Worlds and facial hair collide in the pages of Green Arrow #27-28 as two characters associated with writer/artist Mike Grell - Green Arrow and Grell's creation The Warlord - join forces for a Battle in Seattle! Throw in the Black Canary in full assault mode and you have yourself one macho, beardly comic.
Here's the story: Travis Morgan and his goatee are taking a break from the Inner World of Skartaris and are roaming the States on a sort of soul-searching/ass-kicking walkabout, like David Carradine in Kung Fu, only more violent and less englightened.
Morgan was born an raised in the States, but he sort of misses primeval, barbaric Skartaris. Sure, pterodactyls attacked you every five minutes or so, but the sun was always shining and loin cloths never went out of style. Ah, Skartaris...
Travis Morgan shows up in Seattle, where some armed criminal-types mistake him for Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow. Honest mistake. He gets fed up with being attacked and tracks down Queen in the castle-like Seattle home he shares with his girlfriend, Dinah Lance, The Black Canary. (Wait a minute, isn't Black Canary blonde? Why does she have black hair and a Mia Farrow hairstyle? Dude, because she's not really blonde, she always wore a blonde wig. I can't believe I have to explain that to you. It's embarassing. Let's just keep this inside the parenthesis, okay?) Morgan rings the doorbell, Ollie answers, Morgan punches Ollie and yells at him...
Enter Dinah, annoyed. "What the hell is going on here?"
That's a good question, Dinah, but a better question you might ask would be, "What the hell am I wearing?" Did she lose a bet or something? Hey Dinah, Charlie Brown called and he wants his shirt back. That's not a good shade of Hideous Yellow on her, it doesn't go with her skin tone.
OK, so Travis Morgan starts with the sexist comments, starting a tiny fuse in Dinah's amygdala. Mr. Beard over there is about two seconds from getting his ass handed to him and he has no idea.
And then he says it. Or rather, he starts to say it:
Dinah doesn't even let him finish his sentence before she knocks the color out of him with a left cross. That's what I liked about Black Canary during the Grell Era of Green Arrow: she took no shit from anyone.
I've read lots of criticism online about nearly every writer's handling of Black Canary*, but I think she's fared a lot better than Wonder Woman or Power Girl or yeesh, Supergirl. She seems to be handled with more consistency and (dare I say it?) respect by DC creators than most of her heroine peers, and I think the foundation of Black Canary's current Major Heroine status was laid by Mike Grell during his years writing Green Arrow.
Bear with me here. Since Grell wrote her, Dinah has consistently been portrayed as compassionate, proud, tough, vulnerable, and slyly funny by writers ranging from Gail Simone to Chuck Dixon to Geoff Johns. I think Black Canary is a great character because most DC writers really love writing her, and it shows.
I don't want to turn this into a defense of how DC has handled the character - that's an argument best left to others - but I've always liked Black Canary because of how DC has handled her. She's keen. 'Nuff said, pilgrim.
Anyway, the punching stops and they sort out who everyone is and why half of Seattle's underworld wants to kill Travis Morgan. It all comes down to that damn beard.
Hold it. If Ollie says that he and Travis are about the same age and Dinah says Travis doesn't look a day over fifty, does that mean Green Arrow is about fifty years old, too? Best not to dwell on such things.
Our three characters have some coffee and Morgan answers all their questions cryptically, with a wink to the audience. Since presumably the reader knows who Travis Morgan is, Grell doesn't have Dinah or Ollie ask some obvious questions of this strange man. It's a bit too precious and nostalgic for my tastes, but the fanboy in me did enjoy seeing the two characters interact, so I can't complain.
Their coffee chat is interrupted by a horde of the aforementioned armed criminal-types who attack Ollie and Dinah's pad in a John Woo style assault. Yes, like the rugby team that attacks the house in Woo's The Killer, these guys just blindly rush the house and jump through windows and knock over garbage cans and step on cats and generally just make great targets. Green Arrow and The Warlord hop up on the roof and pick off the bad guys with .44 Magnum Power and Very Sharp Arrows.
Bonus: In this issue Black Canary kicks ass in a big way. She kicks one dude in the nuts (pictured), kicks another guy upside the head, takes his gun, and starts blowing people away. You see kids, back in the Eighties Green Arrow was a "suggested for mature readers" title where Ollie and Dinah occasionally had to kill some motherfuckers. That's how we do it in Sea Town, kids.
The art team on this storyline was Dan Jurgens on pencils with none other than Dick Giordano on inks. I think the colors kinda suck, but what do I know? The lines are pretty.
Now, I have made fun of Dan Jurgens' art before - specifically the way he has drawn particular superhero fights. But here Jurgens adapted to Grell's sparse, cinematic style of storytelling and it works great. The big battle scene is told mostly in silent square panels with no sound effects and very little dialogue - a layout like that gives pencillers with poor composition and storytelling skills nowhere to hide. Fortunately Jurgens is more than up to the challenge and the angles and choices he uses are perfect. Giardano's a great inker, and together he and Jurgens create some panels that are positively Grell-ian. Still not a fan of the coloring, though.
In the end Morgan faces off against the mob boss who ordered the hit, who is attempting to flee the scene in his Christmas green sports car. Morgan has a Very Sharp Sword. The results are predictable, but beautiful regardless:
That's how you do it in Skartaris, son - with no shirt. Travis Morgan - he lives shirtless and free.
Green Arrow #28 is a high point of wry machismo in the series and I'm pleased that I dug this one out of a particularly hard to reach long box. Good times.