Thursday, January 26, 2017

Green Arrow (2011) #1 Review

There are fewer books that struggled creatively compared to Green Arrow during the New 52 era. Teams were juggled around, stories were mixed and mashed, and it became a mess quite fast. While one could argue that the New 52 on the whole was a failed experiment (I'd argue it wasn't at the start, but certainly was by the end), I think there's no better indicator of how the New 52 ran than Green Arrow, just given the roller coaster the character was put on. 

From the outset it was clear that J.T. Krul, who had been writing the book as a Brightest Day tie-in, meant to stay on for a while alongside artist/ inker pair Dan Jurgens and George Perez (yes, seriously). There was an optimism about the book, according to an interview Jurgens gave with IGN,
that he and J.T. could stay on the book for a while to shape it's future.

But, of course, that simply wasn't the case. Krul was off the book by the second story-arc, but Jurgens was promoted to co-plotter for the series. Krul apparently left the series to pursue other projects, but it can speculated that editorial at DC is to blame for this. It's well-documented that creators were leaving books even before they were put out on the shelves, and I wouldn't be surprised if this were the case. Jurgens was gone by Issue 4, to be replaced temporarily by Keith Giffen. Jurgens only stayed on until Giffen left, too.

This issue of Green Arrow was met with mixed-to-negative fan reception. Most people hated almost every first issue of the New 52 (Red Hood & the Outlaws receiving the most backlash) and this was one for some. It was boring, they said, and no doubt jarring. Hell, the entire reboot was jarring for fans. There wasn't much build-up to it, since it was the result of Flashpoint, which was never meant to be the reboot catalyst in the first place.

Still, Krul and Jurgens did bring new, innovative things as they promised. Green Arrow was back to his roots as a street-level vigilante with the trick-arrows everyone loved. Krul even added new elements such as Q-Core, a subsidiary of Queen Industries that Oliver got placed in direct charge of. Oliver was also relocated from Star City to Seattle again, and had a new team of helpers, Naomi for tech and Jax for...comedic relief, I don't know. He even got a new character to play "the man" that Oliver could combat against: Emerson (who would play a big part starting with Green Arrow #17).

The New 52, while not the best of times, did fulfill it's promise: bringing new ideas and gimicks to pre-existing characters. And while some of those didn't work out that well (some seen in this book), you can give them credit for trying and not just pressing the restart button and telling the exact same stories they'd been telling before.

So, what's up with this new version of Oliver Queen? Well, for starters, he's much younger, implied in this issue to be in his mid-twenties. He doesn't have the famous goatee (since he isn't so old) and hasn't really faced all the consequences of his vigilante life-style. He's so far capable of separating Oliver Queen and Green Arrow, but the walls are starting to close in on him in this issue.

Probably the best indicator of this is his suit, but we'll get there soon. For now, we'll begin with the cover!

Without looking at the images, first, I like how grand this issue feels. The New 52 logo is emblazoned in gold, the DC Comics logo and "#1" marking are big, and I like the font style they chose for the series. It's better than what they did for Justice League. The rest is just meh. It's Oliver shooting an arrow at some enemy. While we do get a good look at the suit, I think it's important we save that for later. 

For now, we'll get into the story! 

Oh, right. This is where I tell you the story. 

Good thing there isn't one. 

Well, okay, there is something of a story here. The main focus of the title is stopping some super-powered criminals abroad while the B-story is him dealing with Emerson breathing down his throat. The B-story is far more interesting since it's actually a story and not just him fighting super-villains. It has shades of what will come later in the title and shows Oliver's insecurities with leading the company, as well as some of his attitude toward being a superior businessman. While not the super-liberal attitude he normally has, you have to keep in mind that he's younger, less inclined to think in a politically-charged manner. 

Although the dialogue wouldn't tell you so. While there are hints of a less mature Oliver in the dialogue, since it's impulsive and doesn't make much sense, there are also some moments where you swear this is the older, goatee Oliver from before. It's jarring and doesn't help cement the character in this new setting that Krul is trying to establish. 

But there are some good bits of world-building here. Q-Core is established fast enough that you understand what it is, and mentions of things like a Q-Phone show they're more than just some small company. Apparently Green Arrow is well-known, since super-villains overseas know about him as well (keeping in mind that Oliver has been operating for no more than five years, according to the New 52 timeline). Queen Industries is also a company that's not only competing with Waynetech and Lex Corp, but a company that's ready to surge ahead of them (while their billionaire company heads also fight in multi-colored outfits). 

Naomi and Jax, two brand new characters to the Green Arrow mythos, are well-established in this issue as well. Jax is a bit of a bumbler but cares deeply for Oliver and the city. Naomi has good intentions and is able to help Oliver in a pinch when he needs it, and is very quick on her feet with regards to tech. 

Like I said, most of this issue is just a fight scene, but thankfully Dan Jurgens is able to liven it up with some good art, while George Perez and the colorist duo Tanya and Richard Horie are able to really let that artwork pop and keep it not only fast, but interesting. 

Oliver, wearing the green suit, is kept the focus of many panels, and the Hories do a decent job of making it so there aren't too many color clashes going on. 

Jurgens's art, though, is a bit basic. Yes it is good for action, but when it comes to characters just standing around it falls apart a bit. This was problematic across the board for DC; all the artwork almost looked exactly the same, save for a few rare cases. Jurgens draws this issue just fine for what it is, but it doesn't get too complex. 

Speaking of, let's finally talk about the suit. I rather like it for the Oliver Queen they're going for. If this were the older version of the character, yeah, I could see it not-fitting well. But Oliver needs the gadgets to compensate for inexperience, plus he's just adapting to a technological world around him. The trick arrows inform that as well, since they're less used as gimmicks and more as a way to compete with the advancements in technology we'd made. 

The suit itself looks like it's more armor than just your basic shirt and pants, but again, it makes sense in the context of the story. Oliver is, after all, leader of one of the biggest technological corporations in the world. Naturally, he's going to be using some of that tech for himself. The goggles are a bit stupid (another thing highlighted later on in Geoff Johns's Justice League of America comic) and I don't get their idea of "hood down makes Oliver younger." It looks cooler with the hood, at least while he's prowling around. In combat, sure, it can be used against you, but it makes him look a little more intimidating otherwise. 

The best thing about this comic is the fighting, which highlights Green Arrow's fighting abilities. One thing that always bugs me about how some people write the character is that they think he isn't particularly strong or can only contend with C or B-list supervillains. He just walks through a trio of those in this comic with no problem, because Green Arrow is a capable combatant. Deathstroke is, canonically, now associated with Green Arrow. The two can go at it pretty squarely. Not to mention Merlyn or Komodo. Dude can fight, and is pretty darn good at it. 

While this issue would be fine as a simple one-off, or something to lead into a mini-arc, it isn't the best first issue, especially for a controversial reboot. While new concepts are introduced and explored, there isn't a grand feeling of a big, new adventure on the horizon. It just feels like Green Arrow was relocated, simple as that. If you're curious about what the New 52 Green Arrow is like, this is a fine place if you want something quick. But if you want the best of the the volume, it easily starts with Green Arrow #17, where Lemire and Sorrentino began their run. 

And so, another #1 month comes to a close. A pretty average go-around this time...though reviewing two New 52 books probably didn't help. 

Next time, it is another #1 issue, but we begin a look at another that's a bit more infamous and has a lot more Deadpool than the others we've looked at. 

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