Saturday, March 13, 2010

Green Arrow in The Brave and the Bold (Part 2)

Welcome to the second installment of my retrospective of the Emerald Archer's many appearances in DC's seminal team-up magazine, The Brave and the Bold.  Should you wish to read the first installment of this magnum opus, click here.  That epic length post took me the better part of three days to compose, so this time, in the interest of getting this post up somewhat quicker, I'm going to limit myself to the remaining Green Arrow/Batman pairings penned by long time B&B writer Bob Haney, and leave the two GA/Batman stories of B&B's post-Haney era for part three.
While, thanks to Marvel, multi-part sagas were becoming the norm in comics, up until the summer of 1976 the team-ups in B&B, while containing more than enough plot to fill three or four issues, were squeezed into just one.   The epic saga contained in issues #129 and 130 marks the titles first foray into continued stories, and, of course, Green Arrow is there to help mark the occasion.
As I stated in my discussion of "Double Your Money...And Die!" from #106, no mention is made here, nor in Green Arrow's solo stories, of the ten million dollars Oliver Queen supposedly inherited at the end of that story.  Instead, he's referred to by Batman as being down to his last bow and arrow.  However, he did manage to get his hands on a million dollars which he promptly used to purchase an ancient, and supposedly cursed, iron statue known as the Emperor Eagle from dying, and bankrupt, former tycoon Victor Lasher.  The plane transporting Ollie and the Eagle from London to the States is hijacked by the Joker and Two-Face.  The villains divert the plane to the backwards country of Pathanistan, where the Eagle had been created centuries earlier.  Ollie is put on trial by General Khan, the dictator of Pathanistan, for daring to possess their national treasure.  After the Joker, acting as his lawyer in this kangaroo court, pleads him guilty, Ollie is sentenced to die for his crime. 
Batman and the Atom parachute into Pathanistan to rescue their friend, and arrive just as General Khan passes sentence. Batman proposes a contest, with Oliver's life as the prize. With the unseen aid of the Atom, Batman wins and Ollie is released.  While Batman and the Atom are eager to get out of Pathanistan as soon as possible, Green Arrow insists on staying in order to get back the Emperor Eagle.  Worried about their friend's obscession with the ancient statue, the other two heroes decide to stay on as well, hoping to keep Oliver out of trouble. 
That night, Batman is knocked unconscious and captured by Joker and Two-Face, who also steal the Emperor Eagle.  While General Khan follows a false trail, Green Arrow and the Atom go off on their own after the villains.  When Joker and Two-Face discover the heroes on their trail, they set up a diversion.  GA and Atom soon discover Batman chained to what is described as a giant solar furnace and about to be hit by a laser like beam of concentrated solar energy. 
Believe it or not, all that is packed into just seventeen pages.  
 The story resumes in #130, following a convenient two page recap of last issues events.  It was certainly convenient for me, since back in 1976, I missed the first half of this story. 
Green Arrow and the Atom free Batman from the solar death trap, only to head right into another death trap.  Joker causes an avalanche, which apparently succeeds in claiming the life of the Caped Crusader.  Green Arrow remains undeterred in his determination to possess the Emperor Eagle and continues in pursuit of Joker and Two-Face with the Atom sticking around to keep an eye on him. 
With Batman presumed dead and the Atom reduced (pun fully intended) to little more than an observer, "Death at Rainbow's End" becomes, for all intents and purposes, essentially a Green Arrow solo story. It is also one of my all time favorite stories of the character.
Green Arrow and the Atom are soon captured and taken to the village where the Eagle was originally forged.  After winning a challenge of his own, Green Arrow has the villagers construct a duplicate Eagle, which he switches with the real one. Later, GA deliberately causes an old wooden bridge to collapse, sending him, the Atom, and the cart and horses carrying the Eagle plunging into the water below.  After emerging from the depths, he explains to the Atom that now that the villagers who were accompanying them think they're dead, they can leave Pathanistan with the Eagle unchallenged.  Atom, meanwhile, being a physicist in his secret identity,has, based on the buoyancy of the Eagle after hitting the water, deduced the reason for GA's obscession with the artifact.  Presumed to be hollow, the Eagle is actually filled with gold and jewels.  The people of ancient Pathan had stashed their treasure there in attempt to hide it from the invading armies of Alexander the Great.  Angered that Green Arrow would risk his life, and sacrifice the Batman's, for mere riches, Atom slugs him.  Then Batman shows up.
About to be crushed by falling boulders, Batman had stumbled against a secret entrance to an ancient cave.  There he learned, from carvings on the cave wall, the secret of the Eagle. Oliver had come across an ancient rubbing made from those carvings, which spurred his mania to own the statue.  How Joker and Two-Face discovered the secret is never explained.
General Khan comes along to take back the Eagle, and when Ollie starts to put up a fight, Batman knocks him out with a karate chop.  Khan graciously allows the trio to depart Pathanistan and heads back to the capital with the Eagle. As the heroes are leaving, they see the Eagle struck by a bolt of lightning, causing Khan and his soldiers to fall off the treachorous mountain trail to their deaths, taking the Eagle with them.  The villains, meanwhile, are heading for home on a boat with the false Eagle and decide to crack it open and claim their prize, only to  discover that its hollow and all their efforts have been for nothing.
These two issues, filled with action and layered with intrigue and multiple plot twists, represent Bob Haney, artist Jim Aparo, and The Brave and the Bold itself at the top of their form.
Looking at the art in these issues makes me wish that Aparo had been drawing Green Arrow's solo stories at the time. Aparo's art on the Green Arrow series in the 90s is good, but by then he was a little past his prime.  I would have loved to see him get to draw GA on a more regular basis back in the 70s when he was at his peak.
Just six issues later, in B&B #136, Green Arrow walks right into the middle of the title's second two parter. "Legacy of the Doomed" could almost be called the quintessential B&B tale.  Written by Haney and drawn by Aparo, it teams Batman with two of his most frequent co-stars, GA and the Metal Men, against the machinations of evil businesswoman Ruby Ryder, a rival of Bruce Wayne's who, as far as I've been able to tell, appeared only in Haney written B&B issues.  The only component of the classic B&B formula absent is longtime editor Murray Boltinoff, who had been replaced a few months earlier by Denny O'Neil when DC decided to bring all its Batman titles together under the aegis of one editor.
In #135, the Metal Men uncover a time capsule containing what appears to be a humanoid creature created by scientist Thaddeus Morgan.  The creature is promptly destroyed, and revealed to be little more than a robot, by an identical creature which turns out to be Morgan's real creation.  The creature, named Jason, is wooed by Ruby Rider, and declared to be Morgan's legal heir after a will turns up deeding Morgan's land, the very land on which the Wayne Foundation building rests, to him.  Ryder and Jason Morgan promptly proceed to evict Bruce from his own building.  
As #136 opens, Batman, believing Morgan's will to be a fake, breaks into his former HQ to find proof. He is confronted by Ryder and Morgan and tossed out of the building, literally, twice. The first time he is saved by the Metal Men and the second by Green Arrow, who just happens to passing by. He's in Gotham to meet with the Metal Men's creator Dr. Will Magnus to talk about some new trick arrow designs. 
After hearing about Batman's dilemma, Green Arrow decides to help his Bat-Buddy.  Posing as a Mr. J. Jacob Archer, he convinces Ruby to excavate further at the site where the time capsule was found.  To GA's surprise, they soon discover Thaddeus Morgan's underground lab, which contains a mysterious, but very menacing looking, machine. Jason, jealous of Ryder's flirtations with "Archer," activates the machine and sets it out to attack the Metal Men and Batman.  After these heroes fail to stop the murderous machine, Green Arrow takes it down with an explosive arrow, and Jason Morgan sacrifices his life to save Ryder.  Proof is discovered that Thaddeus Morgan had been declared insane, rendering the will invalid, and Bruce Wayne's property is returned to him.
When Green Arrow next shows up, in B&B #144, he is once again on a wild quest to retrieve an ancient artifact.  This time its the Arrow of Eternity, an enchanted shaft created by the wizard Merlin that reportedly helped the English defeat the French at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.  According to Green Arrow, the Arrow of Eternity "...had the ability to penetrate anything...follow the archer's will and go anywhere!"  Oliver has come to Bruce Wayne looking for funds to finance his trip to France to find the Arrow.  Instead, Bruce, having seen the trouble this guy can get into if you give him a million bucks or two, does the next best thing and gives GA a lift to France, since he was headed to Germany for a business conference anyway.
On his way home, Batman decides to check up on Green Arrow, only to find know trace of him in the French village where he was supposed to be.  Following GA's trail to an old castle, he stumbles into a time portal and is transported back to the fifteenth century just hours before the Battle of Agincourt, just as Green Arrow had been earlier.  Batman is captured by the French army, who are led by twentieth century super-villain the Gargoyle, a particularly obscure Bob Haney creation from Teen Titans.
Green Arrow, meanwhile, has fallen in with the English forces, and is waylaid on his way to the battle by a figure claiming to be Merlin who hands him the very Arrow of Eternity he had come to France to find.
During the battle, GA prepares to fire the Arrow at the Gargoyle, and Batman, having pieced together clues that Haney never lets the reader see, tries to stop him.  He fails, and when the Arrow hits the Gargoyle, the villain is sent back to the present.  Green Arrow and Batman flee the battle site and head back through the portal to their own time in pursuit.
It seems that the Gargoyle, who had been trapped in the past, had used the power of his mind across the centuries to manipulate GA into seeking the Arrow of Eternity so that he would shoot the Gargoyle with it, returning the villain to the twentieth century. It was the Gargoyle, disquised as Merlin, who gave the Arrow to GA.  Got that? Good. Now, could you explain it to me?
Once back in the present, Batman and Green Arrow use the Arrow of Eternity in order to send the Gargoyle into limbo.
Once again, Haney packs all of that plot into a mere seventeen pages, yet the story doesn't seem rushed along at all.
The last two Green Arrow team-ups discussed here are solid, entertaining stories, but they are far from Haney's best work.  It seems to me that the quality of  B&B stories started to slide downhill a bit following Murray Boltinoff's departure.  I suppose that can chalked up to editorial interference, which grew worse once Paul Levitz inherited the title, eventually leading to Haney being forced out.
If you want to  read any of the stories described in this post, you'll have to scour the back issue bins at your local comics shop or the next convention, as they have yet to be reprinted.  Hopefully, DC will continue with further volumes of Showcase Presents The Brave and the Bold: The Batman Team-Ups, as these tales would show up in Volume Four.

1 comment:

  1. The Battle of Agincourt? Time travel to the year 1415? Merlin? A magical arrow shaft? The French military? Batman and Green Arrow? All in one comic book?

    Sounds awesome!