GREEN ARROW #5 & #6

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[ READY / AIM / BUY
My, my, my, the summer seems to have flown by, and between August and September, 2016, Benjamin Percy, Juan Ferreyra, as well as Stephen Byrne, have whiled away these cooling days by sharing their continuing tale of the Emerald Archer. Well, they probably did the sharing far earlier in the year, but the end of summer is when DC Comics finally published said comics for our enjoyment. Yeah. You know how it goes.

TO QUOTE Bertolt Brecht: “It is easier to rob by setting up a bank than by holding up a bank clerk.”

THE REVIEW:
Hi. Remember me?  It's Li’l ol’ Keath, that guy who reviews your Green Arrow comics and gets you all amped up if you’ve fallen behind or riled if you’re caught up and disagree?  Well, sorry.  While Oliver was all alone, framed for murder, fortune lost, thinking his team had all but left him on his Jack-Jones, tearing his stitches out, I was off gallivanting far and wide on my summer vacation...  and then I got sick, too sick to read comics, can you imagine that?  But I’m better now, a little bit better, or at least well enough to read again and I’m catching up with my reviews.  So let’s hope after reading this one you think it makes some sense, eh?

Of course, we need to take this in two bites.  Issue five, Inferno, wraps up the opening post-Rebirth arc that I’ll call “Broderick’s Secret”, for lack of a better term, while issue six, Sins of the Mother, sets off the next arc, temporarily setting Oliver’s current predicament aside to follow Emiko in a tandem tale of her current actions in Tokyo and flashbacks to nine months earlier in Seattle.  One story flows very naturally onto the next one, but the change in artist and tone is abrupt enough that it warrants a separate look.

Broderick’s Secret has been hinted at since Percy first took over the Green Arrow title after Convergence last summer.  The first time I read these issues I felt like the story got shuffled along too quickly and lacked any substantive explanation of what was going on.  Upon a second read, however, I took more time to digest what was being said, and it became clear that it’s actually a very well constructed arc with many moving parts that come together very satisfyingly. Some threads are left loose -- I hope intentionally, to come back to later -- but overall the arc is very strong, and finally gives Emiko the focus she deserves  (But not a “superhero name” - not yet, apparently.)

I’ve come to terms with the fact that the romance between Oliver and Dinah has been fast-forwarded off-page between issues, but it still seems... 'forced'... I guess.  Hopefully there will be time to improve upon that at some point later down the line, but right now we've got a woman who pushes men away because those she cares about always get hurt in a committed relationship with a man who has apparently been unable to sustain a relationship with a woman for more than one night since, surprise-surprise, Zehra Darvish revealed she was a subject of John King (He really needs to do a better job vetting his CFOs... and girlfriends).  Having them constantly pushed apart but committed to rescuing one another just doesn’t quite feel real yet, eh?

What does feel real, on the other hand, is the amazing art by Juan Ferreyra: He somehow manages to make an army of brainwashed kidnap victims who’ve had their skin burned off in a vat of lye look completely believable, and, somewhat terrifying.  At least most of it was awesome.  The realism he brought to all the characters throughout the first few issues of this arc was so thorough and engaging that when the art in issue five seemed slightly less than perfect it was a somewhat jarring shift.  Maybe it’s just the scenes that the script called for, but the style seemed a bit more rushed and vague than his prior work.  Still great, but when you hold it up side-by-side with the prior issues, not as strong.

And then issue six comes along and Stephen Byrne brings a whole different look to our stories.  Bright, bold lines, with crisp expressions and sharp angles versus Ferreyra’s darker, almost murky sketch style.  Given the change in story tone and setting, I’m all for it.  Definitely a different style, but amazing in it's own right.  Just off the bat I’m taken to the fact that Emiko looks a bit younger than the way Ferreyra rendered her, even though there’s still that haziness of an age jump from Lemire’s run to Percy’s.  The colorful style works wonderfully for the flashback scenes, echoing some of Adam Archer’s look over in Gotham Academy, an appropriate match for the high-school centric tale.  It takes a very different feel in (and below) the streets of Tokyo, giving a sleek, modern, action adventure vibe in frames that could have very easily been much darker, grim, and gory if drawn in Ferreyra’s style.

Story-wise, the pause button on Oliver’s Island of Scars arc allows us to get a sweet two-issue (I think it’s two issues?) focus on Emiko, who has thus far primarily been Oliver’s sounding board and comic relief under Percy’s pen.  With her pivotal role in Broderick’s Secret, he now sets her off on her own, to give her more depth as a character as she pursues solutions without guidance.  I’m not seeing yet how the flashbacks tie in directly with the current day events, but I like the thematic balance they provide.

What grinds my gears, however, is the introduction of a fourth Clock King to post-Flashpoint continuity (and still second in post-Rebirth totally-not-a-reboot-but-we-can-retcon-whatever-we-feel-like continuity). Or, if we’re going to go ahead and allow some creative license to Byrne’s rendering and just say that Billy Tockman now has a face tattoo and dresses far more dapper than when we last saw him, then we’re just on Clock King number three and have apparently erased Emiko’s prior interaction with (a.k.a. ass kicking of) Mr Tockman.  

WARNING: Being a continuity nerd is hard on the soul. Amen.

Moving full speed ahead, and we’ve got a once-again-stranded, once-again-bankrupt hero, a BFF and a OTL, presumably on the hunt for him in a stolen yacht, and a runaway teenager infiltrating the Yakuza while her mother is maybe looking for her... ish.  Unless she just decided to leave the Yakuza mess to Emiko and go take a job in the Netherlands for Black Mountain, I suppose, wink-wink!  (You did pick up Ostrander’s Suicide Squad War Crimes Special, right?!). We’ve got a possibly dead Broderick with the mysterious Trans-Pacific Railway project still underway.  We’ve got the Underground Men who may or may not continue to operate without the Ninth Circle, not to mention the big question of whether or not the Inferno was the end-all-be-all of the Ninth Circle.  We’ve still got the Wild Dog Militia waiting back in Seattle.  We’ve got a bromance to patch up while a romance blossoms.  Sounds to me like a dozen reasons to stick with Percy’s Green Arrow for the foreseeable future.

All that’s missing here is for Henry to bring Naomi back in to the fold.  Maybe his Năinai can give her a call since all his other vigilante buddies are out of town?

THE MUSIC:
We’re going old school British heavy metal for this one, kids.  I don’t know about you, but the chaos of the fights aboard the Inferno after Canary finally let a cry rip looked to me like it would have a solid heavy metal theme to it.  Maybe industrial, but since Diggle set the tone by announcing the frontal assault (even though they ended up with a sneak attack), I was drawn to Angel Witch’s Frontal Assault.  It’s even got some devil references to echo Dante’s little Inferno obsession and creepy army building ways.  Plus the frontal assault approach is also repeated by Emiko’s plan on getting an audience with the Oyabun.




THE COMPARISON:
These issues covered quite a bit of ground (and sea) story-wise, but when looking at them from a character perspective, I felt that the end of Broderick’s Secret was like the end of a game of jacks, where you’ve finally got all the jacks scooped up in your hand and then scatter them across the concrete to start a new game.  Ollie is finally reunited with Diggle and Black Canary, learning that he hasn’t lost Emiko, and then BAM, like setting off multiple explosives in a massive floating bank, he’s cast off in one direction as Emiko is whisked half a world away and Diggle and Black Canary are nowhere to be found.  Yep. It's time to bounce the ball and start picking up characters again...

THE CONCLUSION:
OK. So we have points for the Hachiman shrine.  Points for Ollie’s logic at not calling the Justice League for help.  Points for absolute chaos of both the battle and the life debt double-double cross.  Plus points for Henry trying to back out and Diggle guilting/bullying him back in.  With many other Rebirth titles wallowing in uncertainty -- even with some of my favorite characters written by some of my favorite writers -- Green Arrow continues to impress, despite the frustrating retcons.

Anybody out there in reader-land get the Odoghan reference on Henry’s posters?  I’m assuming they’re not references to the Argentinean band, given the Asian-style art they bare?  I’m assuming Ferreyra wouldn’t waste potential pop culture reference space with something completely made up, right?

I guess I’m off to read issues seven and eight now.  See y’all soon.

“You’re going to test the limits of profanity and invent exquisitely vicious threats that would make even serial killer clowns cringe.”  Man, I love this (fictional) kid.

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

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