[19 March 2008]
The character of Green Arrow has certainly had its ups and downs over the years. During the 1990’s, DC Comics killed off the character, replacing Oliver Queen with his son Connor as the new Green Arrow. This did not last long, however, as Clerks director Kevin Smith soon began writing a new Green Arrow series which re-introduced Oliver Queen to the DC universe. While the character has been re-vamped a few times, one thing that has not been approached in a while is the character’s origin. Enter the writer and artist of Vertigo’s The Losers, Andy Diggle and Jock, to re-tell the tale of how Oliver Queen became Green Arrow.
Re-telling an origin story is a tricky thing. Sometimes they work—such as Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s Batman: Year One or John Byrne’s Superman: Man of Steel—and sometimes they go down in flames and are soon forgotten, such as John Byrne’s Spider-Man: Chapter One. Luckily, Diggle and Jock’s tale falls into the former category and not the latter. The reason origin stories are sometimes the most difficult to tell are because the readers hold the current origin in such nostalgia, particularly if a character’s origin has not been tampered with for years, or in some cases, since the character’s inception. As well, the old cliché, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” regularly applies. In Green Arrow’s case, his origin has really not been dealt with for decades, and frankly, most are probably only aware of it’s generalities. Diggle and Jock take this framework origin of the playboy who is shipwrecked on an island and learns to survive by hunting with a bow and arrow to return a socialist superhero, and update it to feature betrayal, money, and drugs.
Their blending of non-stop action and solid character development allow the story to flow at a fast pace and have the reader wanting more. Jock is certainly one of the best artists working today, and as was clearly evident in the last series they worked on together, he fits well with Diggle’s bigger-than-life action scenes. The series is mostly focused on the action scenes, and in only a general sense, showing Oliver change from a spoiled playboy to a socialist. The smartest thing Diggle does is keeping Oliver grounded in the “real world”. Oliver’s nemesis for the series is a drug cartel using the island, and its inhabitants, to produce drugs. It always seems that the power-less superheroes work better versus more realistic adversaries than the supernatural ones. My personal favourite Green Arrow tales are Mike Grell’s run on the title in the 1980’s, and this title reminds me a little bit of that run. Diggle seems to be able to take the best of the different takes on the characters and meld them together. There are even nods to some of Oliver’s more elaborate past incarnations, such as the trick arrows, but they are handled well and don’t come across as silly or over-the-top.
Fans of the character will definitely enjoy this title. There have been some complaints that Diggle and Jock’s use of modern technology (such as cell phones) dates the comic, however this seems like such a small gripe that if it detracts from your enjoyment of the story, you should really be getting a life. Comic readers who have either never read a Green Arrow comic or didn’t enjoy the character should pick up this title, as it’s most definitely the best this character has been written and drawn in years. If DC’s current Green Arrow title goes belly up, and sales would indicate it will, they should seriously consider getting Diggle to write a new series, as well as have Jock draw a story-arc or two. Otherwise, we will have to re-read this wonderful mini-series over and over to prove that when done well, Green Arrow is one of the best characters around.