Open Mike Night: FF #4/ Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85+86

FF #4

Written by: Matt Fraction
Art by: Michael Allred
Colored by: Laura Allred
Lettered by: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by: DC
Cover Price: $2.99

Weaver: Look, I’m starting it this week! I’m taking over! My plans of column domination are coming to fruition!

Our first comic is FF #4. Let me start out by saying: I’ve never been a fan of the Fantastic Four. I know that as a Marvel fan (which I decidedly am), you’re sort of a Fantastic Four fan by default, but with the exception of loving any time Johnny and Ben show up outside the book, I’ve never had a big affection for the main title or many of the stuff that tends to fall under its umbrella like the Inhumans, Galactus, and Paste Pot Pete. However, I love Mike Allred. It’s rare that you see such unique art in a comic these days, and he doesn’t disappoint here. This comic was made for Mike Allred to draw it.

Maillaro: Yeah, between the quirky stories and quirky characters, the Allreds are the perfect fit. I especially love how Mike Allred draws the Moloids and Bentley-23 (a clone of the Wingless Wizard, by the way). I keep waiting for Madman and the Atomics to pop up in a cameo (sorry, I have been reading a lot of Madman lately). Allred also draws some very beautiful scenes, like the freaky “burning snow storm” that the kids accidentally create giving She-Hulk and Wyatt a perfect moment to kiss.

A few weeks back, we were talking about how nice it is when stuff actually happens in a comic. That actually is becoming a bit of a complaint with FF for me. Matt Fraction is doing some great character moments, but there really isn’t a lot of moving the story along. Last issue ended with Scott Lang wanting to get rid of Doom. This issue starts with a little bit of debate on whether or not that is an ethical thing to do (which I thought was a great moment), and the rest of the comic was basically taken up with the Moloids and Bentley trying to screw up She-Hulk’s date with Wyatt Wingfoot. Don’t get me wrong, I thought this sideplot was a lot of fun…but when a sideplot takes up pretty much 75% of a comic, it has gotten out of control.

Weaver: That’s what I’m saying. I liked the subplot, and I REALLY liked the first few pages, but I wish the first few pages were longer and the rest of the comic was shorter. It was a fun little story, but it’s the kind that deserves to be a six page filler for an annual or something. There were a few interesting things sandwiched into that sideplot, though, like She-Hulk talking about how everyone viewed Scott Lang. The ending of the issue was enough of a hook to get me wanting to come back, too…if only because it looks like something happens. I wonder a bit about whether Fraction just wanted to make Allred draw a bunch of random things and so paced the comic in that direction, but with as large of a cast as FF has, having a sole issue focus on She-Hulk Date Night seemed a little too much.

Maillaro: I have a lot of faith in Fraction since I like a lot of what he’s done on the two Fantastic Four books, and Hawkeye is basically my favorite comic most months. But this is two issues in a row where it felt like the subplots had basically taken over the entire comic.

Issue 2 ends with the future Johnny arriving on our world…but most of issue 3 is taken up with Scott’s efforts to get Miss Thing to return to the team, and the two of them chasing the Yancy Street Gang. Issue 3 ends with Scott declaring that they must destroy Doom….but most of issue 4 is consumed with the She-Hulk subplot. Issue 4 ends with the suggestion that Medusa is looking at betraying (or at least manipulating) the team…is most of issue 5 going to be focused on a subplot of Dragon Man attempt’s at online dating?

I think Fraction has all the elements of a great Fantastic Four run here (intriguing stories, great character relationships, romance, adventure, humor), but I do think the balance is off and the wrong elements are being given too much focus.

Weaver: I actually see Fraction as more of a small picture writer who succeeds best at vignettes like this. Maybe if he just went and focused the book entirely on subplot without an effort to tell a larger plot? I mean, at least “We must kill Doom” large seems at least right now a bit out of his grasp.

Then again, he’s likely to pull this all together and make me look like an idiot.

I can’t say enough how much I love the Allred style. It’s executed really well here too. I’m giving it a 4.5/5 for art.

Maillaro: You might be right, I have never really seen Fraction tackle a big story. It’s funny because in Hawkeye, he is not even trying to do anything big picture, and that works great for that book. It seems like when any writer takes over Fantastic Four they are determined to make their mark on that book and tell THE BIGGEST FF STORY EVER TOLD!

I know Fantastic Four has had some epic runs, and some of the creators have left some big shoes to fill, but just for once, I would love to see someone just pull back and write a much smaller scale FF story. The closest I can think of is Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s work on Marvel Knights 4. For writing, I would give this a 3.5/5, but I feel like I am grading on a curve.

Art I would go 5/5. Allred is really the whole damn show on this comic.

Weaver: I think there’s definitely an idea that when you get handed X-Men or Fantastic Four or Batman or Superman or something like that, that you must tell something noteworthy, as if fans of those books need you to go high or go home. But there’s a place for little stories like this, and it deeply humanizes the characters…which was a big part of the recipe for success with most Marvel titles. I think if Fraction finishes up the “must kill Doom” storyline and goes to small stuff, this will succeed more. 3/5 on writing.

Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85 and 86

Written by: Denny O’Neil
Art by: Neal Adams (Neal Adams & Dick Giordano on #86)

Published by: DC
Cover Price: 25 cents ($1.99 on Comixology)

Maillaro: Freaky flashback time!!!!

So, even after reading these comics, I still am not sure if I had read them before or not. It’s one of those comics you hear so much about, it becomes hard to remember if you actually read the comic or just people talking about the comic. I actually am a huge fan of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, this is when comics really started LOOKING AND FEELING LIKE COMICS to me. Green Lantern/Green Arrow took an unflinching look at social issues, and even packed in enough superhero action that it never comes off as over-the-top preachy.

I do think the first issue took a bit of a roundabout course in getting to the meat of the story. Which is kind of silly when the cover of the comic had pretty much spoiled the ending anyway.

Weaver: I thought that was odd too…unless they were deliberately trying to make Green Arrow look like an idiot. You know, beyond the obvious drug plot here, there’s incredible amounts of social commentary. In the beginning, Green Arrow gets shot and no one wants to help him. Not random passerby, not a cop, not emergency room doctors, no one. This didn’t even feel that exaggerated to me, they did the whole thing really well. Then, I was kind of surprised to run into racial epithets being a plot point. Obviously, the focus of this issue is on smack and problems associated with it, but we get hit with a clear and diverse picture of many of society’s ills, including Speedy’s feelings of abandonment by Ollie.

Another thing that’s interesting is that usually Green Lantern is seen as the staunch conservative “people make their own problems” type, but he seems to have a lot more sympathy for the addicts than Ollie does. Kind of gives both characters more nuance.

Maillaro: Just curious, have you read much of Green Lantern/Green Arrow before this? I am not asking that sarcastically or setting up some kind of rhetorical trap, I am genuinely curious.

Weaver: Almost none. When I was a kid, most outlets near me refused to carry this title. The ones that did, it was gone immediately. I caught a few issues, but very few. I’m mostly familiar with their dynamic from JLA.

Maillaro: I read the first trade a while back. One thing that kind of bugged me about it (and it sort of happens here too) is that sometimes the characters seemed to shift personalities to fit the story they were trying to tell and to better present the social issues O’Neill wanted to tackled. While DC has done an excellent job building off of the way Ollie treated Roy in these issues over the years, a part of me has always felt that it just seemed so out of character for him to be so hard on him. It definitely isn’t a heroic way of acting.

By the way, Roy Harper just made his first appearance in the last episode of Arrow. I am really hoping he gets a fair better fate in that show that he did in the comics (or Young Justice cartoon, YIKES!). I guess with a name like Speedy, you are kind of setting yourself up for failure.

Despite my misgiving about the characters shifting some to suit the story and “agenda” I still thought these were some excellent issues. Some of the characters do lean a bit towards stereotypes, but for the most part, the story avoids being preachy or judgmental. Ollie himself is acting like a judgmental prick, mind you, but I never feel like he is speaking for the creators. That is a mistake a lot of readers seem to make and confusing the two.

Weaver: I’ve actually always seen Green Arrow as a bit of a judgmental prick, he often ends up going toe to toe with various JLA members and storming off in a fit of rage. He has a very clear vision of how the world should be, and it angers him when people can’t see it that way. I guess this might be why Hal Jordan is always seen as an emotionless cardboard cut-out: he does have emotional depth, but when compared to the emotional roller coaster of Ollie Queen he comes out a bit more flat. I completely accept Queen going off on Harper, because Queen lives in that imaginary world of clear cut right and wrong, and has a hard time accepting his own responsibilities (but expects everyone else to man up to theirs).

The only real issue I have in the story is Hal and Ollie jobbing to the junkies and the resultant drug trip. It was plausible, but just had me kind of shaking my head. These guys were both really experienced heroes at this time, and should not have fallen for that.

Maillaro: There is a lot truth to what you say about Ollie, but to me, Ollie has always been about speaking truth to power. I can see him telling off Superman, Batman, etc, but coming down hard on a drug addict, especially Roy, just didn’t feel right to me. You do have a great point about not accepting his responsibilities. That came through loud and clear here.

Honestly, other than Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Emerald Twilight, I have never read much with Hal since before Geoff Johns brought him back. I actually own the Green Lantern Showcase trade, but I’ve never even opened it. I was always much more of a Marvel guy. I definitely have always thought of him as boring and flat, but I really have very little to base that on.

Yeah, that was definitely some jobbing going on. At least Ollie had the excuse of being shot! Hal apparently had the flu when he showed up for duty that day. I know sometimes you need to have your hero take a loss to advance the story, but this was definitely over the top. But all in all, I admire the careful writing that was done on a real tricky subject matter. I wouldn’t feel wrong giving it a 4/5.

So last week, you were pimping up Sterenko, but for me, Neal Adams is another great example of the shift in artistic styles. Neal Adams was actually still working in comics not that long ago, and his work still holds up really well. There is a real grit here that works so well with these more down to Earth comic stories.

Weaver: Pre-Crisis, I loved JLA, especially when they did the annual JSA team-up. I didn’t read much of Hal outside it, but he never struck me as particularly wooden and boring, although that’s the negative press he always gets. I think that being pretty average in temperament (but with a HUGE liking of schadenfreude, as seen on the first cover here) worked against him, but I think it’s pretty necessary to have some people like that. And being average doesn’t make a guy boring, at least to me.

Hal really has no excuse there, maybe ring lag for the trip from Coast City. I’d also give this a 4/5. There’s some things involved that were a little iffy, but if you compare this to Harry Osbourne tripping balls, this is a much more real presentation of the various issues involved. I really liked how it was set up in the beginning, showing that even a high roller like Oliver Queen has a hard time getting assistance in the wrong part of town at the wrong time of night, so it was really easy to see how people could slip through the cracks like the junkies in this story. The pace of it was good, and I liked the exchange between Ollie and Roy, where yeah, Ollie came down hard on him, but Roy definitely served notice to Ollie as well.

I like Neal Adams a lot. His work on X-Men is also really good, probably the best the title got in the silver age. He tells a story in the beginning of a trade I have of that about how he landed X-Men…Stan wanted him doing Marvel work after some success doing Deadman, and offered him any title he wanted. Neal asked what their worst selling title was, it was X-Men, which was about to be canceled. He asked if he could take it on. Stan was really hesitant because he didn’t want to waste Neal Adams on a z-list title, but acquiesced, and I really think the stories Neal and Roy Thomas told were what gave the title its second gasp at existence, which ended up possibly saving the comics industry. You know, I was hoping that we could do Neal Adams’ best work, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, but I guess that will have to wait until another day.

Maillaro: Sadly, that fine book is not available digitally

I am going 4.5/5 for the art. Definitely one of my favorite books we’ve reviewed so far! Nice to see some iconic books actually hold up to their billing…despite the goofy cover.

So. Next week. I think we pretty much have to review the elephant in the room, Age of Ultron. I have nothing but trepidation about that book, but at the least, it should be a fun snarky review. Any thoughts about a second book?

Weaver: I hate to do it, but Neal’s going to get a 5/5 from me here. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

I’m going to be picking up an indy book you’ve never read, Courtney Crumrin, and I’ll buy you a copy too. I think it’s time we did an Oni book.

Maillaro: Sounds great, count me in! Looks like the credits are ready to roll. Thanks for another great column, broski!

Weaver: Thank you sir!

Final Scores

Maillaro – Story Weaver – Story Maillaro – Art Weaver – Art
FF #4 3.5 3 5 4.5
Green Lantern/Green Arrow 85+86 4 4 4.5 5

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