Monday, December 24, 2012

Off Target: Green Arrow (Vol. 2) #89

I've skipped ahead in Cross Roads again to cover a story that is as topical today as it is stupid.  The comic we're about to go through is an anti-gun story.  Please note that this is an entirely different thing than being a pro-gun control story.

Without going too deeply into my own personal beliefs on the subject, I do believe the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution does grant citizens the right of gun ownership.  However, I also believe that a tremendous amount of personal responsibility should go along with gun ownership and that the state should take steps to see that gun owners are routinely tested and regulated on a level similar to what is required of people who drive a car.  Licensing.  Testing.  Regular independent inspection.  All that.   

This comic lacks such distinction or subtlety.  In this story, guns are bad and that's it. End of conversation.  There is no argument or discussion of the many cases in which private citizen gun ownership has proved beneficial to society.  And as offensive as this all might be to gun hawks, this comic is just as offensive to those who favor sensible gun control as it suggests that anyone who wants gun control must want the complete destruction of every gun everywhere and that there is no middle ground.

All that being said, let's get into Green Arrow #89 and get ready to be annoyed! 

The Unseen Shooter returns and still can't aim worth crap.

We open in the middle of the action as Green Arrow - newly arrived in Gotham City - has stumbled across a group of five men running out of a gun shop after closing time.  Sorely annoyed about his lot in life of late, Ollie decides to vent his frustration on the would-be robbers.  As usual, Ollie is so lost in his own thoughts that he doesn't notice someone sneaking up behind him. But hold off on your drinks for a moment, Green Arrow Drinking Game players - Ollie is not knocked unconscious with a blow to the head!  This time, he is tasered. 

New Rule: Ollie is tasered or otherwise electrocuted - Take 2 Sips.

When Ollie wakes up, he's in the back of the robber's van.  The robbers are tending to their wounds and explain that they brought Green Arrow with them on their boss's orders.  And who is their boss, you might ask?  Why it's none other than obscure Batman villain, occasional anti-hero and star of his own ill-advised solo series back in the 1990s...Anarky!

Quick Explanation.  Anarky was a character created by Batman writer Alan Grant and artist Norm Breyfogle, based on Grant's own philosophical beliefs.  After learning of the evils of the world through a pen-pal, privileged preteen prodigy Lonnie Machin became inspired to rebuild society from the ground up as the superhero Anarky.  Lonnie is a master hacker, a brilliant engineer and the very model of a modern Marty StuAnarky was meant to explore the ideals of anarchism through superheroics but came off instead as the annoying younger brother of V from V for Vendetta.

And while I'm asking questions, why the hell do you have a giraffe's neck?

For those who have to know, the reason his costume has that ridiculous giraffe's neck is to disguise his height and make him look like adult.  No.  Really.  That is what that child prodigy engineer decided would fool people into thinking he wasn't just some kid in a costume.  See why Anarky didn't get much exposure after 1999? 

Anarky quickly introduces his crew to Green Arrow explaining that these men are far from merry and that all of them had their lives changed by gun violence.  In no particular order, their ranks include...

* a paramedic whose invalid mother was shot by a burglar after he failed to find anything worth stealing in her apartment.

* a teenager whose younger sister was paralyzed after getting caught in the crossfire of a gang shoot-out.

* a soldier whose wife died after a drunk man with a gun broke into their home and thought he'd walked in on his wife cheating on him.

* a young man who played with his dad's gun, after he took it out of where it was locked up, took the bullets from where they were separately locked up and accidentally killed his brother.

* the son of a gun shop owner, whose father was killed by a man with a semi-automatic rifle, despite being armed himself.

The thieving, ill-defined, poorly drawn good guys.

Even if you're pro-gun control, Anarky's argument is complete bullshit.  All of these stories are tragic but despite the common link of a gun being involved, all of these stories are also born out of human stupidity, corruption and the contrivance of the author. 

* Most burglars don't carry guns because doing so risks a heavier sentence.

* Gangs are involved in crimes other than attempted murder and are just as dangerous to a community for those reasons but Anarky isn't doing anything to bring those criminals to justice.  Indeed, he's formed his own gang to pursue his own goals!    

* A man's inability to control his drinking was just as much the reason for the soldier's wife dying as the drunk man's owning a gun but Anarky doesn't suggest robbing liquor stores and destroying the product. 

* The young man playing with the gun, retrieving it from where his dad hid it and the bullets from the OTHER place his dad hid the bullets, is just an idiot.  An idiot who is still able to overcome his father's sensible precautions for keeping his gun away from his children... but still an idiot. 

* The gun shop owner who was killed despite being armed himself is purely a contrivance to neutralize the old joke about how the easiest way to commit suicide is to rob a gun shop.  In real life, most of the incidents where this happens do not end well for the robber.

Green Arrow agrees that their motives are noble but points out that robbing gun shops and stealing guns from gang members doesn't do anything to address the root of the problem.  Anarky agrees and their vehicle conveniently stops as they arrive at... "the root of the problem".
Surely no one will question a teenager being a night-shift employee at a gun factory!

Ollie then proceeds to outline precisely why Anarky is a short-sighted, impatient idiot and points out that the company will just rebuild the factory.  Ollie fails to point out all the problems that will be caused by people being put out of work by the factory closing.  He also doesn't ask why Anarky bothers robbing the gun shops when he knows it's ultimately pointless, much less while in route to "the big plan".  

Still, I have to give Kevin Dooley credit for portraying Ollie as having a brain in this moment yet being sympathetic to Anarky's cause while still recognizing that he is wrong for all the right reasons.  Ollie may be a rebel at heart but he's a good man first and foremost.  He puts the Good in Chaotic Good.  He's also, unlike Anarky, not a complete idiot.

This is too stupid even for me.  And I fought a super-model murdering Jenny Craig wannabe!

Ollie walks off, leaving Anarky and his gang to their work  The gang begins to spread plastic explosives (we're told later they're Semtex but they're drawn like bundles of dynamite) around the plant.  At the same time, Anarky - apparently thinking that phone calls are an impersonal way of conducting terrorist activities - confronts the factory foreman in person to demand that he evacuate the building immediately.  He also quotes more statistics.

Listen, brother.  Nearly 40% of all accidents represent nearly half of all accidents!

I'm not going to bother refuting every single point on this page.  Suffice it to say, there have been arguments over whether or not the Second Amendment suggests an inherent right to own a gun for years and - to the best of my research ability - at the time this comic was written no court decisions had ever been made at the federal level one way or the other.  And yes, guns are responsible for accidental deaths and injuries second only to cars... so why not regulate them as intensely as cars rather than getting rid of them outright? 

The factory is evacuated and Anarky and his followers retreat to a safe distance.  Anarky notes that they have to be quick about triggering the explosion because they don't want to set their explosives off after the police arrive on the scene, noting that they are victims of society too and that there must be no innocent deaths.  Well, apart from all the families that will starve to death because you're about to put thousands of people out of work.  But hey - at least they won't suffer a quick death at the hands of a gun!

There's just one little hitch in the plan.  Somehow - the trigger on the explosives isn't working.  For all his genius, Anarky apparently can't build a simple bomb properly.  An anarchist who stinks at blowing things up - oh the irony!  But lo - help is on the horizon! 

Rereading my contract.  Looks like I'm stuck here for 11 more issues.

Yes, Ollie returned.  Why?  Oh, you're not going to believe this...

It's time to make my bow stand for something again. Even if it's something I disagree with!

So... you're about to commit multiple felonies to make your heroic identity mean something again, even though you don't agree with what you're doing in the first place?  Ollie, did you get hit in the head again while you were off-panel?

The sequence which follows is even more ridiculous.  After breaking through the police barricade in Anarky's van, Ollie starts shooting out the factory windows with ordinary arrows.  That is not the ridiculous part.  He then gets on top of the speeding van, while being fired on by the police officers.  This also is not the ridiculous part.

Are you ready for the ridiculous part?  Because this next sequence is so unbelievable it requires special theme music.  Click the link and read on.

I have not altered these images in any way.  Oliver Queen just triggered a factory explosion by shooting a fire arrow through a broken window.  Just think about that.  Somehow, he was able to hit a small target without any way of seeing it or knowing where it was, save possibly through the description of Anarky's gang. 

That would be awesome if it weren't so stupid! 

Ignoring that the police were almost certainly caught in the explosion and probably killed by the shrapnel of the factory blowing up, plastic explosives do not work that way!  Indeed, the main benefit to plastic explosives is that they are more resistant to accidentally going off.  Heck, Mythbusters devoted a segment to showing how C4 could be used as a cooking fuel without triggering an explosion.

The issue ends with Ollie in a local diner, responding to one man discussing his Second Amendment rights with all the reasoned discussion you might expect from this story so far.  That is to say, none at all.

Remember kids: guns are evil. That's why I kill people with a bow!

This comic sucks!  Not just in terms of its' politics but also in terms of its' artistry or lack thereof.  The pencils by artist Michael Netzer are sloppy.  The inking by Rob Leigh soaks too many details in shadow.  And the actions of the characters are driven by the story.  There's not once bit of subtlety in this comic.  It demonizes gun owners directly and gun-control advocates indirectly by suggesting that getting rid of all guns everywhere is the ultimate goal - a suggestion which is as untrue and prejudicial as suggesting that all gun advocates want to arm preschoolers.

Next time  - something equally offensive but far less political.

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