“I can’t live in this lunatic world anymore.”
Many ages ago, in the early moments of The Bronze Age, two legendary creators formed a partnership. They would go on to redefine Batman for a generation and be dubbed one of the best duos to ever grace the comic book page. But that partnership began with the inception of another partnership: the partnership of two fictional legends. Green Arrow. Green Lantern. A team-up of the two fiery green guardians of DC Comics. Everyone’s heard of it, most know its place in comics history and the partnership of this duo, Oliver Queen and Hal Jordan, it’s upheld to this day as one of the great, iconic ones in all of comics legend. Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams, together nicknamed ‘O’Neil Adams’, really became a creative team by creating the team of The Emerald Knight and The Emerald Archer.
The cover to their influential story, “Snowbirds Don’t Fly,” remains one of the most well-known images in all of comicdom. To this day, decades later, the story still defines both Oliver Queen and Roy Harper, the ex-sidekick Speedy, who’s found with drugs by the duo of green heroes on the cover. That’s the mark of a powerful story. It’s evident that this issue of The Green Lantern is very much an homage, with a cover by Liam Sharp and Steve Oliff that showcases a tentacle alien with space drugs, as Ollie and Hal stare it down. It’s a hilarious gag and a charming cover, but by no means is The Green Lantern content to stop just there. This is no simple and singular homage. This is something more.
Opening on the brand new world of Hadea-Maxima, a world where murder is natural law, the creative crew of Grant Morrison, Liam Sharp, Steve Oliff and Tom Orzechowski lay out some fresh mythos for the DC Cosmos. If Ventura was the big space Las Vegas, the gambling world if you will, full of impossible arcade games, bizarre designs and more, Maxima is very much the cartel world. A realm where brutality is no horror but nature, where backstabbing betrayals are as common as prayer and loyalty is only paid for. The only thing virtuous here, in the eyes of the Maximans, is power. If you are powerful and make good use of power, you go on. Otherwise you fall. But even those that live by these laws have expiry dates, as is expected of a realm of endless cyclical violence. Thus we have Boss Brotorr, a demonic looking cosmic cartel boss, horns and all, who’s displeased with the emergence of a new rogue element, a competitor stealing away his customers and thus disrespecting him. The ruthless druglord tasks his chief hitman, Azmomza, with the task of destroying this new competitor and the entire world he’s escaped off to, in order to send a message.
But that world the competitor escaped to? The one that’s got a hit on it now? You guessed right, it’s our very our muddy backwater of Earth.
And thus we have another case, another story, where in our two favorite green guardians must unite in the face of a drug problem. But given this is The Green Lantern, this is no regular drug. It’s a cosmic drug, sure, but it’s one that makes a mockery of all other cosmic drugs, so it’s something far beyond even those bizarre products. Sold by a mysterious figure named Glorigold DeGrande, the rogue competitor, it’s a terror that’s even gotten to Earthlings.
Enter: The Green Arrow.
Busting up a drug sale in swift fashion, Ollie delivers street justice the only way he knows how — with trick arrows, attitude and some good ol’ fisticuffs. Sharp’s artwork really channels Neal Adams here in a wonderful way, paying respects to the legend who recreated the character alongside Ollie. There’s a kinetic power, a certain energy and a general fluidity to Adam’s work, alongside highly exaggerated emoting, where in almost theatrical hand-wringing and expressiveness are used, as are impossible angles and poses to illustrate a point. “If superheroes were real, they’d look the way I draw them,” Adams once said and to a great many, it’s still true. He captures them in all their impossible glory while somehow making them feel believable and his style has inspired millions since, leading to what we have now. All of that dynamism is present here, as Sharp, who holds Adams as a key influence and has channeled elements of his work prior in the book, really goes all out here, evoking the legend while retaining his own quirks and identifiable charms. He manages to capture a wide range of the characters here, perfectly matching Morrison’s vision.
Morrison’s got a bit of a history with Ollie, having written him briefly in Final Crisis. While it was fairly short, it remains a highlight of that story and Ollie’s history in general. Fiery and full of passion for social justice, he’s a selfless man who will do anything and everything in the face of authoritarianism. He is the symbol of freedom who will not relent, with only Anti-Life being able to break him. Saying silly and romantic things like “I’ll use the Anti-Anti-Life Arrow” before saving the Justice League, Ollie, under Morrison’s pen, faced certain doom with confidence, honor and heroism. And with this return to the character, Morrison once again taps into the classic Ollie charm that makes that character tick. With Sharp contrasting him and Hal, there’s a really lovely reunion here. Hal simply reappears and Ollie takes it coolly, while Hal grins playfully, making a dumb quip. Ollie then goes onto mock and criticize said quip, suggesting a better alternative, expecting more from his old pal. And that’s the dynamic right there. It’s comfortable. It’s free. It’s honest.
These two are brothers. Two prime-opposites who make digs at each other, who might even get into fights, but deeply care for one another. They put on funny voices and try to one-up the other at times, with a bond that simply cannot be broken. These are two men who will always be there for one another. Inquiring about one’s love lives, sharing a home, discussing and criticizing one another’s career and life choices, they’re friends who really have great rapport. As Ollie, the Denny O’Neil street hero lectures Hal on him needing to be more “grounded” and on street, Hal opts to chat about Ollie’s delicious cooking and diverts to the notion of Ollie opening up a restaurant. There’s an intimacy here, but also a certain distance, with Hal being away for so long and that honesty in depiction really, really works. Their love and care for one another, insults and hugs included, is really put across well. Sharp and Oliff showcase Ollie’s old home, which homages the classic residence from those old Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories, as Morrison throws in a mention of “Adams” paintings which Ollie collects, making the most explicit nod to the legendary artist.
Oliff’s choices remain careful and considered through the book here, from incandescent crimson and yellows of interstellar cartel worlds being nothing like the shaded, darker reality of the streets that Ollie operates in. The latter choice really helps accentuate the lovely greens in the story, as it almost feels magical and more substantial and “real,” than anything else on the page.
Green Arrow’s politics are a key element of the character and it’s what his “recreators” O’Neil Adams gave him. They took a character that was mostly a Batman-esque copycat and gave him perspective, they carved out a unique niche, stripping him of his money, of his clean shaven look and his various inconsistencies. So being able to bring that perspective to Ollie, with changing times, is an essential part of writing that character. Those political undertones are a fundamental part of Green Arrow stories now. And yet, there are things prior to that, to that O’Neil Adams recreation. While he is dubbed a copycat prior to his recreation, Ollie has something of an illustrious history. Some of his key details were fleshed out and worked out by another legend, one all in comicdom adore. The King himself. Jack Kirby, back in the old days, worked on the hero and did the story where in Ollie’s fundamental origin, this idea of the hero on the isle, comes from. Jack Kirby gave him his origin. Of all the DC icons he might’ve done significant things with, of all the ones he might’ve left an irreplaceable stamp on, it was Green Arrow. He alone holds that unique privilege now in the DC Pantheon.
It’s mostly forgotten, ignored and lost and not brought up often, but Ollie is part of The King’s legacy. He even did the amusing copycat story “Green Arrow of All Worlds,” a story inspired by “The International Club of Heroes” from Batman, boasting the likes of the Japanese hero Ace Archer, The Bowman of Britain and The Phantom of France. But he also did another story, one that stands out among the rest. A two-parter in Adventure Comics #252‘s “Mystery of the Giant Arrows!” and #253’s “Prisoners of Dimension Zero!”, told a wildly out-there sci-fi story involving gigantic arrows falling into Star City, revealed to be from an archery contest between kids from the mysterious place called Dimension Zero. Entering the dimension (riding a cosmic arrow, mind you), Green Arrow (along with Speedy), finds that this is a world of giants. But most strangely, the world has a protector in a Green Arrow lookalike named Xeen Arrow. A scientist in secret, Xeen Arrow abducts a criminal in yellow and blue and sends the heroes back home safely. The story is impossibly kirby, with big ideas, wild alien and cosmic beings, crazy visuals and a ‘well, why not?’ mentality that propels a hero of the street into fantastic sci-fi scenarios. Mort Weisinger, supposedly, hated this sci-fi spin on the hero and it’s part of the reason why Kirby never did much more with Ollie. But again, this is all part of his rich legacy, a legacy that is often ignored and buried.
Under the pen of Morrison, however, this isn’t the case. Being a gigantic Kirby fan and a lover of the buried, the forgotten and the mistreated strangeness of comics history, Morrison just dives right in and brings it all back, expanding out further for the future. Now instead of just Xeen Arrow (who’s now remodeled after Adam’s classic Ollie), there’s even a Xeen Lantern! ‘Xeen’ is explained as meaning ‘Green’, resolving a 60 year old question. And that unnamed crook in yellow and blue that Xeen once captured? He’s given a name and new role, revamped here as, you guessed it, Glorigold DeGrande. Much like with Doctor Hurt in Batman, Morrison took an unnamed figure from an obscure issue of The Silver Age and granted him new, renewed purpose alongside a name. Now a devilish drug dealer, allied with terrifying super-sirens, he’s a cosmic threat to be dealt with.
In doing all of this, what Morrison, Sharp, Oliff and Orzechowski have accomplished is what they’ve managed to pull off for 7 issues now with this book, consolidate and connect all of history into one large lovely whole. Except rather than it being simply Green Lantern related, they did it for Ollie. They connected the lost legacy and remnants of his pre-Bronze Age past with his current modern self. The Kirby madness, The O’Neil Adams political perspective and the contemporary Smith sensibility, with the Chili cookery and calling people “cats.” It feels like the best of his entire history rolled into one. It’s one man with a glorious legacy and character arc. It’s All-Star Green Arrow. It all matters.
And thus we return to the drugs. What makes these so special? What is the point in a story drawing on political Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories of the ’70s? Well, the secret of the drug really says it all. This isn’t a drug you pay for with cash. You merely get anesthesia and that’s it. Then the dealers walk away with a pink jar. What’s in it is also what’s in the drug: Souls. This is a drug made up on people’s very souls, their hopes, their fears, their joys, their dreams, their love, their passion, their everything. And the dealers take away people’s very soul, which makes the victims numb and sell the drug to the rich, privileged elite of the cosmos. The literal gigantic beings that inhabit Dimension Zero and other worlds of space, stripping the smaller people of their very souls for their brief high. And people selling away their souls to feel numbed in a system designed to manipulate and play them to profit bigger, richer and more powerful individuals, if that isn’t loaded, what is? Ollie even goes on about “this-so called president” and is full of that same fire that took hold of him in the ’70s. He really, really cares and is eternally hurt and disappointed by the state of society. He sees what we could be and is distraught by what we’re not, which is what makes the character so beautifully touching.
All the while, throughout the story, there’s another fun element, the sort of push-and-pull between the two opposites. Ollie is a Denny O’Neil character, so of course he goes on and on about needing to be “grounded” and real, while Hal is very much a Morrison character here, living on a cosmic canvas. The former’s love of grounded stories and realism is so well known that he was opposed to Morrison taking on Batman to put him on the moon with the JLA, because he felt he had to be the Gotham vigilante. And so, there’s that level to the work, as we watch these two prime opposites interact. For all that Ollie says about “normal,” the story brings out the strange and the bizarre only he knows, which Hal continually pokes fun at, throwing Ollie’s own words back at him. “Normal,” Hal mocks, as Ollie deals with titanic cosmic arrows and alternate dimensions like it was any other Tuesday. Oliver can lack self-awareness sometimes and be hypocritical and in a loving encounter with essentially his brother (Ollie even calls him that), that’s highlighted in fun ways. It’s a key characteristic that defines Ollie.
But how does all of this play into the “cop procedural,” one might wonder. At its core, its fundamental spine is still very much that. You look at the story and it’s a drug lord at a cartel meeting sending out his best hitman to take out a new rogue drug competitor as a warning, while the cop reunites with his old partner from back in the good ol’ days and they get cracking on this new drug case. In doing so, they prevent and stop the end of this new drugmaker and send the hitman hurt and sobbing back to his bosses. And they rescue the old ally who was following the drug case and kept hostage by the antagonist. The conclusion sees the drugmaker taken into custody by the two old allies and the cop departing from his old partner. It’s a simple cop plot, but just expanded out and made to suit the wild insanity and lunacy of this universe and these characters.
Sure, it has Ollie and Hal shooting a giant telepathic cosmic arrow at the moon through dimensions to take out a cosmic cartel assassin, but that’s the fun of it! Cop narratives that don’t bend down to conventional thinking and instead push into the bizarre imaginary power of superheroes. That’s the charm. Sharp, Morrison, Oliff and Orzechowski lean into that.
And at the end of all this, there’s a wild, wild surprise waiting. Sinestro is just sitting, sipping tea on Hadea-Maxima. Sharp and Morrison have implied that they would likely not be using Sinestro, given his prominence in Lantern mythology for nearly 14 years, being the co-protagonist of the Geoff Johns run, but here he is, in a suit with his usual colors inverted, with the suit mostly being purple this time. It’s a genuine surprise, but it’s also not at all what many might assume upon first glance. Sharp and Morrison were right, they aren’t using that character. Look closer at those inverted colors and ask “Why are those inverted?” The only answer? This isn’t Sinestro. At least not our universe’s Sinestro, anyway. The inverted palette is a dead giveaway. This is the Anti-Matter Universe’s native Sinestro, much like Anti-Matter Hal Jordan in #1 of the run. If you’re thinking that means big, big things, you’re right. It’s huge. Anti-Matter is coming for us all.
The Green Lantern #8 is a wild experience. It certainly gives you the trippy sensibility you might expect given the cover boasts space-drugs, and its architects like to mine the weird. Blending Jack Kirby and Neal Adams into one, they make a potent story that bridges all of Green Arrow history and simultaneously celebrates the touching brotherhood and bond of Oliver Queen and Hal Jordan. It’s an issue loaded with surprises, from Xeen Lanterns to Thaal Sinestros and it’s a hell of a time.