DC Comics celebrates 80 years of Green Arrow with 100-page anniversary issue

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Review by C.J. Bunce

I’ve been a fan of the DC Comics character Green Arrow and his partner in fighting crime Black Canary for four decades, but the Robin Hood-inspired superhero with bow and arrow has been around for twice that long.  This month he gets the red carpet treatment in a tribute anthology issue, the Green Arrow 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular The anthology provides 12 stories reflecting creators known for their Green Arrow work like Mike Grell, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, and Jeff Lemire, plus stories by new writers and artists in the style of the character as published in the decades since 1941, when Oliver Queen first saw newsstands.  Some things are missing, like no story featuring the artwork of Neal Adams, whose art was synonymous with Green Arrow and Green Lantern for so long (although he drew a variant cover for this issue) or Jim Aparo, Rick Hoberg, Scott McDaniel, Cliff Chiang, Jock, or Freddie Williams II from later points on the Green Arrow timeline.  There are no stories by Judd Winick, Brad Meltzer, or Kevin Smith, and creators Mort Weisinger and George Papp are of course long gone, as is Denny O’Neil, who does get a tribute story.  But there is plenty Green Arrow fun for fans to love–nice homages, especially to the Golden Age incarnation of Green Arrow and Speedy, and two stories that will take readers right back to their favorite eras of Green Arrow.

The first of those high points is writer/artist Mike Grell’s “…Just the Usual Sort of Stuff,” featuring the very same Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance in Seattle that Grell cooked up for years in the longest run by anyone of longbow hunter stories.  It’s just as if Grell never stopped creating Ollie and Dinah tales.  If O’Neil and Adams jumpstarted Green Arrow in his middle years, it was Mike Grell who defined and refined the character for the future.  Grell’s artwork–and tie-in supporting character choices–feels just like missing pages from his years on the series, and is worth the $9.99 price tag for the book alone.

The second nostalgic trip in the book is writer/artist Phil Hester and inker Ande Parks’ story “Star City Star.”  Hester and Parks’ chiseled style stands out as the look of Green Arrow and his cohorts for an entire generation of readers.  We’ve seen Hester and Parks return for special issues before, but this story–and Grell’s–is a reminder of what a monthly Green Arrow book could again be today (it’s stunning that DC Comics can’t make this happen with such a popular character!).

Mariko Tamaki and Javier Rodriguez begin the anthology with the best throwback story, the 1940s-1950s style “The Disappearing Bandit.”  It’s perfectly conceived and executed.  Nicola Scott evokes Michael Netzer’s style from Green Arrow’s The Poison Tomorrow crossover one-shot with Batman in a story by Tom Taylor.  And Stephanie Phillips and Chris Mooneyham create a perfect replica of a classic Action Comics or World’s Finest 8-page “back-up” story with their “Who Watches the Watchtower?”–a story reflecting Green Arrow’s often mocked attitude and relationship with the Justice League.  Mike Grell frequently referred to Oliver’s famous chili recipe, which carried over beyond his run on the series, and the editor included a recipe in this issue (we’re pretty sure it’s not the Seattle original, however).  Other stories and goofy tie-in bits (like trick arrows) are peppered throughout the book.

Here is a rundown of all the contributors, in order (in addition to an O’Neil tribute by his son):

●      “The Disappearing Bandit” –  Written by Mariko Tamaki, Art by Javier Rodriguez
●      “Punching Evil” – Written by Tom Taylor, Art by Nicola Scott, Colors by Annette Kwok
●      “Who Watches the Watchtower?” – Written by Stephanie Phillips, Art by Chris Mooneyham, Colors by Mike Spicer
●      “Out of the Shadows” – Written and Art by Mike Grell, Colors by Lovern Kindzerski
●      “The Arrow and the Song” – Written by Ram V, Art by Christopher Mitten, Colors by Ivan Plascencia
●      “One” – Written by Brandon Thomas, Art by Jorge Corona, Colors by Matheus Lopes
●      “Green Man and Autumn Son” – Written by Devin Grayson, Art by Max Fiumara
●      “Star City Star” – Written and Art by Phil Hester, Inks by Ande Parks, Colors by Trish Mulvihill
●      “Happy Anniversary” – Written by Vita Ayala, Art by Laura Braga, Colors by Adriano Lucas
●      “The Sympathy of the Woods” – Written by Ben Percy, Art by Otto Schmidt
●      “The Last Green Arrow Story” – Written by Jeff Lemire, Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colors by Jordie Bellaire

The covers are all well done homages complete with classic logos from past series.  Gary Frank and Brad Anderson’s Mike Grell-era tribute cover actually tricked me into thinking it was an actual Grell creation (nice job!).

Here is the standard edition–the 2020s cover–by Dan Mora:

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And here are the variant covers:

1940s Variant: Michael Cho

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1950s Variant: Daniel Warren Johnson

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1960s Variant: Neal Adams

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1970s Variant: Derrick Chew

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1980s Variant: Gary Frank

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1990s Variant: Howard Porter

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2000s Variant: Jen Bartel

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2010s Variant: Simone Di Meo

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To celebrate the milestone 80th Anniversary, fans can read the first issue of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ legendary run that saw the team-up of Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Black Canary as the “hard-traveling heroes” in Green Lantern #76-#87 for free with registration on DC Universe Infinite (or just pick up a copy here).

It’s a must-read for every Green Arrow fan.  The Green Arrow 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular is available at Elite Comics and other fine comic shops now, or pick up a copy at Amazon here.

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