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To QUOTE Jeremy Clarkson: “What could possibly go wrong?”
Green Arrow has had a rough life. I'm not just talking about Oliver Queen's current continuity. The guy gets turned down by the Justice League, loses his company, lives on the paychecks from the short lived and ill-conceived Justice League of America built to bring the Justice League down, then gets roped into the self-proclaimed Justice League United, only to get whisked off to outer space and picked on for having no powers. I'm also talking about the concept of Green Arrow. Despite being just over a year away from his 75th anniversary, the character spent his first quarter century as a back-up story unable to escape his origins as a green imitation of Batman. It wasn't until fifteen years after Neal Adams and Denny O'Neil's 1969 character-distinguishing makeover that Oliver finally got his own solo series.
The most recent indignity, though, is that in our post-Flashpoint continuity, poor Oliver was just handed off to his ninth creative team (for last month's issue 41) in less than four years. It's been a roller coaster of tone, style, and, frankly, quality. Our most recent team's run was short-lived by some standards, but the second longest for this title. “The Kingdom” story arc, from the Arrow TV series Executive Producer Andrew Kreisberg and writer room token Canadian Ben Sokolowski (with artist Daniel Sampere), has come to a close.
The reins of our Emerald Archer have been handed to novelist and short story writer, Benjamin Percy, in what I believe is his first comic tale. Handing a 75 year old comic book character who lives in a major metropolitan city to a guy who's best known for writing action and horror thrillers set in rural
might sound like a terrible idea on
paper. Yet somehow he is killing
it. Two issues in, I've seen nothing but
greatness. Jeff Lemire needs to be
credited with saving the post-Flashpoint Green Arrow from the abyss, but
Benjamin Percy looks to be poised to elevate the character and create a truly
amazing story that stands out among all modern comic books. Oregon
Let's see how he does.
Percy is joined by Patrick Zircher, who has done art for all manner of characters with DC, Marvel, and smaller publishers. He most recently did the pencils and covers for the first six issues of Valiant's most recent Shadowman run (plus a couple of extra covers) and worked on several issues of DC's Future's End possible-future apocalypse. Gabe Eltaeb, who did the colors for Kreisberg and Sokolowski's run, is still around, along with our letterer Rob Leigh. Together, the art team has created a beautiful, creepy, and disturbing image of
that both fits the chilling story perfectly, and is the most accurate
representation of the
we've seen in this comic. (Save for
Oliver's little beach run north of the waterfront, which in “real world” Emerald City would be paved paths through Myrtle
Edwards Park). Seattle
With all the different creative teams on this title, one of the nice things is that they have all, for the most part, respected the continuity set by their predecessors. So we've got one long arc of Oliver's growth, the destruction of his company, his interactions with other heroes, and the building of his support team. There are some conflicts, like the backstory with Roy Harper that Jeff Lemire built which didn't quite match Judd Winnick's issue 0 origins and was later contradicted over in Red Hood and the Outlaws. Kreisberg and Sokolowski couldn't keep track of where they sent Naomi and Fyff off to from issue to issue (let alone the fact that Oliver had broken up with Zehra). And there's that whole Jin Fang / Jin Fung thing. But aside from the disappearance of prior creators' set-ups that didn't really need to continue, we've been rolling pretty smoothly.
Until now. When Kreisberg and Sokolowski came in, they made some changes to suit the story they wanted, but they did so in-story. Emiko was sent off “to train” while Naomi and Henry had varying explanations as to why they weren't around based on which issue / character explanation you prefer. The Clock King had changed races, grown hair, and dropped at least a hundred pounds. The charity Oliver built with the Queen Industries insurance money was not just a single homeless youth shelter, but the Queen Foundation. And despite its destruction thanks to Lacroix's takeover and manipulation, apparently there are still "billions of dollars tucked away in Queen Industries that are collecting more dustballs than interest."
But Kreisberg and Sokolowski also left us with a setup that had Mia Deardon moving in with Oliver, and both John Diggle and the hacker-for-hire second-hand adaptation version of Felicity Smoak on to stay (despite Naomi's return as Red Dart) as the new Team Arrow. With Percy's start, however, all of that is gone. The Queen Foundation is unseen and Queen Industries is back in full swing, with a man named Broderick as apparent COO. Diggle, Felicity, and Mia are all gone and unaccounted for. Fyff looks to be back to delivering Chinese food (or at least working above a Chinese restaurant) but instead of the New Dragon, it's the
Either way, he seems to be fully healed and happy to help Oliver. There's no sign of Naomi yet, but Emiko is
back in Dragon Palace , legally under Oliver's guardianship and
enrolled in high school. And their condo
has a much more “rich guy in the Seattle Pacific Northwest” feel to it than any prior lodgings
Despite all these continuity headaches, though, I'm not minding it at all. Percy and Zircher have restored the best parts of this series, even if they haven't explained it story-wise. As with many of the series that survived the “New 52” to “DC You” transition, there's been a multiple month gap in the story. (In fact, one might interpret the restoration of Queen Industries and Emiko apparently aging beyond her established backstory lifespan, as possible years passing in continuity.) So the fact that we've got these characters back is, to me, a great thing. The changes are easily accepted as having happened in the interim, and if Percy or later writers want to make reference to exactly what happened, it's a blank slate.
Plus, there's that key social conscience of Green Arrow that looks to be getting restored. Ann Nocenti started to introduce it during her run way back in issue 11, but then completely dropped it with Jin Fang's takeover and the ridiculous ancient Chinese zombie stuff. Jeff Lemire set some of the foundations by shifting the Jin Fang takeover into the Komodo / Outsiders takeover and destroying the company, leaving Oliver bankrupt and relying on his A.R.G.U.S. paycheck to operate. However, when we came out the other side of The Outsiders War and Broken, the lessons were all about Oliver learning more about who he is and that he doesn't need to go it alone. It looks like Oliver has left the JLU due to his frustrations with dealing with intergalactic threats in order to focus on change on a scale he is more comfortable with. Percy gives him a great inner monologue as he heads out to
to reflect upon why he's focusing on the Pennytown neighborhood that's
been ignored. Tacoma
The only problems I had with this issue were pretty minor. There's the whole believability thing about the
police department approving the
Panopticon program in the first place.
But that can get a pass... “because comics”. There's the footnote that references Seattle Gotham's consideration of the plan in Batman 41, but Scott Snyder included no
such mention. And there's the fact that
they were stealing people off the streets in the prior issue before getting the Queen Industries
funding and Zimm giving the albino creep a thumbs up for production, but that
is likely part of the mystery of their full operation to be revealed next
The timeline of the issue draws in to question some of Oliver's time management skills, or lack thereof. Everything appears to be happening in sequential order without significant time passing in between. Yet we open with Emiko's clock reading 7:16, presumably AM, meaning Oliver was either out really late busting up that dogfight or he carried George around for quite a while before heading home to stitch him up. We then see a series of daylight activities, such as the homeless kid stealing a hamburger, Oliver's call to Broderick, and the dusk arrival of the panopticons at the Pennytown protest. It is then dark by the time Oliver heads out to Tacoma, meaning he and Emiko spent all day watching the news and patching up George.
But all these minor problems are dwarfed by the great story we're getting. It's been a while since a “superhero” (yes, I know, Green Arrow has no super powers) took on such a serious type of story, and it's great to bring that gravitas to a character like Green Arrow.
This is a very promising start for this new team, giving us a story that feels like it matters, a villain that is terrifyingly creepy in an all too realistic way, and a hero that is realizing his faults and working to correct them. We don't have any obvious headquarters for “Team Arrow”, but we've got his old costume visible hanging in his condo base, and Fyff back in his little geek den (complete with Superman bobblehead). These were a great first two issues and a very promising direction.
I love the little background details that artists (sometimes as per the writer's script) work in to comics. There's the references to in-universe details from other comics, such as Black Alice's Draculords shirt in Secret Six, Henry Fyff's Animal Man t-shirt from his early days on Team Arrow, Onyx loading up the Fist Clan's devastation on a ship named Mary Stewart, or the Black Canary posters and fliers popping up in the streets of Gotham City, John Constantine's (abandoned) New York apartment, and, yes, even Emiko Queen's bedroom. Then there's the real world references, like Harper Row's “No, it's Becky” t-shirt from the end of Batman Eternal, Joey's Punk Rock Jesus t-shirt and poster in Nightwing, or the recent Justice League of America indication that the Marvel cinematic universe exists as films within the DC Universe.
But Zircher got a little meta on us recently. Since I can't get you a Black Canary song onYouTube for this issue, I'm going to have to hop back to a great detail he added in the prior issue. In Green Arrow 41 we see Henry Fyff hanging out in his WarRock t-shirt. Which means that your favorite comic book character is a fan of Adam WarRock, a nerdcore rapper who's very heavy handed with the comic book references. (Which I'm pretty sure requires Adam to record a Henry Fyff song).
We'll go with Adam's relatively recent Purple Yellow, his tribute to Batgirl. Since it's Batgirl's fault that Black Canary had to join a band and thus is really the reason that Oliver Queen's half sister has a poster on her wall of Oliver's one true love from a prior reality. So it all comes full circle and is totally relevant, see?
This issue's comparison is more a comparison of the methods of the villain than a comparison to the issue itself. There have been many ominous floating robots of tyrannical justice throughout history, but the one I'm going to compare to the panopticons in this story is the Micro Managers from The LEGO Movie. Only, where Lord Business used his justice robots to prepare the citizenry for the Kragle, Zimm uses his justice robots to allow an insane albino to douse them in bleach and drop them out of the sky. They should make an official LEGO set for this story arc. The kids'll love it.
Morton Weisinger and George Papp gave Oliver Queen life. Neal Adams and Denny O'Neil gave him a Van Dyke beard, a social conscience, a superhero girlfriend, and a junkie sidekick. Mike Grell isolated him from the superhero community and gave him a murderous side, a child by rape, and took away his girlfriend. J.T. Krul and his successors gave the post-Flashpoint Oliver Queen a new, younger start. Ann Nocenti had him start to realize it's not all fun and games before Jeff Lemire truly gave Oliver Queen some unique gravitas of his own. Percy appears to be giving Oliver something he hasn't had in a while, though; some borderline real-life challenges of the big city. Police profiling, socioeconomic preferences, and apparent racially motivated criminals. We've got an Oliver motivated to help the little guy again.
Man, I haven't made enough jokes in this review, have I? Stupid serious topics and awesome creative teams. What big reveal should we be looking forward to next?
- The albino is, in fact, G.I. Zombie on a super-secret-undercover mission.
- Mia Deardon is actually living with Ollie and Emi, but she stays in the cabinets so as not to anger Emiko.
- Emiko tricks Fyff and Naomi in to going on a blind date with one another.
- Oliver contemplates why he hasn't been to Star City since he got back from the island.
- George starts talking to Emiko, introducing himself as J'onn.