Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Battling Bowman In His Own Magazine At Last!

The comics mini-series was a relatively new format in the early 1980's, and was used initially by DC mainly to spotlight some of their lesser lights who had heretofore not proven themselves able to carry an ongoing title.  Thus, in 1983, more than forty years after the character first appeared in More Fun Comics, Green Arrow was chosen to star in his first ever eponymous series.  The four issues of Green Arrow Vol. I were written by Mike W. Barr, and drawn by Trevor Von Eeden, who had been drawing the character's adventures in Detective Comics, with inks by Dick Giordano.
As the story begins, Ollie Queen is drawn into a complex web of murder and corporate intrigue when he attends the reading of his old friend Abigail Horton's will and finds himself bequeathed more than thirty million dollars and control of her company, Horton Chemicals.
The family, including Abigail's daughter Cynthia, a former girlfriend of Ollie's, are outraged, but Ollie doesn't really want the money.   Then an attempt on his life by a would-be assassin who's killed by remote control when he attempts to tell Green Arrow who hired him convinces Oliver that something is rotten at Horton Chemicals and that he needs to get to the bottom of it.  After trying several ploys to discover why Abigail was murdered and by whom, Oliver ultimately learns that she had at last perfected her late husband's formula for an artificial fuel substitute, and was targeted for death by a coalition of oil company interests working with one of her family members as their contact on the inside. He further discovers that the scientist who helped Abby perfect the fuel substitute has also been murdered, taking the formula to his grave and that the one existing vial of the substance is hidden aboard Abby's yacht which sits out at sea, awaiting further instructions.  Following a climactic battle aboard the yacht between GA and Black Canary, aided by an Agent Jones of the CIA and a gang of raiders led by modern day pirate Captain Lash, the fuel substitute ends up lost at sea, but Ollie finally learns who is behind the whole plot.  Although when Green Arrow confronts that person, it turns out that he was just a front for the real mastermind.  After the mystery is solved, Ollie gives up Abby's money, turns over the company to her brother, and goes back to his old life and his back up feature in Detective.

This is the type of whodunnit tale that Mike Barr excels at, though in places it seems a little padded in order to stretch it out to four issues.  The battle with Count Vertigo, especially, seems an unnecessary distraction, especially since he turns out to have nothing to do with the conspiracy to kill Abby Horton.  The new villain, Captain Lash, who dresses and talks like he stepped out of an old pirate movie, is another example of something Barr does really well; the kind of goofy, but nonetheless deadly, villain.
The art by Trevor Von Eeden and Dick Giordano is very good. It's nicely dynamic and tells the story clearly.  I've noticed that when people talk about the important Green Arrow artists, such as Papp, Kirby, Adams, and Grell, Von Eeden is rarely mentioned, although he certainly deserves to be.

The text page of the first issue, which summarizes the character's history up to that point, ends by saying "However GA's life may change, one direction that it will never go is backward!"  This mini-series doesn't really move the character forward either, as in the end he's right back where he was when the story began.  I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing.  Not every story has to be a major turning point in a character's life.   Sometimes it's enough to just tell an entertaining adventure story, and in this case, Barr and Von Eeden do just that.
Unfortunately, this has yet to be reprinted, though it certainly deserves to be collected in trade paperback.  So, if you want to read it, you'll have to hunt for the back issues, though it will be well worth the effort to do so.

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