No. 1, February 1988: Hunter's Moon Pt. 1
Synopsis: Oliver and Dinah are having problems in their relationship due to emotional scars leftover from the events in Longbow Hunters. They decide to seek professional help, but the therapist they choose, Ann Green, was the victim of torture and molestation 18 years earlier--and she's just gotten word that the man responsible, Al Muncy, has won a retrial and is free on bond. At the end of their session, a small envelope is delivered to Green, containing a button from the dress she was wearing as a child when she was abducted. And the letter was hand-delivered. That might, Green Arrow confronts the millionaire Muncy (he inherited his parents' brewery wealth while serving in prison) in his mansion, which is filled with suits of armor and faucets that run beer, which date back to prohibition days when his father was a bootlegger. Muncy claims he's innocent, pointing out that the police have his home under 24-hour surveilance, and that he'd be a fool to try and attack anyone while out on bond. Oliver gives him a "warning shot" then leaves, encountering the police guards. He passes on the button and letter to Lt. Jim Cameron, who originally arrested Muncy years before. That night, as Dinah sits up with Ann, a camoflaged intruder tries to break into the house. Green Arrow shoots him, but only finds a bent arrow when he reaches the bushes where the mysterious figure fell.
Yeah, But Is It Good? A very impressive follow-up to The Longbow Hunters and a powerful start to the series. The ongoing theme of victims' rights is well-played here, as the fine line protecting the accused and the accuser is quite blurred. Did Muncy do it? Hard to tell. The guy's an ass, but there's lots of doubt. The setup is intriguing. Also, Dinah's trauma is handled well. When she undergoes hypnosis during therapy, it's revealed that in addition to the physical and mental scars she carries from her torture, she feels tremendous guilt for the fact that Oliver killed--something he swore he'd never do--because of her. And would do it again. That fact also scares her. Oliver, too, is dealing with guilt and rage, but refuses to talk about it, keeping it bottled up inside in typical Oliver Queen headstrong fashion. You get to see some of that rage channeled toward Muncy, an accused serial torturer, as Oliver attempt to rid himself of the horrible Pics of Dinah's torture.
Significata: Ollie and Dinah disagree on what to do with the CIA drug money Oliver ended up with at the end of Longbow Hunters. First appearance of Lt. Jim Cameron. Mike Grell painted the cover. Issue is labled "Suggested for mature readers" and is in DC's "New Format" printed on slick paper, not newsprint. The first of many Grell two-parter storylines.
No. 2, March 1988: Hunter's Moon Pt. 2
Creative Team: Mike Grell, writer; Ed Hannigan, pencils; Dick Giordano with Frank McLaughlin, inkers; Julia Lacquement, colorist; John Costanza, letterer; Mike Gold, editor
Synopsis: In the conclusion to the two-part "Hunter's Moon," Oliver gets Lt. Cameron to search Muncy's mansion after the mysterious assailant escapes from Ann Green's house. To their surprise, Muncy is in his weight room, soaked with sweat from a workout, and Cameron admits his men saw no one leave that night. Muncy baits them, claiming his innocence while pointing out again that he'd be stupid to attack anyone when the 18-year-old evidence against him isn't likely to stand up during a retrial. To complicate the problem, the police discover a footprint in soft soil at Green's house--a footprint too large and too heavy to be Muncy's. Even so, Cameron's convinced Muncy is behind it, and Oliver announces he thinks he knows how Muncy's been eluding the police. They return to the mansion to find Muncy gone, leaving only a note--referring to the "Good old days." Muncy had used a shirt of chainmail from one of the suits of armor to protect himself against Green Arrow's shot earlier, which accounted for the extra weight of the footprint outside Dr. Green's. After a long search, they turn up a trapdoor, which Muncy had all but told them he used in one of his baiting sessions with the police. They follow the stairs down several stories to a secret cellar that runs under the brewery and mansion--where illegal beer was stored during prohibition. Cameron leaves to put a guard around Annie Green, while Green Arrow follows Muncy's trail. He finds "trophies" of Muncy's child victims, and his rage grows. When he takes the elevator up into the brewery at the other end of the cellar, in a fit of rage he opens all the valves in the giant beer vats and floods the secret cellar. Meanwhile, Cameron has a revalation. Muncy can't get to Green, so he'll go after something closer to the "good old days" -- Cameron's daughter, Lisa. Green, Cameron and Dinah race to the brownstone where Muncy used to take his victims, and trap him in an alley with Cameron's little girl. Cameron throws down his gun when Muncy threatens to shoot Lisa, but then Muncy announces he's going to kill Lisa anyway--along with Cameron. Green Arrow sends a razor-tipped broadhead shaft through Muncy's wrist at the last instant, and Muncy drops his gun as Lisa escapes. Green grabs up the gun and threatens to shoot Muncy, but ultimately doesn't. Muncy flees, bleeding badly, and Green Arrow follows. Muncy reaches the brewery elevator and gloats to Green Arrow that he can escape through more secret tunnels leading out from the cellar, and that he'll be long gone before Green Arrow can track him down--free to kill again. Muncy sends the elevator down--into the cellar flooded with beer. Trapped behind the elevator's locked grating, Muncy drowns in a pool of irony.
Yeah, But Is It Good? Very, very good. A powerful ending that is immensely satisfying. I particularly like the fact that they point out Muncy used the chainmail because Kevlar--used in bulletproof vests--isn't arrow-proof, since it can be cut. There's lots of emotion here, and most of it's portrayed through the art. Grell is developing his sparse-use-of-words storytelling skills. Despite all the doubts and evidence against Muncy's guilt, Muncy becomes a more despicable character as the story progresses. And Annie Green's confrontation with Muncy is excellent. A worthy conclusion to this opening story, and a good indication of what's to come for the next 100-plus issues.
Significata: Lt. Cameron confronts Oliver and warns him that if he keeps sticking his nose into police business, someday he'll cross the line, and Cameron will take him down. A good love/hate relationship between the two is developing. The spelling of the bad guy's name alternates between "Muncie" and "Muncy" this issue, where it was simply "Muncy" in No. 1. Cost of issue No. 2: $1.00. The letter column contained missives about part three of The Longbow Hunters miniseries, with interesting comments. Most significant of those was Charles D. Brown of Brentwood, New York, who fired the first salvo in the extremely long-running, never ending, "trick arrows or not?" debate. Grell cover.
No. 3, April 1988: The Champions Pt. 1
Creative Team: Mike Grell, writer; Ed Hannigan, pencils; Dick Giordano with Frank McLaughlin, inker; Julia Lacquement, colorist; John Costanza, letterer; Mike Gold, editor
Synopsis: A Seattle street gang hijacks a city bus to rob the passengers-- a bus Dinah Lance happens to be riding. Meanwhile, high above the Earth, and accident during a repair mission causes a space station to explode, sending debris streaming groundward. Back in Seattle, Oliver Queen's target practice is interrupted when a ragged Dinah arrives home, a bit bruised and sporting a nosebleed, but otherwise better than she's been since Longbow Hunters. Apparently she beat the crap out of the street gang, and that allayed her biggest fear--that she wouldn't ever be able to fight back when threatened again. To celebrate, they retire to the bedroom for some long-delayed nookie, and watch a spectacular fireball streak through the night sky (guess what it's from?). Later, Oliver dons his Green Arrow costume and heads out to fight crime. He stops a couple of goons from beating on a helpless victim, but the "victim" stands and clobbers Green Arrow from behind, knocking him cold. He wakes up in an office where a government-type tells him of the space accident, and that a pod containing a bio- engineered viral enzyme that can be programmed to attack specific links in a DNA chain has crashed on an island north of Seattle. This bio-weapon could be programmed to wipe out the common cold (potential good) or wheat crops, or individual races of humans (very bad). The Chinese, who co-developed the bio-weapon, have already sent an agent--Eddie Fyres--to recover the pod, and are massing a fleet in case the agent fails. The government-type has chosen Green Arrow to be his government's agent--but his government isn't the U.S. as assumed, but Russia. Green Arrow reluctantly agrees to go after the bio-weapon only because he believes he can get it out before anyone else, thus preventing World War III from being fought in his backyard. The issue ends with him arriving on a ferry, and Eddie Fyres lining his head up in the crosshairs of a sniper rifle.
Yeah, But Is It Good? A whole lot of fun, and but the anticipation is the kicker. Grell sets up a catch-22 situation for Oliver, and despite his best instincts, Green Arrow has to go along with the maddening spy game. This is great James Bond/Tom Clancy-ish stuff. The bio- weapon, although vague on the technical aspects, is a chillingly effective MacGuffin, all too plausible in today's era of recombinant DNA. The ending is a bit cliche, but that can be forgiven, since all the twists and turns leading up to that point leave the reader wondering what can happen next. Dinah's continued recovery is a nice touch, showing Grell's determination to keep this title as anchored in the "real world" as possible for a superhero book. I do wonder how long those Russian agents pretended to beat on each other in the alley before Green Arrow came along, tho.
Significata: The return of Eddie Fyres. Grell cover. The letter column has no letters. Instead, editor Mike Gold gives a rundown on all the previous "Secret Origins" on Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, and how they fit into the current continuity. A good history of the character.
No. 4, May 1988: The Champions Pt. 2
Synopsis: Well, Eddie Fyres doesn't shoot Ollie. Instead, he greets him at the dock and admit he's surprised by the Russians' choice. Eddie figures both of them searching will turn the pod up more quickly, and then winner take all. Eddie also insists he's not angry that Oliver shot him in Longbow Hunters, that everything "professional." They split up, but Oliver tracks Eddie to guard against any double-cross. Unfortunatley, Eddy anticipated this, and Oliver trips a booby-trap that fires a wooden spike into Oliver's leg. Bleeding badly, Ollie makes it to a cabin as a heavy snowstorm descends. He wakes up (naked) in the company of a pretty Native American grad student who's participating in an archaeology dig nearby. She recognized Oliver as Green Arrow. He gets dressed as she shows him how corrosion is removed from the artifacts they find with an acid bath. Oliver explains he's looking for something, and takes out a portable geiger counter which will indicate the presence of the slightly radioactive pod. The geiger counter goes nuts--the student found the pod and brought it into the cabin.After a debate on the merits of the bio-weapon versus the destructive capabilities of it, a sniper starts shooting at them from the woods. They make a break for it with a diversion, but run into Eddie, who shoots and kills the sniper--another agent, hired by the Chinese. This infuriates Eddie, since his employers have double-crossed him. The girl's handcuffed to a tree and Ollie and Eddie duke it out for the pod, only to have a third Chinese hired gun show up and take the pod from them. With a floatation device strapped to the pod, the hired gun throws it off a cliff to a frogman team waiting below to take it back to a Chinese submarine, but Oliver pulls out a remote and detonates the pod in mid-air. All the spies go home. Back at the cabin, Oliver reveals he switched the test tube containing the bio-weapon with explosives during the sniper attack, and hid the tube in the cabin. The student argues to preserve it because of all the medical uses for it, but Oliver refuses and destroys it in the acid bath.
Yeah, But Is It Good? Man oh man, this is one of my favorite all-time Green Arrow stories. The premise is science-fiction all the way (not to be confused with science fantasy) and Grell pulls it off magnificently, blending in action/adventure and espionage and cooking until it's a well-done hybrid. The showdown comes almost straight from the Bond flick For Your Eyes Only, but this story is written smarter than any James Bond movie. Eddie's indignation is priceless, as he suffers one betrayal after another, all the while insisting he's a professional that doesn't let politics get to him. My only problem is that with all the Russian and Chinese activity in the area--even if it was covert--the U.S. intelligence services should all be fired en masse for not picking up on the fact that something's going on.
Significata: Grell cover. Eddie Fyres and Oliver beat each other senseless. Issue contains house ads for the Power Girl mini-series and Superman: The Earth Stealers (a Byrne one-shot I think stunk to high heaven). Ollie is naked and alone in a remote cabin with an attractive woman, and doesn't get lucky (take that you Ollie-bashers!).
No. 5, June 1988: Gauntlet Pt. 1
Synopsis: A gay couple enters Sherwood Florist and buys a white rose to celebrate their anniversary. Walking through the park, they're jumped by a street gang and beaten severely- - one dies, the other ends up in intensive care. Ollie and Dinah are shocked and outraged when they find out, and later Dinah discovers Sherwood Florist's stocker, a black teen named Colin, has been beaten severly by a gang as well, and has to quit his job because he's been "drafted." Oliver, as Green Arrow, visits the gay beating victim in the hospital and promises to track down who's responsible for the murder. Dressing as a leatherfag, Ollie wanders through the gay district and into the park, where he's soon jumped by a gang intent on beating the living crap out of him. Only Ollie beats back after taking a couple of blows, smacks his attackers around severely and discovers that Colin is among them.
Yeah, But Is It Good? Not bad, but it's hard to tell where Grell's going with this story. The entire issue reads more like he's setting the scene for the real story yet to come. The apparently unrelated subplots come together nicely at the end, though. Grell tackles several tough issues in this one--gang violence, hate crimes and homophobia--and should be commended for not shying away from challenging subject matter. That's especially relevant now, more than a decade later, when there are so-called religious leaders that show up at funerals for murder victims waving signs proclaiming "God hates fags!" If that's what these self- styled "Defenders of the faith" believe the Bible teaches, then homophobia is the least of their problems, I'm afraid.
Significata: Oliver's reading an Alaskan tourism magazine as the story opens, and announces he wants to see the Iditarod dogsled race. That's a nice setup for upcoming issues 7- 8. Oliver wears leather pants with the butt cut out -- an image I'm sure his ex-Justice League teammates would find infinitely amusing. Colin wears a yellow Washington Huskies sweater, which is a nice regional touch. John Kent of New York City submits the new letter column name, "Sherwood Forum."
No. 6, July 1988: Gauntlet Pt. 2
Synopsis: Oliver convinces Colin to tell him who's sending "Warhog" gang members out to attack homosexuals. At the airport, Warhog Grand Poobah "Reggie" arrives to check out local operations. At the base of operations, he meets with Kebo, the local director of operations, who dresses like a second-rate Huggie Bear from Starskey & Hutch. Kebo wants to run a heist at the Boeing factory nearby, but Reggie quashes that, reasoning that it's too big and will attract too much attention--by staying with drugs and prostitution, the smaller crimes, they can maintain a profit margin while avoiding excess police scrutiny. After Kebo goes over the current state of affairs and leaves, Green Arrow appears, shattering Reggie's champaign glass with a well-places arrow. He confronts Reggie about the gay attacks, and Reggie professes ignorance. Reggie pushes a silent alarm, and Kebo and the goon squad rush in and surround Green Arrow, ready to blow him away. Ollie steals their thunder by pointing out that he's got his bow aimed at their boss, and if he's shot, the arrow automatically fires when he lets go. Kebo admits to sending the gangs out after gays as an initiation, and Reggie's furious, since that's attracting the high-profile scrutiny he so carefully avoids. Ollie announces he's done some checking, and while Kebo was serving time several years before, was gang-raped. Kebo, being the moron that he is, now has a vendetta against homosexuals (even though that's not the way it works in prison--but that's an entirely different story). Reggie stops him then, saying Green Arrow hasn't earned the right to speak, since all gang members go through the "guantlet." Ollie, of course, demands to go through it, an obstacle course of 10 goons with clubs, chains and knives in two rows, side-by-side. Ollie's got to make it through this double line of terror, and does, but only barely. He then demands Kebo, to take him to the cops for the attacks. Kebo freaks, pulling his gun and announcing the beating victims deserved it, because he got AIDS from his attacks in prison. Ollie knocks Kebo's gun away, and Reggie shoots Kebo dead, explaining "Warhogs take care of their own." Colin doesn't return to work though, as someone rises to take Kebo's place. Furious, Oliver takes $100,000 of the CIA drug money he obtained during Longbow Hunters and funds an inner-city youth center to try and counter the gangs' influence.
Yeah, But Is It Good? The payoff is somewhat less satisfying than the two previous story arcs in the series. All the plot pieces fall into place, but the disparate elements don't quite fit together cleanly. Probably Grell was tackling too many issues at once, thus all were short- changed. The final confrontation with the Warhogs was stunningly absurd as well: Go through the guantlet to be heard as an equal. No, I don't think so. The difference between street gangs of today and organized crime of decades past is that there are no ethics anymore, no "Code of honor." No atrocity is frowned upon. Just a year or so back, an infant was killed when a family car took a wrong turn into a bad neighborhood and a bunch of gangbangers opened fire. During the trial, the thugs claimed it wasn't their fault the infant got killed, that it was the parent's fault, because they shouldn't have been in the gang's neighborhood. They deserved to get shot for that. Does that sound like a code of honor? I thought not. Oliver would've been dead the instant he lowered his bow.
Significata: In the final panel, CIA operative Greg Osborne smiles and says "Gotcha!" when he reads in the Seattle paper about Green Arrow's donation for the youth center. Apparently, they've been waiting for him to spend that money, so they could use it against him-- it was drug money, after all. In Sherwood Forum, letters take the creative team to task for their portrayal of Dinah Lance, and also for inacurate depictions of the viral weapon from the Champions story arc.
No. 7, August 1988 (untitled)
Synopsis: After picking Dinah up from jogging and a bit of witty banter, Ollie takes the Sherwood Florist delivery van to be washed. One of the carwash workers makes copies of the keys to the vehicles they wash--an obvious plot point to be filed away for future reference-- and is seen doing so by Rita, another worker there. Meanwhile, Dinah goes to a jewlers and buys a pair of thick silver bracelets to cover the scars on her wrists from her torture in Longbow Hunters. When she gets home, Oliver announces he's going to Anchorage and wants her to come along. He hasn't been able to crack the drug trafficking network set up by the Chinese Tongs in Seattle, but reasons he might be able to get some information out of illegal gambling houses they operate in Anchorage. They fight, since the main reason he's going is to see the Iditarod dog sled race (see issue No. 5). Rita, the crack-head from Longbow Hunters, then arrives at the shop and thanks Dinah for her help when she was strung out. Turns out she's the same Rita that works at the carwash where Ollie had the van done, and has just been fired. She tells Dinah everything she's seen, and Dinah goes into Black Canary mode, following Rita's boss all across Seattle that night, to no avail. When she gets home, she finds he Saab has been stolen. Ollie, on a ferry to Anchorage, sees the Saab, and realizes it's been stolen. After leaving a message on the answering machine for Dinah stating as much, he determines that the Tongs are indeed behind the theft. He pops the hatchback, intending to hide, and finds many packets of mysterious white powder.
Yeah, But Is It Good? Nope. Regular artist Ed Hannigan was sick with the flu, so two other pencillers filled in, and their styles are so different you can't tell the same person from one panel to the next. In particular, Rita's looks change dramatically. And nothing happens. Dinah makes her grand return as Black Canary, and what does she accomplish? Her car gets stolen! And her adventures, or rather, her non-adventures fill more than half of the issue. This was intended to be a springboard for here ongoing series in the ill-conceived, ill-fated Action Comics Weekly, but to be successful, it should've given the readers something exciting and entertaining. It did neither. Hell, Black Canary dominates the cover, blonde wig and all, and that promise is never delivered--Dinah never puts on the costume or the wig. Shame! Sharon Wright, who was the regular writer for Black Canary on ACW, co-wrote the issue with Mike Grell, and neither really accomplished anything here they want to put on their resum‚s. Grell just springs the whole Tongs drug ring thing on the readers with no buildup or explanation, and it comes across as merely a MacGuffin to get Ollie heading north to Alaska.
Significata: The first issue of Green Arrow to qualify as "sucky." Black Canary is featured on the cover--but not delivered inside the way we want. In Sherwood Forum the first call for a Speedy-Green Arrow reconciliation is made. Oh, what might have been had Longbow Hunters II ever been approved!
No. 8, September 1988: The Powderhorn Trail
Synopsis: Oliver tastes the white powder in the Saab trunk, and it's incredibly nasty- -the implication is that it's not the usual suspects, cocaine or heroin. He keeps a sample for himself, and hides in the trunk. Reaching Anchorage, the Tongs take the car to a chop shop, where it's repainted yellow. Green Arrow heads to one of the gambling houses, and overhears the Tong leader saying "Quinn" will be taking out a shipment the next day, and will make the transfer on the first stop on the way to Nome. Green Arrow takes the powder to the police for analysis, then leads them to the chop shop, where the Tongs are all rounded up. The car wash in Seattle would make keys of the cars that came through, then steal them and have them on the ferry to Anchorage before the owners noticed them missing. The Tongs had infiltrated the car ring and used the vehicles to carry drugs and such to the gambling houses and bordellos in Alaska. They didn't nab Quinn, though, or the current shipment. Ollie heads over to the Iditarod start, and sees that Quinn is an entrant. He puts two and two together, and the law busts Quinn and his connection at the first checkpoint on the Iditarod trail. Turns out the powder was illegal rhinoceros horn, an aphrodesiac in Asian countries. Ollie drives the dogsled team home.
Yeah, But Is It Good? Oh, this is the most godawful miserable issue in Grell's entire run. It is so bad, words fail me. And what's worse, I can see where there was a good story here trying to get out. First, the art is pathetic. Paris Cullins botches the job badly on all counts. Apart from being way too cartoony, he obviously had no idea what a Saab looked like, because he draws it like a Ford sedan. His Anchorage is an embarrassment. He's obviously never been there, and has never even looked at pictures of the place. Every scene has a wild, drunken brawl going on in the streets with dogs jumping on people and bottles being thrown--it's like Hell's version of Mardi Gras. I showed an acquaintance from Anchorage this issue once, and it made her ill, no kidding. Beyond that, the art really muddled the story. Most of the time Green Arrow is doing things that are just confusing, making me go "huh?" To be fair, Cullins was probably thrown this project on an insanely tight deadline because of Ed Hannigan's flu, but bad is still bad, no matter what the circumstances. While Cullen's art is a major culprit in the downfall of the story, Grell also deserves blame for some huge logic breakdowns. Namely: Why would Tongs smuggle powdered rhino horn from Africa into the U.S., which has some of the toughest customs inspections in the world, then try to smuggle it back out, to the Far East, presumably? Why not just go straight from Zaire, or wherever, to China? Why take it three quarters of the way around the world, when it'd be easier to ship it through Bangledesh or Thailand? And once its in the U.S., why risk exporting it, when there are huge Chinese populations domestically that have high demand for tiger, elephant, rhino and all sorts of other endangered animal parts for their traditional medicines? Hey, these would pay in dollars as well, which is the international illicit currency of choice. And none of this does anything to explain how the drugs and rhino horn gets into Seattle in the first place, the whole reason this silly story began. Bad, bad, bad all around. Thank goodness nothing else Grell does ever sinks to this level on this series.
Significata: The worst issue of Grell's run, and a contender for worst issue of the entire 137-issue series. In the final panel, Ollie sings "I did, I did, I did the Iditarod Trail," which is an actual song about the Iditarod race. In Sherwood Forum, the Fables annuals crossover amongst Green Arrow, Batman and the Question is plugged (personally, I feel these more limited crossovers in the annuals work better than the über-crossovers that are in vogue as of late). The five-issue Hawk and Dove miniseries is a prominent house ad on the back cover, featuring the work of a new artist by the name of Rob Liefeld.
No. 9, October 1988: Here There Be Dragons, part 1
Creative Team: Mike Grell, writer; Ed Hannigan, pencils; Dick Giordano and Frank McLaughlin, inkers; Julia Lacquement, colorist; John Costanza, letterer; Mike Gold, editor, Special thanks to Bové
Synopsis: A full year has passed since the events of The Longbow Hunters and Oliver and Dinah are enjoying their first spring in Seattle together. Stopping in front of a comic shop, they see a crystal dragon in the window. Dinah asks Oliver "Do you ever think of her?" to which Oliver replies "No." Dinah then points out that if he doesn't think of the lady with the dragon tattoo, then how does Oliver know who she's talking about? They have a discussion about those events of a year ago--or, rather, a discussion about why they never discuss it, and that night it's revealed to the reader that Oliver's been haunted by nightmares of that horror-- nightmares that plague his sleep that he's not sure will ever go away. He haunted as much by Dinah's suffering as by the knowledge that he chose to kill her torturer rather than shoot the knife out of his hand. He took a life willingly, something he'd never done before, and he worries how that's changed him. He also wonders what became of Shado. It turns out that she's in Japan, facing her Yakuza Oyabun, who's angry that she failed her mission--all of the targets from Longbow Hunters are dead, but not all by her hand as their code of honor dictates. After a harrowing test of her skills and loyalty, the Oyabun demands she cut off her thumb in atonement for her failure. Her Sensi objects, refusing to allow his pupil to be maimed and her great archery skill destroyed. Shado flees while the Sensi holds the Oyabun at arrowpoint. Once she's away, the Sensi lowers his bow, and is promptly killed by the Oyabun. Hearing the gunshot, Shado returns and kills the Oyabun.
Yeah, But Is It Good? This more than makes up for the last couple of truly awful issues. It's good. Damn good. There's more character development here among the principals than the previous eight issues combined, and it's all very natural, believable personality reactions. Nothing seems contrived or forced, everything flowing smoothly out of the situations. Grell makes a strong effort to address many of the criticisms leveled at Longbow Hunters for excessive violence and the treatment of Dinah. His answers are by no means complete, and have little hope of satisfying everyone, but they're honest, and for what it's worth, valid for the personalities involved. It's interesting to see that Oliver is perhaps coping with the recovery from those events far less successfully than Dinah. Grell touches again on the underlying thread established in Longbow Hunters that Dinah is the more mature half of the couple, despite the fact that she is 15 years or so younger than Oliver (this number is up for debate. It's obvious Grell intended Dinah to be maybe 10 years junior to the 43-year-old Oliver at most, but recent DC continuity tweaks have set her age in the mid-20s, while Oliver is now 45 or so. Go figure). A very, very promising follow-up to Longbow Hunters.
Significata: The return of Shado. The return of artist Ed Hannigan brings a beautiful, complex piece of cover art with it. The interior art is also quite nice, with clean lines and realistic depictions. The comic shop the crystal dragon is seen in is called Cap's Hobbit Shoppe, no doubt an establishment Mr. Grell had frequented in the past. This issue features a house ad for Denny O'Neal's forthcoming Doc Savage series, which ultimately only lasts a couple of years.
No. 10, November 1988: Here There Be Dragons, part 2
Creative Team: Mike Grell, writer; Ed Hannigan, pencils; Dick Giordano and Frank McLaughlin, inkers; Julia Lacquement, colorist; John Costanza, letterer; Mike Gold, editor
Synopsis: Dinah surprises Oliver with a cake on his 44th birthday, but later he's left feeling old and missing out when he runs across her birth control pills in the bathroom. They decide to go to the zoo to celebrate his birthday. At the zoo, they notice two CIA-types following them, and stage an ambush. Turns out the two spies--Eddie Fyres and Osborne--last met Oliver during Longbow Hunters and are out to recruit him. Essentially, several large caches of Phillipine gold, buried prior to the Japanese occupation during World War II and long forgotten, have been excavated by the Yakuza over the previous year. The Yakuza stole the the long-lost map of the gold cahes shortly after the Phillipine government unearthed it, but now the excavations have abruptly stopped, and Osborne believes it's because Shado has stolen that map. Oliver's task is to track Shado down -- she was last seen in Hawaii -- and recover the map so the U.S. can return it to the Phillipines in support of the recently elected democratic government of Corazon Aquino. And just in case he's thinking about saying no, Osborne threatens to turn Oliver in to the IRS on tax evasion charges relating to the drug money he acquired during Longbow Hunters. Oliver reluctantly agrees, and despite Dinah's objections, travels to Hawaii in search of Shado. Going from archery shop to archery shop, Oliver finds one that recently made a delivery of white eagle feathers for fletching to a japanese woman living on a yacht. Oliver dons his Green Arrow costume and arrives at the yacht-- only to get shot in the chest by a surprised Shado.
Yeah, But Is It Good? As good as part one. There's more of the great character development here that made Part 1 so memorable, but there's much more plot here as well. Sure, the Yakuza's hunting Shado, but the missing Fillipino gold adds to the convoluted mystery. Obviously Osborne is planning some sort of double-cross, but what is it? And Oliver's shock at the ease in which Osborne discovered his "secret" identity is laid waste by Osborne's sarcasm: "You're kidding, right? How many guys in this town do you think fit your description? What--It was supposed to be a secret?" It really does a good job at acknowledging the absurdity of Oliver's -- and just about every other costumed vigilante's -- identity being hidden by a tiny piece of fabric over the eyes. And Dinah beating the ever-living crap outta Eddie Fyres is worth the price of the issue alone.
Significata: The return of Eddie Fyres. Grell cover. Green Arrow goes out for the first time without his mask. Dinah's birth control is the "Ovalex" brand. During a Yakuza assault on her Hawaiian beach house, Shado shows her combat skills extend far beyond archery. A Batman house ad advertises the now-infamous 1-800-KILL-ROBIN phone poll that resulted in the death of Jason Todd.
No. 11, December 1988: Here There Be Dragons, part 3
Creative Team: Mike Grell, writer; Ed Hannigan, pencils; Dick Giordano and Frank McLaughlin, inkers; Julia Lacquement, colorist; John Costanza, letterer; Mike Gold, editor
Synopsis: Oliver didn't die from the arrow-wound he got from Shado, but it messed him up real good. Despite Shado's medical efforts, Ollie's laid out unconscious for 10 day, except for one brief episode where he awakens long enough to warn Shado of a Yakuza assasin while she's immersed in archery practice. Once he begins to recover, he explains why he's there -- how Osborne discovered his secret identity, to which Shado says "It was supposed to be a secret?" Replies Oliver, "I wish people would stop saying that!" Shado explains how she's no longer with the Yakuza, and that they will not stop until she is dead. In either case, neither is sure what their next move will be. Oliver then meets an ancient, winzed gardner known only as Mr. Alvaro, who is apparently very close to Shado. That evening, as Oliver and Shado share a (nude?) swim in the ocean, a Yakuza team abducts Mr. Alvaro and lays an ambush for Shado and Oliver. They sniff out the ambush and take out the Yakuza, but not before Mr. Alvaro's heart gives out.
Yeah, But Is It Good? This is the issue that all the "Ollie cheats on Dinah" accusations come from. And from the skinny-dipping in the ocean scenes, you're left wondering just how faithful Oliver is being to Dinah. I know I still wonder what exactly went on there, seeing how Grell leaves it intentionally vauge. Obviously Ollie did a bad thing by getting naked with another lady, and there's no justification for that, but beyond the swim it's very debatable just how much "cheating" went on -- you end up splitting hairs in some sort of Clintonesque debate on what the meaning of "is" is. It's a very emotional, moving issue, with strong passions obviously rising between Ollie and Shado -- the scene where she secretly watches him practice shooting his bow, expressing distaste at his form while inadvertently drooling over him is quite effective. Revisiting this issue in hindsite, though, it makes me wonder just how much Grell had planned out in advance. A year from now, it's revealed that Shadow has a newborn son, obviously Oliver's, which implies he did cheat on Dinah during the skinny-dipping episode. But two years from now, Shado admits she climbed on top of Ollie while he was still delerious from his wound, that she essentially raped him. At first I took this for some lame back-peddaling on Grell's part, but re-examining Ollie's fever dream sequence here, there's a lot of muddled imagery of him making love with Dinah. So either being at death's door caused Oliver to have a whole lot of wet dreams (unlikely) or Shado took advantage of Oliver (more than once from the looks of it).
Significata: Oliver's still-unnamed son concieved -- not to be confused with other long-lost son, Connor Hawke, who takes over the Green Arrow identity after issue 101. Shado shows she can shoot Oliver's longbow as effectively as her own. In Sherwood Forum, a reader from Alaska takes the creative team to task for the awful depiction of Anchorage in the awful Iditarod two-parter several months back. A house ad advertises subscriptions to DC's "Mature Titles" for the first time, offering Green Arrow, The Question, Hellblazer and Swamp Thing to subscribers 19 years of age and older.
No. 12, January 1989: Here There Be Dragons, part 4
Synopsis: After burying Emilio Alvaro, they sail to Honolulu to resupply, and are immediately discovered by Yakuza. Shocked by their abrupt discovery, Green Arrow and Shado set up base in a dockyard warehouse so innocent bystanders won't get hurt in the imminent carnage. A Yakuza death squad attacks that night with machine guns and stun grenades. After a particularly bloody melee, Green Arrow and Shado triumph, and find that the Yakuza had homed in on a tracking device planted in Oliver's quiver. Putting two-and-two together, Oliver contacts Osborne, who arrives with two Japanese "agents" for the map. Oliver hands over a tube containing the "map" and tells Osborne that Shado died in a grenade explosion. The real map, it turns out, was Mr. Alvaro, a Filipino national who was the last survivor of the team that buried his country's treasury to keep it out of Japanese hands. He was the only one who knew where the gold was buried, and told Shado, who made the map. Oliver then points out that he's figured out that Osborne planted the bug, and sicced the Yakuza on him.. because this isn't a CIA operation. Osborne is working for agents loyal to the deposed Filipino dictator Marcos, and enlisted the Yakuza for muscle, promising a share of the gold and Shado's head in exchange for the Japanese mafia's help. Osborne orders Oliver killed, but Shado -- who's been in hiding -- slays the gunman. Then the FBI swoops in with cars and helicopters, arresting Osborne for conspiracy to overthrow the Filipino government. Osborne laughs that's he'll be able to get off easy because of his contacts, but his laughter falters when Oliver points out that one of the Yakuza has escaped with the "map" -- the map case containing a homing device which will lead the FBI right to Yakuza headquarters in Hawaii, where it'll be let slip that Osborne cooperated with the FBI in order to bring down the Yakuza operation. The next morning, Oliver and Shado reluctantly part.
Yeah, But Is It Good? Very effective, very good. It's always baffled me why DC never collected this as a follow-up graphic novel to Longbow Hunters. Oliver going to the FBI -- the absolute last place anyone expected him to go considering the highly illegal nature of all the on-going conspiracies, was a stroke of brilliance. The intensity of Oliver and Shado's attraction is very clear, and the subtlety with which it's displayed is a nice departure from the plodding, spell-it-out-in-big-letters way comics usually handle relationships. Emilio Alvaro is a very clever creation on Grell's part, and shows that the writer actually knows what he's writing about. While Filipinos are Asian, for hundreds of years the island nation was a colony of Spain, and the culture is very much a Spanish one. Throwing in a Spanish name automatically made me assume the gardner was Mexican, but of course, were I thinking, I'd have realized this Asian-looking old man must be Filipino, and therefore must tie in with the missing gold plot in some way.
Significata: Probably the bloodiest Green Arrow cover to date, with Green Arrow and Shado standing atop a pile of Yakuza bodies. Shado is considerably more "real" at the end of this story arc, and less of an enigma. Oliver calls Dinah from a pay phone after the dust settles to let her know he's okay. In Sherwood Forum, the trick arrow debate rages on. Issue contains a house ad for Black Orchid mini-series by some young British chap by the name of Neil Gaiman.