Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Interplanetary Robin Hood

One of the tricky aspects of the Green Lantern and Green Arrow stories was getting the two heroes into situations where Arrow was able to contribute something. Ollie's  abilities are fine for street-level thugs and international assassins, but he's a tad underwhelming compared to Hal Jordan when it comes superpowered threats. In fact, I think a fair criticism of often otherwise excellent stories is that there was no reason G.L. couldn't have cleaned up the bad guys without Ollie's help.

"The Legend of the Green Arrow," from G.L/G.A. #92 (January 1977) does a pretty good job setting up a situation in which Ollie can shine. It begins an issue after the two partners had captured Sinestro. The villain manages to escape quickly, forcing Hal and Ollie to pursue him into space.

There is a bit of a deus ex machina here. Out in space, they randomly run into a cosmic thingamajig called the Silver Twist, which even the Guardians of the Universe don't fully understand. When Sinestro, to arrogantly prove he isn't scared of it, zaps it with his ring, all three men are teleported into another dimension.

They find themselves on a world that at first seems to be at a medieval level of technology and are
forced to step in when they spot soldiers abusing a pretty lady. They discover neither of the power rings work, but manage to take out the guards anyways and save the girl.  She immediately takes a shine to Ollie, who seems to conveniently forget he's got a lady (Dinah Prince) waiting for him back home.

That last sentence is a bit unfair, since Arrow never never actually pursues anything with the lady. Also, I'm not familiar with all the stories in this run, so perhaps he and Dinah weren't together at this time.

The lady's name is, of course, Marion. Her world normally has a pretty high level of technology (including interplanetary travel) despite the medieval trappings. But King Rickard is away fighting wars in space and his evil brother (Prince Yuan) has usurped the throne. Yuan lives in a high-tech tower that emits an energy-cancelling force field (even affecting the power rings) to prevent anyone from ever rebelling against him. We also eventually learn he has a fleet of warships waiting in orbit to ambush and kill King Rickard upon the king's return.

The parallels to the Robin Hood mythos are obviously intentional. The story begins and ends with the statement that "All Heroic Legends are Different Yet All are the Same." It's a nice shout-out to the universality of the themes in stories and myths that would have made Joseph Campbell proud.

Sinestro and the heroes have a common goal--they need to take out the tower and get rid of the anti-energy force field before they can leave. (The heroes, of course, also want to overthrow the tyrant.) So a team-up is necessary. Ollie comes up with a simple plan--while the others cause a distraction, he'll get into the tower and wreck the force field.

Of course, you just know his plan for a distraction was made as much to cause Sinestro embarrassment as to be effective. The villain is forced to perform as a jester in the streets of the village just outside the tower entrance.

Ollie gets inside the tower, takes out some guards, and begins wrecking stuff. Soon, Prince Yuan is a prisoner, while Hal and Sinestro fly up into space to save King Rickart's fleet. They bring Ollie along, though all he can do is sit in a green life bubble and watch. This is another minor contrivance--Ollie had to be with them when the Silver Twist shows back up and zaps them all back home. Of course, if there's going to be a major space battle, I would certainly want to watch even if I couldn't participate.

The whole bit with the Silver Twist, both to get them into the adventure and then get them back home, is definitely contrived. But this is a minor complaint when measured against an otherwise well-constructed story with a solid thematic backbone. Also, seeing Sinestro dance around in his jester costume is indeed funny.

I almost forgot to give the credits, didn't I? The story was written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by Mike Grell. And, by the way, I tried to find more information on the Silver Twist, which I think appeared in a few other G.L. stories from the 1970s. If it had been introduced in a previous story, then its status as a deus ex machina is slightly mitigated. But even the D.C. wiki lacks an entry on it. Some aspects of comic book mythology are so obscure, even normally "we never forget ANYTHING" comic book fans lose track of them!

Next week, we'll jump over to the Marvel Universe and fight alongside Captain America during one of his wartime adventures.

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