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GREEN ARROW #19 & #20

Following that tragic rooftop incident which took place in March -- or was it April? -- 2017, Scottie Ferguson has been retired from the SFPD, even though his former fiancée Midge was still worried about him.  Fortunately, Benjamin Percy, Eleonora Carlini, and Mirka Andolfo will be there to prevent any nuns from opening the trap door on DC Comics’ bell tower, causing Judy to plummet to her death.

TO QUOTE Officer Franklin: “You're holding 50,000 volts, little man.  Don't be afraid to ride the lightning.”

Finally we find ourselves at the tail end of The Return of Roy Harper story-line, only to be presented with three different stories, all at once, and at such a rapid pace, that my only real critique is that it all felt rushed.  Straight up, I wanted more reveals before the story returned to Seattle

Both chapters -- Blood and Oil (Part 2) and Vertigo (The Conclusion) -- followed the same pattern as Part 1, doing so by giving us big doses of Roy Harper’s old-is-new-again backstory, while the team’s current antics at the Spokane Indian Reservation tie in to the longer multithreaded Green Arrow story that has been building since Rebirth (Or Convergence, really, if you want to be complete.)

Being a continuity nerd (who’s been having all manner of conniptions at the growing pile of unexplained and often unnecessary changes building since The Darkseid War and Rebirth) I really thought I was going to bitch and moan as Percy gave us yet another variation of the “Recruitment and Rage Quit of Roy Harper.”  Fortunately, the flashbacks were interwoven with the modern tale so masterfully that I didn’t have a chance to roll my eyes.  Yes, I’m pretty sure the specifics of Roy storming off overtly contradict at least one of the three prior origins we’ve gotten, but the rules of Metron ex Machina dictate that this reality, coff-coff, “has yet to solidify.” Beyond that one point I think I can fold my brain to make all the other details work together as one continuity.

Basically this is one of those stories that really only works as well as it does in the medium of comics.  Sure, prose or film can jump between points in time from one scene to the next, or even paragraph-to-paragraph, shot-to-shot, and visual art can also intertwine visual scenes to create connections for the viewer.  But only comics can overlay multiple stories on top of one another, showing what happened “several years ago”, “a few more years before that”, and “what's happening now”, in such a way that it actually makes sense to the reader.  Carlini and Andolfo took Percy’s story and literally wedged elements of two scenes in to a third that both elegantly made it all one story and masterfully raised the depth and relevance of each individual story.

The showdown with the Wild Dog Militia and Sheriff Jones would have no weight to it without the strains of Roy’s relationship with Oliver contrasted with his relationship with Bird.  The plan of attack -- hell, the whole idea of having a plan -- would just be a generic action movie checklist without the prior scenes of intra-team conflict, both in story chronology and flashback.  The mystery of Big Bow’s murder could have been an amazing unreliable narrator whodunnit all on it’s own, but wedging it in between the other tales to both tear down and build up the Roy Harpers of 'then and now' gives it far more value to the story and the DC Universe at large.  The same words uttered by the same character in scenes that echo one another years apart would still be a great literary parallelism in another medium, yet by weaving them all together in a comic, Percy, Carlini, and Andolfo are able to highlight the change in meaning of such words as aspects of character and character relationship growth, rather than simply a change of contextual specificity.

If it’s not clear, this is a heavily character focused arc.  Anyone even vaguely familiar with the characters or their archetypes should have expected that.  For me, the ongoing development of interpersonal character relationships is -- when done well -- one of the most magnificent things about large shared fictions like the DC Universe.  And it is done very well here.  Almost painfully well.

But fear not, ye who need lots of combat in your comics.  There’s plenty of that as well, both long-ranged and hand-to-hand, plus sonic and psionic.  Carlini and Andolfo have done a great job bringing the style of past artists in to their own, capturing the dynamic movements of construction vehicles, gravity boots, arrows, bullets, ATVs, motorcycles, sonic assaults, and car chases in a way that keeps the action moving quickly, despite the relatively large amount of dialog for such a sequence.  They also manage to add a narrative haze to the alcohol and drug fueled flashbacks to add a magnificent distinction between scenes of Roy’s personal moments compared to Oliver’s (comparatively) sober discovery of these moments.  Shoulder-ride-bong-hits-and-pizza-on-the-ceiling parties and all.

Carlini and Andolfo also did a fabulous job with the presumable Rebirth dictate in bringing some throwback style in to the design of characters who’ve had a New 52 revamp.  Their rendition of Count Vertigo manages to invoke the classic opera cape with a high collar of doom and gravity boots, while still maintaining the shirtless body-paint fetish and douchey faux-military haircut established by Andrea Sorrentino.  Unlike some other artists’ approaches to making the old-new-again, this design feels like a reasonable rendition of the character’s change over time, save for the lack of visible implants (which he certainly could have had removed or reduced between his Villains Month origin tale and this First Contact, but Sorrentino’s Werner was still rocking them during Shados and The Outsiders War, so...).

Maybe it’s just a bit too on point, but I can’t help but go with Lou Reed’s Heroin for this issue.  No, it doesn’t really fit the action of the pipeline showdown.  Nor does it really match the mystery of the death of Big Bow.  And while it might match up with a few frames of strung-out post-rage-quit Roy, it certainly doesn’t fit with the train wreck of a dynamic duo he and Oliver made in their showdown with Count Vertigo leading up to it.  But somehow, when all three tales are braided together, it just feels right.

The way this story has taken three different stories -- one of which is actually part of a larger, multithreaded story -- and crammed them in to one another so as to create a greater whole, reminds me an awful lot of the cherpumple.  Only, instead of being an abomination of diabetic novelty deserts, it’s a magnificent example of storycraft specific to the medium of sequential art in a character-rich shared continuity.  With sliced kiwi on top.

These two comic books have lots of character growth, lots of action, and, right-o, plenty of humor. Not just in the bickering between Oliver and Roy (then and now), but in Vertigo’s hilariously pretentiously poetic introduction, flirt-with-anything-pretty Oliver’s attempts at rescuing civilians, a curmudgeonly clueless rural Sheriff who shoots a gun like a teenage wannabe gangsta, and my personal favorite; Bird dropping a double movie reference in one breath, one of which being a DC adaptation that I am pretty sure was released in our world before Roy or Bird were born in theirs.  Meta, man.  Meta.

Yeah, I would have liked some on-page resolution to Roy’s accusations of Queen Industries’ involvement in the pipeline, not just Oliver’s solo realization of how deep Broderick was involved.  Plus I think Roy and Bird’s relationship needed some closure before they went their separate ways.  But perhaps some of this will be touched upon when this thread is picked up during The Rise of Star City.  Perhaps.

Yet what I really want is more story around Roy’s heroin era girlfriend (or just, friend who is a girl?).  Surely I couldn’t be the only one building a backstory around her green rose and barbed wire heart tattoos?  Or the relevance of the dogs on the leather jackets of the other gutter punks?  Right?  What’s she up to now?  Is she still alive?  Do we know her by another name?  [Editors Note: Ch3sh1re?] C’mon.  Don’t leave me hanging here.  She’s the rubber duckie lady, isn’t she? [Another Editors Note: Quack-Quack]

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

GREEN ARROW #19 & #20 GREEN ARROW #19 & #20 Reviewed by David Andrews on April 27, 2017 Rating: 5

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