Green Arrow / Black Canary: Wedding Special
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Amanda Conner
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Cover: Amanda Conner
By Michael David Sims
18 October 2007 — Even though I order my comics online, I still head to the local comic shop at least twice a month. Say what you will about the ease and money saved by ordering comics online, there's something special about walking into a well-run, clean, friendly comic book store. Being surrounded by the glossy paper, bright colors, rows and rows of back issues, walls filled with collected editions and toys plays with the heart — being there sets it aflutter. Heading to the shop also allows you to flip through books that have tapped your interest, but not enough to risk buying them sight unseen through an online store. Such is the case with Green Arrow / Black Canary: Wedding Special.
As I told the owner of the local shop, I have a rocky relationship with Green Arrow. He seems like such a cool character — he's a billionaire playboy, yet he leans left politically and uses a good chunk of his time playing Robin Hood — yet there's something about him that bothers me: his sometimes cartoony nature. I much prefer Mike Grell's more mature take on the character, such as in Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters. My opinion is this (and this goes for Hawkeye, too): if you're going to have a superhero archer, give him real arrows. Boxing gloves and fire extinguishers and boomerangs used as arrows do nothing for me. In fact, they take away his edge, and, if I were a criminal, I'd laugh in his face. If, however, I found myself staring down the business end of a sharp, glinting tip, I'd piss my pants.
That's not to say I want Green Arrow to kill. He can still perform trick shots which trip up criminals, block their exit and even strike their legs and arms. Wielding a deadly weapon doesn't mean it should be used lethally. Nevertheless, it should be used realistically, especially when in the hands of someone who tackles real world political issues. When a writer attempts to make a poignant political statement through Green Arrow, but then has him use a glue arrow to apprehend a criminal, that statement is watered-down by the silliness of the situation.
I'll buy Green Arrow when I hear (or see) that he's being infused with modern / real sensibilities. When he's treated like his Silver Age counterpart, the book is walked by without a second glance.
To bring this back to the beginning, I bought Green Arrow / Black Canary: Wedding Special for three reasons:
01. Judd Winick wrote the issue.
02. Amanda Conner illustrated it.
03. The negative hype Wedding Special received by the DC faithful told me something interesting happened.
Judd Winick, like Green Arrow, I also have a rocky relationship with. He's written very mature, compelling stories like Pedro and Me and Batman: Under the Hood, but he's also the author of Harley & Ivy: Love on the Lam — which I once called "nearly worthless." For the most part I love his style, but every once in a while I have to shake my head.
Despite my mixed feelings (which generally lean towards the positive), I was very eager to see what he could do with the special. Having read the touching Pedro and Me, it's very clear the man can insert pure emotion into his writing. He also has great comedic timing, something a couple like Arrow and Canary thrive on — well, that and sexual tension. Wedding comics tend to fall flat in my book; their blandness comes from a lack of true emotion. For instance, when Superman and Lois finally tied the knot, my reaction was less than enthusiastic. "Well, there went five dollars," was my reaction.
Here, however, in Green Arrow / Black Canary: Wedding Special, I felt like I was watching two close friends wed. Even though I don't know the ins and outs of their relationship, in three pages Winick did a stellar job outlining their ups and (many) downs together. Say what you will about the dress, smack and strip club (and I will speak about those shortly), if anything was done right, it was the love Winick brought to these characters. Every single page was dripping with emotion — be it love, frustration, anger, lust or hatred.
That said, let's talk about a few things — such as the smack and strip club.
After their rocky relationship (there's that term again) is detailed, we cut to the present where the happy couple is sharing a less than happy moment. Dinah calls Ollie "a piece of shit" (censored of course), which leads to Ollie calling Dinah a slut (claiming she slept with the entire US Navy), which leads to Dinah smacking Ollie clear across his face, which leads to a heated sexual moment. What's my issue with this? Reverse the roles: have Ollie smack Dinah before stripping down for sex. See my point? Everyone would be calling Winick (and Green Arrow) sexist, misogynistic and a pervert. Yet it's somehow okay for him to write a woman hitting a man before screwing his brains out. This is nothing more than fan service and a double standard (more on double standards later). In any other book I might overlook it, but not with a character that's as socially conscious as Oliver Queen. How can Ollie fight spousal abuse as Green Arrow when he's calling his wife-to-be a slut and falling into a passionate embrace after she strikes him? The very act contradicts everything the character stands for, and is a slight to fans who take these characters seriously.
Some will attempt to claim that Dinah has struck Ollie before (as seen through a flashback in this book), that their relationship has never been stable and that sexual tension is a big part of what makes them charming. And that's true. But to deny there's a double standard, to deny that it hurts the book and characters, in my opinion, is blind fanboyism.
While we're talking about double standards, let's speak about the strip club. As both the bachelor and bachelorette parties head out for the evening, we see every male superhero (dressed in casual clothes) denied entry intro a strip club because Ollie told Hal Jordan (his best man, obviously) that he didn't want strippers. Following that, we see Zatanna yelling, "Ekat ti ffo, ybab," to a male stripper. As the camera pulls back, we see every female superhero (in costume) frolicking with nearly nude (and soon-to-be-nude) men.
Can you imagine the furor had this been reversed? I can see the headlines now: "Superman seen with strippers!"
My issue here is that DC isn't worried about Wonder Woman and Lois Lane's activities making headlines. Do they see them as being less iconic, less newsworthy? Why is there no fear of "Wonder Woman seen with strippers" being the headline? This isn't so much a slight against this book (well, it is), but a slight against DC's policies when it comes to sexual situations and the clear divide amongst their characters.
That said, artist Amanda Conner does a splendid job telling a story with her backgrounds in the club. After Zatanna demands the stripper "ekat ti ffo" he can be seen without underwear on the next page. Obviously Zee used a spell to remove his thong, as evidenced by the dancer's surprised reaction. On the same page, Lois Lane offers a stripper money to bother Wonder Woman. Turning the page, readers will find the same dancer pulling Wonder Woman someplace private. Thunder gags at a dancer dressed as Black Lightning — her father. Hawkgirl and a Hawkman-themed dancer marvel at her mace — the sexual innuendo is obvious, I think. Power Girl carries a dancer away, all the while spanking his bottom. And Katana instructs a Green Arrow stripper to approach Dinah. Overall it's a fun scene and plays into a line from earlier regarding the sexual exploits of superheroes ("For some of our people every day is a day-glow fetish ball."); I'm simply displeased with the lack of concern DC has for its female icons.
It's then we're treated to a beautiful double-page spread of the wedding ceremony. All of the big names are there (save Batman), all gleeful for Ollie and Dinah. Normally I'm displeased with in-costume superhero functions (e.g. weddings, funerals, etc.), but it works here because everyone in attendance is a superhero (or spouse of one), so it makes sense on some level for the guests to be dressed as such. Had the guest list included civilians and in-costume superheroes, then I'd cry foul.
And then there's the dress.
It's trashy and makes Dinah look like a slut, yet I like it. (Surprised?) This is an in-costume superhero wedding, and her dress is a take on her costume — which is trashy and makes Dinah look like a slut, which I like. (Bet you're not surprised by that, eh?) Had this been an out-of-costume formal affair, then yes, I'd take great issue with the bride showing up dressed like a Vegas showgirl. But it's not that — at all. These are two people who fell in love as superheroes, and they want to honor that. In their eyes (well, Dinah's), the best way to achieve said goal is to create "formal" attire that pays respect to their roots. So to everybody who was crying about it, stop. This wasn't Charles and Diana, it was Ollie and Dinah.
The ending I'm sure you've heard about by now, but just in case I'll leave the surprise intact. But I will say this: it left me wanting more, yet filled me with... potential anger. Having since read Green Arrow / Black Canary #1, I know how the ending of Green Arrow / Black Canary: Wedding Special plays out, but had this not been addressed right away — had they left us hanging for months or even years — I would have been very disappointed with DC. As it stands, this issue is an excellent lead-in to the new ongoing series; it clearly establishes the relationship of the title characters (as well as the relationships they share with other heroes); Amanda Conner's art has never been better; it's loving, fun and tragic; future storylines are established; the writing is tight and paced well for an oversized issue; and, best of all, it reignited my passion for Green Arrow and gave me a newfound respect for Black Canary.
Despite my gripes about the double standards, I highly suggest you buy Green Arrow / Black Canary: Wedding Special. Personally speaking, I've already added their new ongoing to my online pull list.