Comic: "Green Lantern Green Arrow 85-86"
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Denny O'neil, Neal Adams
Artist: Neal Adams
Reviewer: Max Burbank
Plot: While trying to crack a drug ring, Green Arrow is ironically shot with a crossbow. The plot thickens when the arrow turns out to be one of his own. GA + GL track the arrow back to a gang of teen age smack addicts, one of whom is Roy Harper, A.K.A. Speedy, Green Arrow’s sidekick. Surely he’s working undercover, right? Well, not so much. While Roy goes cold turkey, assisted by a sympathetic Black Canary, the Green Heroes dig deeper and find the real villain is the CEO of a drug company who’s been boosting already grotesque profits by dumping inferior products into the street market.
Review: Shortly before the 2-issue story arc “Snowbirds Don’t Fly” hit the stands, Marvel had published an issue of Spider-Man touching on drug addiction. The comics code said no way, Marvel watered it down significantly, the code still wouldn’t budge and Marvel had the balls to go to press without the code sticker. Buyers barely noticed. DC took The Adams O’Neil classic (written at the same time as the Spider-Man story, but published a little later) to the Code and along with Marvel negotiated a loosening of the rules. DC’s version is WAY more explicit, with drug addiction being absolutely central to the plot and featuring a well-known, established hero as the addict. Marvel may have beaten DC to the punch on dealing with drug addiction, but “Snowbirds” is a classic and rightly regarded as a fundamental cornerstone in the evolution of ‘mature comics’.
Thirty-seven years later, the dialogue suffers a little. Well, actually, a lot. There are lines that could have been written by Jack Webb for “Dragnet”. The plot, however, is still revolutionary. All the young junkies are seen as victims of the drug trade, and dealt with as individuals. An entire page is devoted to Speedy’s miserable cold turkey withdrawal, and a good deal of time is devoted to explaining how he became an addict. The impact is only increased by the way Adam’s (the reigning realist of the time) remarkable pencils dwell on the players’ faces. For comics of this period to look at the emotional lives of their Super characters was in its infancy. To take a side kick, a strata of character that had practically never risen above stereotype and use panel after panel usually reserved for guys in tights hitting each other to discuss failed parenting, loneliness and the massive distrust between adults and teens was remarkable.
It’s pretty funny to look at the cover now, especially the tremble lines around the unmasked “Speedy”, and really they should have had him addicted to barbiturates considering his name. All (okay, most) of the humor and irony are a product of the years that have passed. When this issue made the stands, nothing about it came across as camp. The Mayor of New York wrote a letter praising it and it went on to win several awards.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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