Green Arrow: Sounds of Violence

Green Arrow: Sounds of Violence

By Kevin Smith, Phil Hester & Ande Parks (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-56389-976-0 (hardcover) ISBN 1-4012-0045-1 (softcover)

After returning from the dead (see Green Arrow: Quiver – ISBN: 1-84023-509-8) our reinvigorated hero tries to re-establish himself both as a do-gooder and more importantly with his extended family – especially Mia Dearden, a street kid he saved from prostitution and took into his home. But as he resists the pressure to make her his next sidekick (from both her and his son Connor) The Riddler comes to town intent on mischief, and a new bizarre serial killer stalks the streets hunting costumed heroes.

Onomatopoeia only speaks in sound effects and is a ruthless, flamboyantly sadistic, seemingly unstoppable force. So when he fails to kill the junior Green Arrow he invades the hospital where the critically wounded Connor is undergoing emergency surgery to finish the job, leaving a trail of corpses in his wake.

Sharp, darkly funny and chilling by turns this tale (collected from issues #11-15 of the monthly comicbook) breaks out of the usual mould in many ways, perhaps as much due to writer Kevin Smith’s other commitments as from any sense of narrative novelty, but it certainly doesn’t harm the result. Particularly delicious are the scenes with on-again, off-again lover Black Canary and heroic polar opposite Hawkman.

A little more mature in both themes and the treatment of interpersonal relationships (and surely no bad thing for that?) this is a superior superhero saga and a strong advocate for the argument that costume dramas don’t have to be all Fights and Tights.

© 2002 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Arrow: Quiver

Green Arrow: Quiver

By Kevin Smith, Phil Hester & Ande Parks (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-84023-509-8

Green Arrow has been a fixture in the DC Universe since the early 1940s and was one of the few costumed heroes to survive the end of the Golden Age. He carried on adventuring in the back of other heroes’ comic books, joined the Justice League and became the spokes-hero of the anti-establishment during the 1960’s Relevancy period in comics publishing, courtesy of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. Under Mike Grell’s stewardship he became a headliner, an urban hunter who dealt with corporate thugs and serial killers rather than costumed goof-balls. And then he was killed.

This revival, from the unconventional Kevin Smith (yes, Silent Bob!) and the wonderful art-team of Phil Hester and Ande Parks, brings him back from Heaven in the most refreshing manner I’ve seen in nearly five decades of comic reading. Collecting issues #1-10 of the monthly series this gloriously enjoyable refining of Green Arrow embraces the fundamental daftness of superhero comics to revitalise them. Replete with guest-stars, jam-packed with action and intrigue and wallowing in fun thanks to the sly, snappy dialogue of Smith, this is a costume-drama in a thousand and I’m certainly not going to spoil your fun by giving away any details.

Buy it, read it, love it!

© 2001, 2002 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Arrow: Moving Targets

Green Arrow: Moving Targets 

By Judd Winick, Phil Hester & Tom Fowler (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-84576-234-7

This big compilation collects almost a year’s worth of adventures featuring mainstream comic’s most libertarian vigilante and his crime-busting family, reprinting issues # 40 –50 of the Green Arrow monthly magazine. The setting is the immediate aftermath of a colossal battle that united superheroes, cops and criminals in a last-ditch attempt to free their city from the clutches of an army of demons (see Green Arrow: City Walls ISBN 1-84576-039-5). As the dust settles the various factions go back to work and a new and particularly ruthless gang-boss known as Brick not only rises to the forefront but succeeds in taking over the slowly recovering city.

The eventual confrontation between hero and mobster only leads to further catastrophe as Brick, who refuses to play by any of those old-fashioned clichéd rules that inexplicably infest these kinds of conflicts, declares total war on the Archers’ nearest and dearest and even hires in other heroes’ villains to perform the dirty work, leading to an all-out battle with guest-stars galore.

If you’re a fan of out-and-out super-hero action this series should be at the top of your reading list. Witty, stylish writing, genuine warmth between the leading characters, strong emotional resonances among the cast and guests and superb breakneck action in an always fresh and challenging attempt to shake up and shake off the accepted conventions is the Standard Operating Procedure. It’s not often you can read a comic book and truly feel that no character is actually safe. You should give it a shot.

© 2004, 2005, 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters

Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters 

By Mike Grell with Lurene Haynes & Julia Lacquement (DC Comics)
ISBN 0-930289-38-2

First appearing in More Fun Comics #73 in 1941, Green Arrow is one of the very few superheroes to be continuously published (more or less) since the Golden Age of American comic books. This combination of Batman and Robin Hood seems to have very little going for him but has always managed to keep himself in vogue.

Probably his most telling of many makeovers came in 1987, when, hot on the heels of The Dark Knight Returns, Mike Grell was given the green light to make him the star of the second ‘Prestige Format Mini-Series’. Grell was a major creator at the time, having practically saved the company with his Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired fantasy series Warlord. He had also been the illustrator of many of GA’s most recent tales.

In the grim ‘n’ gritty late Eighties, it was certainly time for an overhaul. Exploding arrows yes, maybe even net or rope arrows, but arrows with boxing gloves on them just don’t work (trust me – I know this from experience!). Thus, in an era of corrupt government, drug cartels and serial killers, this emerald survivor adapted and thrived.

The plot concerns the super-hero’s mid-life crisis as he relocates to Seattle and struggles to come to terms with the fact that since his former sidekick, Speedy, is now a dad, he is technically a grandfather. With long-time ‘significant other’ Black Canary he begins to simplify his life, but the drive to fight injustice hasn’t dimmed for either of them.

As she goes undercover to stamp out a drug ring, he becomes embroiled in the hunt for a psycho-killer dubbed “The Seattle Slasher” who is slaughtering prostitutes. He also becomes aware of a second – cross-country – slayer who has been murdering people with arrows when the “Robin-Hood Killer” murders a grave-digger in the city.

Eschewing his gaudy costume and gimmicks he reinvents himself as an urban hunter to stop these unglamorous monsters, stumbling into a mystery that leads back to World War II involving the Yakuza, the CIA, corporate America and even the Viet Nam war.

This intricate plot effortlessly weaves echoing themes of vengeance and family into its subtle blending of three stories that are in fact one, and still delivers a shocking punch even now in its disturbingly explicit examination of torture, which won the series undeserved negative press when it was first published. Although possibly tame in many modern eyes this was eye-opening stuff in the 1980’s, which is a shame, as it diverted attention from the real issue. And that was quality.

Grell has produced a gripping, mystery adventure that pushes all the buttons and artwork – in conjunction with Lurene Haynes and Julia Lacquement – that was and is a revelation. The beautiful, painterly visuals perfectly complement the terse, sparse script, and controversy notwithstanding, this retooling quickly spawned a monthly series that was one of the best reads of the 1990s.

In fact I should be favourably reviewing collections of that series too. How about it, DC?

© 1987, 1989 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest

Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest 

By Brad Meltzer, Phil Hester and Ande Parks (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-84023-781-3

This one’s a cool treat for inveterate superhero fans as author Brad Meltzer joins artists Hester and Parks for a touching and exciting run through the history of a character who’s been fighting crime, pretty much uninterrupted, since the beginning of the 1940’s.

If you’re a newcomer to the minutiae of the super-guy’s world there’s something you need to accept. Dead is dead, but not always and not forever. It is a fact acknowledged by the empowered community – if not the world at large – that you can occasionally come back from Heaven without starting your own religion.

Such a returnee is Oliver Queen, Green Arrow. He got blown to shreds saving Superman’s hometown from an airborne bomb and went to his reward. If you want more on that part of the tale I suggest you track down the collections Quiver and Sounds of Violence, both written by movie maker Kevin Smith, as they’re pretty entertaining too.

The hook here is that as the Arrow is back, what happened after his funeral? Using the concept of a “Porn Buddy” – a friend who gets to your home first when you die and clears up the stuff you’d rather not have discovered about you – Meltzer crafts a compelling tale of family ties and the steps a hero would take to protect his loved ones from beyond the grave. A welcome bonus is that he manages to do so in a way that balances narrative redundancy for old-time fans with introductory exposition for the newcomer to create a sharp one-off read. Great stuff done well!

© 2002, 2003 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Arrow: City Walls

Green Arrow: City Walls 

By Judd Winick, Phil Hester, Manuel Garcia, Ande Parks & Steve Bird (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-84576-039-5

Green Arrow is the kind of character, with the right kind of supporting cast, that readily lends himself to book-length epics. So it’s strange that this volume (reprinting issues #32 and #34-39) kicks off with a stand-alone buddy story featuring the ‘we’re just guys’ antics of his son Connor and long-time sidekick Roy (Speedy/Arsenal) rather than a tale of the Emerald Archer himself, but it works as a character piece to highlight the similarities and differences of these second generation hero-archers and acts as a jolly warm-up for the drama to come. Besides, gags about what oafs guys are never go astray in modern society.

The major portion of the book is a dark action-fest with the entire dynasty of bowmen stretched to their limits to capture the Riddler, whose conundrum-crimes are simply a prelude to the subjugation of the entire city by giant, flaming demons tasked with keeping the absolute and total letter of the law. This canny tribute to Assault on Precinct 13 has heroes, cops and criminals working together to liberate their home as it slowly starves, and descends into grotesquely suppressed chaos.

There’s no big message, just a solid thrill-ride that’s stuffed with invention, snappy patter, mood and menace, with the usual understated Hester and Co. picture quality. Here’s the kind of graphic novel you can give to ordinary people if you’re looking for comic converts. How come no-one’s making movies about this bunch?

© 2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.