GREEN ARROW 45

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[ SHOOTING FOR A SALE ] 
It's October, 2015, and in my opinion, one of the most wonderful times of the year. It's a time when the leaves turn, television is full of horror movies and pumpkin carving contests, the air gets crisp, the days get shorter, and the spooky side of DC Comics gets to come out and play. Benjamin Percy, Patrick Zircher, and Federico Dallocchio don't even have a title in the book-group-formerly-known-as-the-Dark, but they are bringing some awesome supernatural creepiness to Green Arrow.

TO QUOTE Harry Belafonte: “I drag me belt from off me waist / You should hear them screaming round the place”.

THE REVIEW:
In just a few issues George has full-on become 'Ollie's dog'. Oliver has moved on from caretaker of the injured to a protective magic dog owner, and now he will fight any rag-tag gang of creepy-ass Bone Collectors who try and take his dog away. Good thing is, he always wears his Green Arrow jumpsuit under his flannel when out on a rainy date. And that belt with the Green Arrow buckle, ka-pow, that sucker sure comes in handy.
In his little monologue boxes, Oliver Queen is a deeply introspective, intelligent, and profound man, bordering on philosopher. When he opens his mouth, however, he's a stereotypical millionaire (he's not a billionaire anymore, right?) playboy, bordering on frat boy. Frankly, this is the most brilliantly written version of Oliver Queen I've ever read. Here's to hoping Benjamin Percy has a long and respected reign on this title.

Alright, I must admit, I am a bit biased. So if you're not in to non-powered vigilantes, with no superheroes on speed dial, but maybe a touch of the supernatural, then, well, this isn't your book. But if you like your comics rooted in a bit of realism with the occasional jaunt in to the otherworldly, then you're probably enjoying this story-arc as much as I am.

Half of our art team was swapped out this month, but the Zircher and Dallocchio combo have kept the tone set when Zircher worked with Fiorentino, which works as well in the dreary, rainy streets of Seattle, as it does on the desolate highway of southern New Mexico. Gabe Eltaeb even added some stylized color panels to the fight scenes at the beginning that echoed back to the style of Marcello Maioli, who colored Mister Queen's adventures back during Jeff Lemire's run. Maybe the Bone Collectors' jazz hands pose as they knocked the totem pole over was a little cheesy looking, but otherwise, the art in this issue was magnificently handled. I particularly liked the skull detail on the moths, and am very curious if they're intended to be an exaggerated representation of the Death's-head Hawkmoth, and thus a hint to the Bone Collectors' origins, or simply a spooky moth of their own.

Story-wise, this issue finds a nice balance, opening with the conclusion of the fight scene we left off on last month, and closing with Oliver and Catalina on a road trip to track down the Bone Collectors' prior crimes in Juárez, Chihuahua. You've got your action scenes, your research scenes, and in between we get a cut scene flashback to remind us of the events of the Sneak Peek that ran during Convergence and connects its final page to the Bone Collectors we were reintroduced to last issue.

With poet Oliver providing deep insight in to his enemy, himself, and his new found lady friend, in the monologue boxes throughout all three scenes of this issue, it really makes for a great read. It's a nice contrast to see Oliver's fear, concerns, self-doubt, and consideration of the scenario he finds himself in, compared to the cock-sure, judgmental, and oft times snarky monologue boxes over in a certain dark knight's comics. Oliver is not Batman -- and makes a point in this issue of proclaiming how he doesn't want to be -- but the comparison between DC's two most well known non-powered vigilantes with a lot of money is kind of unavoidable. Though once upon a time the distinction was made by leaning Oliver more towards the civic minded liberal approach to Bruce's more isolated conservative approach, in a continuity where Bruce is a bankrupt amnesiac volunteering at a community center for street kids, its nice to see Percy finding other ways to distinguish Oliver's path to keep the characters unique.

I also love it when comics teach me something new. Lately, Grayson and Midnighter have been teaching me some Russian. Batman has been helping me brush up on the Periodic Table and the history behind some of their discoveries and naming conventions (You do realize that Scott Snyder told us how he's bringing Bruce back in April, right?).  I even picked up some German in Justice League United. Reading this issue of Green Arrow took me hours, as I went pretty deep down the rabbit hole of how Mayan glyphs are formed and the history of scholars' deciphering of the system of the Mayan written language. From what I found, the logograms shown for bak (bone) and chan (snake) seemed pretty accurate (especially given the characters' … um … choice of ink). However, the symbol used for K'awil actually looks like the word “way,” which translates to spirit, while K'awil, is actually the god of lightning, serpents, fertility, and maize (ain't that a full plate?) and is a more complex symbol representing the god with a flaming obsidian mirror on his head. I look forward to finding out if the distinction of using K'awil is relevant to the story!

In other news, I felt really bad for “fudge-nuggets lady”.  While it was an amusing moment in an otherwise fairly dark issue, it's also a potential future plot point. Depending on how aware she was of her surroundings, given the rather startling intrusion in to her apartment, the CEO of Queen Industries now has an innocent civilian out there who has seen him in costume and without his mask. And he owes her a claw foot bathtub and a new window. This could get interesting. Well, more interesting. The existing story is awesome and will hopefully deliver. But fudge-nuggets lady needs to be a recurring character.

On a more somber note, one can not help but wonder how fictionalized the DC Universe's Ciudad Juárez is going to be. Are we going to stick with a story about a weird Mayan magic bone cult destroying a city, either literally or symbolically, with their evil yet sufficiently fictional ways? Or are we going to get real and deal with Juárez's history of narcotic trafficking, cartels, political and police corruption, kidnapping, sexual assault, and femicide? While modern Juárez has technically improved over the past decade, it's still highly ranked as one of the worst murder rates per capita in the world. Will introducing the Bone Collectors as part of the equation be part of our story to bring the harsh realities of our world to the DCU version, perhaps as part of expanding Oliver's social conscience beyond the confines of Seattle? Will the presence of Green Arrow and Tarantula be compared to General Moreno's attempts at real world vigilantism? Time will tell...

THE MUSIC:
Now maybe it's the fact that I've been watching old horror movies all month. Or maybe its the tale of the Bone Collector, linking their modern quest for bones baring some sort of otherworldly power to ancient Mayan legends and gods, that got me thinking of a certain film about what happens when you build your house on an ancient Indian burial ground. I'm not really expecting their arrival in Juárez to be greeted by objects flying around the town without visible reason, but, I'm going to go enjoy another read-through of this issue while listening to the Theme from Poltergeist. I suggest you do the same.




THE COMPARISON:
Lets keep the theme going here. We started with George, a beast. We've had the blood, so much blood. We had some moths, or maybe locusts. There's clearly some snakes / serpents coming. The chances of hail in Juárez are probably pretty slim, but, I've seen the pattern. We've clearly got a ten plagues of Egypt vibe going on here. But less Biblical and with liberal poetic license applied. So we'll compare it to The Abominable Doctor Phibes. Carry on!

THE CONCLUSION:
We've got a pretty solid issue here. Bit by bit Percy is building up the Bone Collectors, giving us a mysterious menace that Oliver would probably bungle in to blindly without Catalina's assistance, but her guidance doesn't take over the story. Instead, her presence provides an opportunity to further develop the character of modern day Oliver in his own way, breaking away from some of the mess made prior to Percy's tenure without completely discarding it.

This is still relatively newbie hero Oliver, having grown significantly during the Outsiders War, but still not a master hero. He's got some celebrity in Seattle, but more as a symbol than from anything we've seen explicitly played out on page. We've seen him attempt to mend past relationships, with varying degrees of success. We've seen him choose his own path, rather than fall in with those who might try to choose a path for him. And we've seen him work with others as short or long term allies to a specific, agreed upon end. Yet I believe that this arc with Tarantula is the first time he's putting his faith in another, largely unknown to him, in order to battle something that he doesn't fully understand. This is the arc where Oliver learns what kind of hero he is now.

There's not a whole lot going on in this issue from a plot perspective. As mentioned previously, it's one part fight scene, one part flashback to a crime he wasn't there to stop, and one part vigilante road trip to Mexico. But it's that inner monologue that really sells this issue. The art is beautiful and the colors appropriately gloomy and spooky, but the superstar is the wordsmith. Thank you, Mister Percy.

But what shall out heroes do when they reach Juárez?
  • Kick Bone Collector ass. Take Bone Collector names. Repeat.
  • Hit a local bar and get blitzed on cheap tequila.
  • Don't even bat an eye if the eagle cries.
  • Buy some cheap sombreros at a tourist shop and try to blend in with the locals.
  • Get detained at the border due to all the weapons they're trying to bring in to Mexico. End series.

*** Just reading and writing and rambling in the back of the Joker's old Ho-Home-On-Wheels... Keath.