Published by DC Comics
For some reason Green Arrow is one of my favourite characters in comics and he really shouldn’t be. After all he’s nothing but a poor Batman clone or modern-day Robin Hood ripoff. What’s the appeal?*
Well, DC’s Year One comics are all about retelling the origins of their classic characters and reminding the world what was so great about them in the first place. Oliver Queen is a spoilt, risk taking, billionaire Playboy. An exaggerated Richard Branson figure who has “pulled barrel rolls in a stealth fighter, base-jumped the Grand Canyon, dived the Titanic and bagged more supermodels than Helmut Newton” all in the last six months.
Betrayed by his friend/bodyguard Hackett, he is thrown off his yacht into the Pacific and left for dead. This of course is not the case and he washes up on an apparently deserted island. During his struggle for survival he rediscovers a childhood skill with the bow and arrow and stumbles across an immense opium plantation. Local Islanders work the plantation against their will and Hackett turns out to be in charge of security.
This leads to battles involving machine guns, arrows through limbs and extremities, explosions, World War Two Japanese submarine bases, Ollie being saved by a local woman and developing a social conscience (and a brief opium addiction) and generally setting the scene for the character that Green Arrow would become.
Andy Diggle has done a good job writing this, with snappy dialogue and solid pacing. He lays out a good foundation for Ollie’s transformation from spoilt rich braggart into the socially driven, bold hero Green Arrow. He keeps it tied into the real world while still giving a few tips of the hat to old Green Arrow favourites like the knock out arrow. This would make for one hell of a movie adaptation and if DC are to ever take a page out of Marvel’s book and try to create a shared movie universe I think Green Arrow should be the first of the second tier characters to get a shot.
Jock is one of my favourite artists in comics today and this is a great place to start with his work. He is somehow stylised and yet realistic at the same time. The art is gritty with Jock showing arrows piercing legs and pinning hands to trees (in true superhero fashion Green Arrow does not kill). His arrows in flight are great and he has a fantastic way of inserting smaller panels into a page to show movement throughout the scene. It illustrates that idea unique to comics that each panel is a snapshot moment of time.
Should I read it? Yes, definitely. A well written set up for a great character with excellent art
Buy it? Probably, it’s not essential but still good comics.
*Personally I can pinpoint much of my attraction to the character down to reading a huge chunk of the Mike Grell run on the title during the 90’s. Grell took Green Arrow out of the super hero realm and onto the rainy streets of Seattle . It was probably raining in Wellington at the time and I probably wished I were a super hero.
It was under DC’s mature readers line (that later became Vertigo) and featured great realistic dialogue and real adult relationships. Basically it’s great, reading that (and Animal Man at the same time and under the same imprint) left me with enduring affection for those characters and the belief that comics weren’t just for kids.