“This is an original Adams, right?”
Green Lantern and Green Arrow – just saying the names of these two characters in the same breath conjures up a number of iconic comic book images. Odds are one of those images is the cover to Green Lantern #76, the 1970 issue that launched the “Hard Travelling Heroes” run of socially conscious stories by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. Another one is likely the cover to Green Lantern #85, the infamous “Snowbirds Don’t Fly” issue where the O’Neil/Adams creative team tackled the issue of drug addiction by showing Green Arrow sidekick Speedy using Heroin. This week’s The Green Lantern #8 shows clear reference to those stories not only in terms of the issue’s narrative but in the wonderful cover which cleverly serves as a cosmic mashup of those two iconic covers.
Grant Morrison’s script draws heavily from the 1970’s but it also gathers inspiration from none other that Jack “King” Kirby, the comics legend who, among so many notable contributions, left an indelible mark on the Green Arrow character as a part of his legacy. As much as Morrison has made a habit of including all of the elements of Hal Jordan’s history in the first eight issues of this series he gives Ollie Queen the same treatment here. From Ollie’s grounded perspective on humanity to his skillful chili artisanry it’s all here. Even the wonderfully absurd “Xeen Arrow” character from Kirby’s 1958 tale, “Prisoners of Dimension Zero!”, plays a major role in drawing Hal and Ollie together.
Morrison flips the script by giving the drug story cosmic origins as an interstellar drug pusher is muscling in on another drug kingpin’s livelihood, prompting gang violence targeting the upstart and the mudball of a planet where he’s getting his supply. Of course that mudball is Earth, where we learn that the upstart Glorigold DeGrand, also from the aforementioned obscure story in Adventure Comics #253, is trading a cheap trip for the highest of prices – your soul. Unlike the in your face storytelling that typified the “Hard Travelling Heroes” stories, the social commentary is still there but not in such a hamfisted manner. Morrison’s tale involves the “little people” who literally sell their souls for a pittance to a hierarchy which only benefits the elites who profit at their expense.
Then there is the friendship which has survived deaths, crises and the blackest of nights. Ollie and Hal are two men whose evergreen friendship is built on love and respect and the power of honesty that is given freedom as a result. Sure Hal and Ollie can bust each others chops and chide each other over the choices they’ve made in their lives, but at the end of the day their ability to do so from a place of caring gives them something that Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent have never had. As much as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are revered as the “trinity”, I’ve personally felt that Hal Jordan, Ollie Queen and Barry Allen were a far better and more interesting combination. Morrison gets the depth of their friendship and as Ollie and Hal share a few moments the two spar as Ollie presses Hal to spend less time in space and more grounding himself in the problems on Earth while simultaneously poking at Hal’s love life. Hal in return does what he so often does when he doesn’t want to explain the complications of his life, he deflects the conversation somewhere else. It also presents the most literal of references to their past as Hal admires the “original Adams” artwork hanging in Ollie’s abode.
Hal and Ollie’s investigation leads them to discovering the giant Xeen Arrow from Dimension Zero, who himself was tracking DeGrand, who then confronts the heroes and pits the two against each other thanks to his mind altering sirens. It all comes to a head as Hal and Ollie must overcome the bad trip they’ve been sent on in order to save the Earth from the hit man’s attack from his perch on the Moon. Luckily there’s one giant sized arrow lying about that Ollie helps Hal propel from a giant bow construct that allows the two to take out the sniper in a piece of extreme range precision firing that saves the day. If you don’t think this issue is preposterously fun just re-read those last three sentences again out loud!
While DeGrand gets away Hal and Ollie have to rescue the dying Xeen Arrow. Who else saves the day but a Xeen Lantern and this wonderfully absurd team-up is only one hug and a promise away from completion. That is until we get up-ended as the hitman, Azmomza, reports his failure back to the crime lord Brotorr back on the crime world Hadea-Maxima only to be killed by Sinestro. Sinestro you say!? Well maybe, but while he certainly looks like the David Niven inspired villain of old the color scheme doesn’t line up right, in fact it’s inverted. Like, say, maybe what a Sinestro from another universe might look like. Hmmmm!
As much as this issue is a great narrative tribute to some of the creators who’ve shaped the comics landscape, there is just as much inspiration apparent in the visual contributions of Liam Sharp, Steve Oliff and letterer Tom Orzechowski. Sharp utilizes a lot of same angle choices and exaggerated facial expressions that Adams was prone to using back in the day. There’s also some great panel design work as Hal and Ollie try to overcome the effects of the Sirens, with the panels literally sagging around the two heroes as they try to fend off the psychedelic effects they’ve been exposed to. Sharp’s combines Kirby’s Xeen Lantern with Adam’s character design to great effect, and even his Xeen Lantern features the classic Silver Age Green Lantern design. There is one slight faux pas in the issue which only serves as a minor distraction in a panel where either the Green Lantern logo was colored over or forgotten on Hal’s uniform.
Oliff makes some great coloring choices which showcases the difference between Hadea-Maxima and Earth. The use of fiery reddish and yellow colors for the crime drive planet are great choices as they give the reader visual cues to this being a place of seething violence. Meanwhile Oliff chooses a darker, muddier palette for Earth which symbolically portrays the “in the gutters” problems that Ollie implores Hal to get in touch with. The muted palette also serves as a great visual contrast to all the greens that come into use when coloring a book starring two characters with the color in their names.
The Green Lantern #8 is one of the most outrageously fun issues I’ve read in some time. Grant Morrison evokes both 1950’s Jack Kirby and 1970’s Denny O’Neil in a story that still manages to stick to the series basic foundation of being a police procedural despite all of the wonderful absurdity packed into the issue’s 24 pages. Liam Sharp completes the road trip to the Bronze Age with some great nods of his own to Neal Adams. This issue is another in what has been a great run of one of the best books DC has on the stands these days. Ten out of ten lanterns.