It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Green Arrow. He is, without a doubt, my favorite DC superhero for a number of reasons, one of which is his strong moral code and sense of liberal values which often put him at odds with other heroes. Recent tales of the Emerald Archer, however, caused me to drop his title entirely and it’s been a few months since I’ve read a Green Arrow title. When I heard that DC planned to re-release the acclaimed Dennis “Denny” O’Neil/Neal Adams run of Green Lantern/Green Arrow, I wasted no time grabbing this amazing volume which collected the entire run in one place. How does this 40 year old comic hold up to a modern reader?
Green Lantern/Green Arrow collects Green Lantern issues #76-87, #89 and stories from The Flash issues #217-219, #226. In 1970, the Green Lantern title faced languishing sales, so DC Editor Julius Schwartz brought on the team of O’Neil and Adams, a duo he believed could revitalize the ailing title. Ultimately, the two chose to pair the liberal, man of the people Green Arrow with the authority-loving Green Lantern. This duo had worked to reinvent Green Arrow only a few years prior from a bow-toting Batman-expy into a hero with a unique outlook on life and a desire to help out the little guy. Pairing these two foils together created a comic the likes of which had never been seen prior, as the two tackled numerous social issues facing real world America from drugs to gang violence to racism to overpopulation.
Most of the issues collected in this work are stand alone stories, woven together by a tale of Green Lantern and Green Arrow traveling across America, before returning to their hometowns (Coast City and Star City, respectively) to deal with problems there. The stories treat hot button issues like the marginalization of the Native Americans and oppression of blue collar workers with finesse, showing both sides of every problem (with Green Lantern taking a conservative slant while Green Arrow provides the liberal voice). The messages never seem preachy, and O’Neil leaves it up to the reader to decide on his or her own point of view on the issue, though I’d be lying if I said the messages aren’t left-leaning.
The writing is nothing short of superb. O’Neil does a magnificent job portraying complex social issues without appearing pedantic. The author also does a great job giving his characters distinctive voices, so that even when we see speech bubbles from afar it’s easy to tell who’s talking. The adventures the characters experience are also highly entertaining, a far cry from usual PSAs that just come off as dull or awkward. My only gripe is that sometimes the characters, especially Green Arrow, speak in a slightly awkward manner, but that’s more because of early 70s slang that someone such as myself would find dated. Elliot Maggin also provides a bit of writing, and his style is just as powerful as O’Neil’s, but regrettably we only see a bit of his work.
A lot of people aren’t fond of the art found in older comics, but I have to say Adams provides some of the most amazing images I’ve ever seen in the medium. The heroes’ costumes are bold and defining, and special mention should go the fact that the artist designed the most iconic of Green Arrow’s costumes, one he would wear for almost 40 years. In this comic, Adams proves he can draw everything from a simple fist-fight to the far-flung reaches of space. His real skill comes in the facial expressions he provides for the characters, injecting massive amounts of emotion into each closeup. I also have to applaud Adams for drawing one of the most beautiful examples of Black Canary I’ve ever seen (as most can guess, I’m a big fan of her, too). Adams art is supported by inking from Dick Giordano which is also great and strengthens the lines it sits behind.
Another great thing about this collection is all the surprising material within. These comics include the start of the well-known relationship between Green Arrow and Black Canary, the introduction of Green Lantern John Stewart (who many folks my age probably remember/were first introduced to via the Justice League cartoon of the early 2000s), and, of course, the classic “My ward Speedy is a junkie???” storyline. The collection also comes with a number of reprint covers in the back, which mostly are the same as the ones you find earlier in the book but still give you the images at higher quality.
Ultimately, I think Green Lantern/Green Arrow is a must-buy. At only $30, this collection is a great deal since it contains over 350 pages of ground-breaking comics. I think some people who don’t like the look of older comics may have trouble with the art, but this is something that should be overlooked. Honestly, non-comic fans should read this too, as it gives a great picture of the turbulent times in America forty years ago while still providing a swashbuckling adventure story.
Brett Simon is a twenty-two year old comic enthusiast. He almost winced in pain when Green Arrow said he used to think Rock n’ Roll “Rolled out from under a rock.”
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