My Top Three Recommended Graphic Novel Reads for Week Ending April 14
by Christopher Peruzzi
There's nothing better than a regular hero.
Sure, we can amuse ourselves with stories about Superman and Green Lantern and watch the human condition evolve through extraordinary powers, but when it comes to a good story and good reading, you can't beat a guy who has to work with normal limitations.
What I usually do is critique some graphic novels from both DC and Marvel with the occasional independent company thrown into the mix - but this week, I'm going to concentrate on one of DC's oldest and more complex characters, Green Arrow.
Green Arrow (and Speedy) have been around since 1941, making their debut in More Fun Comics. His character was based on the main character of a movie serial called The Green Archer by Edgar Wallace. However, in the larger scheme of things, he was a by product of the hero and boy sidekick trend that started with Batman and Robin back in 1939. His character with his boy sidekick evolved with Batman and Robin; Aquaman and Aqualad; Flash and Kid Flash; TNT and the Dyna Mite; as well as every (fill in the blank hero name) and (cute plucky sidekick derivative of hero's name).
Green Arrow's symmetry to Batman's was blatant. There was the bored playboy with the adopted ward who under a common set of tragedies decide that they are going to fight all evil doers. Give them a cave, a custom made car, and a bunch of trick gimmick weapons and you have a marketing campaign for a comic book.
It was a good formula and it worked.
While the character itself is a bit campy, you can't beat the organic simplicity of it. As future authors found out, he became a reservoir of potential. Other than the Robin Hood parallels, Green Arrow is the ultimate in bare bones hero with a weapon.
He's a guy with a bow and arrow. That's it. Yes, we can add some gimmicks along the way, but in essence that's what Green Arrow is. And that's not an easy mission when you really think about it. He's using one of the oldest weapons mankind has known, after the rock and the spear, and fighting guys with guns. That means, not only have you got to be really good, but you have to be really fast and really strong.
Ever use a real bow and arrow? It's not easy. Kevin Smith, as part of his research into the character, decided to try and shoot one. You need a good amount of strength. Green Arrow, himself, tells the reader what kind of effort it takes in Archer's Quest by Brad Meltzer.
"The average bow weight is fifty-five pounds pulled. For macho hunters who like to impress their friends, that number goes up to eighty pounds. Mine is a hundred and three. That means that every time I draw a bow back, it's like pulling a hundred and three pounds. By the end of the day, I'm using all my strength to pull that string."
Now pull that weight and shoot straight. Let me know if you hurt any innocent bystanders.
Oliver Queen (Green Arrow's alter ego) became the liberal voice of the comic community. He stood for the little guy. Although he was billionaire (and later losing and regaining his fortune) he fought for the downtrodden and stood up against the fat cats, very much like Robin Hood. His character is the most candid in the DC Universe and easily the most outspoken.
Much like Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern, Green Arrow has been dead and come back. In later issues, it becomes one of the traits that defines him. He's been a guardian, a womanizer, and now, a father. He's been given a second chance to do things better this time.
I chosen these three newer stories for review.
Green Arrow: Quiver by Kevin Smith
Green Arrow is dead... What were we thinking?
It is typical of most of the DC Comic Book heroes to be killed off and then be brought back - or, at the very least, be incapacitated and be brought back. In that time, a younger hero attempts (and sometimes succeeds) to take up the mantle. it's happened to Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash, and, of course, Green Arrow.
Green Arrow was blown to bits when he saved Star City from an exploding plane. Superman was going to save him but it would have cost GA one of his arms (as it was very much stuck in the bomb like a man holding a live hand grenade). Instead of surrendering his arm, he blows up the plane prematurely. His body is never found.
Upon GA's death, his son Connor Hawke takes up the mantle. Then they canceled the title.
Kevin Smith, of Clerks, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy - as well as a great comic book writer, decides to bring back our favorite archer in Green Arrow: Quiver, a ten issue story arc, about Oliver Queen's return.
I'm going to try and not give anything away with this summary because it's a great story. Green Arrow has been presumed dead for over a year. During the events of Final Night, Superman feels something removed at an atomic level from his body. While this may be his imagination and a possible side effect of his long term removal from solar radiation, he thinks nothing of it. Within a few months a homeless man is patrolling Star City with some makeshift trick arrows. He claims to be Green Arrow. This man saves the life of Stanley Dover, an older gentleman, who begins to finance Green Arrow's war on crime in the city.
But something isn't quite right. This Green Arrow seems to be a bit out of time. He doesn't seem to know about his death or any other current events. To him, he's just gotten back from his cross country road trip with Hal Jordan. Other heroes hear of Ollie's return and try to help him piece everything together.
Quiver is THE hero return story which gives the reader the much awaited flavor that the Justice League is still about human relationships and that they are, in the long run, a bunch of friends. Quiver takes the typical cast of characters and adds a few twists like Mia Deardon, a prostitute that Ollie sees is just a kid who needs some help. Kevin Smith's integration of the Oliver Queen we knew from the O'Neil/Adams days is virtually flawless.
I like this particular story because it reminds us that we are genuinely missed after our passing.
Green Arrow: The Sounds of Violence by Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith continues his run on Green Arrow with an new villain of his own creation - Onomatopoeia.
Truthfully, I must admit, he is easily one of the creepiest villains I've seen.
He's a serial killer who hunts down non powered vigilantes. In this story, he's targeted Green Arrow. His big schtick is that he repeats the sounds of all the background noise. So after he loads a gun, he'll say, "KA-KLAX". When he fires the gun (or just before) he'll say, "BANG!"
After he kills one of the vigilantes, he takes their mask for his own personal collection. The Sounds of Violence is yet another reminder of what the costumed vigilante world has to face when their opponent is motivated by things other than material gain. Things get heated when Onomatopoeia strikes at Connor Hawke.
I really like Smith's sense of plot in this story. You can almost hear Jay and Silent Bob in the background waiting to make a cameo. They don't, of course, but you can feel that type of mood in the story. Smith's invention of Onomatopoeia is brilliant and is one he's reused with Walt Flannigan in his story, Batman: Cacophony and Batman: The Widening Gyre against (who else?) Batman.
Green Arrow: Archer's Quest by Brad Meltzer
The torch is passed from Kevin Smith to novelist, Brad Meltzer in Green Arrow: Archer's Quest.
Somebody is someplace they aren't supposed to be. Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) has met with Clark Kent to find out who was at his funeral. Not satisfied with Clark's answer of the friends he mentions, Ollie asks Clark for the photos. At first, Clark denies he has any when Ollie reminds him that he was still a well known millionaire and that the paparazzi probably took some (also saying that Superman is a terrible liar - he doesn't have it in him). Clark gives him pictures that never ran in the Daily Planet. Ollie sees all his friends and fellow superhero peers in their civilian identities (not pictured was Batman who Clark assures "was there."). What concerns Ollie is the stranger who is in the picture. This was a private ceremony, he should know everyone.
Ollie starts an investigation to find out that the stranger is Thomas Blake aka Cat-man. He finds out from Oracle that Cat-Man is in the witness protection program and is protected by Amanda Waller. Turning to the one person who have enough government clout to find out, he asks Roy Harper (aka Speedy, aka Arsenal) to get the information.
When they find Cat-man, a shadow of his former self, they discover that he was there on written orders from Oliver Queen and The Shade. The Shade's job? To collect all of the personal items that could lead to endangering any of his family and friends - but there are other reasons as well...
I loved this story.
There really hasn't been a modern telling of Green Lantern and Speedy told since the sixties. And even then, none of these stories had any personal banter between these two very colorful characters. Roy Harper, now Arsenal, has grown up and become his own man - very much like Robin to Nightwing, Kid Flash to Flash, Aqualad to Tempest, and Wondergirl to Troia. What we don't really know is how Green Arrow and Speedy ever became an effective partnership in how they are now.
A great story with excellent dialogue.
Buy Green Arrow on Amazon
Green Arrow is one of those characters that can't be undone. Kill him off, someone will bring him back somehow.
In these three books, we see the return of Oliver Queen - at first he's a mock up of what we expect to see - a costumed adventurer built on the personality of the roguish Errol Flynn and radical Abbie Hoffman. When we inject the actual soul of the character we find him to be a real person who is as rich and complex as we would want him to be in any modern day story.
Green Arrow is truly a symbol of what a person with the right ideals and a passion to see something right can use a simple weapon to deliver justice for the little guy and still have the edge that any of us would have when confronted with real life.