Written by: Ben Raab
Penciled by: Charlie Adlard
Inked by: Charlie Adlard
Colored by: Tatjana Wood
Lettered by: Jack Morelli
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics
Welcome back to the Steel Cage! This Steel Cage continues our new experimental format, where a book is discussed between two reviewers. This time, our own “Starman” Matt Morrison and Daron “The Editor” Kappauff will be trading words (and possibly blows) over Green Lantern #162. We encourage all our readers to let us know if they like this new format or the old one where two differing reviews were pieced together. But for now, enjoy a very surprising rumble!
Matt: Okay: our topic is Green Lantern # 162. Part Two of the highly-anticipated Black Circle: Urban Knights miniseries. I think the first question should be what did you think of the first part of this mini-series, Green Arrow #23?
Daron: To be honest, I wasn't too thrilled with it. I thought the dialogue… actually, the whole situation was forced.
Matt: You mean the scene with Ollie and Kyle toward the end or the whole book in general?
Daron: The whole crossover. It feels more like a hyped event than a real story.
Matt: I know. Its like the only reason for the story’s existence is to bring in the Nostalgia dollar. "Hey kids! Look! GL/GA together again!"
Daron: Pretty much.
Matt: Is there anything you did like about the first part of the story?
Daron: Not a lot. I think Kyle has grown a lot since he took the ring and the depiction of him getting pissed off because some back-from-the-dead-hero says he's not GL just didn't jive with how he is now.
Matt: *nods* Well, this may be a shock but I actually agree with most of that assessment.
Daron: Any other thoughts on the previous issue then?
Matt: I won't go into much detail over what I thought of the book (you can read that in my previous review) but I think the whole story derailed the minute they put Kyle and Ollie in the same room.
Matt: Rabb did a good job depicting the two apart. The first half with Ollie was classic Mike Grell urban avenger material. The second half with Kyle felt lie a mix of the darker Winnick stories with more of the Ron Marz-style humor. But as soon as they put them in the room and try and try and make the two not like each other.... it just gets BAD.
Daron: And then goes from bad to worse very quickly.
Matt: Well, I did point out in my review that when you consider how badly Ollie treated Kyle a few issues back in the GA title, Kyle having a bit of attitude is understandable.
Daron: Yes, but I still think he over reacted and has shown he's normally above childish name calling.
Matt: Well, the key word is normally. I mean, he's a lot more capable than he was in the early Marz days. But Kyle is a fairly emotional guy.
Daron: I hear you, but I still think it was forced and thought it could be handled better.
Matt: I agree. And there's something I noticed in the rereading : Kyle actually does refer to that incident. There's no "See Issue 19” box or anything, but he does make a sarcastic reference to their "hanging out and talking on the JLA Watchtower". The only problem is that you have to have read that issue to get the reference.
Matt: Which brings us to Part 2 and the book we are actually supposed to be discussing..
Daron: Well with that in mind, what was your thought on the two of them at the beginning of the issue, with the "no, we weren't fighting”, “of course not" talk to the police?
Matt: You ever see a pair of five-year-olds fighting over the last cookie and then getting yelled at? Put them in costumes and that's what it looked like.
Daron: That's what I thought too. It annoyed me even more than the end of the last issue. I mean, how old are these guys?
Matt: Well, it isn't like either of them has ever been the poster boy for maturity
Daron: Well, they're definitely not making any headway either.
Matt: No. Of course immediately after the cops leave, they DO try to reconcile.
Daron: Kyle tries anyway.
Matt: Actually, Ollie apologizes first. He does it in a very rude manner, but he does apologize first.
Daron: An obligatory one, just to get Kyle to leave.
Matt: I suppose.
Daron: And then we get the usual Batman-esque scene where the "partner" states that they need to team up, and Batman says "NO! Get out of my town.", with Ollie in the Batman role.
Matt: And then Ollie gives the very forced "You aren't Hal Jordan" speech. Thankfully once Connor shows up and the name calling stops.
Daron: What are your thoughts on the issue in general?
Matt: I like parts of it. But in general, the whole thing does feel forced and the best moments come when the two characters they are trying to team up are working apart. Still, it got better as it went along.
Daron: Exactly. Personally, I thought this issue was a lot better than part one. But it would have been pretty hard for it to be worse.
Matt: The big problem is that there really is no reason (aside from my observation about the events of GA #19) for these two guys to not like each other. Connor even says as much, saying the two are a lot alike; they are both are stubborn and when they get ticked off, they do get insulting towards their friends to the point where they just deserve to get hit. And growth aside, that is true. Kyle got downright mean to The Flash and Batman during the whole incident with his friend Terry in GL a few months ago.
Daron: That's true, but hardly the basis for a conflict that is the basis of a six-part story.
Matt: Yeah. If they had built this up a bit and had them driving each other crazy over the middle of the journey, like the old Hal/Ollie stories... or even the more recent Kyle/Connor stories....
Daron: Well as you said, it seemed to pick up as the issue went along, though not till much later.
Matt: Yeah... the scene with Kyle shaking down the thugs was funny, although somewhat inappropriate considering the story a few issues ago where he nearly went over the line. But the scene with Ollie working with the kids.... and the final page..... ooh, that was good.
Daron: And I want to get to that scene with the kids in a second, but I want to talk about the thugs first.
Matt: What about them?
Daron: This is what we basically are told. When another hero insults Kyle he first pops said hero then he attacks random muggers and drug dealers. But when a group of mobsters all shoot at him and literally try to KILL him, he just says "Stop it", takes away their guns and goes on and has a nice sit down with them?
Matt: Yeah. And Jade chews him out for that.
Daron: Which was good, but him doing it was the unbelievable part.
Matt: So maybe he's trying a more reasoned approach? Or maybe he's hoping "Hey, if I don't go in looking for trouble, they'll be reasonable.” Heck, I'd even be willing to allow that Kyle is at the point in New York that when he shows up, a crook will just surrender rather than draw things out. It does happen in the Superman books in Metropolis.
Daron: Maybe, but it's hard to believe that he wouldn't be more upset about someone trying to kill him than insulting him
Matt: Well, it isn’t like he has much to fear from a bunch of gangsters with guns.
Daron: I guess, just something that annoyed me
Matt: I understand. And I have to stretch to find a way to justify it myself. I don’t know. I think one writer should have written this story.
Daron: I think so too, and I don't think it needed to be done as a "crossover"
Matt: It is weird that two good writers can’t make something together. I like Winnick usually. And I liked the solo story Rabb wrote for the GL Secret Files even more. It was one of the more thoughtful and mature stories in recent memory and showed a great respect for the past history that Winnick often ignores. Not much superheroics. Just pure talking heads and emotion.
Daron: I read that same story and liked it. That's the type of thing I was hoping we’d see here. Not some intergalctic bleach smuggling story where half the action is between the two “heroes” fighting.
Matt: Just action action action…
Daron: Have you noticed that both Ollie and Kyle try to be Batman throughout the story?
Matt: Well, Ollie has always been Batman lite.
Matt: And Kyle? Well... he's been getting closer and closer to it.
Daron: Maybe that's their problem. They both want to be Batman and feel threatened by the competition?
Matt: Hmmm... not so much. I think perhaps they are both used to being the one in charge and don't like having another person pushing on the top of the pyramid. I mean, they DO work well with others. Ollie has his extended family and Kyle has his group of Lanterns and Darkstars....
Daron: Well as Jade says, what spandex wearing male doesn't?
Daron: As you said earlier though in relation to the Kyle/Ollie situation, I think the whole thing with the children really came out of nowhere. I’ve read the title since issue #1, and it's been so long since they've mentioned that he works with children that I forgot about it entirely. I also have some problems with the continuity.
Matt: Yes, I remember you said that you were wondering about where this story fit in the timeline, considering Kyle's presence on Earth. For that matter, Connor says Ollie needs a vacation. What about the vacation he took last issue? The whole “finding his roots” trip he took back to the island where he first perfected his archery skills?
Daron: I don’t know.
Matt: Me either. I mean, this COULD be happening before Kyle went into space, but after the whole Archer's Quest story line. And the one-shot story COULD take place after this. But we don't want to nitpick the hows and whys of when this happens. We just want a decent story!
Daron: But that's what we do, as fans and readers.
Matt: Yes. I mean that we do this, but we shouldn’t have to.
Daron: Right. We want a cohesive linear story but we shouldn't have to fight tooth and nail to make sense of the different stories take place. Would it be so hard to throw in a little box saying these events take place before Kyle left for space or something?
Matt: True. But DC is trying to give their writers greater freedom to tell good stories and not be slaves to continuity. To give the best example of this right now, in JLA Batman and Wonder Woman are dating while in Batman, he's dealing with his feelings for Catwoman. And I heard there's yet another woman in one of the other Batman books....
Daron: What do you think of the art?
Matt: The constructs are gorgeous. I did laughed out loud at the sumo wrestlers and the one gangster yeling "Boss! He's throwing Big Japanese Guys at us! RUNNNNN!"
Daron: That was amusing.
Matt: The sumo. The demented elves. Ther’s the Kyle Rayner we know and love.
Daron: Oscar the Grouch too.
Matt: I missed that.
Daron: When one of the muggers was about to hit Kyle with a trash can? Oscar pops out and hits the mugger.
Matt: Oh yeah! I forgot that one.
Daron: That was a nice moment. The constructs were good.
Matt: Yeah, but most of the time the artwork seems a bit too heavily inked.
Daron: My thoughts exactly.
Matt: I mean, I know we're going for a darker atmosphere than usual.... but when the guy who has a glowing green chest emblem looks like he's lost in the shadows…
Daron: At first I wanted to rip into the penciler, but it's hard to tell what his original lines might have been.
Matt: The penciler and inker are one in the same, in this case. Art by Charlie Adlard.
Daron: So why this guy? I've never even heard of him before. You'd think they would want a big name on something like they've been hyping so much.
Matt: Yeah. I miss Phil Hester and Matt Wagner.
Daron: My original thought stands, then. The inks are far too heavy. I want to know what the pencils look liked before. I can't even honestly say I don't like them cause I can't see them for the inks.
Matt: Well, there are places where you can see the pencils, but even there they are too finely detailed. Like the scenes in the woods at the end with Ollie? Everything looks sketchy... like the pine trees where it looks like every individual needle was drawn.
Daron: It's funny how clean the constructs look in relation to everything else.
Matt: Yes. And aside from the overshadowing, there are some points where the proportions are weird too. Like the third panel on page 21? There is an Up-view shot of Ollie where his arms and head are freakishly tiny, but his torso and legs look like Chris Farley.
Matt: I don't know. I don't mind some shadowy artists. Tony Harris, for example, is one of my favorites. But he usually keeps his lines simple. This is just too complex, except for when the constructs are done.
Daron: My thoughts exactly. Tony Harris is great with shadows, but his lines are cleaner.
Matt: See, at first I thought the art was intentionally like this. Like the shadows were to represent Ollie's world... and here comes Kyle, butting in with his big cartoony light shapes. Like they are trying to combine the art to fit both characters and creating something that doesn't work for either.
Daron: Yeah I thought that too, but Kyle's scenes are just as dark
Matt: In this issue, they are yes. Last issue that seemed like a valid idea but the whole thing is too shadowy this time.
Daron: Getting back to the plot for a second, earlier you mentioned Ollie and the kids on the mountain…I didn't get that scene at all. Who are these kids? I've been reading the series and I can't remember having ever seen them before. Who are they and why do they know he's GA?
Matt: Did you read the Kevin Smith GA series? Ollie's day job is running the Star City Youth Center. It wasn't touched on during the Meltzer run, but presumably he's still been working at that.
Daron: Okay, but do they know he's Green Arrow?
Matt: No. He just tells them to stay put while he takes a look at something. He never says anything about putting on his costume or anything. He just does the protective responsible elder thing: stay put, I'll check it out... call for help if I don't come back.
Daron: Looking back over the last few panels it's kind of funny how his bow just appears…
Matt: Tell you the truth, I thought it was odder that Ollie has a celphone than his suddenly having a bow. I mean, he could have put it together while on the run…
Daron: It's not a compound bow show in the art.
Matt: Well, I know (comic geek moment) Ollie does not like using compound bows.
Daron: I know. In fact he made fun of Arsenal in an earlier issue for using one.
Matt: Aha! So he DID pull a bow out of nowhere!
Daron: Exactly. To me that's bad story telling, plain and simple. It's the little things like that which make people take notice.
The Big Finish
Matt: I don't know anymore... I really want to like this story. There are parts that I love... and parts that I hate. And the whole thing is just kinda... blah. Last week I couldn't wait to see this issue to see what would happen next. This time, I can't wait for the whole mess to end.
Daron: My thoughts exactly, I wanted to like this story a lot, GL is one of my favorite characters, and I've always found GA to be interesting. I've liked their interaction before, but this just doesn't feel right in this story.
Matt: I still want to know what is going to happen next…especially with the final page cliffhanger.
Daron: The story line has a lot of potential, but we’ve basically learned nothing more than that these aliens are using bleach to make drugs in the two issues.
Matt: Yeah, it does feel like they are dragging it out a bit. Still, it has some good points. I’ll give this a solid 4.0. Not the best or worst thing ever written, but it should be a LOT better.
Daron: Agreed. 4.0 for me too.