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

The Story: We have a knight and archer in the same room.  Now where’s the mage?

The Review: I confess that I have a certain amount of cynicism about crossover events in comics, viewing them usually as schemes to capture readers (and their dollars) who wouldn’t read these books otherwise.  The farther spread the crossover, the more suspicious I get, and Zero Year’s infection reaches far, indeed.  Having just read an Action Comics tie-in that was only marginally related to events in Zero Year proper, I wondered if Green Arrow will fare any better.

Lemire gets a leg-up on Action Comics #25 by actually setting his story in Gotham and allowing Ollie to run into the early Dark Knight himself.  True, it’s a little too fortuitous that Ollie’s return from the island coincides exactly with the chaos erupting in Gotham, but it’s a narrative necessity that mostly pays off, so you don’t take too much issue with it.*  At the very least, you get to see some interesting parallels and contrasts between two of DC’s most prominent non-powered superheroes.

The similarities between them are not lost on Ollie, who is slightly chagrined to discover that the news media are obsessed with another billionaire playboy’s return to his troubled city: “I never liked that guy.  Always stealing my headlines.”  It’s an expression of resentment that alludes to how his character has always been overshadowed by his counterpart in Gotham.  No matter what qualities Green Arrow brings to the table, Batman always seems smarter, stronger, richer, better trained, better equipped, and better connected.  So how can Ollie change that perception?

In a lot of ways, he already has, though not entirely by his own efforts.  Current interest in his character is in no small part due to his weekly exposure on Arrow.  The show’s audience may be relatively small by TV standards, but it still represents a couple million or more people who recognize the name of Oliver Queen than before.  That probably explains why Lemire has recently made such efforts to incorporate elements from the show into the comic, first in the appearance of John Diggle, now in the existence of Moira Queen.**

But Moira, while a more competent and charismatic figure here than in the show, is hardly the reason why this issue is a good showcase for her son.  Despite Batman’s presence, Lemire never forgets who his star is, ensuring Ollie gets a chance to bail out the supposedly more powerful hero.  Along the way, he reveals an important difference between the two: one is a soldier, the other a survivor.  For Ollie, crimefighting is not just a noble pursuit, but a coping mechanism:

“Truth is, this is the most alive I’ve felt since that fishing boat hauled me off the island.  I almost feel like I’m back there—only I’m not fighting for my survival anymore…I’m fighting for [my mother’s].”

Ollie’s sojourn in Gotham is relatively straightforward.  The Moth, or Mothman, or whatever the mothy villain calls himself, isn’t exactly the most inspiring antagonist, despite his concentrated air blasts, and aside from the guest shots by Diggle and Moira, there aren’t many long-term takeaways from the issue.  For plotlines with real impact, you’ll have to look to the back-up, which features the early days of Ollie and Diggle’s partnership, interrupted by the arrival of Roy Harper.  Competently and moodily drawn with Denys Cowan’s sketchy, blocky art (Bill Sienkiewicz on inks and Matt Hollingsworth on colors), the story makes good use of the back-up and in fact has more importance to continuity than the main event.

Story-wise, Green Arrow has done pretty well for itself under Lemire’s pen, but I say it’s Sorrentino’s art that has made the series the modern day pulp series that it is.  While his graphic design-inspired layouts have become a crucial element of his appeal (I especially love the integration of action and sound effect, e.g. the silhouette of Batman’s fist punching the Moth in the face against a bold, blocky “SBAM!”), Sorrentino can deliver great effects with simple artistic choices, too.  Take a look at three successively narrow panels showing Diggle’s bullet crunching up against the force of the Moth’s air blasts.  Maiolo has become an expert at interspersing uncolored panels with panels of striking monochromes and soft palettes, all to enhance Sorrentino’s already eye-catching figures.

Conclusion: While the artistic efforts continue to outpace the scripting, Lemire balances the job of keeping his storyline on track, tying into a crossover event, and incorporating elements from the title’s TV counterpart.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Frankly, you’re more curious as to how Batman manages to deal with Riddler and still have time for an impromptu team-up with the future Green Arrow.

** Am I correct in assuming this is Moira’s first appearance in this volume of Green Arrow?  Or was this something from before my coverage of the series.