By: Jeff Lemire (story), Andrea Sorrentino (art), Marcelo Maiolo (colors)
The Story: Kissing the same woman seems like one father-son tradition that can go away.
The Review: As a reviewer, I try not to let little details get to me. A critic’s only as good as his credibility, and he’s not going to have much of that if he should start questioning the accuracy of every minor defect in the story. But I’m only human; I’ve got my pet peeves and “things” like everyone else. One of them is when a character says one thing, but does (or has done) something else which contradicts that—and without any self-awareness about it.
In this case, it’s hard to tell if it’s with irony that Ollie sidles up the pathway to Count Vertigo’s castle in a ridiculous, flapping cloak and robe, only to immediately get confronted by two guards. “Well, so much for the quiet approach,” he remarks. I apologize, but I had an inexplicably difficult time getting over this silliness. The thing that gets me is how he makes absolutely no attempt whatsoever at subtlety. I’m just saying, for someone whose talents take advantage of distance and surprise, Green Arrow embraces direct and close combat a bit too much.
Anyway, once we get over my personal hump on that first page, the non-stop action that follows almost makes up for Ollie’s total lack of infiltration skills. In a remarkable two-page sequence, Ollie pits his quick-draw archery against a whole castle of armed thugs, using only a couple, non-cheesy trick arrows in the process. It’s the kind of adrenaline-rushing pace you’re not accustomed to seeing from Lemire, honestly, but he pulls it off surprisingly well.
What he pulls off less well is the chemistry between Ollie, Fyff, and Naomi. Lemire likely would like nothing better than to portray them as a kind of Mission Impossible unit, but with Fyff and Naomi’s characters barely formed, their camaraderie is a little forced and generic. I also see a problem in the long run with Ollie having two people in support operations. Since Naomi and Fyff essentially serve the same role, they frequently come across like two interns vying for their boss’ approval. This is fine for now, but if they want to be taken seriously, they’ll need to stand on their own beside, not under, Ollie—and soon.*
In the meantime, they provide solid support for Ollie’s somewhat vague mission, which leads him to the first of the two metaphorical dragons he’s seeking. The introduction of Shado comes attached with all sorts of twists, some of them startling for us, all of them uncomfortable for Ollie, who’s quickly discovering his father lived a far racier life than he thought. Many of these revelations would be kind of soapish, frankly (that last one coming right out of an episode of As the World Turns), but they work due to some groundwork Lemire laid down in previous issues.
Shado may have more substance behind her, but Count Vertigo is the one who really makes an impression on you, and that’s all Sorrentino. Even though the count’s design is atrociously bizarre (Why half naked? Why? Why?), the depiction of his powers is an incredible thing just to look at. From his hypnotic first appearance, with scattered panels of a disoriented Ollie and Shado caught in the spinning rings of his power, to his close-and-personal screwing of Ollie’s mind, sending memories and visions erupting out the back of his head like brain matter from a headshot, Vertigo allows Sorrentino to put his creativity on full display. It seems obvious to me, too, that Maiolo should be Sorrentino’s permanent colorist, as he brings a vitality to Sorrentino’s art that doesn’t overwhelm his wispy linework.
Conclusion: It’s taken a while to get here, and we still have a few missteps along the way, but Lemire and Sorrentino have definitely established this series as a solid middleweight title.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * We can sort of see a little more equality in the relationship in the flashback where Ollie and Naomi force Fyff—the only guy in the group with a job, such as it is—to pay for their cab fare—and I’m assuming for their flight and accommodations and sustenance. Kind of an expensive gig for a guy who delivers Chinese.
– I suppose I should mention the emergence of another plotline altogether back in Seattle, where the head honchos of the underworld are considering an intercompany reorganization of sorts. Who are these guys, anyway, and why should we care?