Thursday, November 17, 2011

Reviews: The Green Lantern/ Green Arrow Collection; Next Men Vol. 2- Shattered, Pt. 2

 
The front and back of the slipcase.

THE GREEN LANTERN/ GREEN ARROW COLLECTION(DC, 2000; Hardcover with slipcase)
Collects Green Lantern Nos. 76-87, 89 and The Flash Nos. 217-219 (cover dates April, 1970- January, 1972)
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Artist: Neal Adams pencils with inking by various artists
My friend and comic book co-conspirator Ferjo Byroy (real name withheld to protect his secret identity) showed me this book. It is long out of print and impossible (or insanely expensive) to find. I tossed and turned as this beautiful book haunted my dreams. eBay searches proved that this book would set me back about $200, which was unacceptable. I figured that I would wait it out for the inevitable reissue. Ferjo and I periodically go comic shop hopping, where we map out a string of stores that we normally don't go to. I found this, sealed in its original factory shrinkwrap for cover price. I had to play my poker face to get this thing out of the store before I broke down and did back flips. 
 
I cannot praise Neal Adams enough. To steal a line from a movie: “I celebrate the man's entire catalog.” Adams, along with Ditko and Steranko, were at the cutting edge of comic art in the '60s. Adams' angles and panel layouts were groundbreaking for the time. Only Jim Steranko was as revolutionary as Adams in his prime.
 
These comics are art of the highest order. I can't believe that I've gone my entire life and have not read any of these issues. While fans of so-called “sophisticated” modern comic books balk at a lot of the baby boomer rhetoric and concerns of the era, this was groundbreaking stuff when originally published. Denny O'Neil is a great comic book writer, way better than any of the “great” writers working for the big two today. O'Neil tackled such weighty issues as racism, the plight of the Native Americans, drugs, street crime and the environment. A lot of posters on various message boards bag on these issues because a lack of set-up, i.e. Green Arrow's ward Speedy was only seen one issue before he was the centerpiece of the heroin addiction storyline. I'll take the backpedaling and occasional inconsistency rather than having to sit through entire issues of padding and set-up like we have today. 
 
Many modern comic book readers are so used to bloated, made-for-the-trade lazy writing that they almost can't stand it when something happens in each and every issue. People's standards for entertainment have sunk so low. I prefer the dialogue and second party narrative packed captions over talking head flipbooks of today. I can point to each issue in here and remember what happened, unlike many modern comic books where one scene is stretched out for an entire issue of double page spreads, splash pages and talking heads. There is nothing wrong with showing superheroes in action in every single issue of a superhero's title. I always thought that was the point. I don't think that showing superheroes fighting villains and having adventures is a bad thing. Boring talking head conversations are what's wrong with comic books today.
 
Green Arrow is almost as unlikable as Marvel's facsimile, Hawkeye. Both are obnoxious, loud-mouthed hotheads whose hearts may be in the right place but are still unlikable. He does make a great counterpoint to Green Lantern's square disposition on social issues. Sometime Green Arrow changes Green Lantern's mind, and other times it is Green Lantern's tried and true voice of reason that prevails. I love how Denny O'Neil's overall vibe is one of working together to find a solution. Green Arrow basically echoes the counterculture's viewpoint and Green Lantern is the oldster whose eyes have been opened and is often willing to work for change. We all know how this eventually played out in real life, and we have been sold so far down the river by these same baby boomers that I doubt we'll ever get back to this type of meaningful dialogue. 
 
The OCD zone- This is a beautifully produced slipcased hardcover with thick, uncoated paper and sewn binding. It's 11 years old and harkens back to a time when DC produced top quality collected editions. The linework and color restoration are a tad rustic by today's 1200dpi standards but were worlds better than Marvel's at this time. They are still perfectly fine, with only the occasional iffy looking page. As always, I fall to the extreme side on the anal-retentive scale, so your mileage may vary. I know that I rest easy at night knowing that I own this beautiful book instead of the crappy trade paperbacks printed on DC's toilet paper grade that they use on classic material. 
 
NEXT MEN VOL 2: SCATTERED, PT. 2 (IDW, 2011; Hardcover)
Collects Next Men Nos. 5-9 (cover dates April- August, 2011)
Writer and Artist: John Byrne
Whew! I read this whole thing in one sitting, and I am dizzy. This jumps back and forth and up and down so many times that I am still not sure what has happened...or did it any of it really happen at all? Did I ever happen, or have I been wiped out by a time paradox? Does time get more or less messed up when we were intervene, or does it stay the same because we intervened? This is the end of the second volume of the series proper, although Next Men: Aftermath is currently underway. This just came out yesterday, and I bumped it way up in the queue because I have been reading so many vintage comic books as of late that I felt I needed to read something modern to cleanse the palette. Now I am so confused that I will go and read some primitive 1940s Golden Age comics. 
 
Byrne's artwork and writing are top notch. The last few years have really been a return to form for him after some less than illustrious output in the mid-to-late '90s. 
 
The OCD zone- The cover image is screen printed on the book itself, no dustjacket. It has that same uncoated finish that it so easy to scratch or otherwise mar, so be careful handling this one, folks. The book does have a very nice grade of paper and sewn binding, so the innards will last even if you do not handle your books gingerly. I wear a HAZMAT suit when I handle mine in my sterilized bubble.

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