Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Off Target: Green Arrow (Vol. 2) #84-85

What's the first rule of Green Arrow covers?  If you see Ollie packing heat, it's going to be a bad issue.

  What do you think about me changing my name to The Green Gunman?

I should note that - ignoring that Green Arrow using guns is rather antithetical to the character and superheroes in general - this cover really isn't that bad.  In fact, rereading this comic, I was amazed to find that the artist on this issue was the late, great Jim Aparo, whose work on various Batman books in the 1980s first got me interested in comics.  I mention this because, for once, all of the problems with this book are in the writing and concept rather than the artwork.  So while the story we're about to read is going to hurt, at least it will look good!

Speaking of concepts, I should probably take a moment to briefly describe the year-long endurance trial that was Cross Roads.  I'll go into more detail in future installments because the whole storyline was uniformly awful and I plan to cover every issue of it eventually.  For right now, all you need to know is that Oliver Queen is drifting around the United States and that he keeps running into other costumed vigilantes and getting into trouble that doesn't really involve him.  That's the biggest problem with Cross Roads in a nutshell - every single story feels like an issue of someone else's comic that Green Arrow is guest starring in..

Our story opens in the thick of it, with Ollie going Harrison Ford on a pair of attempted hijackers, as the plane that he's on lands in Las Vegas.  The action scene here is actually quite effective, showcasing that while Green Arrow is an archer, he's no slouch when it comes to close-combat.

This never happens to Wesley Snipes!

Good news - the plane lands safely with no civilian casualties.  Bad news - Ollie now has a rather nasty eye injury and the cops, who don't take kindly to vigilantes operating in their town, now know that he's operating in their town.  Worse news - apparently so do Joey and Arnie; a  pair of stereotypical Mafia goons, who are staking out the airport looking for someone matching Ollie's description.

And hold the phone up to your mouth, ya mook!  I can barely hear ya!

Arnie and Joey follow after Ollie, eventually being joined by some back-up henchmen from Thugs & Stooges Local 401.  They follow Ollie - first to a pharmacy (where he bought an eye-patch) and then to a diner, where he's grabbing a bite to eat.  In the middle of all this, they express their shock that they haven't been noticed by Ollie, having been told the man they were waiting for was "one a the very best" and "a one-man army".  It is then that they decide to pull a hit in the middle of the diner, showing all the subtlety you'd expect of a group of men who all wear three-piece business suits and fedoras while talking loudly about whacking a guy in the middle of an airport. 

And here, dear reader, is where things start to get stupid if you're a Green Arrow fan.

Where to begin with what's wrong with this picture?

1. Ollie MEANT to shoot a man in the chest? - This may come a shock to those who only know the character from the Arrow TV show or the more recent comics, but as a general rule Green Arrow does not use lethal force intentionally.  He has killed in the past when lives besides his own were at stake but only as a last resort and when shooting to disable wasn't an option.  Why do you think he had so many trick arrows if not to spare the lives of the criminals he was fighting? 

2. One-Eyed Archery - A loss of depth-perception isn't much of a hindrance in archery.  Many archers whose vision is weaker in one eye will shoot with their bad eye closed.  Indeed,  this technique is favored by several archers, including your humble author and the current World Record holder for archery, Im Dong-Hyun - a South Korean Olympic athlete who is legally blind in one eye.

3. He can't Hit A Man In The Chest... but he CAN cut two ropes simultaneously?  - Slight disparity in how horribly off Ollie's aim is.  A man's chest is much easier to hit than a rope, especially at closer range.  As for shooting two arrows at once... as Joey the Mook would say, fergid about it!

The cops show up, sending the goons running.  Ollie decides to flee the scene as well since the cops have already warned him about starting trouble and they're not likely to believe his story. He also decides to take a souvenir off of one of the downed mooks.

Question One: What is the most troublesome thing about these three panels?

A) Ollie deciding he needs a gun, because he can't rely on his archery skills despite being still being capable of firing two arrows at once to cut ropes on the other side of a room.
B) Ollie deciding to take a gun that was just used in committing a crime, while fleeing the crime scene.
C) The police not stopping the suspicious looking man with eye-patch and the large bag.

Deciding that anybody who knows him and his habits will try looking for him in seedy hotels or living on the streets, Ollie decides to hide among the high-rollers and check in to a fancy hotel.  To his surprise, the woman at the counter seems to recognize him and says his room is already ready.  It sounds to good to be true and -naturally - it is.  The hotel room has a small arsenal hidden inside and Ollie soon finds himself being shot at by rockets from across the way, as a somewhat more professional group of thugs in SWAT gear start trying to kill him.

Good thing Ollie has that small arsenal to fall back on...

Eat your heart out, John Rambo. 
With the black-clad thugs dead, Ollie starts to fight his way out of the room as he hears shots elsewhere in the hotel  And it's here that he runs into a figure who may be familiar to those of you who are fans of the classic Teen Titans.

That face! That face! That marvelous face!

Yes. it's Slade Wilson - a.k.a. Deathstroke the Terminator, as will be made obvious by the cover of Part Two.

Remember The First Rule Of Green Arrow covers, kids?

Slade recognizes Ollie as Green Arrow but Ollie has no clue who Deathstroke is until Slade tells him, prompting him with "your boy Speedy was... with my son Jericho for a while."  He then clarifies that they were in The New Titans together, relieving Ollie and saddening Titans slash-fic authors everywhere. 

It's at this point that Ollie realizes that the people who have been trying to kill him have mistaken him for Slade.  And it's a completely honest mistake.  Okay, so Slade is 2-3 inches taller than Ollie and outweighs him by about 20-50 pounds depending on which Who's Who in the DCU website you check.  And Slade is certainly more muscular than the leaner Ollie and has platinum white hair compared to Ollie's darker blonde.  And sure - the two have completely dissimilar beards, what with Slade favoring a close-cropped goatee and Ollie having his stylized Robin Hood van-dyke.  But if you put an eye-patch on Ollie, the two are virtual twins!

One problem - the thugs were already trailing Ollie before he got an eye-patch!


After getting pinned down, the two make a hasty escape from the building by jumping out the 13th floor window and landing in the pool below.  They shoot their way to the parking lot, dodging a grenade that conveniently takes out another van full of mooks.  Throughout this whole sordid scene, Ollie is surprisingly cavalier about gunning down assassins, with his only objection to the proceedings being a note that the cops aren't going to like what he and Slade have been doing. 

Looks like Ollie's gotten over his lack of depth perception. And his moral code.

After a quick cut to the cops who bothered Ollie last issue (Long story short - they don't like what Ollie and Slade have been doing.  Not that it matters since we never see them again.), our "heroes" ditch their hijacked bus, buy brand new motorcycles and - after pausing to gun down yet another group of black-clad mooks - flee to a private airfield outside Vegas, where Slade has a secondary base set-up.

It occurs to me at this point that some of you may be wondering why Ollie is going along with all this and didn't shoot Slade in the kneecaps on principal - especially given Slade's antagonistic relationship with The Teen Titans, inculding Ollie's adopted son, Roy Harper.  The fact of the matter is that - at this time in the comics - Ollie and Roy hasn't talked in years, so it did make a degree of sense that Ollie hears the name Deathstroke and thinks "best hitman in the world" and not "that jerkass who tried to kidnap my son a few years ago." 

This story was also written back in 1994 -  before The Powers That Be at DC Comics decided to change Deathstroke from being an anti-heroic mercenary with a complex code of honor into a mustache-twirling villain who does EVULZ FOR THE LULZ.  I'm not enough of a Titans expert to detail just how horrible that backslide was (try asking Linkara - I'm sure he'd love to rant about this) but it's rather odd to come back to these issues and see the two interacting as allies, albeit ones born of circumstance given Deathstroke's current characterization and how Judd Winick briefly tried to turn Deathstroke into an archenemy for Green Arrow in his own book.  But that's a tale for another day.

He left his bow behind in the hotel room but kept the backpack holding his costume and quiver?

Anyway, Deathstroke explains that he was hired by one of the local Mafia bosses to take out another Mafia boss - one whose business depends entirely upon drug-peddling, prostitution and drug-addled prostitutes.  Slade agreed to take the job because drugs are bad.  Unfortunately, the second-in-command of the guy Slade was supposed to kill beat him to the punch and framed Slade for the murder.  Impressed with how well Ollie handed himself under fire, he invites Ollie to come along for the ride.

To make a long and stupid sequence short, the two jump onto the bad guy's balcony from a helicopter, shooting their way through his casino.  To author's Alan Grant's credit, he does have Ollie focus on ushering civilians out of the building instead of shooting people.  That is good and totally believable to Ollie's character.  What happens next, isn't.

As I said before, Ollie generally has no trouble with killing in self-defense or to protect others if there are no other options.  Killing a man who is begging for mercy and seems to be unarmed is not something he'd be cool with.  True, we do see the bad guy try and pull a gun after he realizes Slade is going to kill him anyway... but Ollie already has his back turned and doesn't see that!  And so the comic ends with Slade giving Ollie his promised paycheck for the hit ("It was going to go to charity, but, well, I guess you qualify."), Ollie betting it all on one spin of roulette to spite Slade (Black 13, of course), winning and Ollie deciding "to hell with it" and speeding his way out of town in a top-of-the-line sports car.

So why, out of all the bad Green Arrow comics I've ever read do I consider these two the worst ones ever?  Because at it's heart, this book is built around a stupid concept and it requires the characters to be stupid in order to work.  The whole mistaken-identity angle doesn't work at all and would be contrived even if Ollie had come into town wearing an eye-patch.   Between his gun use, indiscriminate killing and turning his back on an unarmed man getting killed, Ollie is horribly out-of-character throughout most of the story.  And the idea that Ollie can't use a bow because he only has one working eye but can still shoot a gun just fine is ludicrous at best.

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