When I started reading comics, I began with concepts of characters, gleaned from years of multimedia tie-ins and the strange, scattered trivia I’d picked up over the years. The Flash was a hero who had time for you, Plastic Man was Disney’s Genie in spandex, Hawkman was a simple berserker. These core concepts were sometimes wrong and sometimes right, but, to me, Black Canary was the world’s greatest martial artist and Green Arrow was the liberal mouthpiece who’s obnoxious right up until he’s essential. Based on next to nothing, I loved them as a couple.
When I started reading comics, I began to pick up some ‘fan truths’ about the comics that didn’t necessarily change the concepts I held, but determined which ones got fed with canon and which did not. Unfortunately, at that time, one of those truths I picked up from fans was ‘stay away from Green Arrow’s books’ and, despite some fond memories of old runs and an occasional attempt to jump on, until this day I haven’t followed a Green Arrow comic for more than a few months at a time.
So whether it’s because I’ve kind of longed for one, or whether it’s because I’ve not connected with a main continuity Green Arrow before, this issue felt worthy of the name “Rebirth”.
Though they’re often most important when we start our comic journeys, we all hold ideas about what a character’s core mythos is and Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 hits all of those boxes for me when it comes to its lead. We’ve all missed that goatee dearly, but with its return seemingly comes a sincerity and maturity that the character has lacked. Oliver Queen still feels young and fiery, but its a fire that I know and have known in others, rather than the anger of an old man or the entitlement of a young, privileged one.
To be honest with you I wasn’t originally going to buy this book. It intrigued, but DC is putting out so many books that some of them have to fall by the wayside. However, one line hooked me. “How can you fight the man if you are the man?” It’s a great question, one that is central to Green Arrow’s character. Hearing that Benjamin Percy would be examining that from day one was thrilling. But, what’s even better is that it doesn’t stop there. Green Arrow has been a wonderfully flawed character ever since “Snowbirds Don’t Fly”, but rather than beat us over the head with Oliver Queen’s problems, Percy shows us someone we can actually relate to, actually aspire to. This Green Arrow may not have all the answers, but he’s fighting the best he can to make the world a better place and he seems like a genuinely good guy.
I think Percy has his finger on exactly what Green Arrow needs as a franchise
It’s also great to see this series putting a focus on Black Canary as well. While I have mixed feelings about seeing the classic pairing forced back together at a somewhat unnatural pace, you can’t say that Percy doesn’t do a good job of showing why they work as a duo. Even more importantly, Black Canary is every bit the hero that Green Arrow is, if not more. It seems like no coincidence that flipping from Green Arrow’s triumphant title page reveal immediately replaces it with a full page spread of Dinah.
The issue manages to establish both heroes, introduce a threat for them, and give a sense of what the series will be going forward.
There are a few nitpicks. The villains are a strange mashup of familiar tropes that the story kind of just drops on you and prays you won’t question them. It occasionally does feel like Percy is having trouble keeping Ollie as the main character without reminding the reader. And one moment, possibly devised to avoid that very problem, seems to reveal that Ollie is oblivious to a massive part of the Seattle underground.
These shortcuts don’t stand up to scrutiny as well as they ought, but they’re relatively minor, and, all in all, it’s an impressively complete twenty page story. Not only that, but the dialogue is rather nice. Not in a way that will win it awards or anything, but it’s just quietly and consistently natural and engaging. I especially love the use of Ollie’s anger, both in how it’s presented and in how rarely he feels the need to let it out.
I mentioned the line that hooked me earlier in the review. That may be true, but it was the art that reeled me in. Otto Schmidt’s sleek, flat aesthetic gives this series a sense of identity. Green Arrow has needed that. And it’s not just that the franchise has broken free of the generic house style of the New 52, it’s that this specific look is both wonderful aesthetically and wonderful for the franchise.
Green Arrow may have started as a blatant Batman rip-off but he’s developed his own identity. He’s perhaps DC’s most prominent west coast superhero and he lives at the crossroads of the decency we’ve lost and the future we could have. The pulsating hum of Seattle’s energy is present in Schmidt’s artwork and assures us that this is where Green Arrow belongs.
The use of color is also superb, additionally impressive, given Schmidt’s double-duty as artist/colorist. Color is an obvious element of Green Arrow and, while there’s a logical argument for a deeper forest green on the Emerald Archer, there’s no denying that the cooler, almost electric shade that Schmidt has chosen is more visually appealing than most looks going back to the character’s inception.
That same vitality is present in the backdrops and lighting, especially as Ollie seems fond of green flare arrows as a sort of visual trademark. It’s also makes the end of the issue feel particularly special. The story takes place over a single evening in the shadows and light pollution of a major city. Even in Ollie’s apartment, his decor assures that there’s a green tinge to much of the action. To finally step into the light of a west coast sunrise provides one last visual kick to the issue and leaves you thinking about Schmidt’s skill as a colorist.
Just as with the costume, the art style eschews the realism of Arrow and “The Longbow Hunters” in favor of a more malleable, exaggerated look. I really love how Schmidt uses this cartoony embellishment to convey truth and reality. You’ll rarely see people who look anything like what Schmidt draws here, but you know instantly what his figures would look like in real life.
One of the few consistent criticisms I have is that I’m not at all fond of Black Canary’s nose. It’s so small that it frequently distorts her features. It’s an odd distraction in an issue full of a multitude of different kinds of beauty, though I admit, it is nice to see a superheroine drawn with a unique profile.
But even that’s hard to complain about when Dinah looks so great in all other respects. Not to mention how awesome her canary cry looks here. It’s a beautiful visual that suggests we’ll be seeing more clever stylistic flair in Schmidt’s further renderings of this wild, reborn DC Universe.
- I actually liked Ollie’s hobo beard better…
I had barely heard anything about Benjamin Percy or Otto Schmidt before Wednesday, but that’s just another way that Green Arrow Rebirth is a most welcome surprise. The art will floor you and the dialogue and character is spot on, bringing one - debatably two - of DC’s oldest characters back to their roots and closer to their potential. Though it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, this issue has heart and craftsmanship from front cover to back, delivering a textbook example of how to launch a series in record time. I’m so glad I gave this one a try, and I imagine there are plenty of you who will feel the same, whether you’re jaded old fans looking for a taste of something fun again or rowdy Social Justice Warriors looking for heroes who aren’t afraid to side with the downtrodden. Classic DC wonder and modern groundedness, the actual quality instead of the meaningless buzzword, collide here. If this is what DC means by a Rebirth, they may just deliver.