All Star Section Eight #2: “It’s Not Easy Being Green”
Written by Garth Ennis
Illustrated by John McCrea
Colors by John Kalisz
Letters by Pat Brosseau

Some characters don’t need to be identified with. They don’t need a backstory or sympathetic motivations to be enjoyable as characters. All we need to know about the Joker is he’s a psychotic, murderous clown who just wants to beat Batman, or that Anton Chigurh is a relentless, remorseless killer. We don’t need to understand them for them to be great.

Some characters are best served in small doses. Comic relief characters often serve a role that is necessary when used sparingly, and villains like the two mentioned above are much more effective and terrifying due to their lack of screen time.

Becoming too familiar with certain characters makes them boring; using certain characters more than they’re needed takes away from the effectiveness of their initial purpose.

Section Eight is committing both of those sins, and it makes for a taxing read.

A flashback serves as a cold open, giving us the (unnecessary) origin of the new Dogwelder. It appears he was but a simple family man, browsing a pawn shop’s merchandise, when the mask of Dogwelder beckons him and transforms him. The almost supernatural element of the mask is random at best, and I find the attempt to give him a backstory pointless. All you need to know about the character is right there in the name: he welds dogs. It’s insane, ludicrous, and weirder than weird, but that’s ok. Making him a family man is an attempt at characterization he doesn’t need.

It does at least explain why he’s suddenly a black man instead of a white man, but even then the unexplained nature and ensuing confusion of it was far funnier than whatever it is Ennis is trying to do with the character.

Anyway. As strongly hinted by the cover, the target of Six Pack’s agenda this month is Green Lantern. The team first tries to get his attention by becoming members of the Green Lantern Corps themselves, accomplished by donning GL t-shirts, reciting the Corps Oath, and “fighting a battle” with “Star Sapphire” on a roof.

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It’s actually pretty funny, in a silly way. Guys is made to dress up in a “Star Sapphire” costume (really a discounted pair of very revealing lingerie), which is a pretty good jab at that Corps’ outfits.

This leads to what is weirdly the most interesting part of the book: Bueno Excellente has fallen in love. He follows Guts into the restroom where we discover, shocker of shocks:

Spoiler
Guts is (apparently) a woman. Or at least uses the women’s restroom.

It’s so weird and kind of gross, given Bueno’s powers and Guts being… well, just that, but it’s so bizarre I can’t help but be intrigued.

The climax of the issue, and the part where Green Lantern actually shows up, occurs when Six Pack tries to return the shirts to the shop he bought them from. He argues with the shop owner, and the whole thing culminates in a phone call to Homeland Security that’s… pretty rough, even for the irreverent nature of this book.

While that happens, though, this is going on in the background:

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I want to read that story instead.

Hal Jordan fights this robo-dinosaur whose name can’t be printed, and once he claims victory Six Pack tries to get him to join the team. Like Batman last issue, he acts uncharacteristically whiny and indignant, more frustrated that he would even be considered to stoop so low as to join their team. Unlike Batman, Hal has the personality and charisma of drying paint (mathematically speaking, he’s the 97th most interesting Green Lantern*: a solid six slots ahead of G’nort, but a whopping fifty-eight behind B’dg), so at worst it’s a lateral move.

What made these characters work in the first place was the fact that they were used so sparingly, and their bizarre characteristics were broad enough to make them likable without the necessity of back stories. They only appeared a handful of times in Hitman, but they worked so well because they were these weirdos working behind the much more grounded main characters. Tommy Monaghan is sorely missed, the grounded “straight man” protagonist for the wackier characters to play off of. What little they were used before went a long way, to the point that their last appearance was still incredibly effective. Now, as the stars, most of the good will they’d garnered before has been squandered, which is a shame because I was genuinely looking forward to this book.

Elena, one of the other writers here, equated McCrea’s art to Mad Magazine, and I’ll go a step further and say Ennis’ writing is in that same vein: it reads and looks like a half-baked parody from the comedy magazine, a throwaway gag story that was hastily written to fill a few pages. Considering how well they nailed the tone before, it’s a shame how far the quality has fallen. Here’s hoping for a turnaround next month.

*As we all know the best Green Lanterns are Guy Gardner, Daffy Duck, and Rot Lop Fan the F-Sharp Bell.

Recommended if:

  • You want Dogwelder’s origin.
  • You want to find out a Shocking Secret™ about Guts.
  • You don’t like Green Lantern.

Overall: Other than a few bright spots, it’s more of the same as last month, with the added baggage of unnecessary exposition adding to the rapidly more apparent overexposure.

SCORE: 4.5/10