Tuesday, March 9, 2010

When Beards Collide: GA Meets The Warlord in Green Arrow (Vol.2) #'s 27/28

If you look at a drawing by Mike Grell of Green Arrow and one of his sword and sorcery creation The Warlord, you will immediately be struck by the strong resemblance between the two characters.   Travis Morgan, the Warlord, is basically a somewhat taller Ollie Queen with longer, and whiter, hair.  Thus, once Crisis On Infinite Earths established that the Warlord existed in the DC Universe (something which Grell had firmly resisted during his tenure on the book), it was perhaps inevitable that the two would someday meet, and only fitting that Mike Grell would be one to introduce them to each other.  He would be abetted by another artist familiar to Warlord fans, Dan Jurgens, who drew Green Arrow #'s 27 and 28, and was one of the artists who followed Grell on The Warlord.
The only question was how Grell would make it work.  With The Longbow Hunters, Grell established a somewhat more realistic millieu for Green Arrow, banishing all the more outre and fantastic elements of the mainstream DC Universe.  His Arrow operated in a shadowy urban jungle where super powers just didn't fit in.  How, then, could such an environment comfortably accommodate a character who'd spent the last several years fighting demons and wizards in an extra-dimensional fantasy land?
Naturally, Ollie traveling to the Warlord's land of Skartaris was out of the question. Travis Morgan had to come to Seattle, where Green Arrow and Black Canary lived during the Grell days. Thus Green Arrow #27, a story entitled "enter..." in a nod to the catchphrase "Enter the Lost World of The Warlord" which adorned Morgan's old series, begins with a shadowy figure strongly resembling Oliver Queen having himself a drink at a Seattle dive bar. The place is frequented by all manner of low lifes, including a mohawked punk recently released from prison after being nabbed by Green Arrow and looking to get some revenge. All he ends up getting is pinned to the bar by a knife through his hand.
This is just the first of several encounters with people Ollie has pissed off since he's been in Seattle.  These are interspersed with scenes of Ollie and Dinah Lance, a.k.a. the Black Canary, at home, to show that however much this shadowy stranger may look like him, it isn't the Green Arrow.  
Following an encounter with a mob boss whose brother-in-law the actual Green Arrow had a run in with earlier that evening, Morgan, after taking out the guys goons and putting a couple of bullets into his Rolls-Royce, learns just who all these people really want to kill.  Thus, later that evening, as Ollie and Dinah are asleep, there's a knock at their door and Ollie opens it to find himself staring into his own face.  "Whatever you've been doing to piss these people off," Morgan tells Ollie, "KNOCK IT OFF!" He then flattens Ollie with a punch to  the jaw. 
That's where "enter..." exits.
 "Siege" begins in #28 pretty much right where the previous issue left off, with Ollie on the floor rubbing his jaw after being popped by an angry Warlord.  Morgan soon joins him on the floor after making a careless sexist remark to Dinah.  Then, after the violent greetings, its time for the bonding. Morgan proceeds to fill Ollie and Dinah in on some of the details of who he is and where he comes from.
It seems that after two decades of playing Conan, Morgan got an itch to see what was up in the real world. So, after emerging in Alaska, he hitched a ride on a military transport and apparently spent an unspecified amount of time wandering around the country taking in the many ways the world had changed, and the many ways that it hadn't, during his time in Skartaris.  Finally, he'd grown disillusioned with late 80's America and decided to head back home.  Thus, he was on his way back when he was sidetracked by Ollie's enemies.
 Meanwhile, Eddie Finster, the mob boss Morgan assaulted in the previous issue, decides that Queen needs to be taught a lesson.  To do that, he sets off a bomb at a power plant to create a blackout and calls in a bunch of low level thugs to go on a crime spree in order to preoccupy the police, while he leads an assault on Ollie and Dinah's home.  After they, with Morgan's help, deal with the threat, their new friend decides not to stick around to talk to answer any questions from the authorities and heads back for the road to Skartaris.
All in all, these two issues make up a fun, if somewhat formulaic, action  story featuring a team up that fans of Mike Grell must have been just aching to see. Grell managed to make Travis Morgan work in Ollie's world, but its a somewhat uneasy fit.  Because Grell's Green Arrow took place in a more or less "real world" setting where the fantasy elements that were the heart of The Warlord were verboten, these two issues' guest star is never once actually referred to as "The Warlord," only as "Morgan." Even in #28's credit box, Mike Grell is credited with creating Travis Morgan, not the Warlord.  Furthermore, when he's telling Ollie and Dinah about himself, never once is Skartaris mentioned by name and Morgan is somewhat vague on the exact details of just what he'd been up to for the previous two decades.  Grell is depending on the reader bringing that knowledge to the table.  That's not to say you can't enjoy the story without that knowledge.  I once described this story to a friend, and it turned out he had read and liked it, but  hadn't realized that the man every one thought was Oliver Queen was, in fact, the Warlord.  However, to really appreciate the story fully, it helps to have read at least one or two issues of The Warlord. Besides, that was a really good comic, too, so its worth checking out. (There's a recently published Showcase Presents volume that allows you to check out a big chunk of the early issues for not a whole lot of money.)

1 comment:

  1. did he bang the canary? or would ollie have beat him