GREEN ARROW ANNUAL #1

-
[ BOUNCE ON A BARGAIN
In the rusty evenings of October, 2015, those spooky kids over at DC Comics went door-to-door in their plastic He-Man and Strawberry Shortcake masks, trick-or-treating for something good.  Benjamin Percy and Szymon Kudranski were the only household in the neighborhood not to get toilet papered trees as they gave the adorable little licensed characters a second treat to hold off the tricks.

TO QUOTE King Heidrek (from Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks): “She lights up every land and shines over all men, and Sköll and Hatti are called wargs.  Those are wolves, one going before the sun, the other after the moon.”

THE REVIEW:
Yeah, that's right.  Forty-seven issues in to this series and one of DC's seventy-four year old characters has finally gotten his first Annual, not just since the Flashpoint . . . but, if my reckoning is correct, since 1995.  Nineteen ninety-five.  Grayson's had two Annuals before his thirteenth issue.  (So, it's a biannual Annual?)

I've said it before: Oliver Queen can't get no respect.

Benjamin Percy is changing that with his run.  Beyond the fact that he's finally gotten to an Annual, Percy is escalating the character to a more complex literary status compared with his caricature superhero archetype compatriots.  Green Arrow should be one of the best selling series in the industry right now.  (It's climbing, save for the All-New All-Different Marvel bump this month, but is still way too far down the sales rankings given it's high quality).  If its not, then woe is us, community of readers!

This issue opens with Oliver playing philosophical poet in his monologue boxes again, allowing Percy and Kudranski to set the scene of suburban horrors with appropriately ironic Jeopardy clues in the background.  Our time frame puts us in between the close of the Night Birds arc in issue 43 and the opening of the Bone Collectors arc in issue 44.  In other words, it's Halloween.  And Seattle is throwing a midnight parade.

It's got to be tough to introduce werewolves to your comic book and keep it feeling realistic, but Percy has managed to do it.  He gracefully managed to merge the classic Germanic Pagan origins of werewolves with the Norse legends of Berserkers (both rooted in warriors or hunters wearing wolf pelts), cross it with the Norse myths of wargs like Fenrir, Sköll, and Hati, and cap it off with a bit of comic book meta-science.  The result (“Lukos”) manages to nudge one's disbelief aside just long enough to let the idea of modern werewolf-like characteristics be completely feasible as something the government is secretly isolating and medicating.  And of course, the main “I will not be isolated and medicated” tough wolf guy decides to calls himself The Big Bad Wolf.  Because comics.

As far as I'm concerned, any issue where Emiko gets to kick ass and make wise cracks is a win.  And in this issue she not only kicks aforementioned ass and makes aforementioned wise cracks, but also has some highly humorous fretting about simply being a teenager in a school where she's not allowed to just kill people that piss her off.  And then, of course, she gets to kick more ass and make more wise cracks.  So, double thumbs up on that front.

While Percy's Emiko is a bit different in attitude from Lemire's Emiko, she's a far more relatable character now.  He maintained enough of her original guff to make it believable emotional growth, even if it implicitly happened off page during Sokolowski and Kreisberg's run.  Plus, we are finally able to get some much-needed and well-written brother-sister bonding in this issue, something that it seems like Percy wanted to work in to earlier issues but didn't quite have the space for.  The recovering party boy as guardian of the recovering assassin warrior works quite well now that the awkward creative team transition is past.

Szymon Kudranski is sitting in as artist for Zircher on this Annual, and yes, delivers quite the punch for this interim tale.  While his style is a bit different, it shares enough in common to flow well from issue to issue -- even if the Annual is “out of sequence” to the reader.  The tone of the wargs is definitely different than that of the Bone Collectors, but it still feels congruous with the series.  It will be interesting to see how Zircher handles the same characters -- assuming they return -- when the story picks up in issue 48.

One magnificent art detail that I actually missed the first time through is the realistic falling leaves providing continuity between all the outdoor scenes -- the trailer park night, day, and following night, Moltman's farm, and the streets of Seattle before and after the midnight parade.  Emiko's school flashback also has a mild yearbook style vibe to it which works very well.  The only detail I didn't really “get” was the pixilated artwork on the walls.  It makes it feel like the art is being censored or otherwise intentionally blocked, perhaps so as not to be recognizable as specific pieces, but some, such as the Errol Flynn The Adventures of Robin Hood poster that is always on Oliver's wall are, well, established.

But who doesn't love an issue where artists get to draw non-hero characters dressed as the heroes of the DC Universe?  I need to find the kid dressed as Deadman in Emiko's school and find out how he got his collar to stay up all day.

THE MUSIC:
“Beware the woods at night!  Beware the lunar light!”  Yes, there are so many great Halloween songs to choose from, and tons of odes to the werewolf out there.  But to properly match the gloomy mood of this issue, I'm going to invoke Wolf Moon (Including Zoanthropic Paranoia) by Type O Negative, which is absolutely, positively, not about a werewolf.  Sorry if I just ruined the song for you.




THE COMPARISON:
This issue goes all over the place, but, in a good way.  It plants an ancient disease that the government is covering up yet is somehow still known to the residents of Seattle.  It creates two sets of immediate threats to the public -- and potential ongoing enemies for our hero -- from that disease.  It shows how the rumors and fear of the disease are affecting people's everyday life in different ways.  And then it brings all that crashing together at midnight in the cacophony of a Halloween parade in the middle of the city.  And... well, things happen.

So, in the interest of not spoiling said things or the fun twists and turns of this issue, I will go with a visual comparison from the beginning of the issue.  Here we see the Patriots gang who have tracked down some Lukos patients and headed over there to be unpleasant to them and generally raise a ruckus. In ex-president masks. Kind of like the Ex-Presidents gang in Point Break, only more suburban Pacific Northwest and less So-Cal surfer.

THE CONCLUSION:
Its issues like this one that make me wish that every (good) comic were 48 pages (or more).  I know it would probably overwork a lot of writers and artists, but it feels like Percy has a far more complex story he wants to tell and has to thin it down to fit in a comic.  These beautifully crafted and interwoven tales deserve more space, or more issues, or what have you.

But I'll take what I can get.  As one of the few comics in DC's line that's still $2.99 per issue, Green Arrow has got to be one of the best deals out there.  I've got no wise ass lists of speculation as to what will happen next issue, since: (A) It's moderately obvious but speculation would spoil this Annual. (B) The next issue has already happened and there's another issue down Mexico way before we circle back on this story. And (C) I feel like speculation will ruin the magic.

Instead, I'll leave you with this list of phrases to summarize where we're at thus far.
  • The night birds are still watching!
  • Melanie, then Kyra, then Catalina.
  • The wart lady sees all.
  • Magical canine spermatozoa.
  • Ancient Athabaskan magic, Mayan blood rituals, and ancient Norse lycanthropy!
  • Día de Muertos night cometh.
  • Formulae ueteres exorsismorum et excommunicationum strigas et fictos lupos credere!

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