GREEN ARROW #52

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[ BLOOD BARGAIN
Benjamin Percy and Szymon Kudranski have been growing out their Van Dyke beards for nearly a year now. But May, 2016, has come and gone, and DC Comics has decided that they need to shave, because, quite frankly, the grooming bill was getting a little out of hand. They’re not vigilante millionaires, after all.

TO QUOTE Shel Silverstein (for the third month in a row): “I can see the buzzards, hear the crows. One more minute to go.”

THE REVIEW:
Well, that was tidy. Fun, thoughtful, beautiful, and sad . . . but tidy nonetheless. Be forewarned; this review of the final pre-Rebirth issue of Green Arrow is chock full of spoilers. Because everything awesome about it is in how things were left. Some of the not-so-great things, too, but there’s not much that’s not-so-great. I’ll dance around spoiling Rebirth, though, because there’s plenty of other internet sites who can do that for you, but, really, you should read it for yourself. After Darkseid War, of course.

The only big shortcoming of this issue was that it was too tidy. It was almost an epilogue. While there was plenty of tension from last issue’s cliffhanger, once you get past the opening pages resolving that cliffhanger, there’s no tension left in the issue. Our story is neatly wrapped up and tied off with a bow. Which is certainly a valid way for a story to conclude, but it doesn’t make for the greatest read ever. What it does do is make me very excited for whatever comes next.

Back in the now, though, Oliver’s gentleman poet monologue boxes are back! After being struck by Deathstroke’s death stroke -- Ouch! -- one can get pretty contemplative. This is where Oliver’s poetic introspection seems to finally start to answer his own questions of self-worth that he’s been asking since the beginning of Percy’s run.

Emiko’s lack of involvement from last issue is rectified this time around. She gets to be the walking punchline in the face of an impossible medical recovery, dropping jokes in the face of danger and talking smack to Deathstroke (In my headcanon, after the events of this issue, Emiko sends a “World’s Greatest Assassin” mug as a gift to Slade to taunt him further).

Kudranski’s art is, as usual, fabulous. The opening psychedelic “healing montage” of Oliver swimming through his own bloodstream was beautifully done, as was the way he managed to somehow capture the confusion of waking up from being dead on Oliver’s (masked) face. He even manages to communicate the frustration on Deathstroke’s face through his mask when Blood Bag calls him on valuing his word over what’s “fair.” But, as has been the case repeatedly lately, Kudranski really shines when the Berserkers roll on to the scene and mass chaos ensues.

On the flip side, I’m still not a fan of his version of Emiko. This issue went beyond the previous China doll appearance and gave her a wobbly, gangly appearance reminiscent of Yvel Guichet’s take on The Weird. Kudranki’s rendition of Deathstroke (when he finally removes the mask) looks a bit more like Manu Bennett than the guy Tyler Kirkham and Paolo Pantalina have been drawing over in Deathstroke -- but he definitely looks like post-rejuvenation Slade, even if Eltaeb’s colors appear to have added a touch of gray. Doctor Miracle's lack of mass when he’s strung up by tubing was a little jarring. Though that’s a pretty minor quibble considering we’re allowing that little, unassuming, oh-she-has-a-name, Dana, was able to string him up all by herself. Not to mention that an array of surgical tubing over a four poster bed is able to hold the weight of a grown man and still allow for blood to pass through the tubes. Comic book science for the win! Hooray!

Speaking of comic book science… Looking back at Oga’s blade from last issue, all the blood shown on it didn’t appear until after Deathstroke killed Oga, meaning that the majority of the blood on the blade was Oga’s, either splattered from his own chest or perhaps cutting his mouth as he fell (He was holding the blade in his mouth while operating the heavy artillery).  Whatever blood of Doctor Miracle’s that managed to heal Oliver was on the very tip from the tiny cut to his tongue: Enough blood remained on there through Oga’s handling of the blade, fairly heavy rain directly on it, and a multi-story drop from the roof to the dirt before being picked up by Deathstroke and thrust through Oliver’s chest. That is some bad ass power in Doctor Miracle’s blood.

This leads to one very interesting choice in the final pages of this issue. After Doctor Miracle agrees (off page) to help Oliver cure the Wargs, Ollie brings him right in to the heart of the riot. Not his blood, or a serum derived from it, but the man himself. In to a place where Oliver knows damn well that at least some of the infected do not want to be cured and actually want to spread the infection, which would be more easily accomplished if they killed Doctor Miracle. Since nothing came of the decision, I can’t help but wonder if there was originally a more complex ending that took a few more issues to resolve.

Beyond Oliver’s post-mortem conclusions of self-discovery and his coming to terms with hatred in the world and what little he can do to fight it, there’s the magnificent portrayal of the different sides of Deathstroke. Percy manages to portray not only the cold hearted killer, putting his contract over what he knows is the right thing to do, but also the practical businessman, swallowing his pride in favor of his professional reputation, and the man he once was, putting the good of the world ahead of his beef with Ollie. Let’s hope we can get some growth for Emiko and Fyff in the months to come.

THE MUSIC:
“I changed. I’m changing even now.” Not just this issue, but the last year of Green Arrow has been all about changes. Oliver uses this issue to compare his selfish blood type to how he used to only want to help others like himself, to how he was changed by the Lukos, and to how he changed his outlook on what he considers heroism. It’s been a long time coming. As I mentioned when I first started reviewing Green Arrow early in Percy’s run, some of Oliver’s classic social conscience was hinted at by Ann Nocenti, and Jeff Lemire laid some groundwork by taking away his fortune, but in the end made it all about Oliver learning to trust in others. Despite (inexplicably) restoring Queen Industries and Oliver’s fortune, Percy has finally put Oliver through the paces to really examine himself; why he chose to be a hero, and how he’s both succeeded and failed at that, coming through his “bio-chemical cheat” a changed man. It sounds like there’s certainly more of a crucible to come for Mr Queen, but we’ll mark his epiphany at this conclusion by celebrating his Changes.




THE COMPARISON:
Oh yeah...  Punctuation! That’s how we’re rolling today, my friends. This issue is pretty much the semi-colon that ends the current run. It’s not a period -- the story continues next month -- but it’s not really a comma either. There’s not any apparent connection between this story and the next. There’s no coordinating conjunction, if you will. I mean, maybe there will be something. But we’re really just wrapping up, Van Dyke beard and all, waiting for the Rebirth dust to settle, and then continuing on our way.

THE CONCLUSION:
On the one hand, Oliver Queen is just the last DC character to be reborn prior to Rebirth. But despite how tidy the main threads were all tied up, my favorite parts of this issue is actually all the loose threads left out there.

  • If Oliver was resurrected by such a tiny amount of Doctor Miracle’s blood, and the sword bearing that blood likely cut Oga prior to Oliver, could Oga have been revived as well?
  • The Big Bad Wolf rides to infect another day. While some of his Berserkers apparently chose the cure, several rode off with him and, as Emiko observed, Oliver made no move to follow.
  • The seeds of hate between the Patriots and Wargs was explicitly left to fester. There’s also the possibility of a Patriot-turned-Warg, depending on how he feels about his new state.
  • Emiko is wise to Oliver’s lingering desire for beast-mode power. Poet Oliver claims “change can only come from the warring sides of us,” but how does that manifest to Oliver’s growing social compassion?
  • Roderick is still up to something, isn’t he?
*** Just reading and writing and rambling in the back of the Joker's old Ho-Home-On-Wheels... Keath.

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