Oliver Queen is dying, out in the desert, left for dead and we don’t know why. Jeff Lemire takes us back three weeks to Seattle to understand what led to this moment. From Lemire’s first issue writing for Green Arrow to today, he has given us an entirely new Green Arrow, and although he chose to keep the trick arrows, not a lot of characteristics would make the new angry young man familiar to long-time fans. Over the last ten issues, 2013 has seen what the New 52 sees as Oliver Queen.
In the five-issue story arc titled “The Kill Machine,” a mysterious hunter, also an archer, called Komodo has destroyed Queen’s life, causing his business and friends to be taken away. Komodo brings along his psychopath of a daughter, too—think Hit Girl and Big Daddy or Boba and Jango and you’ll get the idea. Komodo even has the image projected to him of an even badder bad guy a la the Emperor called Golgotha. Queen has been set up—Oliver Queen is a wanted man for the murder of the leader of the old Queen Industries. Lemire then pulls us back into the history of Queen’s father, his friend, and that island where Queen was stranded for years. Like the ghost of Obi-Wan, a spirit guide of sorts called Magus is trying to steer Oliver on the path away from destruction, to the truth. And going along with the Star Wars metaphors, Oliver confronts Komodo to learn the truth about his father.
The themes this year have certainly been familiar, some echo Green Arrow of the past, some echo story elements from other familiar tales. Nothing has been entirely new in this year’s Green Arrow run. Yet if you push aside that this is a Green Arrow book, Lemire’s angry young man and his attempts to deal with his own anger, and his need to avenge something, create an interesting read. If you’re able to tolerate the creators of the Arrow TV series as they manipulate and change the Green Arrow mythos, then you similarly might have no issue letting Lemire do the same in his print version. What’s odd is we have a competing book that follows the TV series, called Arrow, and the series itself which add to this confusing spread of Green Arrow stories all at once. Not even a dozen Batman titles show a lead character as divergent as the heroes of Arrow vs. Green Arrow.
The next two-part story arc reintroduces Shado, historically tied to Oliver Queen, now connected to Oliver’s father. This leads to a bridge issue involving a confrontation between Oliver and Count Vertigo in issue #24, which leads into the Zero Hour cross-title story arc in Issue #25. It’s a bit confusing, as Queen Industries CEO Emerson was killed a few issues back, and he appears in this backstory issue taking place six years ago. John Diggle, who has only ever appeared in the Arrow TV series, is suddenly part of Oliver’s past, appearing with his mother as Oliver returns from the island he was stranded on for years. And Roy Harper appears from out of nowhere. Oliver looks his best so far in the series in Issue #25, the bearded, rundown archer we’ve been waiting for, but it doesn’t last long. Even an appearance by Batman doesn’t make all the events of this issue gel.
The current issue, Issue #26, brings Oliver back to even more familiar territory for fans of the TV series, that island that we keep returning to in each episode. The characters are of course different, different from the TV series, different from the origin story from decades past, and different even from the more recent Green Arrow: Year One. To the extent this first story arc by Lemire was gaining momentum during the first part of 2013, the story has faltered as DC Comics has the book intersect with both the villains series and the Zero Hour storyline. It’s possible with Issue #26 Lemire can get the story back on track. With a character like John Diggle that we’ve all grown to appreciate from the TV series, along with Shado, the monthly series still has some potential.
Whatever your view of the direction Lemire is taking with Green Arrow, the artwork for both the interiors and covers by I, Vampire artist Andrea Sorrentino this year has been well done. He really has pulled from the Green Arrow look achieved by the artist known as Jock in his brief Green Arrow: Year One limited series. My only quibbles with the art are things like Oliver’s scared friend Naomi, who has a bomb attached to her, and yet she looks like she is smiling in a two panels while the clock is ticking down—Sorrentino’s expressions sometimes don’t quite match the situation in the text.
Good art and writing? Sure. But the choices are strange. Why keep the trick arrows and little else? If the story isn’t entirely what you’re looking for, fans of the post Grell, post-Hester era may still gravitate to this series. And long-time fans will stick with it to see if we’ll ever get another glimpse of the prior incarnation of Green Arrow.