Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Green Lantern #76

Overview/Review: Green Lantern #76, co-starring Green Arrow
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Artist: Neal Adams

Overview: Well, I think everyone knows the history behind this particular issue, but just in case, here goes: This is the first issue of what would turn out to be a landmark run of Green Lantern. The first of DC's attempt at producing relevant comics, these issue (running from Green Lantern 76-89) began in April of 1970. The series put together two Emerald themed DC characters, Green Lantern and Green Arrow, who engaged on a cross country journey to find America and help out the little guy. The run featured frankly astonishing art by Neal Adams and themes of corporate corruption, social injustice, and even drug abuse penned by Denny O'Neil.

The plot revolves around Hal Jordan flying over Star City, preparing to visit his JLA teammate Green Arrow, who he has not heard from in quite some time. Spying what appears to be a ruffian attacking a respectable looking businessman. Green Lantern swoops down and gives the tough a ride to police headquarters, then returns to check on the suit, who thanks him profusely. Just then, the Emerald Crusader is hit in the head by a soup can, followed by a further rain of garbage and refuse from the street and even the windows above. Not understanding what's going on, GL threatens to beat the crap out of the nearest assailant, which prompts a response from the heretofore unseen Green Arrow.

Ollie explains that the "businessman" is really the local slum lord, who plans to demolish his crappy building, evict the tenants (who have nowhere else to go) and build a parking lot. After hearing this, GL heads over to the fatcat's penthouse and spends a fruitless hour trying to talk him out of his plans. After he's rudely dismissed and manhandled by the man's hired thugs, Hal losses his temper and nearly strikes the man he rescued shortly before. This act incurs the wrath of the Guardians, who reprimand Jordan for hassling a man who has committed no crime. They order him out for some busy work, diverting an asteroid strike on one of Saturn's moons. Incensed by the lack of concern the Guardians are showing, Hal returns to Earth and enlists Green Arrow's help in bringing the slum lord down.

Previously, the villain of our piece had out a hit out on Green Arrow. Knowing he was walking into a trap, Green Arrow had planted a recording device, hoping to get the thugs to implicate their paymaster. They did, but a stray bullet fired during the struggle demolished the recorder. Lacking any hard evidence, it looks like the bad guys will walk away clean. Just then, Hal returns and comes up with an idea. He and Ollie intercept the thugs on their way back to the penthouse. Then Hal, disguised as one of the hitmen, manages to get a confession from his boss...right in front of Star City's district attorney, who Hal had disguised as the other thug.

Of course, Hal's scheme pisses off the Guardian's again, since they explicitly ordered him to stay out of it, but a passionate speech by Green Arrow gives the Guardians pause. Ollie points out that they have no right to interfere in strictly human matters, especially none of them have ever even been to Earth. The Guardians decide that Ollie has a point, and send one of their number to Earth to see what's what. Of course, he'll need people to show him around, and who better to do that than our heroes, Green Lantern and Green Arrow.

Thoughts: Whew, that summary is almost as long as the issue itself! In case you missed it, A LOT happened in this issue. We're introduced to the idea of Green Arrow as a social crusader. We also have Hal Jordan's crisis of conscience. Hal is used to black and white, good guy/bad guy worldview, and the realization that the world really doesn't work that way throws him for a loop.

Overall, I really enjoyed the issue. It did bring up several good points about how superheroes tend to focus on giant monsters and saving alien worlds, but tend to ignore the social injustice in their own backyard. The issue managed to avoid being TOO heavy handed, although you could tell there were parts where they tried just a bit too hard.

As far as the characters themselves, I felt that the creative team did a really good job with both of them. Hal Jordan, the former military, super-powered lawman makes a great contrast to the social crusading, non-super-powered Oliver Queen (leaving aside the fact that Queen was a billionaire himself). I anxious to see how those two will play off each other in future issues, especially the ones where Ollie's failings are thrown in his face (thanks Speedy!).

What do you guys think? Comment away!

3 comments:

Luke said...

There really is a lot going on here! Have to love the Silver Age!

Anyway, it sounds to me like, at least from the first issue, that this run is deserving of it's reputation. The idea of Green Arrow as a social crusader was an important step for the archer, since previously he was more of a Batman-clone than pretty much anyone else in the pantheon before or since. It shaded him in a different light and gave the character a unique voice. The idea of standing up for the little guy also was a unique approach for DC at the time, considering the nature of a lot of their heroes (again, by this point pretty much everyone but Batman). Pairing this guy with straight-laced Green Arrow -- who was straight-laced even for the Justice League -- was a stroke of inspiration which seems to have paid off.

Something I am interested in as you read through this run is how it "holds up" some nearly 40 years after the fact. The issues which they deal with here seem pretty relevant to me, so I am curious if that trend continues.

BentonGrey said...

Howdy Adama, I've been eagerly awaiting your review of these issues, and I'm excited to finally get to discuss them. I'll say this much for them, they sound really great in concept. In fact, your summary was actually a lot more interesting and compelling than the issue itself! Ha, to be fair, most of the ideas in this series are absolutely excellent, it is just their execution that leaves so much to be desired. While I understand that this was groundbreaking stuff when it was put out, the lack of subtlety leaves me completely unsurprised at its lack of sales.

Yes, Ollie as a social crusader is pure brilliant, and the whole angle with the fat-cat slum lord works well, but his venom towards his fellow Leaguers seems somewhat overblown (like most things in this series). Likewise, the IMMEDIATE and all consuming crisis of conscience that descends on GL, and follows him throughout the ENTIRE freaking run is really ridiculous. Every single issue he repeats his little rejection of his Green Lantern Oath. Once again, a good idea, but not so great after you've been bludgeoned over the head by it.

The Hard Traveling Heroes bit....well...I don't know, it seems to me that the Guardians, having been around since the beginning of time and all, probably wouldn't be that stumped by the goings on in one particular world. Anyway, I imagine you'll see some of what I mean as the series goes on. The beginning is a good deal more promising than what follows.

Adama said...

@Benton:

You're right, Ollie's displeaure with his fellow leaguers does kind of come out of the blue, but I found GL's crisis of conscience very believable. Here's a guy from a middle class background who spent his adult life as a fighter pilot in the air force. Then, he's given a wepaon of immeasurable power and tasked with fighting evil. He then proceeds to spend his time either as the fighter jock Hal Jordan, or as the super-powered Green Lantern, who hangs out with the mightiest beings on the planet and fights giant monsters and invading aliens. He's never really had any experiences before this that would disturb his neat, orderly world where evil is evil and good is good. Suddenly he's faced with what is obviously an injustice, but which is also not against the law. When he tries to deal with this situation, his bosses slap him down and send him on a fool's errand. I think that perfectly sets the stage for serious personal crisis.

As I read more of the series, I'll let you know if my opinions change :)