Review by C.J. Bunce
Oliver Queen was dead, to begin with.
The average superhero fan today probably wouldn’t know Oliver Queen today but for three events: (1) the modernization of the character by writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams in the 1970s, (2) his update to urban longbow hunter by writer/artist Mike Grell in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and (3) the literal resurrection of Oliver Queen in the early 2000s by the partnership of writer Kevin Smith, penciller Phil Hester and inker Ande Parks. No TV series would have arrived without the survival of the character thanks to these stories–reprinted and available in a deluxe hardcover for the O’Neil/Adams stories here, and in paperback reprinted only recently for Mike Grell’s stories here, here, and here. In light of Green Arrow/Arrow’s popularity today being greater than ever before in his 73 year history, it’s only fitting that DC Comics is releasing the third great chapter in the character’s history with Absolute Green Arrow this month.
Absolute Green Arrow, available here from Amazon.com, reprints Issues #1-15 of Green Arrow, Volume 3, in a matte black with gloss hardcover with slipcase in a sharp, over-sized, 9.6 inch X 15 inch format. It includes all of Matt Wagner’s stylish painted covers, previously released introduction by Smith and afterword by Hester, and original artwork in an appendix by Hester. If you ever wonder how much work the inker must conquer, just take a look at Hester’s pencil work and you’ll have a great appreciation for Parks’ inks.
The first ten chapters form the “Quiver” story arc, and the last five the “Sounds of Violence” arc. This is the entire run of Kevin Smith’s stories for Green Arrow. Phil Hester took over writing and artistic duties for the next several issues with even better stories than found in these early chapters. But these Smith stories present a Green Arrow in a way a bit like Frank Miller played with Batman’s mythology in The Dark Knight Returns. Smith’s Green Arrow is not as innovative as the seminal Miller work, but it’s plenty fun, and each new chapter feels like Smith saw this opportunity to play with DC Universe characters like a kid in a toy store. You’ll encounter the Justice League, memorable encounters with Aquaman and Hawkman, and even a quirky adventure featuring Stanley and his Monster. Former sidekicks Roy Harper and Connor Hawke are here, too, but most importantly Oliver Queen rebuilds his relationship with long-time love interest Dinah Lance aka Black Canary. Difficult to come back from after being presumed dead.
These stories also define the unique Phil Hester artwork style that you can spot a mile away today in his current work on The Flash comic book TV tie-in series. It’s in the “Quiver” story arc that we’re first introduced to Mia Dearden, another incarnation of the sidekick Speedy, a modern young woman with much to offer readers and whose character is expanded further in Hester’s later stories.
The best of the chapters is a confrontation between Oliver and Hawkman and a hilarious series of panels of Dinah by Hester as she enters to break-up their antics. Oliver’s first encounter with the Justice League is also a great scene, especially when Superman arrives.
New comments by Smith and Hester would have been a nice addition. Smith’s dated comment from 2002 that begins this volume includes a final point praising the cover art for the series, stating that Matt Wagner’s original painted covers were all hanging in his comic book store, and that “I’ll keep them forever… Or at least until I run out of cash.” Only a few years later Smith must have run out of cash, as they were all broken up and sold at auction along with many of Hester and Parks’ original art pages and Wagner’s cover roughs. Then again, it sort of fits Smith’s persona.
How was Oliver resurrected after being shot down in an airplane toward the end of the earlier series begun by Mike Grell? You’ll have to read it to find out, but if you’ve been watching The Returned on A&E recently you’ll have an idea.
Absolute Green Arrow is a must for any Green Arrow fan, and a good read for anyone who loves superhero comics who is looking for a good romp.