Green Lantern/Huckleberry Hound Special #1 – Mark Russell, JM DeMatteis, Writers; Rick Leonardi, Penciller; Dan Green, Ande Parks, Inkers; Tom Mandrake, Backup Artist; Steve Buccellato, Hi-Fi, Colorists
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Finally, a Green Lantern Story Starring John Stewart
Ray: Mark Russell has always been an effective political satirist, and in some ways, he’s a much better satirist than he is a storyteller. Many of his works get their point across without delivering a satisfying narrative. Now, he returns to arguably his most successful work, The Snagglepuss Chronicles, with a tale set during the Vietnam War and teaming new Green Lantern John Stewart with the young son of Huckleberry Hound, now an adult and struggling comedian.
The issue is, out of all the Hanna-Barbera crossovers in this wave, this one is barely a crossover at all. It’s a John Stewart story that just happens to have a talking dog in it occasionally. And as a John Stewart story, it’s pretty good. It picks up with John in training with his commanding officer and future wife, Katma Tui. After a clever test involving a giant bee, she sends him back to Earth to complete his final challenge – to abstain from using his ring until told otherwise. But that becomes very difficult when he sees just how little has changed on Earth – both in terms of racism in Detroit and the deteriorating situation in Vietnam.
That’s where he meets Huckleberry, a struggling comedian who has been blacklisted just like his father – in his case, for mocking Nixon at a USO show in the issue’s funniest segments. The two bond over their drinks, with John telling the story of how his Vietnam-veteran brother was immediately beaten to death by racist cops the day after he came home from war. Russell’s depiction of police brutality is hard to read, and while it certainly lacks subtlety it’s also extremely effective in getting across the horror of the situation. When a new wave of police violence explodes in Detroit, John is forced to decide whether to risk his ring by defying orders. The issue ends with John and Huckleberry meeting again a year later as Nixon’s presidency falls, with another surprise Russell callback. Overall, it’s an effective story, but not a particularly effective crossover. The backup, the second part of the Secret Squirrel story, reveals the true big bad of this arc and delivers a fun last-page twist. This backup is really embracing the weird science vibe of the original cartoon.
Corrina: It’s about time readers had a story starring John Stewart, the most well-known Green Lantern due to the success of the Justice League animated series. He’s far too often pushed into the background in the regular Green Lantern books and tends to exist as a second fiddle to Hal Jordan.
That is not the case here, with the only other Lantern to appear being Katma Tui.
While this story is a fine one, focusing on John’s early days and an emotional denunciation of systemic racism, it also made me angry in another way: why only in a one-shot cartoon crossover do we have a spotlight on John? And why has Katma, of all the Lanterns, remained dead and gone? This issue shows the potential in a John GL story and even in a pair of Green Lanterns fighting galactic crime together.
It also shows the potential in having a black character who is also veteran dealing with systemic racism. (For that matter, it would have been nice to see Simon Baz and John Stewart interact more than just passing in the GL book, as Simon has had similar questions about his role in his hometown as John did in this story.)
Bottom line, if you’re looking for stories about John, pick this up.
(Oh, and Huckleberry Hound is in this. His part is decent but, as Ray said, this isn’t his story.)
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.