Writer: Ben Raab
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Publisher: DC Comics
Part one of “Black Circle: Urban Knights,” the first team-up of the classic Green Arrow and modern Green Lantern! Oliver Queen knocks hell out of some wannabe gangstas, but when he turns the boys over to the police the hero finds that the youths are dealing an unorthodox fix. Meanwhile, Kyle Rayner, the last Green Lantern, has his date with Jade disrupted by some Russians with guns. The Russians, too, are not what they seem, but the emerald-powered couple traces them to the Arrow’s hometown of Star City. The heroes fight each other, while the bad guys cover their tracks.
This issue does not do much to inspire confidence in the immediate future of the Green Lantern title, which Ben Raab takes over after the bi-weekly crossover. This issue features two characters who should have vibrant personalities, and none of it comes through. Oliver Queen tosses out a few lines about hating drug dealers and picking on cops, Kyle Rayner cracks a few jokes, and this passes for characterization. And why do they fight? Because one is old and the other is young! Stroke of genius, that.
Also, Raab fails to observe the first rule of writing slang: moderation. The first two pages of the book read like a dad trying to sound ‘hip’ to his teenage son. Try digesting this gem:
“Yo, once we unload this junk on the Russians, we gonna be rollin’ in serious bling-bling. I’m’a get me a dope crib, a sweet ride…”
“Gonna live like a true playa! Knowumsayin’?”
Boy, now that’s the pulse of American youth. Not to mention the scene at the club with Kyle and Jen and “friends,” which had its own manner of grossly distorting the behaviors of young people to no good effect.
As to the story itself, it’s pretty standard. Aliens show up, create a bit of intrigue, and two heroes team up to fight them. The primary difference between the new GL/GA team-up and the old days of “Hard Traveling Heroes” (or, hell, Kyle’s days with Connor Hawke, the replacement GA a few years back) is that the conflict feels so forced. The animosity Ollie shows toward Kyle is disproportionate to what may be expected, and even what has been shown before. In fact, the two were shown resolving their issues to a large degree at the conclusion of the recent JLA arc, “Obsidian Age.” So all of a sudden, Kyle’s being the punk kid that he hasn’t been in at least five years, and Ollie’s blowing up just because the story demands it. Sounds like a solid foundation for a six-part weekly crossover.
Despite big names and high sales, the Green Arrow title has always felt a bit uneven since its resurrection at the hands of Kevin Smith and company. It’s been as though the plot was solid, compelling, but something lacked in the delivery. When novelist Brad Meltzer took over the writing chores for six issues, he delivered a clean, continuity-rich tale, but one riddled with clunky dialogue and ugly plot holes. Looking ahead, the next writer, Judd Winick, has proven himself on titles like Barry Ween, Green Lantern, and Exiles, as well as the Pulitzer-nominated graphic novel, Pedro and Me. He will either follow the trend of scribes not living up to their talent, or break the flow and stun and amaze us all. Maybe we’ll catch a little preview in next week’s Green Lantern #162, part two of “Black Circle.” For now, for the next six weeks and three issues of Green Arrow, there is Ben Raab, a relative newcomer to the industry, and his greenness shows. It’s great to foster new talent, allow it to develop. One has to think, however, that this particular talent needs a bit more time to ripen.
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