Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Vol. 1
by Dennis O'Neil, Neal Adams
(DC Comics, 2004)

In 1970, comics developed a conscience.

Worried about sales on the monthly Green Lantern book, the powers at DC Comics decided to partner the Greens, Lantern and Arrow, and see what grew from the mix. With Dennis O'Neil writing the story and Neal Adams providing the art, the experiment proved a real eye-opener for the time.

Let's be honest here, the stories from 1970-71 are not the most sophisticated we've seen. The dialogue certainly needs some polish, by modern standards; Green Arrow, charging into the fray in one story, mutters, "Today's fun and games puts me in mind of another bowman ... name of Robin Hood! He didn't dig tyrants, either!" Oy.

But the series had a few good things going for it. One, it makes partners of two diametrically opposed characters, the hothead liberal Arrow and the reasoned conservative Lantern. Political and philosophical differences aside, the two are good friends, and that makes for some interesting approaches to the problems that face them. Even more importantly, the storylines aggressively tackle some important issues of the day, issues that still resonate decades later. There are matters of racism, sexism, socio-economic barriers, class hatred, political corruption, overpopulation and more. The heroes are forced to confront the differences that sometimes divide the law from true justice -- and at the time, that was a bold step forward in a medium where heroes typically look at right and wrong as black and white.

That said, the series still tended to paint its villains as uniformly and unquestionably evil. In one blatant example, a corrupt, smalltown businessman enforces his will with a hired Nazi sidekick. Yes, a Nazi. Is there any question who's the bad guy here? And Arrow's radical views are often laid on a little too thick. And, yes, much of the plot, atmosphere and characterization is dated.

But the series remains a revolutionary step towards a new, mature attitude in "funny books" that has improved with time. For that reason alone, these "hard-travelling heroes" are worth a space on your bookshelf. This is a time capsule of vital importance to the evolution of modern comics.

by Tom Knapp
1 July 2006

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