Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Off Target: Green Arrow (Vol. 2) #82

As I noted last time, some of the biggest problems with the Cross Roads stories came about because the writers weren't fully familiar with Ollie Queen as a character, the specific details of his most recent stories or how skilled he is as a combatant.   Granting that we want our hero to be challenged, there has to be some fundamental level of competence for the hero to operate at.  Many of the Cross Roads writers - Kevin Dooley in particular - severely undercut Oliver Queen's skill level for the sake of the story they wanted to tell.  And one of the best examples of this is Green Arrow #82

Looks like 90's Hawkeye is pissed about all the positive reviews of 'Arrow'!

I'm kidding of course. Purple costume aside, that is not Hawkeye.  The man with the serious anger issues goes by the unlikely name of Rival.  We'll learn more about him and why that name is particularly stupid later on.  For now, I'd just like to point out that Ollie has been wearing a domino mask on all of the Cross Roads covers so far even though he'd stopped wearing a mask in the comics!   

We open on Ollie in San Fransisco, pinning two young boys to a fence with his arrows.  And yes, I do mean boys.  They're clearly boys in the artwork and all of the dark monologues in the world about how bad they are and how Ollie was not prepared for them won't make me think otherwise.  It will turn out this monologue has no purpose other than to fake out the reader and makes no sense for Ollie to be thinking in any other context at all. 

Dammit, Ollie! I hate Menudo too, but this isn't the answer!

One of the unfortunate lads turns his head a little as Ollie tries to put an arrow right next to his head.  The result is a nicked ear for the boy and a punch in the arm for Ollie as the boy's aunt re-enters the scene.  Meet Andrea Zercher - an old friend of Ollie's from junior high.  Andrea takes the idea that Ollie was using her nephews  to play William Tell far better than any reasonable person should and sends the boys to wash up for dinner while she and Ollie discuss old times... apparently not having done so before this moment.

Fun Fact: Ollie's day job after coming back from the dead?  Running a youth center.  Be afraid. 

Now's the time for a quick bit of backstory because I'm going to have to address this eventually amid all these Cross Roads reviews.  I think it's best I do it now before the "action" begins.  The bit about Dinah catching Ollie with a chippie (i.e. loose woman) is rather unfair to everyone involved. 

The short version is that Ollie was briefly on the run from the law and went into hiding among the homeless of Seattle.  He was befriended by a young homeless woman named Marianne.  In return for her help getting him some supplies he needed, Ollie pointed her toward Dinah, suggesting she'd be willing to give any friend of his a job and a decent home.  Marianne moved in with Dinah and started working in Dinah's flower shop.  She developed a monster-size crush on Ollie and began trying to subtly seduce him upon his homecoming.  It didn't work but that didn't stop Marianne from pressing the issue after confessing her love to Ollie at a costume party and kissing him just as Dinah walked into the room.  That, coupled with several other factors, was enough for Dinah to tell Ollie to get out of her life, even though nothing happened beyond that one kiss.

Yes, that was the short version.  I have charts for the long one.

Anyway, before Ollie can launch into a spirited defense of his troubled love-life, Andrea's sister Honore enters in a frantic state.  Her husband Nathan, who we were told earlier had left her, has apparently come back into her life.

It was at that moment Ollie realized he'd wandered into a Lifetime Movie Of The Week.

Rival?  I'm sorry but...seriously?  He's calling himself Rival?  That's the stupidest superhero name since... I don't know what!  To be a rival, you have to be competing against someone!  WHO IS HE COMPETING AGAINST?!  Besides, being a rival is a naturally antagonistic thing.  Not a good name for a hero.  That would be like having a whole group of heroes and calling them The Ravagers.


Oh gods...It really is the 1990s all over again at DC Comics now, isn't it?

*sighs* Anyway, Ollie has little use for wife-beaters or dead-beat dads who abandon their families to go into the superhero business.  So he goes chasing after Rival and manages to get a bow-shot lined up.  There's just one problem.  Rival is fast.  Impossibly fast.  Fast enough to dodge arrows at close-range.

Dude must have at least two levels in Monk!

Not only can Rival dodge the arrows but he can catch them as well.  He throws some Zen stuff at Ollie about how you must aim for the heart to truly defeat an opponent and that trying to pin his clothes to the fence just won't cut it.  Ollie has even less use for wife-beaters who monologue at him, so he moves into melee using his bow as a club.  This works about as well as one might expect and Ollie is quickly disarmed.  The only thing that saves him is Rival spouting more nonsense about not killing a man with a bow that is not his and how Ollie lacks the will of the warrior or some such.

I could not kill a man with a bow that is not his.  And I cannot run away with feet that are not mine!

Ollie goes back to the women and children, reluctantly admitting that he got his butt handed to him.  He asks Honore who the heck her husband is that he's got the skills he has.  Honore knows nothing about his past as Nathan refused to talk about it.  Ollie is about to head out in search of answers and a new bow when Andrea says she can help him with at least one of the two, if not both.

Andrea takes Ollie to meet Don "Coach" Arlott.  But don't call him Coach.  Unless he tells you to call him Coach.  His purpose in this story is essentially the same as every other grizzled old man called Coach in every cheesy sports movie ever made - trash talk the hero into learning new tricks.  In this case, he insults Ollie's preference for the longbow and insists that Ollie will need a modern-day compound to take on Rival.

How super-secret can they be when they have a Wikipedia page?

By a happy coincidence, Coach happens to know a lot about the local crime families and somehow knows Rival's entire background once Ollie gives him a real name to work with.  No, really.  He just knows it!  No explanation how.  Let me emphasize that the page scan that follows has not been altered in any way.

Don't question him. I think he's the guy that taught Matt Murdock how to fight ninjas!  

Okay.  TWO big mistakes on this page I have to address.  First, again I have to give you all a quick bit of backstory.  I have to explain this because Kevin Dooley messed it up.  Again.

The woman trained by the Yakuza in archery that Ollie is asking about is Shado.  First appearing in Mike Grell's The Longbow Hunters and then appearing several times more throughout Grell's Green Arrow run, Shado is primarily - and erroneously - remembered today as "that woman Ollie cheated on Dinah with".

Why erroneously?  Because the so-called cheating occurred while Ollie was doped to the gills after Shado shot him in the chest and then started nursing him back to health.  In short, Ollie never cheated on Dinah during the Grell run - he was raped.  Not that anyone at DC Comics acknowledged this at the time.  Dooley was probably the first writer to make this mistake.  He wouldn't be the last.

Another mistake Dooley made here is easily overlooked if you don't know anything about archery.  Namely that there is no such thing as a 200 pound pull on a compound bow.  A crossbow, yes.  An old-time longbow, yes.  The maximum pull (or draw weight) you'll find on any compound bow is 70-80 pounds.  Hell, 200 pounds pull is a bit much even for a longbow and there's very few archers today who could manage that kind of draw.

But this isn't a realistic portrayal of archery.  This story is, at its' heart, a sports movie.  And there's only one thing that will do in a sports movie when you have a hero trying to teach himself the skills he needs to save the day.  We're gonna need a montage!  A sports training montage!

I don't know how long this took, but Coach grew a mustache at one point! 
Pretend the music fades as we begin the next scene...

I may not be Of The Bow but you are an S.O.B.  And tomorrow you'll still be an S.O.B. 

The fight goes somewhat better this time.  Ollie manages to wound Rival with the first shot but Rival proves to be just as good at throwing arrows as he is catching them.  It's at this point I wonder if Rival is tapping into The Speed Force because that's just impossible.

Ollie starts to monologue back at Rival, telling him about how he knows about his past with The Yakuza and how he was trained in The Way of the Bow but how he quit because he didn't want to be a gangster.  But you don't really quit The Yakuza but apparently they threatened his wife and kids if he didn't come back to do another job for them.  This is why he became Rival - because he knew the Yakuza, who favor secrecy above everything, would never use a publicly known vigilante in their operations.  Why they wouldn't just kill him for his defiance is never explained.  Nor does this explain why he started beating his wife in the first place.

Quit using violence to solve your problems or I'll cripple you forever! ... wait a sec.
So it seems we have a happy ending.  Well, except that The Yakuza are still going probably going to come after Rival and his family.  And he's still a wife-beating jerkass.  And there's really nothing to stop him from returning to his old ways except Ollie's threat of inflicting more violence on him, thus perpetuating the cycle of violent conflict and abuse.  So really, nothing has been resolved at all.  Thanks Ollie!  You've been a real big help.

That was a woman slapping you, Ollie. I thought you'd be used to it by now.

But the story isn't really over yet.  Andrea asks Ollie if he needs anything and Ollie misinterprets the signal in the worst possible way (What?  This is a sport movie!  I'm supposed to kiss the snarky woman who whipped me into shape!  It's on the tropes list!) because sarcastic brunettes are SO Ollie's type  Suddenly, there's a loud BLAM from the next room.  The two run in to find Honore standing over her husband's body, holding a smoking gun.

Ollie? Just a thought - point the gun AWAY from her head.

She had a gun this whole time.

She had a GUN this whole time?


*shakes head*   Just... why?  I can get why she didn't kill him until her children were in danger.  There's numerous cases of that sort of thing happening in real life - a mom tolerating abuse so long as it was limited to her.  But... she just HAPPENED to have the gun then?  And she didn't use it before?  She could have shot her husband when he was stalking her.  They didn't need Ollie in here at all!

That is the most vexing thing about this story.  Never mind that Ollie is presented as a rank amateur in need of a training session with a coach and some Zen malarky about "my bow" to be capable of matching the villain.  Forget that the writer clearly couldn't be arsed to learn the story behind Ollie's most recent adventures and didn't know a damn thing about archery.  The worst thing about this issue is that Ollie is an unnecessary guest star in someone's spec script for a new Merideth Baxter docudrama.  This is not Green Arrow.  This is Trash TV in comic book form.  Which made it all the more ironic that Ollie went to L.A. in the next issue. 

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