By: Jeff Lemire (story), Andrea Sorrentino (art), Marcelo Maiolo (colors)

The Story: It’s hard to hold your breath in a graveyard when you have to fend off an assassin.

The Review: I love seeing gradual improvement in a comic book—heck, in anything.  In a world where good things tend to get worse as time goes on (How I Met Your Mother springs quickly to mind),* anytime anything actually gets better, no matter how minimally, is worth some kind of praise.  Lemire’s Green Arrow definitely had a rocky start, but in the last couple issues, his story has slowly taken shape and gotten more confident.

The one thing Lemire really has to get rid of are these morose monologues of Ollie’s: “I could just let myself become that shallow, pampered, rich kid I always pretended to be.  Just give up.  But I don’t.  I keep walking.  Because I know now I’m not that man.  I’m meant to be something more.”  Even if they make sense in context of Ollie’s story of personal growth, they just feel self-serving, almost like a backdoor brag.  If he’s really someone worth investing in, then we should see it in his actions; we don’t need him to reassure us about it.

Fortunately, we do get to see his worth in this issue as he faces off against Komodo for the third time (which, as they say, is the charm) and quite decisively prevails.  It’s not all luck and instinct, either, although both play a part in the victory. “[M]ostly I’m just plain tired of getting my ass handed to me,” he says, and it shows.  Before, we’ve seen him mostly coasting on his skills and cockiness; this time, he really has his spirit in the fight.

As it turns out, Komodo has plenty of reason to go all out as well.  It’s surprising to discover that he’s still an outsider from the Outsiders, a wannabe whose membership depends on Ollie’s elimination.  Now his scorn for Ollie makes more sense; there’s some insecurity behind that condescending demeanor.  All his previous insults about Green Arrow being an incompetent joke was really him overcompensating for his own tenuous position with the Outsiders.

While it’s still unclear what this group really wants, they do express their venom against Ollie in calling him a “false Arrow.”  There’s some kind of importance in the weapon itself; that much is obvious.  How this connects to Ollie’s dad, his relationship to Komodo, Magus, and the other Outsiders (“Golgotha,” “the Bear”) remains a mystery, but with enough shape to be intriguing.

Since Lemire seems so committed to putting Ollie through this trial in the Arizona desert by himself, it makes you wonder what the supporting cast, small as it is, will do in the meantime.  Having both Fyff and Naomi backing our hero as technical support seems a bit like overkill, and personality-wise, it’s unclear what each brings to the table.  Their courage and dedication to Ollie seem more the result of narrative necessity than something he earned, but at least they add some extra zip to the series.  Having a stalker and stalkee work together will do that.

While Lemire is only just starting to find his voice on this series, Sorrentino has been getting into its groove for a couple issues now.  I still find myself distracted by the wispy-haired sameness of most of his characters, but otherwise he’s really gotten a feel for their movements and body language, making the action look cooler and striking than ever.  A lot of that has to do with Maiolo, who employs the “bleach” effect very tastefully, and gives some actual tone to Sorrentino’s somewhat flat style of figure.  Between the two, you get some standout imagery in this issue, my favorite being a ground-up shot of Arrow leaping down on Komodo from the top of a mausoleum, with rain sheeting against him while lightning crackles in the sky above.

Conclusion: Well, how about that?  An issue that I quite enjoyed.  Though there are still some shortcomings to iron out, Lemire seems poised to do just that.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * For anyone else who watches the show, how exhausted are you over seeing the Ted-and-Robin thing for the umpteenth time?

– I’m not sure I appreciate Naomi’s shrill tone as Fyff tries to figure out how to disarm the bomb at the back of her head.  I’m pretty sure I’d be going, “You know what?  No judging.  You’re as screwed as I am if this fails.”