GREEN ARROW #21

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

The Story: Ollie gets roofied by Magus and has visions of life on a tropical island—not the good kind.

The Review: In a society where our media increasingly places value in directness, I appreciate the virtue of subtlety more and more all the time.  In fiction especially I think writers can afford to be a little less direct.  There’s hardly a point to following a character arc or exploring a theme if the writer’s just going to straight out tell you what they are.  That just takes all the fun out of analyzing and debating these things for yourself.

So if there’s one crippling flaw to Lemire’s approach to Green Arrow, it’s not only making it clear that the story is about Ollie’s fall and rise, but reminding us constantly in every issue.  Look, I get it; Ollie used to have it all, then he lost it, now he has to rebuild himself, yadda, yadda, yadda—but enough of the self-hating monologues.  It’s gotten so old by this point that if Ollie was a real person, you’d be telling him to just start getting his act together instead of repeatedly bemoaning, “I was also Green Arrow.  A superhero—whatever that means anymore.  Just a rich boy’s pathetic attempt at doing something important.  Something meaningful.”*

Other than that, Lemire has shaped up nicely on this series, finally giving us some much needed information on where exactly it will lead us.  There’s been a lot of references to the Outsiders and the importance of the Island and arrows, but now we start to understand their interrelation.  Through Ollie’s psychedelic vision (prompted by Magus), Lemire nicely avoids the drag of a long, burdensome spiel of exposition in favor of an actual scene of the past.  In one go, we learn about the structure of the Outsiders (“Seven houses.  Seven clans.  All formed around a totem weapon.”), the “origin” of Komodo, and the connection to the Queens and Ollie in particular.

Lemire’s also careful to reveal enough to satisfactorily reward us for investing in his shaky first arc, but also leave plenty of things still open to mystery.  Do the seven weapon clans of the Outsiders (e.g., the Arrow Clan) bear a relationship to the Sword Clan seen in the pages of KatanaWhat does Magus mean when he says there’s a seventh clan “long ago lost and forgotten”?  Why do the Outsiders need to be brought down anyway?  What is this “enlightenment” one gets when one attains one of the ancient totem weapons, and is it legitimate?  After all, John Butcher of the Axe Clan seems to mock the idea: “Yup.  I’m all enlightened and stuff.”

So Ollie’s larger quest in this series (aside from reconstructing himself, that is) will be to seek out his birthright—and maybe get some enlightenment along the way.  But the purpose of his next story arc will be to find the second of three “dragons” which appeared in his vision, in order to…actually Lemire doesn’t tell us how this second “dragon” will help Ollie in any of his missions, although it’s hinted that it will eventually lead him to the Outsiders.

Sorrentino has definitely proven his chops at the gritty, urban side of comics, but with Ollie’s spirit vision making up the bulk of the issue, Sorrentino gets to temporarily return to the freaky, supernatural stuff he started out with on I, Vampire.  Clearly, this is the kind of material he likes best, as his layouts are far more ambitious than anything he’s done on the series so far: a double-page bird’s eye view of the Island, panels of Ollie falling from the sky into a sea of blood and emerging upside-down from the waters around the isle.  Maiolo takes such a light hand to his colors that they look almost like watercolors, which is perfect for Sorrentino’s delicate linework.

Conclusion: Lemire had a rocky start on this series, and even now its future is a little uncertain, but remarkably enough, he and Sorrentino have managed to bring us to a point where we can enjoy what we’re reading and look forward to the next issue.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Some of these opening self-reflections copy and paste lines all the way back from Lemire’s debut on this series: “But I can see now that it was all a joke.  An expensive game.”

– Vlatava, the tiny, fictional, Eastern European country that Ollie’s headed to next, may be inspired in part by the Vltava, a river in the Czech Republic.

Grade

Conclusion