(This review may contain spoilers for the story content.)
Introduction: St. Paddy’s may have been two weeks ago, but the month of March is green, so before the month ends (I know I’m cutting it close), I wanted to review a comic that epitomizes green. Deciding to present you, my readers, with two emerald-clad heroes for the price of one dandy comic, I chose to review Green Lantern/Green Arrow: Hard-Traveling Heroes, the deluxe edition. This hardcover (also available in trade paperback) collection includes Green Lantern (Vol 2) issues #76-87 and 89, as well as backup features from Flash (Vol 1) #117-119 and 226. These issues are the first several of the well-known 40+ issue era in Green Lantern comics known as the “Hard-Traveling Heroes” era, where Green Arrow co-starred and received joint billing on the comic covers. Written by Dennis O’Neil and illustrated by Neal Adams, this run famously challenged the ways comics tackled social issues. Now, onward with the review.
Plot Summary: In the opening issue, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) stops an assailant from attacking an older man. Afterward, though, Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) arrives on the scene and reveals that the man Hal saved is an amoral slum lord planning to evict his poor tenants simply to acquire more wealth. Ollie helps Hal to see that evil can operate within the law (on the surface, at least) and that working toward the greater good can mean opposing a corrupt authority. Understanding more that the world is not as black-and-white as he had initially, naively thought, Green Lantern and Green Arrow endeavor to overcome evil. While the duo succeeds, Hal’s bosses, the Guardians of the Universe, admonish Green Lantern for disobeying the law, even to better lives. While Hal’s respect for authority pushes him toward apology and submission, Oliver shoots off his mouth as quickly as he would an arrow from his bow—relaying how evil poisons various areas within the United States and how they can be the figurative antidote. Green Lantern, inspired by his friend’s words, decides to join his cause.
Despite the Guardians displeasure with the deviance from strict law-and-order, they find enough wisdom in Green Arrow’s words to allow the heroes to work toward their goals of finding good in humanity while weeding out the bad. Additionally, the Guardians send one of their own, Old Timer, disguising himself to appear human, to join Green Lantern and Green Arrow as they decide to travel the nation on a long road trip, so that the Guardians can learn more of human perspective. After a few adventures, wherein the group is occasionally joined by Green Arrow’s romantic flame Black Canary, Old Timer is placed in a position where he could use his powers to rescue a great sum of people in danger…or his friend Hal Jordan. The Guardian knows that logic should dictate that he rescue the many, but instead he chooses to save the one. Despite Hal’s and Oliver’s protests, Old Timer is sentenced to lose his immortality and live out his days on an overpopulated planet. Old Timer assures his heroic friends that he aims to emulate their proactive approach to combating problems and help more people in his now limited time than he ever would have if he had remained a stoic Guardian. He values the lessons he has learned from his experience with the good side of humanity. Following Old Timer’s departure, Hal and Ollie end their road trip, but they continue to share many adventures fighting social injustice within the rest of the issues in the collection.
Plot Analysis: “Hard-Traveling Heroes” employs tactful writing. O’Neil holds no bars as he addresses a number of social issues throughout the collection, including racism, corporate corruption, pollution, overpopulation, sexism, drugs, and more. However, despite placing these issues in the forefront of the comics, O’Neil crafts his stories so that he is showing readers how these problems may affect the world rather than simply telling readers that the problems exist. By writing these stories in this organic way, readers are able to witness the negative repercussions of these issues and arrive at their own conclusions regarding them.
Characterization: While other characters grace the pages of “Hard-Traveling Heroes,” Green Lantern and Green Arrow receive the most depth in terms of character. While they may be best friends, Hal and Oliver have opposing viewpoints on the world, which causes them to occasionally clash. Nevertheless, the two have each other’s backs, and one often broadens the other’s understanding of a situation by expressing his perspective (with this working both ways).
Green Lantern (Hal Jordan): Prior to the beginning of this era, Green Lantern was a straight-laced enforcer of the Guardian’s laws, who saw what was lawful to be morally right, and anything opposing these laws to be criminal and punishable. In other words, Hal saw things in a black-and-white perspective, and he hardly even realized it until Oliver helped him see otherwise. Throughout this collection, readers watch Hal’s development as he begins to question the laws he believed in so wholeheartedly before. As opposed to Green Arrow, who challenges these laws by bending them, Hal attempts for ways of accomplishing their shared goals by either working within the law or endeavoring to change a law (as seen in issue #79). Hal’s self-reflection is one of the focal points of the work. As per an agreement with Ollie, Hal uses less of his Green Lantern powers during their partnership—so that Hal can reconnect with what it means to be human and have limitations. Through this act of restraint, Hal’s character development heightens as he resolves to rely more on his own abilities.
- Green Arrow (Oliver Queen): As a foil to Hal’s conservative perspective, Green Arrow is a highly opinionated liberal who occasionally lets his righteous fury lead him into action before fully assessing a situation. While Green Arrow has a respect for the law, he actively holds his own personal moral code above the law, especially when it harms others. He does not aim (badum tss) to break any laws outright, but he does at times walk the line to achieve his goals. Oliver greatly believes in the good within man and within America, and his passion leaves everyone he meets affected in some way. Unfortunately, Green Arrow’s passion and focus can cause him to be singleminded at times—leading him to momentarily reject other’s perspectives or to ignore his other responsibilities (like his ward, Roy, whom I will touch upon more later). Despite his faults, though, Green Arrow recognizes his place in opposing social injustice, and I consider his actions to still be heroic, even if Oliver can be a little hotheaded.
Art: Neal Adam’s art is solid, with character’s features having a decent amount of detail. I particularly appreciated the lines and such used to define facial features, and the expressions he drew on the characters really emphasized their feelings and the tones at the times. If I had to criticize the art at some points, I would note that in fight scenes, it would not feel very clear to me whether a character evaded an attack or the attack connected. In one panel, I would think Green Lantern ducked under and dodged a melee attack, for instance, and then he would be dizzy and recovering the next panel, and I would think, “Oh, I guess that hit landed after all.” Perhaps my confusion is my own fault, but I figured I would note it. Regardless, the penciling still looks well-done, and the illustrated emotion really helped O’Neil’s scripts hit home—such as in the scene from the first issue, where an impoverished black man humbles Hal (pictured below).
Final Remarks: I’ll be frank: Green Lantern/Green Arrow: Hard-Traveling Heroes is a solid read. The collection sparks intellectual intrigue and gives readers a sense of the social issues surrounding America around 1970 when these issues were hitting the shelves. As far as the story content goes, the first half (the half that features the road trip with Old Timer) may have had episodic elements but were mostly connected in a sort of arc. Meanwhile, the issues from the second half did not necessarily connect to one another as directly, but they otherwise held great significance. In issue #83, Green Lantern reveals his secret identity to Carol Ferris, and they begin dating. In issues #85-86, Speedy (Roy Harper) is revealed to have become a heroin addict (an affliction he resolves by the end), and his partnership with Green Arrow is severed—an event so significant to Roy’s history that I shall dedicate an entire review on these two issues at a later date to discuss the story and its effects. In issue #87, John Stewart debuts and becomes a substitute Green Lantern. And issue #89 features the (in)famous issue wherein an advocate against air pollution is crucified (with Green Lantern and Green Arrow hung up on crosses next to him), in an allusion to Christian faith. And the Flash backup features are where Oliver Queen decides to run for mayor of Star City. Any comic fan who knows a little something about Green Lantern and Green Arrow would know that these events are majorly important—making the collection worth the purchase for just the historic events alone. When I consider that I have a solid six-issue arc, plus several episodic but historic issues in one binding, I feel that “Hard-Traveling Heroes” is worth spending the “green.”
As an aside, for those with an interest in publication history, the issues collected in this hardcover/paperback edition were also reprinted in 1983-1984 in a miniseries named Green Lantern/Green Arrow. This seven-issue miniseries collected the same stories listed in this review’s introduction—with each issue from the mini being double-sized and collecting two issues at a time (excluding the Flash backup features, which were placed in one issue). The one notable difference, though, is that the miniseries also reprinted issue #88, while this collection replaces #88 with Flash #226. Issue #88 stars Hal Jordan and fellow bearer of the Green Lantern moniker, Alan Scott, rather than co-starring Green Arrow, which I imagine is the probable cause for its exclusion from this modern collection. So, if anyone likes the feel of single-issues but does not want to spend a great deal on the original copies, the miniseries may be worth looking into. Thanks for listening.
Closing: I know I have said a lot about this story, and I hope you have enjoyed what you have read. If you have any thoughts on the comic or on my review, feel free to comment below. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have an amazing day.