Over the last year or so, I've reviewed three "Green Arrow" comics--#35, #25, #9--had a discussion post on Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino ending their run on "Green Arrow," reviewed every episode of the show Arrow since Season 2 Episode 13 "Heir to the Demon," did a review of all of Arrow Season 2, and had a discussion post regarding where the show could go in the current Season 3. If you haven't noticed, the Emerald Archer runs this blog. And why wouldn't he? He's my favorite super-hero after all.
I'm not going to go through the whole story of the book, since I really feel that everyone should get to reading this. Thus, only mild spoilers will follow from here on out.
Even if you've never heard of this story, chances are, you already know it. Especially if you're a fan of Arrow. Oliver Queen is a rather dumb, eccentric billionaire who gets trapped on an island and has to fight his way off of it, honing his archery skills and learning what it means to be a hero. Yeah, see, you already knew that.
Though, to be fair, this story really pushes Oliver to his limits. There are two antagonists in the story, and both of which pose powerful threats to Oliver in different ways. One, Hackett, is essentially the personification of Oliver's old life, so whenever they clash, it's a struggle of new Oliver versus old Oliver. Hackett is always quick to bring that up, too. The other is China White, who is just a very powerful businesswoman.
I prefer this version of the island to others, though it's unclear as to how much time has passed. Most iterations make it pretty clear. One year, three years, five years. Here, I mean, I guess it's only one year. But, how much of that was spent training? Like most Green Arrow origin stories, we have a montage of him getting his bow together as well as hunting. Still, this is one is done best, as we see Oliver using all of his previous knowledge with bows and bow-making and applying it here with makeshift items that no one would associate with a typical bow.
This story also focuses heavily on the "hunter" aspect of Green Arrow, almost as if taking notes from "Longbow Hunters." Oliver tends to stay out of direct combat and uses more stealth of the island to attack his foes. It shows strategy on his part as well as showing how his new environment has crafted him.
The central conflict of the story is that Oliver has stumbled across a big drug ring on the island and is looking to take it down, since this company is killing or harming several tribes people on the island, threatening a pregnant woman Oliver comes to befriend.
Andy Diggle, the writer (who John and Andy are named after in Arrow if you haven't noticed), do an excellent job of painting Oliver's struggle against these people. When you think about it, it's just some guy with a weird looking bow in a green hood and some crappy arrows against a big drug company, one that would pay well for security. Sure, it almost seems impossible, but that's also how it reads. The security just keeps getting ramped up and the stakes keep getting higher.
What's good about the story is that Oliver only has the upper-hand in terms of stealth. Besides that, he is outgunned, outnumbered, and if he gets hurt, it's pretty much gameover. This is also shown, where he accidentally gets hooked onto opium for a time and has to fight off its addictive powers in order to further the mission. It's a good character moment for him (a little quick in my opinion) as it shows a weakness we haven't seen for most of the story, as he's become more of a warrior. To see him crack was a good break in all the action to show that he is indeed still human and has human addictions.
Getting through this and hearing his true name from some of the tribes people/ slaves is what elevates Oliver into fulfilling his eventual destiny, and it's a really well-done moment. Plus, I think this is the best way for someone to introduce the name "Green Arrow." Much better than the totem plot from "Outsider's War," which felt a little forced.
A lot of the story contains Oliver's inner thoughts and it really helps us get into his mind and see what the heck would be going through his mind at a time like this. There's a visible development in his thoughts as the story progresses, but there is still the constant Green Arrow-charm of "screw it, I'm going for it" evident in the thoughts.
The book also benefits from a lack of main characters, something most good superhero origin stories have. There are primarily four characters: Hackett, Oliver, China White, and Taiana. The latter is the pregnant woman I mentioned earlier and is a good foil for Oliver as she stands for justice, for hope. Making her pregnant could be a way of showing her as a harbinger of hope for the people of the island, and making the father an unnamed character pushes that even more so.
This lack of characters allows a ton of focus on our main cast. Oliver is, obviously, going to be the most developed. China White is a pretty cut-and-dry villain but she's incredibly ruthless. Hackett doesn't necessarily develop, but like I said, he does serve as the past Oliver is trying to fight and get away from since coming to the island.
For a story about some dude in a green hood going up against a bunch of drug mercenaries, you would also expect there to be some pretty intense moments. And yes. Yes there are. In fact, one of my all-time favorite Green Arrow moments (maybe even the favorite, barring the rooftop fight with Komodo) is here. Here it is:
My name is Oliver Queen.
I mean. Dude. You can't see it in these panels...but you already know that he takes down the plane with a crappy bow and crappy arrows. An airplane. But, I mean, look at the guy. He's not shaken, he's not scared. We can't see his eyes but you know they are calm. He just points his arrow at the plane and shoots it like he would shoot a fish. How cool is that?!
And now that I've shown you that, I can talk about the artwork of the book. Which I freaking love. I love the color scheme of the book.
Hmm...well, if the script says it's possible...
The book has a wonderful mixture of green and white. Green is the dominant color, duh, but something about the plain backgrounds just makes it really stand out and makes the images stick for me. There are some moments where white is used in an iffy way, like when showing China White, as she can just look like a slender white stick. It's weird. Orange is another big color, used sparingly but effectively.
Jock, the artist, also did a great job with the backgrounds and characters. Whenever they were in the forest, there are a good amount of detail added to give it that jungle-like environment. There was also good attention to detail in the fields and even out on the shores. As for the characters, he drew their expressions very well and I felt that they were all very humanistic in their design. Nobody looked too wonky (except, as I said, China White in some instances) and their expressions were very well done, as were their movements.
The art also had a gritty feel to it that aided the whole "first year" aspect to it, almost as if this was a gruff recollection for Oliver of his early days on the island, so there would be some dirt rubbed on it as he recalled these events. Normally, I'm not a fan of that, but the book uses it in an advantageous way.
Overall, "Green Arrow: Year One" is a story nobody should skip out on. It's brief but very well-done, highlighting the transformation of a young punk into a young hero. There is a good focus on all of our characters, some new some old, the artwork is great, and there are many fantastic moments you won't soon forget. I'd definitely say it's worth checking out.
Next time, we begin a month-long trek into the heart of the Marvel Universe from 2013 that was...supremely underwhelming. Because I'm cashing in on a movie's release, we'll begin a look at Marvel's "Age of Ultron!'
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