow and the dark archer Merlyn, and then a couple issues where Arrow and Black Canary have a big think, unsuccessfully, about who might be killing their enemies on their behalf.

The problem is, as new villain Cupid is able inexplicably to slaughter Arrow's entire rogues gallery (including, unfortunately, the rather interesting Brick), it only serves to remind the reader how un-interesting Cupid is, basically a Green Arrow version of Harley Quinn. Without pages upon pages of needless angst, Arrow's first encounter with Cupid could've come down to two chapters, in my opinion. That would have left plenty of room for a satisfying conclusion to the story, instead of the cliffhanger that makes Enemies List feel like all setup and no resolution.

Kreisberg, I think, meets with the same trouble that I think faced Birds of Prey writer Tony Bedard and also numerous writers who've taken on Superman and Lois Lane -- when you have a strong, happy character, especially strong happy characters who are married, but you want to create conflict in a series, where do you go? In Bedard's case, this meant weakening the previously-strong Oracle; in Kreisberg's case, it involves pitting the previously-stable Arrow and Canary against each other in a way that comes off as artificial.

Arrow essentially vanquished Merlyn at the end of the previous Green Arrow series, so the irrational bloodthirst that Merlyn inspires in Arrow seems just that -- irrational. At the same time, Canary has her own vendetta against Merlyn in regards to her adopted daughter Sin, so Canary's failure to understand Arrow's rage is equally arbitrary. The scene of Arrow and Canary in marriage counseling is cute, but altogether a plotline that involves a ridiculously overpowered female villain coming between Arrow and Canary takes for granted the broad strokes of these characters (Arrow's womanizing, Arrow and Canary's troubled past) without delving into any of the nuances.

And indeed, any story is in trouble that begins with Black Canary, martial artist extraordinare, with a knife held to her throat by a street punk named Dregz while Green Arrow has to save her. As well as I thought Kreisberg wrote Green Arrow -- especially in the first chapter, he got Ollie's overprotectiveness of his children, as well as the sexual humor Winick used in the book, down pat -- his Black Canary comes off again and again as a damsel in distress. It's almost a shame to find Canary here in her trademark black-and-yellow Birds of Prey gloves, when the story takes up none of her Birds of Prey-established growth. I wasn't quite sure where this story took place in relation to Canary's losing control of the Justice League over in that title, but the stories are part and parcel of the same problem with the character.

Frankly, it's perhaps how much truer to life the Green Arrow and Black Canary character are (as comics characters go) that make them so difficult to write. Arrow is a militant left-wing liberal, a hook that's easy to grab, but that ignores the charming conservative side he shows regarding his own family. Similarly, Ollie's womanizing is an easy plot twist, but using it ignores his growth before proposing to Black Canary. Canary herself is both romantic interest and superhero, a seemingly tough combination to write when most romantic comics interests are the ones who need saving, like Lois and Mary Jane Watson. And having two superheroes date requires extra amount of finesse; as physical heroes both, is it more or less OK when Arrow tasers Canary into unconsciousness (as he does here, far too superficially) than if a writer would represent the same thing between a "normal" couple?

It's all of these issues that make a Green Arrow/Black Canary marriage and title more complicated than it might first appear. Maybe Kreisberg's work on Green Arrow/Black Canary will get better as it goes, but for me a lackluster story and poor character choices combine to make me very wary of picking up the next volume.

[Contains full covers, including "Faces of Evil" cover; "Origins and Omens" story]
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2 comments:

  1. I'm a big GA fan right and have been since I was a little kid growing up in the UK with 2000AD tucked under one arm and GA under the other. Maybe it was a Robin Hood fixation that got me into Ollie and Speedy? I dunno? And why hasn't GA been optioned for a movie? The origin story of Oliver Queen would make an awesome screenplay with a good anti-drugs theme etc...

    Anyway, my point is this...why is this team up run of Green Arrow/Black Canary so incessantly dull? It's boring, run of the mill print and be damned comic book trash, and I'm fed up!

    I want my hero to get the masterful attentions of awesome authors like Brad Meltzer, Kevin Smith and Mike Grell...

    Bring back the good times DC....please!

    Cheers,

    Weaver33

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  2. Exactly. Even with the Blackest Night tie coming up in a volume or two, I think I've all but dropped this title. Not sure what the whole Cry for Justice direction is about (no spoilers, please!), but here's hoping that can resurrect this title.

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