Green Arrow #1
Written by Benjamin Percy
Art by Otto Schmidt
Lettering Nate Piekos
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
“Excuse me while I enjoy this fangirl moment.”
This line comes from Emiko, Oliver’s half-sister and the daughter of Shado, upon witnessing Black Canary taking out a group of Underground Men with her Canary Cry. But she could be speaking for the entire Green Arrow fanbase when it comes to this issue, one that wastes no time in restoring the flagship elements to a character that has been around at DC Comics for 75 years.
From the second page of the issue, a bearded Green Arrow and a Black Canary in fishnets fight side by side. Writer Benjamin Percy is fully aware of the legacy these two have shared - they were a rare couple we got to watch fall in love, fight and make up just as quickly, form an unstoppable duo, get older together, get married and reconnect. But with the Rebirth one-shot and this debut, Percy allows us to go through all of that again in the context of the new continuity, which proves to be a welcome direction.
For those who have missed the classic, flawed Green Arrow of old, they’ll likely be delighted here, as we meet an Ollie that must convince Dinah of his good intentions while he grows into his own adulthood. It’s straight out of the Elliot S. Maggin, Gerry Conway and Joey Cavalieri era of the 1970s and 1980s, itself a period of rebirth for characters that were still languishing as backup players. Just as she did in that time, Black Canary is searching for her own independence while falling for Ollie, signaling some of the same tensions we saw 40 years before. Yet Percy takes Ollie’s whole history on board, and simple moments such as a post-coital couple in bed together are almost straight tributes to Mike Grell’s intimacy in The Longbow Hunters. Considering it was only a few months ago that Percy tried to turn Ollie into a werewolf, this strong start is both a relief and a cause for celebration.
Yet if it was all Black Canary/Green Arrow fanfic, then Green Arrow would only be understanding half the story. Percy continues the work he brushed against in his previous issues by restoring the social justice elements to the character. As the duo continues to search for who is auctioning off Seattle’s homeless, Ollie shows how he has been funneling money into charitable causes in his company’s name. Ollie has his own struggle with duality, seeking to find out how Queen Industries is being run in his name. His investigations stir up the hornets' nest, and Percy seems to indulge in something close to a Batman storyline involving a group that is not too dissimilar to the Court of Owls. This comparison has also been part of Ollie’s history since 1941, and for now remains an intriguing hook for future issues.
Otto Schmidt’s art is outstanding, blending the punk-rock world of Annie Wu’s Black Canary with a new take on the archer that borrows motifs from several classic looks. Schmidt’s designs are delicate and angular, but at the same time contradictorily robust and athletic. There’s weight to the way Black Canary lands a kick, and thanks to a judicious use of speed lines, style as well. Later, when Ollie is threatened, arrowheads pointed at him serve the same function as they frame the panel, heightening the action by increasing rapid close-ups. Schmidt’s color art is also essential to the book’s tone, transitioning from the nighttime purples, through burnt oranges and pinks, to the golden yellows of daytime. It not only distinguishes this version of Green Arrow from the previous incarnations, but visually marks the rebirth of the character as well. The appearance of a familiar face in the last few pages is an iconic depiction too.
When Percy first took over the New 52 version of Green Arrow, he had an equally strong start, but eventually got lost in an odd tension between horror and his clear love of Green Arrow’s background. Here we see something completely different, a flat out classic depiction of a character that owes just as much to his current history as it does to its long legacy, never compromising either.