Review: Green Arrow #21

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Oh yeah. Now this is a comic book.

Green Arrow was one of the more reviled titles of the New 52 on launch. It fumbled through three creative teams and 16 issues before finally the DC brass decided to give the book, starring a hero that currently has his own pretty-alright TV series, to someone who could turn it around. With issue #17, author Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino came onto the book, and in a single issue turned the whole train wreck around, right back onto the rails.

“The Kill Machine”, as the arc has been called, has been marked by a return to Oliver Queen’s roots. He’s lost his fortune, lost a mentor and lost a dear friend. His name has been slandered and trampled upon, being little more than dirt in the eyes of the public, and he’s been hunted by an archer assassin called Komodo. It’s been an exhilarating ride, marked by some of the most comic book style action I’ve read in a comic to date.

Issue #21 brings us the conclusion to this arc, and sets up the series’ metagame going forward. As it turns out, Oliver is descended from a great master of a secret organization known as the Arrow Cult. The Arrow Cult was the keeper of a legendary bow, one that is said to grant enlightenment to the one who holds it. But this bow was not alone; it had the company of six other weapons, each with their own Cult, that all had similar properties. Outside this cult was a group called the Outsiders, which Komodo wants to join, and is why… well, spoilers.

The point is that we’ve somewhat suddenly gotten a dash of mysticism into Green Arrow – and that’s flipping awesome. At its basic level, Green Arrow has always been a less brooding, younger Batman: rich kid with a troubled past uses his money to create technology to help him fight crime. Oversimplified, sure, but the basic story strokes are there, and Green Arrow had always lacked the psychological depth of Batman. He’s always been a more fun and action oriented hero, but without a lot of depth there. This new angle I find particularly intriguing, because it adds some background to Green Arrow as a character that I find refreshing.

This mysticism angle is clearly going to be the primary storytelling thrust of Green Arrow  from here on out, and that’s exciting. Lemire has finally given the series a direction and a voice, and I am thrilled to see where the title goes.

But the best best best part about this wonderful comic is not the story, as exciting as it is, but the art. This issue, along with the entire five-issue run so far, is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Andrea Sorrentino’s panel layouts and pencils are absolutely stunning, breaking conventions and delivering fitfully wild images for the hallucinatory story. Sorrentino continues the wonderful target motif, with smaller panels emphasizing key details, and adds some inventive planar shifts to the affair. In one particularly striking image, Oliver begins to sink into the floor of a tent (comic books, man) and then emerges out the bottom of the page, upside down, on the island. It’s a beautifully drawn scene, in a single cohesive panel. I’ll admit to involuntarily vocalizing my amazement at the art numerous times in this issue. Sorrentino is one of the best artists working at DC right now, and this issue is a showcase for that talent.

Verdict: A

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