Book One: All My Sins Remembered
Synopsis: After taking down a pair of street hoods roughing up a store owner in the opening scene, things get decidedly less cut-and-dried for Green Arrow, aka Oliver Queen. A lawyer arrives at Oliver's door, informing him that one elderly Abby Horton has died, and Oliver is requested to come to the reading of her will. Through an extended flashback, it's revealed that Oliver and Abby met during Ollie's millionaire playboy days after the death of Abby's husband. Despite the age difference, the two hit it off famously. Eventually, Oliver began dating Abby's daughter, Cindy, but that relationship eventually soured for cultural reasons--she wanted to go to the opera, he wanted to go to the boxing match, she wanted the London Philharmonic while he wanted cool jazz. Oliver took a cruise on a yacht following their breakup, winding up overboard and marooned on a deserted island with a quick recap of Green Arrow's origin. Arriving at the reading of the will, Oliver meets up with Cindy again, and her husband Lord Gerrold Sinclair. Abby leaves her son, Ted, Cynthia, her husband, and her brother Maxwell Stein several million dollars each, but this is only small fractions of the worth of her estate. To Oliver she leaves a pair of crystal goblets, $34 million and controlling stock in Horton Chemicals. The heirs (except for Stein) are outraged, and even moreso when it's revealed that Abby only changed her will to include Oliver two nights previous--and was found dead the following day. Returning home with his lover, Dinah Lance, Oliver is baffled by the turn of events, and admits that he was never truly happy until after he lost his original fortune. At which point his apartment blows up and he puts out the fire with--what else?--a fire extinguisher arrow. Oliver tracks down the bomber, but before he can get any answers, a small incendiary device in the hood's coat pocket explodes, killing him. Realizing there's more going on at Horton Chemicals than people are letting on, Oliver shows up to corporate headquarters the next day, feet propped up on the president's desk, promising to make the next few weeks interesting ones indeed at Horton Chemicals.
Yeah, But Is It Good? Better than anyone could've hoped for. After nearly 40 years as a backup character for Superman and Batman, it's wonderful to finally see Green Arrow carry his own book. The writing's fairly mature for the time, even if the exposition gets a bit wordy at times. The problem posed is real-life, down-to-earth, and there's not a super-villain to be seen, keeping in character with Oliver's avowed distaste for "cosmic stuff." Lots of questions are posed as this mystery unfolds, but essentially no answers are forthcoming, which intrigues the reader and keeps those pages turning. This isn't what one would expect to see as the first Green Arrow storyline. Green Arrow's in his element fighting social injustice, championing the downtrodden against concrete, physical opponents. This is a mystery, pure and simple. There's a conspiracy at work, an intangible opponent which makes this storyline more fitting, perhaps, to a detective like Batman. Fortunately, that juxtaposition works to the story's advantage. Oliver Queen isn't a detective. Not even close. The prospect of him putting on a houndstooth cap and hefting a magnifying glass are ludicrous to the extreme, making the ensuing issues--and Oliver's efforts at coping with this mystery--even more eagerly awaited.
Significata: Published 1983. Dinah Lance, aka Black Canary, appears briefly. Yet another variation of Oliver's desert island origin as Green Arrow is related. A concise, yet thorough history of Green Arrow is given, including loss of Queen Fund to the ruthless John DeLeon and Ollie's cosmic adventures with Green Lantern. Speedy, aka Roy Harper, and the Arrow Car make cameos. First solo title appearance by Green Arrow.
Book Two: A Slight Case of Vertigo
Synopsis: Saddled with $34 million and controlling interest in Horton Chemicals, Oliver goes on the offensive. Using his newfound wealth, he conjures up several very expensive, very silly new trick arrows--including the "feedback arrow," the "slippery foam arrow," and the chilly "cryonic arrow" among others. Swinging from rooftop to rooftop like Batman or Spiderman, he breaks into the city coroner's office to get access to Abby's autopsy report. While her cause of death is vague--asphyxiation--he finds she was discovered clutching her wedding ring (with a hexagonal stone) in her left hand. After an amusing but futile attempt by Oliver to search the company's computer files for information, he utters probably the most telling line of any Green Arrow story: "The Batman would look for clues and analyze evidence, but that's not my style... walking smack dab into a hornet's nest is..." And he does, casually mentioning to all of Abby's survivors/suspects that he knows who the killer is in a series of non sequiturs. The fact that Oliver has no idea who the killer is irrelevant, since his ploy succeeds in having an assassin sent after him, which turns out to be Abby's son, Ted. Naturally, Ollie dodges the bullet, so to speak, but before he can catch Ted and question him as Green Arrow, the nefarious Count Vertigo arrives on the scene to send Ted to his death. Vertigo, of course, can't leave well enough alone, and turns his mind-warping powers against Green Arrow. After expending most of his arrows in wildly inaccurate shots at Vertigo, Oliver is enraged by Vertigo's taunts and uses his new "feedback arrow" against his opponent. The arrow zeroes in on the electronic amplifier attached to Vertigo's temple which gives the villain his powers, funneling all the distorted reality back in on Vertigo. Triumphant, Ollie captures vertigo then attends to Ted's body, where he discovers a small hexagon drawn in the dirt by Ted with his dying breath. The mystery deepens...
Yeah, But Is It Good? Oh yes, in a very silly sort of way. Oliver's blundering through the mystery should be a primer course in how not to investigate a murder conspiracy. But he succeeds (or at least stays alive) despite himself. His use of trick arrows provide ample fodder for both camps in the ongoing "Should he use them or not?" debate: For the pro-trick camp, they're fun. Reality doesn't intrude on the party, and the different capabilities of each arrow are reminiscent of the parade of gadgets in any James Bond film. For the con side, well, those are pretty much the same arguments. No effort is made to anchor the arrows in reality. The "feedback arrow" zooms around Vertigo like a homing missile--nevermind that arrows aren't self-propelled, and have no means of turning. And they are silly. Very much so. The tongue-in-cheek attitude of the tomfoolery undermines some decent character development to a degree, but then again, a little tomfoolery never hurt anyone.
Significata: Green Arrow battles metahuman villain Count Vertigo. Brief appearance by Dinah Lance. Brief appearance by Cynthia Horton, an old flame of Oliver's. Bit O' Irony Department: There's a full-page ad for The Warlord midway through this issue, a title created, written and drawn by future Green Arrow scribe Mike Grell.
Book Three: Hexagon of Death
Synopsis: A fantastic opening scene finds Oliver Queen using the "William Tell Overture" method to interrogate Count Vertigo, a method which consists of shooting progressively smaller varieties of fruit off Vertigo's head until he talks. He does. Unfortunately, Vertigo doesn't know much--only that the Russians sent him--but when Oliver returns to his corporate offices, he discovers a Agent Jones of the CIA waiting for him. Using Vertigo's info, Oliver tries to bluff more info from the agent, but only manages to convince the CIA that he's even deeper in the dark than they thought. Frustrated, Oliver thunders into a corporate board meeting like a bull in a china shop, claiming to know all about the ongoing conspiracy and demanding to be cut in on it. Naturally, no one believes him. Oliver finally comes to the realization he's not a businessman, and is out of his league playing corporate mind games. From that point on he resolves to fight his enemies on his own terms--as a barroom brawler. Oliver show up at Ted's funeral acting as boorish as humanly (or inhumanly) possible, then makes Hugh Hefner's birthday an employee holiday. His behavior grows more erratic, spending copious amounts of money on parties, gambling and wild women, ending up getting arrested in a nightclub brawl. Naturally, the conspirators are lulled by his foppish behavior, allowing Oliver to continue to dig quietly. His personal secretary provides the break he needs, though, noticing the hexagonal drawing he'd doodled and completes it to form a benzene ring--which proves to be the access code for the computer. Oliver discovers the "Hortonfuel" project: a synthetic oil substitute, of which the only remaining sample is hidden upon the Horton Corporate Yacht. The major petroleum corporations had Abby's husband killed because of the threat it posed to their energy monopoly, and forced Abby to lock herself up at home for her own safety. Oliver's big break in the case also proves to be his biggest misstep--the conspiracy had placed a tap on his computer, and downloaded the files. With Oliver Queen no longer of any use, assassins are sent after him yet again. This time, Agent Jones shows up to save Oliver by taking out the sniper, and Oliver returns the favor by switching into his Green Arrow outfit to fend off the rest of the hired killers. Joining forces, Green Arrow and Agent Jones head off to the yacht.
Yeah, But Is It Good? There's some great scenes here, but the whole Vertigo/Russian connection is rather disappointing, being nothing more than a red herring that provides Oliver with a bad guy to fight and torment. The impetus of the conspiracy--the mystical "Hortonfuel" is finally revealed, but the traitor within the company remains a mystery in a nice bit of drawing-out-the-suspense. Unfortunately, this is where the underlying plot falls apart. An oil substitute? Phu-leeze! This is a hoary old "magic bullet" plot device of hack writers from Hollywood. A clean, cheap fuel that everyone can have/clean, cheap, no calorie cookie/clean, cheap whatever the heck happens to be in vogue at the moment. Sorry folks, it doesn't wash. Most "synthetic" products are made from petroleum, and the synthetic motor oils out there are considerably more expensive than the regular kind. Suspension of disbelief is hard to maintain after that. And the biggest problem with the "magic bullet" plot device is that it can never be allowed to live, otherwise it'd change forever the world. Traditionally, some government agency will take it away for "study and evaluation" never to be seen again. The thinking here, obviously, is to allow enough time to pass for the readers to forget all about it, thus eliminating the sticky question of "What the heck to we do with it now?"
Significata: First appearance of eco-friendly "Hortonfuel," which will never be seen in the DC Universe again. First appearance of CIA Agent Jones. Oliver Queen working with the CIA... BWA-HA-HA! After an all-night party binge, Oliver (a severely hung over Oliver) wonders how Bruce Wayne/Batman manages to pull it off (obviously, this is pre-Crisis, where Green Arrow and Batman know each other's secret identity).
Book Four: Untitled
Synopsis: Remember the comparison of Green Arrow's trick arrows to James Bond's high-tech gadgets? Well, this miniseries takes a turn into the world of the super-spy movies when the final issue opens with a supertanker opening up and swallowing the Horton Corporation Yacht--the yacht which contains the only remaining sample of the magical "Hortonfuel." Green Arrow, Black Canary, Agent Jones and a host of CIA commandos arrive on the scene and parachute down to the supertanker, with massive mayhem ensuing. In the midst of this chaos, Green Arrow and Black Canary find the time to tell each other be careful dearest! There are bad people out there! While the bad guys try to find the hidden Hortonfuel, Agent Jones glowers and Canary prances as the heroes mow down all the hired goons thrown at them. The hidden vial of Hortonfuel is discovered inside a bust of the late Mr. Horton, and Green Arrow arrives in time to shower the conspirators with a barrage of acid-tipped arrows. His assault is cut short when he's ambushed by Cap'n Lash, a whip-cracking baddie who dresses like a Village People reject. The two face off, with Lash whipping Ollie's arrows out of the air as fast as he can fire them--until he fires an acid arrow, which burns through the whip. Lash falls from the ship and dangles from the remains of his whip, which Green Arrow is holding onto. The vial of Hortonfuel slips from Lash's belt and drops into the ocean, lost, and Green Arrow demands that Lash spill the beans about the conspiracy unless he wants to follow the lost Hortonfuel. Lash talks, and Oliver rushes back to the Horton Mansion to confront Sinclair, the mastermind behind the conspiracy. Sinclair, however, is dead, shot by Cindy Horton--Oliver's ex-lover, who recognizes Oliver through his Green Arrow disguise (You mean it was supposed to be a secret?) and announces she's going to shoot Oliver as well, and make it look like Green Arrow and Sinclair killed each other. Before she can shoot, though, Sinclair--who's not quite entirely dead--shoots her with his last bit of energy. With the conspiracy shattered, Oliver realizes that Abby left him the company only because she knew he'd hunt out the corruption. With that threat gone, he knew his poor business sense would run Horton Chemicals into bankruptcy, so Oliver gives everything to Abby's brother Maxwell Stein, the only survivor not involved in the conspiracy, who wasn't just interested in his inheritance.
Yeah, But Is It Good? Would've been better if they hadn't resorted to ripping off The Spy Who Loved Me for the big battle. What is it with DC writers and James Bond? Just a few years later they stole the entire plot from Moonraker for the ber-crossover Janus Directive which brought together Checkmate, Suicide Squad and Captain Atom in a thoroughly pointless and nonsensical adventure. Black Canary's portrayal is trite, her only purpose being to provide some shallow character development for Oliver. After she smacks around a few bad guys, she isn't to be seen again. Ditto for CIA Agent Jones. And the magical Hortonfuel is conveniently lost at sea. Oh, gee, the oil companies won, after all. Having Sinclair and Cindy kill each other sucked a lot of the wind out of the finale. Green Arrow didn't do anything. Readers are left with the distinct impression that if Ollie hadn't shown up, those two would've ended up dead anyway. It's as if Mike Barr spent an extraordinary amount of time setting up his mystery--and there is a wonderfully maddening number of twists and turns over the course of four issues--but once the puzzle's figured out, the resolution seems rushed. Half-assed. To be fair, judged against the storytelling styles of the day, this miniseries is a definite cut above the rest (and much better than the recent Crossroads non-storyline that plagued the Green Arrow monthly prior to issue 100. An attempt was made to build a logical progression, and the plot is, while implausible, much more complex than most anything else written at the time outside of a few scattered independents. Apart from the downright awful scenes with Black Canary, there is some quite good characterization of Oliver Queen here. He's not entirely the same character seen in The Longbow Hunters, but he's not dissimilar, either. He's a character in transition, for the first time learning how to carry his own title. Even though it's a case of fits and starts, he (along with writer Mike Barr) mostly succeeds.
Significata: Black Canary appears. Green Arrow fights the embarrassingly silly Cap'n Lash. Hortonfuel is lost forever (big surprise!). Oliver gives away his newly- inherited company, becoming poor once again. Oliver Queen describes his business acumen as that of a "fiddler crab." In the Wayback Department: Issue contains ads for new comic book series Sword of the Atom and Batman and the Outsiders as well as an ad for Intellivision's "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" video game cartridge (Wow! Anyone remember Intellivision and those stupid George Plimpton commercials?).