Best Shots Extra: GREEN LANTERN #0, HAWKEYE #2 Reviewed

 

Green Lantern #0

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Mark Irwin, Tony Avina and Alex Sinclair

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

With all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, Green Lantern #0 is one of those weird examples of a dull story told exceedingly well. What do I mean? Even if Geoff Johns slides Winick-style straight into the land of stereotyping with the introduction of the new Green Lantern Simon Baz, the stellar art leaves some heart underneath all this overearnestness.

Of course, plenty of people might not give it that chance, since this comic is probably more on-the-nose than even Johns's critics might expect. Reeling and reacting from post-9/11 bigotry against Arab-Americans, Johns takes Simon Baz down a fairly disappointing path — that of the criminal. If you were looking for a positive hero that would diversify the DCU, think again, as Baz goes through car chases, U.S. prison camps for terrorists, even waterboarding. This is storytelling with a Message, even if Johns isn't quite sure what the message is yet.

That all said, thankfully Johns starts the comic with a human tether — Simon's shocked face as he watches the Towers smoking on live TV — and that at least gives some rationale as to why Baz's life has gone so far off the rails. When he yells at his guards that he's "a car thief, not a terrorist," you actually feel for the guy. In that regard, Johns is smart to leave the action to a minimum in this issue — this is about meeting Simon Baz the man, not Simon Baz the Lantern.

The art is what really helps hold the reader's attention here. Doug Mahnke gives a real soulfulness to Baz's face, with his pouty lips and wavering eyes. While the transition from skinny teenager to superhero physique isn't the most natural progression in the world, Mahnke and his army of inkers use a nice bit of shadow to at least make him look like he's not towering over his guards. The cleanness of line is what really draws you in, with some clear storytelling utilizing some impressive details (including the small TV screen that still shows just enough of the towers to know what day it is).

That said, I think the ultimate litmus test for Green Lantern #0 is simple — are you comfortable reading a superhero comic about an Arab-American who everyone assumes is a terrorist? To me, personally, that sort of theme is reductive, and is a troubling sign for DC, who should be trying to bring in readers of all stripes at any cost. Can Baz truly bring in anyone besides the rabid and the already converted? While this is definitely a new take on Green Lantern, I think he is already losing his tenuous appeal.

 

Hawkeye #2

Written by Matt Fraction

Art by David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth

Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Hawkeye is a comic that flies in the face of conventional comic book wisdom. Down-to-earth in an event-driven market, self-contained in a sea of decompression, Clint Barton doesn't need anything other than Clint Barton to make for a satisfying story.

It might also explain why this comic is so good.

As Hawkeye and his young partner, err, the other Hawkeye, take on a cabal of thieving circusfolk, something really bubbles to the surface here. In certain ways, writer Matt Fraction is channelling his inner Chuck Dixon with this mouthy, action-packed carny adventure that can't help but make me think this isn't Marvel's Green Arrow — this is Marvel's Nightwing. I'll take it. Things like hobo target graffiti and ransacking circus gangs give a little bit more flavor than the traditional point-and-shoot Hawkeye adventure, and while Fraction's rapid-fire dialogue can sometimes get a little too cute, you can't argue that the content doesn't fit the tone here.

But even more important than the tone is the pace — and that is where Fraction and artist David Aja really show how simpatico their partnership is. This is a self-contained, done-in-one issue that talks on the run, with a particularly enjoyable structure that starts with a bang, builds back up slowly and doubles back on itself almost without you even realizing it. Aja is one of those rare craftsmen that thinks of layout as a rhythm, with the size and sequence of each panel really holding you in place — sometimes things like a slow-mo bit of speech from Kate Bishop don't quite work, but others, like Clint and Kate leaping through a hail of bullets to suddenly splash into a pool? Those are stellar. Aja makes every panel clear and legible, really rewarding the reader for their attention.

Combine all this with some interesting villains and even a bit of end-of-the-day introspection near the finale, and you've got yourself a superb sophomore issue that even outdoes its opening act. After his time in the salt mines of event comics, Matt Fraction has earned the right to have some latitude, and thankfully, Hawkeye is proving the right avenue for he and Aja to run wild.

 

World of Archie Double Digest #21

Written by Various

Art by Various

Published by Archie Comics

Review by Erika D. Peterman

’Rama Rating 7 out of 10

Archie Digests have always been fun mashups of stories old and new, sometimes reaching as far back as the early ’60s with bits from the ‘80s and ‘90s thrown in for good measure. No matter what era they’re from, the stories rarely differ in terms of the lighthearted, simple plots. Half the charm of an Archie Digest is that you can skim the narrative and still know what’s going on. What separates the contents here is the art quality. And it’s the old stuff that shines.

It’s not that the more recent stories are poorly drawn. Some of the work being done in the Archie Comics single issues — most recently by artist Gisele Lagace — is fantastic. But within the confines of World of Archie Double Digest #21, the iconic illustrations of greats like Dan DeCarlo and Bob Bolling are what make the casual reader sit up and pay attention. They elevate the goofiest stories, making them seem funnier and more interesting than the others.

Maybe that’s why a chunk of this collection is dedicated to a three-part “Josie” story, which was written by Bob Doyle and delightfully penciled by DeCarlo. It’s certainly a time capsule. As rich boy Alexander Cabot III’s dad throws a bunch of long-haired musicians out of his mansion, he bellows, “Nobody is turning my home into a ding-dong discotheque full of dad dratted ding-a-lings and gyrating go-go girls.”

The plot is pretty thin, with Alex trying to start up a disco and hiring bombshell Melody to be the resident go-go girl. But there’s such a high level of detail and care in these panels, from the texture of some seriously retro sideburns to the pleats of a miniskirt, that this is far and away the star of the digest show. 

Of course, there are parts of the story that remind readers that this was written in less enlightened times. Kids probably will note that Josie isn’t wearing a seatbelt, so she hits her head on the windshield when Alex makes a sudden stop in his car. Melody, a not-so-bright character right out of an old sitcom, becomes the object of aggressive sexual harassment once she dons her bikini and go-go boots. I know it was a different time, but seeing a 16-year-old girl being chased by lust-struck males is deeply creepy. “We’ve got to get that girl covered up before we lose our boyfriends,” Josie’s friend Pepper says. What a pal!

However, these three chapters are certainly the most memorable parts of in World of Archie Double Digest #21, overshadowing most of the other stories about Pop Tate’s vacation, a scandal involving Riverdale High School’s soccer strategy and Archie’s elaborate scheme to get to school on time. Aside from the panels of Melody running like hell from packs of "admirers," this comic is a quick, pleasant read that's worth an impulse buy in the grocery store checkout line.

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