Monday, February 25, 2008

Spotlight:: Green Lantern #77

Issue: Green Lantern #77

Title: Journey to Desolation

Credits: Neal Adams (cover, pencils) Denny O'Neil (script)

Cover Date: June 1970


Synopsis: As Hal Jordan, Oliver Queen and their Guardian of the Universe companion (does this guy ever get a name?) continue their journey to find America, they stumble across a mining town named Desolation, and straight into an ambush. Ollie and Hal bail out of the truck and engage their attackers in battle. Ollie makes short work of his opponents with his mad archery skills, but Hal's ring mysteriously fails him at a critical moment in the battle.

After questioning their attackers, GL and GA realize that the attack is a case of mistaken identity. The leader of the group, Jacob, explains that the group is made up of disaffected miners from the nearby town of Desolation. Desolation is ruled by a ruthless mine boss name "Slapper Soames" (you'd think he would have used some of his power to pick a better nickname...) who keeps the townsfolk in conditions little better than slavery. The miners have finally risen in revolt in response to Slapper's latest affront: trumping up charges against local troubadour Johnny Walden. Johnny will hang at down if nothing is done.

After a brief argument (where Hal again shows a naive trust in anything resembling authority, legitimate or not) Ollie and Hal agree to help the miners attack Slapper Soames and save Johnny Walden.

Unfortunately for them, Slapper has built himself something resembling a modern bunker, complete with artillery and hired thugs in the form of Nazi war criminals (must be a profitable mine...). Regardless, the battle is joined. Initially, the miners do well. After all, they have 2 highly skilled superheroes on their side. Things start to go south when Hal gets a message from the Guardians that his ring has been partially depowered (since he's not working his regular beat) just in time to get in the middle of a firefight and wander into a cloud of knockout gas (thanks, Guardians!)

Meanwhile, Ollie gets pistol whipped and brought into Soames' headquarters. Luckily for Ollie, he was only playing possum. He manages to defeat most of the mine boss's thugs before being betrayed by Jacob. Jacob, it turns out, is working for Soames. He's leading the miners in revolt only so Soames has an excuse to kill off the feistier ones, leaving the rest more docile than ever. Just as Ollie is about to be shot, Hal intervenes and melts Jacobs gun.

The bad guys defeated, Ollie laments that even with their victory, the miners don't really have much to look forward to... the end.

Thoughts: Alright, one thing right off the bat. As soon as Hal complained about his "power beam" not "going far enough," I made all kinds of jokes in my head involving erectile dysfunction drugs (if your power beam remains erect for more than 4 hours, contact your local Guardian immediately...). Aside from that, I thought the issue was great. I think part of it was that the situation they faced was actually a serious problem. Company towns like Desolation existed all over the Old West, even into the 20th century. Of course, I doubt situations quite like that existed in 1970. Still, the issue was well done, and managed to avoid sounding quite as preachy as the last issue.

Green Lantern's crisis of conscience continues, and continues to remain believable. His naive trust in anything resembling authority is a bit of a stretch, however. Green Arrow gets to demonstrate his usefulness in a fight in this ish (and his vulnerability to pistols in the back of the head) so as a fan of the Emerald Archer, I found that pretty satisfying. Neal Adams continues to please with his art, especially that incredibly melodramatic cover!

Thoughts anyone?

5 comments:

Luke said...

I just want to say that "A Town Called... Desolation!" sounds like a Luke Cage comic.

Anyway, I think it is interesting that O'Neil seems to really job out Hal in order to put over Ollie, so to speak. I wonder how many readers who were Green Lantern fans were ticked off about their boy being made to look like a sap while the Guest-Star made all the right calls? We all know comic book readers to be a cowardly and supersitious lot, so I imagine the response would have been outlandish to say the least. Of course, the tables would get turned, but that's beyond the point.

I doubt many towns like that existed in the 70s, but the allegory still works. There's still factory towns out there today where if the factory has to close or otherwise cut back, it's going to lead to some severe hardships for the inhabitants. Making it into an psuedo-Old West situation adds a layer of protective Dura-Sheen(TM) on it so as not to seem as harsh on those it is pointing the finger at (if my CEO was named "Slapper," I'd start updating my resume).

Kristin said...

ADAM!! Yay! I was excited to see a post from you! :) I'm sad we couldn't get together before I left - but I will be back either some time in July or at the beginning of August (depending on when I run out of money to travel with). Also - you are brave!! You should come to China too!!

PS: I don't really know anything about the Green Lantern, so is it cool if my posts have nothing to do with him? :) Although I did laugh at the part about having a CEO named Slapper!! haha! It might make life around the office more interesting ...

BentonGrey said...

Man, this issue bothered me a bit. It had some pretty decent action, but I felt like GA and GL participating in a mine war was a bit far fetched. I don't mean to say that they wouldn't be concerned about what was happening here, but I DO mean that they would never let innocent men die in DROVES around them. These two could have snuck into that bunker on their own, or at least done some reconnoitering so that they knew what they were up against.

As far as Hal's crises of conscience, well the blind faith in authority is plain ridiculous, and the repetition of him questioning his oath is also annoying.

You know, stories like this, dealing with corporate threats (that don't have to be so outlandish) really are a good idea, but subtlety and complexity are pretty much nowhere to be found in these stories. Once again, the ideas are good, execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Adama said...

@Benton:

You know, I didn't think about that. Why the hell did GA and GL lead the attack on the bunker, when Hal is wearing the most powerful weapon in the universe on his hand? He could have stormed the place without anyone dying...damn you Benton, stop undoing my suspension of disbelief!

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite issues of any comic. I read this as a kid (my dad collected pretty much anything Denny O'Neil wrote in the 70's), and for whatever reason was affected more by this issue than by some of the more celebrated ones. Maybe the betrayal of the "insider" miner leading the revolt was what was striking to my young mind, combined with the pure evil of Slapper Soames.

Not sure if company towns to the extreme of Desolation still existed in 1970, but they definitely did exist earlier, and were definitely a cultural touchstone: there were areas of Appalachia that were still deep in that societal system in 1970, and a song addressing it -- "Sixteen Tons" was a #1 hit just 15 years earlier.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sixteen_Tons

O'Neill doesn't specify the exact location at this part of their trip, but it's pretty likely that inspiration was drawn from the violent West Virginia miners strikes throughout the 20th Century.