[11 March 2013]
“The Kill Machine” continues this month as Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino dig deeper into the life of Oliver Queen, how it’s affecting his career as Green Arrow, and elements of the past that are making things difficult for Ollie today. After living in excess for too long, Lemire took away Ollie’s life last issue. It was a jarring sequence that saw Emerson—one of Ollie’s only allies in this twisted game of corporate chess—murdered before Oliver Queen, while Ollie is blamed for the crime. Subsequently, a ruthless new archer attacks Green Arrow, and Ollie starts discovering connections between his life and his father’s early years, including time spent on the island that turned Ollie into Green Arrow. What makes Green Arrow #18 so much fun to read is that all these different plot elements are woven together within a near-perfect framework. Never does the writing feel overbearing or overly complex. Lemire strives for and succeeds in crafting a new vision for Green Arrow that matches the character’s history of introspective narrative.
Last issue, Lemire introduced new villain Komodo, an analogously dark archer traipsing around Seattle giving Ollie a hard time, only to be rebuffed by the enigmatic Magus who seemed to have Ollie’s best interests at heart. With Green Arrow #18, Lemire takes a unique narrative route with transparency, revealing Komodo’s true identity and prowess, then characterizing Magus without giving away any information as to his motives or allegiance. Komodo is LaCroix, CEO of Stellmoor Industries and rival/prospective buyer of Queen Industries and Q-Core. “Make no mistake, we at Stellmoor are no vultures. We owe it to the shareholders of Queen Industries to stabilize the company and return it to the greatness Robert Queen once strived for,” explains LaCroix to his board of directors. Though it’s just a single moment, and it’s about the propagation of a business, this sequence speaks to LaCroix’s character, not just as Komodo the deadly archer, but also as a man who has some conviction about how he conducts his professional affairs. This includes letting his young daughter watch and participate in the torturing of Ollie’s friend Jax. Again, it’s a sequence like this that’s both sweet and disturbing, bucking the stereotype of the heinous villain whose only focus is world domination or some such. This development is indicative of a trend to make villains in comicbooks more understandable—not necessarily from their actions, but because of their conviction. In this sense, it’s hard to see LaCroix’s agenda clearly at the moment.
Of course, it’s made even less clear by the simultaneous introduction and development of Magus, the eyeless man who wants to help Ollie become a better man. This is what sets Magus apart from the rest of the Green Arrow supporting cast; he wants to help Ollie, but not by training him or acting as a support system. Rather, Magus wants to direct the young Queen to follow in his father’s footsteps. Why, we still don’t know. The simple answer could be to stop Komodo, but the real answer is going to be much longer and more satisfying.
Green Arrow #18 also introduces Henry Fyff, a bumbling, awkward technological genius that Ollie fired from Q-Core three years prior. Normally, it’s more prudent to introduce new supporting characters gradually, letting readers get used to them before giving them more important roles. Again, Lemire takes the road less travelled and throws Fyff into the mix rather quickly with a sole conversation between him and Ollie. It’s not too long, but it hits all the right beats in character development that turn a secondary character into an interesting tertiary that really adds to the setting and the plot. Contrary to my usual feelings on new characters being introduced too fast, I found myself a fan of Henry Fyff by issue’s end.
Andrea Sorrentino’s artwork is top-notch and a perfect fit for Lemire’s Green Arrow. I’ve admired his work on I, Vampire for a long time now, and it just works so well with Green Arrow and the aesthetic of non-powered superhero machinations. I’ve heard some fans shy away from his work simply because it’s not as clean and crisp as, say, Jim Lee’s style. Fortunately, the “messy” style Sorrentino employs is a lot more conducive to street-level storytelling.
After an extremely long and rough start, Jeff Lemire’s reworking of Green Arrow has been a rousing success. In just two issues, the entitled, arrogant Oliver Queen has been wiped away and replaced with an Ollie that understands his place more than he ever has in the past. Everything he had is gone, and everything he now has he’s building from nothing. In a way, Lemire is proving to readers that Oliver Queen is worth our reading. Trying to enjoy the expensive hobbies of rich jerks isn’t as much fun as seeing those same jerks get knocked down a few pegs. Lemire recognizes this and wants to make Ollie a character with real depth instead of just another playboy with superhero aspirations.