Had someone told me two years ago that the “archer” books at both major comics publishers would be among the best in comics today, I doubt I could have maintained a straight face—yet Hawkeye and Green Arrow have carved out distinctive places in each universe with engaging storytelling and stunning art. This is particularly startling considering where Green Arrow began after DC’s “New 52” relaunch three years ago, well-received by neither critics nor fans.
The new Oliver Queen is still learning how to be a hero. After learning survival and archery skills while stranded on an island, he returns to the U.S. and begins to use his inherited wealth to wage a war on crime as Green Arrow—but he still comes off as a rich and entitled young man with a lot of anger and little direction. However, writer Jeff Lemire has changed the status quo with his new take on the character. Oliver soon loses his company, his fortune, and many of his friends while accumulating a variety of new enemies. These new foes, including Komodo, have a secret agenda that Oliver can barely comprehend as he struggles to survive. In a controversial move, Lemire has introduced eight ancient societies called the Outsiders to the Green Arrow mythos; Oliver discovers that his family belongs to one of the clans and its special totem is the “Green Arrow.” While this leads to some interesting storylines, it also threatens to rob Oliver of agency and free will. Is he really in control of his destiny? Did he choose to be a hero called Green Arrow or was it preordained? Time will tell, but at least fans are talking about the series instead of ignoring it as they have in the past.
While Lemire’s story has imbued Oliver’s life with mystery and danger, the artwork of Andrea Sorrentino makes this one of the best comics being produced by a major publisher. Sorrentino first caught my eye when he was working on I, Vampire for DC; his dark, heavy lines and use of negative space seemed perfect for a horror comic about vampires. When poor sales doomed that book, DC moved him to its struggling Green Arrow title, and amazingly, his style may work even better for a weapons-heavy superhero book. Sorrentino uses boxes and circles to highlight important details in his panels, like the tip of an arrow or the crack of an elbow against someone’s neck. His work is greatly enhanced by his colorists as they often leave these smaller panels black and white and surrounded by color on all sides. The artist’s imaginative and creative panel work is truly something to be seen, especially when Oliver is confronted by Count Vertigo, a villain with mental powers.
While it’s hard to deny that most mainstream superhero titles are aimed at men, teens will enjoy the action-packed story and artistic tour de force of Green Arrow. It is violent, but no more than the typical PG-13 movie. Based on the DC character, the successful CW TV series Arrow will no doubt attract even more interest to the graphic novel. It’s great that there is a writer-and-artist team on this title whose work is worthy of renewed interest in the character.
Green Arrow, Vol. 4: The Kill Machine
by Jeff Lemire
Art by Andrea Sorrentino
DC Comics, 2014