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With DC Comics’ summer Rebirth reboot, many monthly series turned bi-weekly, and we’ve now already seen the first eleven issues published of many series.  Like the many reboots before it, DC Comics introduced the Rebirth continuity to re-ignite its fan base after the success of the prior reboot–the New 52–dissipated.  So many shake-ups and change-ups occurred in the New 52 that you’d pretty much need to read the entire DC Comics line to keep up with what has happened to even the key Justice League superheroes.  With two issues per month that’s difficult for any reader to keep up with.

One of the better sellers in this year’s Rebirth line is the Green Arrow title.  Under the New 52 Oliver Queen encountered as many changes to his character as anyone.  In fact fans of Green Arrow were probably better served subscribing to the Arrow tie-in comic book to the television series to get a dose of the classic crusader.  As likely as not the success of the CW Network series coupled perhaps with fans’ hopes for big changes from the New 52, and a restoration of the essential Oliver Queen, could account for the sales success of Green Arrow in DC’s Rebirth universe.

Otto Schmidt served as artist and colorist on the series in the introductory chapters.  Bringing Oliver’s older look back to the character, complete with the goatee, was a move in the right direction.  Schmidt used the supersuit of the modern update yet his style conjures up both Neal Adams and Mike Grell’s key design elements that defined Green Arrow’s look for decades.  Writer Benjamin Percy, who was the writer on the series before the Rebirth kicked in, re-introduced the second key element that defines Oliver: his partnership with Black Canary.  The lack of the Arrow-Canary partnership contributed to the wane of Oliver’s story in the New 52–as a solo character Queen was just too much like everyone else.  Percy’s other shift is reminding everyone that Queen is first and foremost a fighter for social justice.  In contrast to the billion dollar company he sometimes owns and sometimes loses, Queen is the ultimate anti-corporate superhero.  So these three elements: his look, his partnership with Black Canary, and his brand of justice, form the framework for what could be a solid Green Arrow series going forward.

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Plenty is left to be done.  Queen’s social justice efforts have only scratched the surface with eleven issues already in the can.  Instead, Percy has opted for some frivolous, but fun, nostalgia: several scenes are spent restarting a romance between Oliver and Dinah, and he’s brought back classic secondary characters like Shado and Eddie Fyers, both from Mike Grell’s definitive Green Arrow series The Longbow Hunters.  With the story now firmly set in Seattle, also as Grell had done with the setting–and not Star City–we can see some good attempts are being made to rediscover what made the 1980s and 1990s Green Arrow worth reading about.

Some oddities are here that are not tied to the Green Arrow series.  Why is Dinah Lance aka Black Canary a rock star?  The DC editors clearly are having problems finding a place for Dinah.  In the CW TV series the writers divided her into two characters, one a lawyer, the other a mystic fighter.  Historically she began as a martial artist, but her career originally in the 1940s was as florist, and Grell brought this back in the 1980s.  She briefly trained as a cop in the 1990s, something picked up by the TV series with the inclusion of her father as a detective.  So why a rock star?  At least she again has her superpower sonic scream and her affinity for motorcycles.

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Oliver also has a new sister, and his relationship with Shado is far different from in the classic books.  His sister seems to take the place of both Thea in the TV series and protégé Mia in the Phil Hester/Ande Parks run of Green Arrow.

The other interesting addition is John Diggle from the CW TV series.  At brief points it seemed like this year’s story was aiming toward the early 1970s Hard-Traveling Heroes team-up of Oliver, Dinah, and Diggle substituting for Green Lantern Hal Jordan.  Fans have speculated that, since corporate deals have made it impossible to bring Green Lantern back into the current CW TV stories and Justice League movies, Diggle is intended to be a sort of Green Lantern himself, in part to re-form the classic trio.  Although nothing suggests Diggle is a Lantern, his role in the trio is a fine idea, and certainly a route Percy could use for story ideas in future issues.

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Possibly because of the new bi-monthly scheduling and the art team’s individual schedules, the series has three alternating artists, which is fine for standalone story issues but a bit clunky to see a change mid-story.  Otto Schmidt draws Issues 1, 2, and 8; Juan Ferreyra draws Issues 3, 4, 5, 10, and 11; and Stephen Byrne draws Issues 6, 7 and 9.  From a continuity of storytelling standpoint, Schmidt and Ferreyra’s issues are more cohesive, and emulate a Mike Grell look.  Byrne’s look is more cartoonish, but evokes a bit of the look of Phil Hester’s run on the series.  So there is something for everyone in the series, depending on your style preferences.  One thing to look for is a great run of covers by Ferreyra.  His covers, including a first issue that nicely borrows from Matt Wagner’s great Green Arrow cover run, surpass the variants provided by other artists including Neal Adams’ contributions, and solidify a common look for the series.  One notable exception is a classic variant by Mike Grell for Issue #8.

Is this the definite Green Arrow series?  Definitely not.  But it’s progress, and after slighting Green Arrow as a character for years in the comic books while the character has taken off in popularity on television, that’s pretty good news for fans of the classic character.

Look for a new story arc called “Emerald Outlaw” to begin tomorrow in Green Arrow, Issue #12, available at comic book stores everywhere.  The first trade collection of the first five issues of the series can be found at Amazon.com here, and the second volume can be pre-ordered here.

 

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