By: Jeff Lemire (story), Andrea Sorrentino (art), Marcelo Maiolo (colors)
The Story: Count Vertigo will be thinking of Evander Holyfield a lot tonight.
The Review: Some years ago, I had aspirations to get into the acting biz. Of course, this was before I realized my face wasn’t suitable for popular entertainment, but I digress. During that blithely optimistic period, I realized all the classes and workshops were real big on the concept of “motivation.” They were always asking what motivated such and such character to do this or that, often repeatedly, with increasing insistence, until you felt motivated to just leave the room.
Obviously, I now realize the question of motivation is not only essential for the art of acting, but for fiction—and real life—as well. The question reminds you that it’s easy enough to see when someone wants something, but it’s much harder to dissect what makes them want it, and it’s this latter point which makes a character (or person) interesting and unique. The more a writer leaves the motivation question to generalities, the less dimensional a story becomes. If you want a textbook example of that problem, look no further than this issue.
How Lemire deluded himself into thinking we care one mite about Fyff’s unrequited feelings for Naomi or her slightly less futile feelings for Oliver, you don’t know. Besides the fact that we all know Fyff and Naomi will, for irony’s sake, end up together anyway, Lemire has spent almost no time developing either of them as characters in their own rights and he hasn’t given either of them good reason for their respective crushes beyond proximity.
And that’s just the most obvious instance of weak motivation. Shado’s entire backstory is so loaded that it at least has some allure, but Lemire doesn’t do much of a better job developing her, quite frankly. The problem is part content, or lack thereof (to explain the entire core of her goals, both before and after meeting Ollie’s dad, she says vaguely, “The yakuza had…they had left their mark on me.”), and part execution. Rambling monologues are perhaps the least interesting way to get exposition across, and the fact that Shado chooses to deliver hers on a freezing mountaintop while they’re trying to flee the country just seems silly.
Anyway, Shado never gives a very satisfactory explanation of what drew her and Robert Queen together (which doesn’t exactly help her rejection of the implication that she’s some “whore”*), but then Ollie never offers much support for the declaration that his father loved his mother. A lot of the characters operate on this same thin foundation: Lacroix turns traitor because that’s what second bananas do; the Outsiders become corrupt as all groups of influence wind up eventually; Vertigo turns out to be just another villain-for-hire with delusions of grandeur; and before you even know what kind of dirty business Seattle’s three crime bosses are in, they’re already in the midst of getting dethroned. None of these developments are necessarily illogical or pointless, but they don’t break away from old formulas either.
While Lemire seems to be coasting, even regressing, as a writer on this series, Sorrentino has used Green Arrow to drive his artistic stylings to new, remarkable heights. While you may never enjoy his mousy depictions of the characters—do they all have hair of colored straw?—his storytelling skills have grown sharp enough to verge on cutting edge. While the text of Shado’s flashback sequence is bland and dry, its imagery is slick, modern, and engaging. I love Sorrentino’s integration of sound effects and visuals, the way his silhouettes appear as white shadows against the blocky letters, like negatives on a film strip. Maiolo’s bold juxtaposition of colors—chilly blues against halcyon golds, striking reds on electric greens—add to the issue’s sharp visual appeal, like the coolest spy movie poster out of the sixties.
Conclusion: Not nearly enough groundwork to make the issue’s advances as effective as they should be, but you do get some spectacular art out of it.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Lemire sure is enjoying the word “whore” in this issue. Or at least Shado is. Just saying.