Review by C.J. Bunce
Sexual assault, child abuse, gay-bashing, drugs, prostitution, armed robbery, biogenic weapons, and street gangs–what dealt with all of these subjects in its opening chapters? A comic book series? DC Comics is finally compiling Mike Grell’s definitive Green Arrow comic book series that began in February 1988 and ran for more than a decade to November 1998. Gritty and real, it’s the Oliver Queen fans cheered for as he cleaned up the streets of not Star City or Starling City, but the dark alleys of Seattle, Washington.
Except for Morton Weisinger and George Papp who created Green Arrow in 1941, and Denny O’Neill and Neal Adams who re-imagined the character nearly thirty years later, Mike Grell did more than anyone to define the urban archer for the ages. Grell actually took over after O’Neill and Adams created their landmark Green Lantern/Green Arrow series in the early 1970s. But he made Green Arrow his own with 1987’s Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, a three-issue mini-series that finally awakened DC Comics to the potential of Green Arrow and his long-time girlfriend Black Canary. In 1988 Grell made Oliver Queen throw away his trick arrows and use penetrating broadheads that actually killed the bad guys. And in none of the storylines was Queen ever referred to as Green Arrow, a component maintained in CW’s Arrow series.
One of the best features of Grell’s universe was placing Green Arrow and Black Canary firmly in the real city of Seattle, including real street names and places. Dinah Lance ran a floral shop called Sherwood Florist and Queen was even recruited by a secret group to track down a biogenic weapon as a freelancer. In the city Queen donned an updated, hooded costume and revealed a gritty, violent world on the city streets. A new graphic novel format “for mature readers” with updated paper and bright colors made Issue #1 jump off the shelves for a teenager in the 1980s browsing B. Dalton’s at the mall looking for something to read.
The legacy of Grell’s Green Arrow series carries on to this day in later Green Arrow incarnations and the TV series. Oliver Queen was an activist, a social reformer decades before Occupy Wall Street. Dinah was his first priority. And he always took care of the downtrodden.
The first volume of the new trade editions of the original Green Arrow run reprints Issues #1-6, including the arcs “Hunters Moon,” where Oliver hunts down a child killer and Dinah wrestles her assault by a psychopath following the events in Longbow Hunters, “Champions,” where Oliver is hired to hunt down a weapon that could destroy the world and Dinah finally comes to terms with her assault, and “Gauntlet,” where the duo try to help a kid on the streets escape the clutches of a local gang leader. The only quirk to the new edition is that there is no supplemental commentary, interviews, or editor’s notes, no prologue or epilogue as you might find in other reprint graphic novel editions from other publishers.
If you only know Green Arrow from the TV series or the recent DC Comics New 52, you owe it to yourself to check out Grell’s series. Grell served as writer and cover artist, and interior art was provided by Ed Hannigan, Dick Giordano, and Frank McLaughlin. Julia Lacquement provided some great colors, too.