A while ago, I wrote about how I first became a fan of comic books. This led me to remember several issues from DC Comics that came out in the 1970’s, that were formative parts of my exposure to this whole medium.
So then I decided to track down some of those comics and buy them, and journal the experience. I got three of them. The first two I wrote about here and here, and now we’re onto the last: Green Lantern #91.
This (as well as the other comics I bought for this series) are all stories I have never read since I had the original issues. And I’ve never seen the stories in any reprint collections…so all my memories of them are from about 40 years ago, at least. Those memories are generally vague and a bit confused. I remember never completely understanding what was going on in any of these stories, for example.
So now, years later, I can finally figure out what was happening, and also see if the issues hold up at all today.
The Revenge of the Renegade
Written by Denny O’Neil, Art by Mike Grell.
So, logging my response (these are from my notes as I was re-reading the comic for the first time):
The Splash Page, which like all the others in this series takes the symbolic “second cover” approach. This time, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) sits on a giant balance scale created by Sinestro, attempting to rescue Green Arrow from some sort of lava-fueled death.
Green Lantern returns home from a boring patrol only to bump into Sinestro, who seems to just be waiting for him behind some rocks. They trade insults, and engage in some power-ring arm wrestling.
They are being observed by the Guardians, who say they actually know Sinestro’s plans and could save Green Lantern (as well as Green Arrow) a lot of grief just by sharing them, but their strange code of conduct prevents them. Jerks.
It turns out Sinestro has already ambushed and injured some other Green Lantern, a yellow guy with a mohawk. Green Lantern makes the choice to help him rather than stop Sinestro. The other Lantern objects–on his world, they value justice over mercy. Hal Jordan replies, “But on earth–my home–we believe in mercy! Or at least we try to! And the Guardians say we should heed our own code in these matters!”…which is what the Guardans sort of said a page ago. Sinestro lets the Green Lanterns leave, implying that he couldn’t beat them in a fair fight if he tried.
Sinestro continues working on his evil plan. The scene cuts to earth, where Green Arrow / Oliver Queen has been working all night on his “cocoon arrow” which shoots epoxy glue all over a bad guy.
It seems to work, so Oliver changes clothes and checks his mail. I didn’t know it came from here but I remember this line where he is looking at his mail and says, “Williams Williams Williams…otherwise known as Bills!” Cute.
Oliver receives an invitation for Green Arrow (he has such mail forwarded to himself) inviting him to participate in an archery contest sponsored by the Sultan of Shan.
Hal Jordan speaks to the injured Green Lantern, and learns that Sinestro is setting a trap for him. He determines to return to earth, though that may be where the danger lies. But before he does, he spends a panel saying his iconic oath.
He then travels toward earth, requiring him to pass through a violent “hydrogen storm” that we’ve heard a few times about already. The science of this is nonsense of course–even if a star were shooting off hydrogen atoms at unimaginable force, as it says, surely someone like Green Lantern could just fly around them.
Meanwhile, Oliver Queen has arrived in the Duchy of Shan, and is overwhelmed by the poverty and sickness there. He sees some guards at the castle mistreating a poor beggar, and punches him into a moat in response. Oliver is greeted by Yolanda, the fairest and most immodestly dressed maiden in the land, and escorted to a fancy room which he winds up locked inside.
The scene cuts to Hal making his way to earth by hiding behind a passing rock, while Yolanda attempts to warn Oliver that their Sultan is an alien imposter. Green Arrow decides to stay anyway.
Green Arrow and his opponent for the contest, a flashy looking guy named Abraxis, enter the Sultan’s throne room the next day, and begin their contest. The reward is 190 lbs of silver (a strange amount, I think) and Yolanda’s hand in marriage. Oliver says the money will feed some poor people, and that Yolanda can “choose her own waltz partner.”
He and Abraxis begin their test of skill, each easily scoring bullseyes. They up the game to see who can split the other’s arrows mid-air. Green Arrow wins, and Abraxis concededs defeat, but the Sultan insists that it’s a trick and a guard knocks Oliver unconscious. The Sultan, by the way, remains conveniently hidden behind a veil. It’s not hard to imagine who he is.
Green Lantern arrives back on earth, having first checked out the asteroid Sinestro was mining when he first bumped into him. It turns out Sinestro was mining silver (190 pounds of silver, hmmm??) Hal changes to his civilian identity, and decides to rest for 48 hours in order to be up to snuff to face Sinestro. 48 hours? Hal must be majorly jet-lagged.
Meanwhile, Green Arrow is now bound on the giant yellow scale that we saw on the splash page.
The trap Green Arrow is in is pretty fiendish. He is kept on one side of the scale over boiling oil, while bars of silver sit on the other side. Sinestro lets the starving population of Shan enter and choose whether or not to take a bar of silver, which they desperately need for food and the basic necessities of life. One at a time they come through, muttering apologies, and taking a bar of silver.
Sinestro finally reveals himself for who he is, while Green Arrow has gotten his bow and cocoon arrow thanks to Yolanda’s secret help. Denny O’Neil, in a footnote, helpfully reminds us that this arrow was all explained back on Page 5 of this very issue! Just before he is about to succumb to the oil, Green Arrow pull of the trickiest shot he’s ever made, and the fastest. Still handcuffed, he shoots the arrow into the air, where it lodges into the ceiling. Green Arrow is able to use the glue as a rope to keep himself from dying. He begins to climb the glue-rope.
Abraxis is ordered to shoot Green Arrow but he refuses, saying that he is a worthy foe who deserves to die with dignity. Not sure how dignified this death is going to be, actually, as another guard sets out to shoot him instead. Luckily Green Lantern shows up just then to save him.
Hal is weak, clearly not having had his 48 hours. Indeed, his costume is all ripped and ragged, as it got on his perilous journey home. Sinestro is about to defeat him when Green Arrow comes suddenly plummeting down straight at him, knocking his head backwards.
Hal reveals that he read about the archery contest in the newspaper (we saw him buying a paper a few pages back) and recognizing that the reward was silver, he knew it was Sinestro’s scheming.
The end of the story is strangely abrupt, with very little time given toward resolution, or “coming in for a landing.” Hal and Ollie just stand over Sinestro’s prone form and exchange a couple of word balloons of exposition, with nothing given to the fate of the real Sultan, or what happens to Yolanda, or Abraxis, or anything. Sinestro even says he had a completely different plan for all the silver he mined, but that he changed it when things worked out the way they did with Green Arrow…but there’s never an explanation of what his plan originally was.
The Green Arrow aspects of the plot were decent, but the Green Lantern side of things is actually a bit flat and uneventful, even though he gets the focus in a lot of the pages. It’s not bad, but it would have been better if Green Lantern had been a bit more central to his own book (even if he does get a cool save at the end).
Also the issue could have benefited from another page for a proper denouement. Really, there are enough ideas here for the story to have taken two issue, but Green Lantern was only recently back on the stands as its own book (apparently this was only the second issue), so I could understand they didn’t want to do that back then.
There are a few things that stand out here, especially when I compare it to the other books that I bought for this series. As much as I appreciate Kurt Schaffenberger and Dick Dillin, it’s clear why Mike Grell is the most “superstar” amongst these guys. His artwork is by far the most “modern”, with dynamic compositions and inventive page layouts. And O’Neil’s uses Green Arrow especially to touch upon a number of real-world problem. This issue was years after the more famous “socially relevant” Green Lantern stories that O’Neil did with Neal Adams, but there’s still quite a bit here about poverty, unfair treatment of women, and social, political and economic injustice. The plight that Sinestro puts Green Arrow in, where the people of Shan must choose–one brick at a time–between their own well-being and Green Arrow’s life is certainly thought-provoking, even if it’s only lightly addressed.
And that’s the end of that! Three issues that helped to get me into superheroes and comics, all finally re-read as an adult. There’s certainly a lot to enjoy in all of the, but they are also very dated with some very glaring cracks–most notably such a truncated page count for the normal sized issues. But still, a fun trip down memory lane. But like most such trips, not one you want to go on for very long.