Green Arrow has absolutely been the breakout hit of DC Rebirth. Bringing the character back in line with the best of his history while extending an arm to fans of Arrow and demonstrating how Rebirth is not at all a reboot, this series has been everything that DC could have hoped for. Part of that success can be laid at Benjamin Percy’s understanding of Ollie’s character and ability to synthesize the best and worst of Green Arrow, but you can’t deny that a huge debt is owed to Otto Schmidt’s gorgeous artwork.
With issue #3, we turn a corner on Percy’s story and see the series, for the first time, through eyes other than Schmidt’s. It’s a crucible for a title that seemed too good to be true, but, despite the odds, Green Arrow is still a gripping read.
No issue of Green Arrow has quite lived up to the Rebirth issue that introduced us to this iteration of the series. None have been so tightly plotted or as free from obvious dialogue, and this one doesn’t break that chain, however, it is stronger than its predecessors in this regard and manages to keep its excesses in check even as it steers the story into new waters.
The big win this time is that Percy wisely gives us facetime with some very fallible and enjoyable villains. It’s a trend in recent comics to present villains almost as ideas, the very concept of a scheme, executed perfectly, using spherical mcguffins in a vacuum. The appeal is clear, you get to bring them out for heart-stopping surprises and breathtaking monologues while keeping the focus on your hero’s struggle, building tension, and avoiding the less interesting fluff required to create a fully fleshed out character. Even the greats do it, but, with an utterly new cadre of villains and a long history of Green Arrow plagiarism, Percy opts against the trend and pulls the curtain back on the numerous characters connected to the Ninth Circle.
The Ninth Circle seems to change from scene to scene, fluctuating between masked cabal, human trafficking morlocks, and out and out supervillains over the course of the issue and at different levels of the organization, but the appeal of Green Arrow taking on superbankers with a dash of Dante’s Inferno for flavor is very tempting. Placing some of the action outside the US allows Percy to tie in some B-plot and give the tale a sense of scope as well as continue to establish that Oliver Queen isn’t the only hero around.
The weakest element of the Ninth Circle is its leader, Dante. With his banker puns and over the top appearance, he’s much more campy than the rest of the organization. Nevertheless, like many of the weaknesses of this book, it still kind of works. While he’s a little too horrific, he’s still horrifying in his thinking, and I mean that in a good way.
As for our heroes, things are good. Emiko Queen is used to good effect, Green Arrow himself remains equal parts inspirational and flawed, and Black Canary gets. $#!%. Done. Dinah’s still a little too broken for my tastes, I’d like to see her a little less raw and reactionary. But, while it may not be to my taste, he still writes her well, with determination and brains.
It’s also cool to see Percy giving us some spy game action near the start of the issue, which also serves as an opportunity to reiterate how Ollie sees the world and the complicated relationship that this liberal billionaire has with money.
Juan Ferreyra is unlucky to follow Otto Schmidt. I don’t know if I’m notably more taken with Schmidt’s artwork than most, but I know that it has been a fantastic addition to this series. Under normal circumstances, it would be Ferreyra who would be the draw, and that’s not really fair to Ferreyra, who does some truly beautiful things this week.
Ferreyra’s art is considered and painterly. Movement is clear and compositions direct attention nicely. The real problem with it for me is that it has an almost waxy quality that occasionally puts it into the uncanny valley, but, to be fair, that’s only possible because the base quality of the art is so high.
This issue appears mostly around Green Arrow himself, but several other characters have no such problems. Black Canary looks fantastic, her costume beautifully rendered and her hair taking full advantage of Ferreyra’s skill for detail. It’s also clear why Ferreyra was chosen to illustrate this issue, because his take on the Ninth Circle and the Underground Men is incredible. The realism of Ferreyra’s style may go over the top when it comes to Dante, but his minions look absolutely fantastic.
And that leads to what I love best about Ferreyra’s art, his use of contrasting color. To be honest, the colors of Green Arrow have been a huge part of its success. Schmidt’s smooth greens and bright oranges have contributed significantly to the series’ identity, but now that the Ninth Circle has come to the fore, we’re blessed to have Ferreyra’s color sense. The fiery backgrounds that he imbues Seattle with give this issue an intense punch and the use of reds and purples is astonishing.
Without taking anything away from Ferreyra, this speaks volumes about what Percy and editors Andy Khouri and Harvey Richards are doing with this title. The art is obviously a priority and the look that they’re aiming for is stylish and gorgeous. It instills immense confidence to see this kind of attention paid to artwork on the editorial side.
Revealing and personalizing the threat helps to avoid some of the familiarity of the last issue while Percy’s writing remains strong and manages to dodge some of the minor pitfalls demonstrated by previous issues. Juan Ferreyra continues a trend of gorgeous artwork and breathtaking color. Some elements feel excessive or a little too insistent, but when weaknesses appear, they’re less likely to be out and out sins than creative decisions that you can appreciate even if you don’t agree. In short, three issues in, Green Arrow remains a shining star of DC Rebirth and looks to remain that way.