GREEN ARROW #17
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Andrea Sorrentino
Release Date: February 6, 2013
If there was ever a symbol for what fans disliked about DC Comics’ relaunch with the New 52, it’s Oliver Queen. Like most of the characters peppering the DC Universe, he got younger, his backstory simpler and supporting cast smaller. Unlike most books launched in September 2011, Green Arrow had nearly unanimous critical reaction: it was terrible. Quite the conundrum for a company on the verge of launching a television series featuring the very character fans seemed required to hate. Five writers and 16 months later, though, DC finally gets it right. And what’s most astonishing is just how right it is.
With issue 17 hitting the stands today, not only has Green Arrow found its groove, but it’s also elevated its game to such a degree it almost feels like whiplash. Proving that the success or failure of DC’s New 52 lands once and for all on finding the exact right creators and vision for each character, Lemire and Sorrentino have re-launched the relaunch to a most brilliant effect, utterly erasing every doubt I’ve had about Ollie’s character and situation this last year.
Lemire formulates a scenario not unfamiliar to longtime Green Arrow fans, the destruction of Ollie’s wealth and resources (what my husband, Green Arrow super-fan, calls “the period where Ollie grows up”), forcing the character to live up to his individual potential. No longer a lesser-Batman figure with a corporation and personal riches funding his altruism, Ollie is once again being placed on a path where the right thing is no longer easily accomplished. Unlocking a previously unmentioned conspiracy behind the island of Ollie’s origin (a tactic that’s worked so brilliantly to bring new life to both Batman and Wonder Woman’s central books), Lemire instantly imbues this somewhat irresponsible and carefree figure with a deeper mystery to uncover, one that makes his own character unwittingly more dramatic and interesting to the reader. He’s left with little equipment, and his own wits and skills to uncover the truth, all while fighting off some compelling new antagonists.
Those skills, though, are so elegantly represented by Sorrentino’s layouts and panel pencils that it’s hard to worry too much about Ollie’s chances. I’ve been a huge fan of Sorrentino’s work on the New 52 title I, Vampire, lavishing in the dark inks and dramatic shading that made that book as creepy and mysterious as it is. Here, the artist works his magic again, not only casting shadows quite literally over Ollie’s every movement and confrontation, but also breaking apart the action to get inside a true fighter’s head in the heat of the moment. Small detail panels, rendered exclusively in black, white and green, give the readers a critical look through Ollie’s eyes at his surroundings, and reinforce the tight focus an archer would need to be truly exceptional at his craft. In addition, Sorrentino’s use of color throughout is very monotone, but accented by the most perfect contrast of red to Arrow’s green when the most dangerous moments occur. The book is far from bloody or grotesque, with only the slightest physical violence exhibiting results, but the tension produced by this juxtaposition is palpable nonetheless.
Fast-paced and full of brand new mystery, Green Arrow is destined to be the newest hit among DC’s stable, a development that should put longtime fans and recent critics immediately at ease. It is a testament to the company’s commitment to taking risks and trying new things that the Emerald Archer was given one last chance to shine, rather than joining some of his allies in the cancellation pile. The risk-taking completely paid off here. Green Arrow is a book, once again, that I can be proud to add to my pull list. Next month’s installment can’t come soon enough.