Or – “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone…”

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Having been a married man for over a decade now, I’m always puzzled by the utilization (or the lack thereof) of marriage in comic book stories. With the notable exception of Reed and Susan Richards, whose marriage is one of their defining characteristics, most comic marriages fare pretty badly. In the post “One More Day” comic universe, it’s clear that most of the editorial staff holds marriage in the same sort of regard as the people who write the “I win this wrestling match and win your woman” angles in professional wrestling. Now, DC is giving us a title that stars a married couple, and I’m waiting to see how long it is before they end an issue with one of them storming out in anger and threatening divorce.

GABCC.jpgPreviously on Green Arrow and Black Canary: On the day of the wedding between Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance, a coterie of the nastiest villains attacked, snatching Oliver away and replacing him with the murderous Everyman. Dinah was forced to murder him on their wedding night (!) when he tried to kill her, but then discovered that Oliver was being held on Paradise Island by Hippolyta (who I believe is actually Granny Goodness, though timelines are a bit knotted right now) and mounts a rescue effort, with the help of Ollie’s son Connor Hawke (aka Green Arrow II) and his adoptive daughter Mia (the new Speedy) during which Connor is shot. Quick thinking by Oliver saves Connor’s life (he stops for a moment and cries for help… from his friend “Clark.” Heh…) but even the assistance of the entire Justice League couldn’t keep Connor from falling into a standard issue comics death-like coma. Oliver, uncharacteristically, is overcome with paternal feeling, and vows to stay by his son’s side until he gets better…

We kick off this issue with JLA chairman Black Canary running a Batman-designed scan of the area from which the bullet came (a program as anal-retentive as it’s creator, searching “every millimeter” of space) while Oliver maintains his vigil over Connor. As Dinah tries desperately to get some sort of answers for her husband, Doctor Mid-Nite (physician to the super-powered stars) arrives to tell her the sad truth. Young master Hawke is completely brain-dead, and they don’t think he’ll wake up. “[Connor’s] minds is as barren a landscape as any I’ve ever seen. Everything he was is gone.” Wait… Eine minuten, bitte. His mind? Mid-Nite is a DOCTOR, not a telepath. I can see him saying that there’s no neurological activity, or that there’s no brainwaves or something, but ‘his mind is blank’ doesn’t sound very scientific. Either way, the point is moot, as Canary is crushed by the revelation because today is Connor’s birthday… The art in this sequence bothers me, as (fill-in?) artist Andre Coelho tries too hard to evoke previous penciller Cliff Chiang, and Dinah’s facial expression goes from vacuous to vacuously confused to looking nauseous. The Black Canary’s face should be striking, even when she’s hurt or upset, and he doesn’t pull that off here, going for a round and strangely child-like visage.

Across town, Oliver Queen has arrived for his regular day of reading to Connor, but wants to talk for a moment about “How I Met Your Mother.” It starts with a flashback to Oliver and Barney sitting in the bar in Soho talking about how the next night will be legen… Wait for it! Dary. No, wait, I’m sorry that’s something else… (Yeah, I’m not proud of that joke, either. They can’t all be gems.) We see callow young Oliver Queen, as seen in the recent Green Arrow: Year One limited, meeting leather clad superhottie Sandra Hawke again after their recent fling. “I’m pregnant,” she says. “Paternity test,” replies Oliver. “I vote you get rid of it, but if you have it… paternity test.” Oh, my word… That is COLD. 8 months later, Sandra is convalescing from childbirth when a newly shaven and straight-arrow (Heh) Ollie arrives. He tells her (indirectly, of course) that he’s sorry, and that he just had an origin and everything, and that he’s going to support her and Connor… but he can’t be a father. “I’m planning on doing some things that are MUCH more important than raising a kid.” Ouch. You can take the heartless jerk out of the superhero… or, then again, maybe you can’t, isn’t that right, Bruce Wayne? Sandra orders him out, and he goes.

Smashcut to a few years later, as Green Arrow tells Batman that he’s been unsuccessful at finding his son, and needs his help. Batman can’t understand Oliver would come to HIM, and Ollie replies, “I thought as someone WITH a son of his own…” Bruce quickly interrupts, “I don’t have a son.” It’s telling to me that I can clearly hear Kevin Conroy and Kin Shriner voicing this exchange… Oliver does his classic Green Arrow point-and-shoot-your-mouth-off routine, telling Batman that as long as Dick Grayson shares his life, fights his fights, and wears a costume alongside him, he has a son, and he’d better remember it. It’s a nice moment that goes by far too quickly. Batman agrees to help, but tells Oliver that he won’t understand the dynamic between him and Robin until he has someone to fight by HIS side… Smash cut to Roy as Speedy, and Oliver explains to his real son that he stopped looking so hard when he adopted his proxy son. That whole exchange comes across as really awkward and painful, and the art once again doesn’t do it justice. Judd’s dialogue indicates that Ollie may be guilty, venting to try and explain himself, but the neutral expression on his face makes it just seem cruel…

Oliver goes on to explain that he knows about Connor’s upbringing, about the fighting, about the impulse control issues, about the threats of juvenile detention. At the point where Connor is about to be shipping off to military school, Sandra finally tells him the truth, that his father is Green Arrow. Connor’s response is the response any middle-school kid would have to such news. “Cool!” She finds a… novel response, to say the least, to the threats of junior jail. She ships her son off to a monastery. Do whut, now? I’m not seeing how that is all that much of an improvement, really. In any case, we see a retelling of events that happened in the 90’s in the old Green Arrow series, as Oliver meets Connor, and is “surprised” to find that the boy is his son, and how he played along with the game rather than admit his long-standing guilt over Connor’s abandonment. “I’m going to make it right, Connor. From now on…” Black Canary arrives just in time to tell him that he’s BEEN making it right, that he’s done so much in such a short time, but Oliver isn’t ready to hear it. “I want to stay RIGHT here. With him.”

Black Canary is touched, and Oliver remarks that he’s not going to abandon his son again, that he’s finally going to be a father, to be a MAN and deal with his past mistakes. He’s finally going to be a father. Again, the art simply isn’t up to the task of making this scene feel as touching as I think it should be, as Black Canary smiles, and distracts Oliver with a proposition. “Marry me.” She points out that he was sucked into the warphole before the ceremony, and he says that he doesn’t want yet another costumed suck-fest (a valid point, given that their wedding was a clusterschmozz of the first order.) Dinah tells him that this time, there’ll be no costumes, no crowds, just them and their friends and family. Smashcut (does Judd Winick know any other way to transition?) to Princess Diana performing a ceremony (since when does she have the ability to marry people?) for the two of them, Half Jordan, Roy Harper, Mia and Oracle while Batman and Superman keep watch over Connor. They say a few simple words (Oliver says “You bet your ass I do,” which would have gotten me beaten up at MY wedding) and boom, they’re all married and stuff. As they return to the house, Dinah suggests a honeymoon, but Oliver doesn’t want to leave Connor alone that long. They then find someone (his nurse) dead on the carpet, and race upstairs to find Connor gone. So… Superman and Batman didn’t see someone STEAL A GROWN MAN’S BODY? Way to punk out your big two heroes, Judd. Oliver stands angrily, silently, and for the first time the art conveys the emotion effectively. He turns to Dinah, fire in his eyes, and says, “Get me my damn bow.” It’s a powerful panel in an issue that doesn’t have a lot of powerful panels…

…but it falls flat for me. I understand what Judd was trying to do with this issue, and bits of it worked for me, but having Oliver give up everything that makes him Oliver to try and make it up to his son when it’s probably too late doesn’t feel heroic to me. It feels like a pyrrhic victory at best, and the denial of all the good that Ollie could do as Green Arrow at worst. If Connor is truly irreparable (and, honestly, it’s the DC Universe, folks, I have my doubts) as Doctor Mid-Nite says, I have a horrible feeling that somewhere down the line we’re going to have to read the whole “Should I unplug him?” scenario, which, honestly makes my skin crawl. In either case, this issue didn’t work for me on a couple of levels. The art wasn’t quite… right, with Cuehlo seemingly told to draw like Chiang in every panel, and as much as I love Judd’s take on Green Arrow, his Black Canary doesn’t feel like the same character that I’ve been reading about in Birds of Prey all these years. I’m usually one of the big Winick fans, as he manages to do realistic emotions and emotional consequences, but when he’s off (as in this issue) it just feels false and mawkish. Residual good feelings from what I felt was a strong debut keep my hopes for this title up, but Green Arrow and Black Canary #5 ranks a disappointing 2 out of 5 stars from me.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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6 Comments

  1. Sanlear
    February 20, 2008 at 2:10 pm — Reply

    Even if Connor “dies” I’m sure we’ll see him again one day (Or does DC do permanent death better than Marvel? I’m not as familiar with the DC universe).

  2. February 20, 2008 at 2:37 pm — Reply

    Love the characters. Green Arrow has been a favorite since the Trevor Von Eeden days. I loved the Mike Grell version, and enjoyed the Kevin Smith re-birth.

    The problem I have is, I thought we had already covered Ollie coming to grips with his being a “bad” father, and it was done a little better then?

    This issue really felt like a fill-in, which is not a good thing, as the writer has been around since the begining of the series.

  3. February 20, 2008 at 3:03 pm — Reply

    DC does permanent death… differently. But it’s just about as successful.

    The DC equivalent of “Bucky Dead” or “Captain Marvel Dead” (now referred to as “Rob Liefeld’s Career Dead”) is probably “Ferro Lad Dead,” and even he has had a mild case of ‘life’ a time or two since 1967…

  4. Michael G
    February 21, 2008 at 11:16 am — Reply

    “Barry Allen Dead”?

  5. February 21, 2008 at 1:02 pm — Reply

    That’ll play. But even he has had several flirtations with life, including the excellent “Return of Barry Allen” story in Flash a few years back.

  6. February 21, 2008 at 3:39 pm — Reply

    I may be mistaken, but I think Dr. Mid-Nite’s slip just revealed him to be a SKRULL!

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