Green Arrow is anything, but an original character. His look and use of weapons was clearly inspired by Robin Hood. The fact that he was a billionaire who also happened to have a teenage sidekick and an “Arrow Cave” (no really) has had many people comparing him to Batman.
Even Mike Grell’s well-regarded The Longbow Hunters was often compared to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Much like Batman did in Miller’s story, Green Arrow also comes out of retirement, becomes a grittier hero and abandons his trick arrows for regular ones, since he’s now trying to clean the streets of villainy.
Which is why it’s nice to see Animal Man writer Jeff Lemiere and I Vampire artist Andrea Sorrentino tell an epic story that truly feels like a Green Arrow tale. Sure, it borrows a few elements from Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern run and the CW Network’s Arrow, but the tale itself feels completely original and uniquely Green Arrow.
It seems like the editors in DC want the Green Arrow comic to mirror the CW show more, which is understandable given its popularity. Just like in Arrow, Oliver is much younger and has a support team that helps him out during missions. Diggle is also introduced to the comic world in this collection, after originally debuting in the hit CW show. Felicity Smoak would later be brought in the arc succeeding this collection, with Ben Kowolski and Simon Kinsberg of Arrow fame responsible for doing so.
The story itself has numerous callbacks to the island, a focal part of Arrow, though that only happens much later in the book. A number of flashbacks are also present, but they do help inform the story, so they don’t feel shoehorned in the comic, even if they happened a lot in the show.
Despite the numerous similarities, the storyline is truly Lemire’s and it is truly epic. The Sweet Tooth writer manages to build an entire mythology based on the fact that Green Arrow uses a bow and arrow. He introduces seven clans that specialize with old-fashioned weapons: the arrow (of course), the spear, the shield, the sword, the axe, the mask (???) and even the fist.
These clans bear some similarities to the different coloured rings from Geoff Johns’ run in Green Lantern, but they’re used sparingly, making each of their appearances feel special.
Most of the character’s introduced in the story are original ones, with unique designs and interesting backstories. Komodo works as a dark mirror version of Oliver Queen, while Magus is an immortal blind man whose powers are as mysterious as his cryptic messages.
Other characters in the story were reimagined as part of the New 52 initiative. Richard Dragon, a peaceful kung-fu master during the pre-Flashpoint universe, is now a gangster with amazing martial arts skills. Shado is no longer a love interest for Oliver Queen, but is one to Robert Queen (more on that later.)
Lemire is also not afraid to shake up Green Arrow’s origin a touch. He was still stranded in an island, like in Andy Diggle and Jock’s acclaimed Green Arrow: Year One, but instead of it being a tragic accident it turns out it was all planned by Robert Queen, Oliver’s father.
It’s a shocking moment and Robert’s reasons for doing this to his own son completely changes how Oliver sees his father. This type of twist is not always present in mainstream superhero comic books and could easily be botched or feel contrived, but Lemire makes it work thanks to the way he paces the story.
Shockingly enough, parental figures molding their children into weapons is a common theme in Lemire and Sorrentino’s Green Arrow run, though each one does so for different reasons. Robert does it to protect his family, Komodo does it for revenge and a prostitute does it for money. Even for DC Comics it’s a dark theme to handle, but Lemire and Sorrentino make it work.
Andrea Sorrentino’s work is gorgeous. He works incredibly well with Lemire, uniquely visualizing aspects of the story that the writer can’t explain. The way he draws Count Vertigo’s attacks is just awesome, just like the overall collection.
Admittedly there are a few flaws in the way that the story is collected in this lush Deluxe Edition hardcover. There’s a secret origin story placed near the end of the collection that feels a bit out of place and should have been put at the start. The extras are also a bit lacking, with only a few pages of Sorrentino’s sketches and some variant covers. It would have been nice to see some of Lemire’s scripts or even his pitch for the series.
Finally the dust jacket of the graphic novel is pretty bland, featuring a close up of Oliver Queen’s face completely covered in green. The run had a number of stellar covers and any of them would have been better than what was chosen.
Still, those are just minor gripes. Green Arrow by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino is worth buying. Whether you like CW’s Arrow or find the show irritating, this collection is very entertaining.
Lemire and Sorrentino are currently in Marvel, working together in the new Old Man Logan series. Here’s hoping it gets a deluxe hardcover in the future.