By: Jeff Lemire (story), Andrea Sorrentino (art)
The Story: Things are blowing up for Oliver Queen—but not in a good way.
The Review: When Green Arrow first relaunched, it was somewhere near the bottom of the list of new 52 titles I was interested in. J.T. Krul and Dan Jurgens was the creative team at first, and neither had impressed me enough to garner my interest. I checked in when Ann Nocenti took over, having never been exposed to her work before, and was thrown by her off-the-cuff writing style (which continues to bewilder me on Catwoman) and Harvey Tolibao’s bland art.
So you must understand that I jump onto this title with little to no idea what’s been going on for the past year and a half. I have no attachments to anything or anybody in the story. I wouldn’t know if anything written fits in with anything already established. I’m putting my complete confidence into this title based solely on Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s credentials as writer and artist—which is a risk, I understand, but one of the more promising ones.
Even from an outsider’s standpoint, however, I think Lemire’s playing with fire here. Although he’s avoided coming right out and saying so, he’s made it clear his intention is to redirect the series. Translation: wipe the slate clean and start over. And the only way to make that work in the brand new continuity of the new DCU is simply to do away with everything he has no use for, like long-running supporting characters (I’m assuming) Emerson, Jax, and Naomi.
In fact, the issue’s opening pages reveal not only Lemire’s mission statement for his run on the series, but also perhaps his opinion of the work that’s come before him. As Oliver Queen reflects on his life up to this point, he realizes “that it was all a joke. An expensive game… I was Oliver Queen. I was the Green Arrow. But now I’m no one. And the man who had everything is about to die alone.” In other words, this is both a fictional and spiritual rebirth for our hero, allowing Lemire to remake the emerald archer into a whole new image.
Judging by the dialogue running through the issue, Ollie’s previous image wasn’t all that impressive. He endures disappointment and disdain from both his friends (Emerson: “Maybe it will force you to grow up…give you a second chance. A chance to become the man you were supposed to be. A great man.”) and enemies (Komodo: “You have no idea what you could have been, do you?”). I’m not sure I like how direct and pointed these criticisms are; they feel a bit too forced and corny to be entirely convincing. Nevertheless, I appreciate that Ollie’s cockiness gets called out, tested, and utterly defeated at every turn. These aren’t great moments for our hero, but they are necessary if the goal is to strip away the superficial elements of his personality to reach something deeper, more noble and more sincere.
If Lemire wants a more grounded, urban tone to Green Arrow, Sorrentino makes a great artistic companion. Sorrentino’s noir-ish, hatched style immediately conveys street-level storytelling, and he proves surprisingly adept at depicting Ollie in battle. Though his visuals tend to be a little static, they also emphasize how clean, fluid, practiced, elegant, and graceful Ollie’s kind of martial arts can be. Where Sorrentino almost defeats himself is in his erratic, experimental use of colors. His pattern of bleached panels, touched only by single spots of colors, clearly shows that he’s trying some new things and finding ways to make the issue look more hip and modern, but not every attempt works and at times it even distracts from the story. My bet is that Sorrentino will find a happy middle ground in a couple issues, but for now, his work is ambitious, but not entirely successful.
Conclusion: If you’ve been a fan of the title up till now, I suspect you’ll be nonplussed to discover all you’ve invested in has been practically wiped away. If you’re a newcomer, you’ll appreciate the possibilities introduced in the issue, though none ripen here.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Oh, no. Don’t tell me we have to go back to “the Island” again. I would be happy if we never had to refer to that tired origin story ever again.