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The Non-Marvel Action Hour 2/11/9

Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, new Secret Six and Fables, more Green Arrow, Catwoman, and Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall.

Employee’s Pick

Longbow Hunters 2

[DC] Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters #1-3

Writer/Artist: Mike Grell

Oh, hey, look, a Green Arrow action figure. You’d almost think I had planned this. It’s not based on his attire in this story, which differs from his more iconic costume, but close enough.

1987. The Post-Crisis DCU is taking form. Frank Miller turns the lights down real low with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Everyone’s getting grimmer and grittier. Now it’s Green Arrow’s turn. Grell brings him into the real world, where the bad guys wear suits and don’t have to break out of jail because they never get that far in the first place. No trick arrows, no supervillains, no black and white morality. The old rules no longer apply, and Ollie spends half the series struggling to adjust.

The Seattle Slasher’s killing streetwalkers – eighteen and counting – and a second murderer, deemed the ‘Robin Hood Killer’ is crossing the country, shooting old men with arrows. Could it be Green Arrow, exacting harsh justice on the side? or perhaps the police suspect him and harrass him throughout the story? No. To Grell’s credit, he pursues neither of those obvious avenues. Green Arrow’s a hero. The police aren’t real friendly with him, but they don’t throw him in jail so Grell can avoid addressing the plot. It’s fairly straightforward. There’s a mystery, which steadily unfolds, there are good guys and bad guys, there are conflicts external and internal. Ollie’s biological clock is ticking, but Dinah doesn’t want their kids to grow up without parents, a very real fear for someone in their occupation. Metatextually, it’s even scarier; though Ollie and Dinah aren’t likely to die (at least not permanently), any kids they had would stand little chance of anything resembling a normal life. Stuck as a toddler forever, or rapidly aged to adulthood, or constantly kidnapped, or erased from continuity, or all of the above.

someone knows

Oliver Queen takes three double-sized issues to explore his life, his place in a changing world, Green Arrow’s place, and his relationship with Dinah Lance, Black Canary. Dinah is, unfortunately, relegated to a damsel in distress role, captured by common thugs and tortured until Ollie can rescue her. Reading this makes me appreciate Gail Simone’s take on her in Birds of Prey that much more, particularly the opening story arc, which reads like a subtle satire of her part here. It’s the weakest part of this story, and sours my opinion on the whole.

Though there are no proper costumed baddies, Grell does introduce Green Arrow’s most memorable nemesis: Shado, a Japanese woman trained in archery by the Yakuza. Ollie has to choose between helping or hindering her quest for revenge, and it’s not as easy a choice as firing a boxing glove arrow at Merlyn.

Aside from the poor treatment of Black Canary, the main problem with this story is it only works out of continuity, out of the greater DC Universe. The DCU will never be the real world. Not because of superpowers or magic, but because logic only applies when writers and editors say so. If you set aside decades of heroes not killing because there’s always another way, you have to go cold turkey. Everyone becomes a soldier, or a cop, making tough decisions all the time. It’s not "maybe I’ll have to kill someone occasionally," and you can’t have some people play by one set of rules and another group following a different set. This Green Arrow can’t exist in the same world as a Batman who constantly finds a way to save the Joker, so he can lock the looney up until the next killing spree. If Batman can do that, Green Arrow can get by just fine with trick arrows. I see this as an Elseworlds, the story of what Green Arrow would be like if he lived in a world much like ours, where there are few if any other superheroes, no alien invasions, maybe no superpowers. He’s a guy with a bow, doing the best he can.

New-Type Books

Secret Six 6

[DC] Secret Six Vol. 4 #6

Writer: Gail Simone
Pencilers: Nicola Scott, Javi Pina, Pete Woods

Origins? Check. Omens? Not so much. I don’t buy that this issue is tying into anything. Final Crisis came and went, leaving Secret Six untouched. So much hype, so little consequence. Now we’re expected to believe Origins & Omens is important to this series? Apparently, it’s something to do with the big Green Lantern event, Blackest Night, since the moustache-twirlingly evil Guardian Scar’s hanging about. I don’t know, and I don’t care enough to find out. Nothing against Blackest Night – unlike most Events, it looks passing good – but it’s Green Lantern business. If I read the GL books, I’d want it kept out of other titles just as much. It’s not going to be self-contained like it should be, like it needs to be to impact characters on a personal level, but it doesn’t need to infect the whole DC library. More on that later.

This issue’s the big showdown with Junior. Except not. The team arrive, collect Bane, and go. Words are exchanged. Junior is apparently not so fearsome as to be able to take down five of the Secret Six without help. Maybe not bulletproof. So, next issue, I guess. Odd pattern lately. Issue ends on a cliffhanger, next issue defuses the suspense rather than resolve it. This issue ends with another "holy crap" moment, as every issue has, more or less. If next issue starts out with the conflict du jour hastily swept under the carpet, it’ll be the third straight issue to do so. I wouldn’t complain too loudly in this case, but it might be more interesting to see it go somewhere.

This issue almost counts a fill-in; regular artist Nicola Scott only has to draw fifteen pages, so she should be well-rested for next month. Woods draws the backup story, and Pina contributes three pages of flashback detailing Jeanette’s origin. Well, part of it. I’m not sure I care to know the rest. She’s far from the worst character, but none of what I’ve seen makes me eager to see more. This is the closest yet to a Jeanette spotlight issue, and while she’s still pretty new and mysterious, I think I know her well enough to judge now. My current hope is that, in addition to the cour four, Bane stays, while Jeanette is unceremoniously booted from the team like every sixth member before her, replaced for good when Knockout returns. So, of course, that won’t happen.

Looks like we’re not getting a detailed origin story for Junior, though we do get a general idea of what happened to get from point A to point F-ed up. Maybe Simone’ll fill in the blanks later. This’ll suffice for now, but I do so adore details.

The backup story, eating up six of the twenty-four allotted pages, is part of whatever Origins & Omens is. From all appearances here, I’d guess it’s a strange experiment in recapping. Scar appears briefly before and after the story, for no apparent reason. She does nothing, her narration is vaguely connected to the story at best, and there’s no hint I can see to her "involvement," such as it is. The tale itself is told by an old friend of the Six, who reappears this issue, recalling the formation of the team and their adventures in the Villains United and Secret Six miniseries. It would have made a great deal more sense as part of issue one, or a standalone cheap/free one-shot released to coincide with issue one. It’s tacked on here, and if not for the narrator’s identity and importance to the story, I’d call it a waste. As it is, it adds a bit, though I’d have rather had six story pages than clips of past episodes.

And that’s if nothing comes of it, the best case scenario. Although it doesn’t appear to have the first thing to do with Blackest Night or anything else, it’s possible the backup story is the start of a crossover tie-in, that most dreadful of beasts. I shudder to think of it. So far, naught but a speedbump. One shortened issue that proceeded normally along its course.

Fables 80

[DC] Fables #80
Writer: Bill Willingham
Pencilers: Mark Buckingham, Peter Gross

Looks like my first guess at the aftermath of the war was correct. Initially, it looked as though the Fables would stay in Fabletown despite having unrestricted access to the Homelands for the first time in centuries. Now, Fabletown has collapsed, and though they don’t flee Earth entirely, they do all hide out at the Farm, and it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to restore their secret community tucked away in New York City. Huh. That’s that, then, eh? No more Fabletown. Hard to believe. And soon the vile Mister Dark will be upon them, presenting more of a challenge than the entire Empire did in the war, if only because they’re unprepared and short of both weapons and defenses now. I hope we get a happy story after this is all wrapped up, because it’s a long, dark road we’re on, and we’ve barely started yet.

Back Issues

Catwoman 18

[DC] Catwoman Vol. 3 #18

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Javier Pulido

Part two of No Easy Way Down. Selina and Holly aren’t talking, Karon and Leslie are worried, and Slam’s being torn apart by love. Everything’s bad and it’s wonderful. Much as I hate seeing characters I love suffer, their suffering is so deeply layered as to be bittersweet. Tragedy can be as good as comedy in its own way, and that’s the case here.

Green Arrow 1

[DC] Green Arrow Vol. 2 #1
Writer: Mike Grell
Penciler: Ed Hannigan

Grell follows Longbow Hunters with the first Green Arrow regular series. It’s basically more of the same, though Grell no longer does the art. A depraved childkiller is released on bail after eighteen years, pending retrial. Seems he’s filthy rich since inheriting his parents’ fortune. Conveniently, the only living witness happens to be the psychiatrist helping Dinah recover from her recent ordeal. That gets our hero involved, and he sets to threatening the rich devil in his own home… which is surrounded by police. Could he have the wrong man? Is this old man wasting no time nor brain cells, so determined to finish what he started that he works around a police cordone to send a threatening message before doing what everyone expects him to do? or could he be innocent, as he claims. A compelling two-parter.


1001 Nights of Snowfall

[DC] Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall

Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Charles Vess, Michael Wm. Kaluta, John Bolton, Mark Buckingham, James Jean, Mark Wheatley, Derek Kirk Kim, Tara McPherson, Esao Andrews, Jill Thompson

Willingham retcons Snow White into One Thousand and One Nights, taking the place of Scheherazade. In this version, Snow is sent as ambassador from Fabletown to negotiate an alliance with the Sultan of the Arabian Fables. The Sultan has no interest in this; all he wants to do is continue his streak of wives wedded, bedded, and beheaded each night for the past one thousand nights. Being a wily woman of the world, Snow comes to the same conclusion as Scheherazade did in the original version: a good story and the promise of more will distract anyone. This all takes place in the framing sequence, a picture book affair illustrated by Vess and Kaluta before, after, and sometimes between the stories Snow tells.

Christmas rebels

The first is about herself. Since this is a Fables book, these are new fairy tales set in the Fables universe. However, this is a standalone volume. Fables fans will appreciate the added history, but as every story takes place long before the first issue of the series, you don’t need to have read anything else to jump in here. All you need to know is that these characters are not always what you’d expect of them. Case in point: The Fencing Lessons, with art by John Bolton, tells the story of Snow White’s estrangement from her husband, Prince Charming.

My favorite of the collection comes next, The Christmas Pies, drawn by regular series artist Mark Buckingham. This one involves the trickster fox, Reynard, and lots and lots of pie. The pie is delicious and not a lie. A Frog’s-eye View is a rare treat, an eight-page comic drawn by cover artist James Jean. It tells the full story of Ambrose, the Frog Prince. The Runt, by Mark Wheatley, provides the origin story for the Big Bad Wolf. A Mother’s Love finds Derek Kirk Kim drawing rabbits with laser eyes. What more could you want?

best not

Diaspora is one of the longest stories collected here, featuring a story within a story (within a story). The main tale is split into two parts, with art by Tara McPherson, and tells of Snow White’s escape from the Homelands with her sister Rose Red. More importantly, it tells of how they found the old witch from Hansel and Gretel and nursed her back to health. Magic, you know. Their story breaks for A Witch’s Tale, by Esao Andrews, which is what you’d expect: the witch’s origin story. We see how she started out, how she went astray, and Willingham has fun sticking her in all sorts of stories she wasn’t in originally before getting to her unfortunate run-in with those German kids.

What You Wish For is a two-pager with a familiar moral. The art’s nice, but this is the dog of the lot. Of the few stories with characters who aren’t important to the Fables series, this is the least consequential and least likely to earn a follow-up. But hey, if you can get two pages of Brian Bolland and no more, this is an adequate use of them.

Fair Division is the last before the framing sequence takes us home. Jill Thompson helps show us what happened to bring Old King Cole to Fabletown, adding depth rarely seen in the regular series. The panel where Cole finishes dishing out the day’s food, announcing that "it worked out just right, with enough for everyone" is a thing of beauty. If this were the only remarkable moment in the only remarkable story, it’d hard to seriously say the whole book’s worth buying just for that. It’s tempting to say Old King Cole holding an empty bowl is worth the cover price, or that you should buy it for Laser Bunny, or eight pages of James Jean, or delicious pie. One of those alone wouldn’t be worth $15-20, not by my reckoning. Fortunately, they’re all here together, highlighting a consistently beautiful, engaging collection of stories. The artistic talent assembled here is staggering, and Willingham holds up his end well.


Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters – A serious work, well worth reading, but it doesn’t fit into the regular DCU.
Secret Six – Excellent, as always, though shorter than usual.
Fables – Mister Dark rides a dark steed, bringing darkness wherever he goes. *snicker*
Catwoman – Superb tragedy.
Green Arrow – Promising follow-up to Longbow Hunters.
Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall – An essential volume for fairy tale fans, Fables readers, and everyone else. Highest recommendation.


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