GREEN ARROW #51

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[ SALE TO THE DEATH
African Safaris are all the rage these days. Benjamin Percy and Szymon Kudranski headed out on one with the DC Comics gang in April, 2016, and boy did they get more than they bargained for. Don't worry, they didn't kill any lions or sheep. It was more of a photo safari. But then the crazy warlords showed up and, well . . . you know.

TO QUOTE Kwame Nkrumah: “A state in the grip of neo-colonialism is not master of its own destiny. It is this factor which makes neo-colonialism such a serious threat to world peace.”

THE REVIEW:
Our penultimate issue of Green Arrow picks up with our heroes shot down in rural Africa by parties thus far unknown. But don't worry, they get known to us very quickly via the age old mechanism of a villain's monologue. And boy, does Oga like to monologue. He's just the right type of villain to introduce to modern Oliver as he's just developing his bleeding heart approach to amateur superheroing and figuring out just why he's doing it.

Alas, no, the neo-colonialists that shot Oliver and Emiko out of the sky last issue weren't followers of Massacre in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Our heroes did indeed make it to Nigeria before getting shot down, and those fine fellows who paint the top half of their face white call themselves, appropriately enough, “The Whites”. They are followers of the aforementioned Oga, a corpulent warlord who learned western ways at Oxford and Princeton and brought the worst of those lessons back to Nigeria to rule with an iron fist.

Overall this is a very fast moving issue. It manages to have a good balance of action and … we'll call it an “exchange of ideals” I suppose. It works out to three acts fairly cleanly; the “Bond villain” capture lecture and standoff, Deathstroke storming the battlement, and the final hero verses villain showdown. And, if you've read the solicit to issue 52, which I'm sure you have, you know how that particular showdown ends.

My only complaint with this episode was how underutilized Emiko was. She gets the top wisecrack of the issue in response to Oga commenting on Deathstroke's progress, but that's really her only moment. Kudranski's rendering of Emiko still looks like a porcelain doll to me, but my real problem was when Oga had a machete to her throat. She's just held there as if she wasn't raised to be a warrior, and then suddenly free without an apparent struggle. While I understand that page space is limited, I feel like that whole scene could have been better rendered. I also had a hard time believing big ol' Oga was able to get the drop on her in the first place, and was equally dubious of her breaking away without apparently striking him or suffering even a superficial injury to herself in the process.

There was an awkward frame with a soldier falling off a battlement in silhouette, where it looked like he was riding the Gatling gun like a mechanical bull. Another frame felt like the proportions of Oliver's body to his bow didn't quite match the perspective reduction of his arm. But other than these minor quibbles, and the Emiko situation, the art in this issue was absolutely astounding. It highlighted plenty of dynamic action, tension, and progressing mood. 

Kudranski deserves kudos for his representation of Deathstroke in this issue. Many artists love (and excel at) rendering the pin-up “bad ass” Deathstroke, and he does plenty of posturing in both word and pose throughout these pages. But few artists really capture the athletic acrobatic skills of Slade Wilson as well as Kudranski did in Act II of this issue. The sudden rainfall as the issue reached Act III also heightened the stakes and really helped to amplify the drama of the fight and its fallout. It was one of the more cinematic fight scenes I've seen in a comic book (or a movie, frankly) in recent memory.

Percy's story is moving along at full speed now. Since we don't yet really know the details of how Rebirth is functioning as a story mechanism, but we know the high-level state of affairs when we come up on the other side, the cliffhanger of this issue carries a bit of heft, but we know it's all (probably) going to work out in another twenty pages. Unless, of course, that's Emiko sporting the Van Dyke beard in the post-Rebirth promo art?

So, yeah, if we had 25 Minutes to Go at the end of last issue, we've moved up to 5 more minutes to go with this one. You can't up the stakes any higher than we're at. Doctor Miracle is there, but he overtly mentioned that he “can only heal the living”, and he's not exactly free to do his work as he pleases at the moment. There's obviously the Lukos variable, which we don't know the exact effect of. 

“I can see the mountains and I can see the skies...”

THE MUSIC:
I know that Nigeria is on the wrong side of Africa for this reference, but, c'mon, cut me some slack. Oliver Queen, proud, upstanding citizen of Seattle, Washington, turns in to a werewolf (type thing) and flies to Africa following the vaguest of clues that there's a dude who can cure him somewhere in Nigeria.

Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti I seek to cure what's deep inside, frightened of this thing that I've become” -- It's like Percy was enjoying Washington's marijuana laws while listening to Toto's Africa one night and thought “whoaaa, maaaan, this song would totally make for a great Green Arrow story...” The wild dogs (well, George), the moonlit wings (experimental cloaking tech), the old man (Slade), the rains. You feel it. Right?




THE COMPARISON:
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannh√§user Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears...in...rain. Time to die” -- Roy Batty, R.I.P.

THE CONCLUSION:
Oh dear. There are still no answers on two thirds of my questions from last issue, and I'm leaning towards Doctor Miracle not being Hero Cruz. But I still think Deathstroke stole a Spyral aircraft (It's not nearly as thought-consuming as trying to figure out whether Superman's “three big events” occurred in the order he mentioned them in Superman 51, though. That's been giving my brain a workout).

We've got one issue of Green Arrow left before whatever Rebirth is happens. (My theory; The Question turns out to be amnesiac God, and gets all “hey, who wiped my memories? Who wiped everyone's memory? Have it all back! Yay! Get me a pizza!”.  And maybe there's a Spyral satellite involved?).

So what're you expecting to see from the last twenty pages of Percy and Kudranski's work before we enter the legacy-restoring shiny hole in the sky?
  1. Emiko cradles Ollie in her arms in the classic pose of Superman holding Supergirl, or Batman holding Robin, or Superman holding Batman, or even the Batgirl holding Danny or Ricky variants.
  2. Deathstroke reconsiders his lifestyle, reflects upon what he said to Blood Bag last issue, and decides to commit himself as Doctor Miracle's personal bodyguard so he can freely heal the world at his own discretion.
  3. The people of Nigeria recognize the obvious parallel between the colors associated with the hero that fell from the sky and the warriors who were defeated in his presence and their national flag and decide that Emiko should be their next freely elected President. She quickly accepts because it means she won't have to go to “that stupid school in America” any more.
  4. Roy Harper and Catalina Flores show up in Nigeria and argue over who gets to shave Ollie with the machete.
  5. Deathstroke shoves Oga in the back of his stolen Spyral plane and tries to convince Blood Bag that he's Doctor Miracle.
  6. Emiko reveals that she kidnapped her favorite rock star three weeks ago and if they don't find a new plane to fly home soon then Dinah Drake may die of starvation in her bedroom closet.
*** Just reading and writing and rambling in the back of the Joker's old Ho-Home-On-Wheels... Keath.

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