Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Green Arrow 19, originally released April 3rd, 2013.
Shelby: You may not know this, but I studied art in college. My focus was photography, specifically black and white, silver gelatin prints; as much as I love taking photos, processing film and developing prints, my world exploded when I discovered some of the great photographers of history. There’s something about the process of reducing the world to shades of gray that is magical to me; it adds this richness, this luxe texture and depth to the image. It’s something I find very inspirational, so it’s really no surprise I like this title (especially the art) as much as I do.
The whole issue is one big fight ‘n’ flight scene between Ollie and Lacroix. We get to see some of the fun trick arrows, like the expanding foam or exploding tip, but mostly Ollie just gets riddled with regular arrows. He gets the upper hand, though, and is about to unmask Komodo when his daughter Emiko shows up and proves to be a far better archer. Like, shoot your bowstring while you’re drawing the bow kind of better. Anyway, Ollie beats a hasty retreat and passes out in Fyff’s van. The one “big reveal” of the issue was that Ollie’s father did not die in a helicopter accident, he was murdered by Komodo.
As big of a fan as I am of Jeff Lemire’s work, I think Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo steal the show with the art. From a purely visual standpoint, this graphic, high-contrast image somehow manages to call to mind both advertising campaigns from the 1960s and contemporary street art, specifically Banksy. It’s elegant and gritty. The high-contrast rendering of the figures reduces them to binary shapes and lines: black or white, on or off. Despite the simplicity of the three-color scheme, the image manages to be very complex and textured without becoming muddy or difficult to follow. The story-telling encompassed in the image style is just as impactful. Without colors to distinguish them, Ollie and Lacroix seem to become extensions of each other: I believe we’re supposed to see these characters as two sides of the same coin, and nowhere is that more visually apparent than in this image. This panel also really captures the psychological impact of the moment. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t especially surprised by the news that Komodo had killed Ollie’s father. Knowing as little as I do about the franchise, it seemed the only logical conclusion. It was probably a little bit harder for Ollie to swallow, however, and the art reflects that. Have you ever received such shocking news that the color drained out of your world? Or gotten so angry you’ve literally seen red? That is what is happening to Ollie at this moment, and thanks to Sorrentino and Maiolo, we get to experience it as readers.
Despite the fact I can obviously talk forever about the art in this title, I should probably at least touch on Lemire’s contribution. The story only takes the tiniest baby step forward in this issue. Sure, we get a couple pages of Ollie in the desert, following a bread-crumb trail of arrows, but ultimately this issue just spins its wheels as it further develops the characters. Honestly, though, I don’t really have a problem with it. I like the voice Lemire is developing for Ollie, and I enjoy spending time with the character, even if it’s just him trying to get away from the same fight over and over. I love the way Lemire is establishing just how dangerous Lacroix and his daughter are.
Emiko shoots like a fucking elf of the Woodland Realm, but more importantly she’s still just a kid. She’s undisciplined, doesn’t follow orders, and thinks she knows best; if her dad can’t keep her reined in until she’s a little more mature, that is a recipe for disaster. Lacroix has that maturity and discipline, but he’s also just a straight-up evil bad-ass. This is a man who will torture and kill someone without hesitation, thinks a war is coming, and regularly shoots down helicopters with a bow and arrow. These two are a dangerously lethal and powerful pair of villains; Ollie needs to get his act together sooner rather than later. Drew, how are you feeling about this title? Are you content with just developing these characters, or are you getting itchy for the plot to start moving forward?
Drew: Shelby, I think your characterization of this issue as visually satisfying but narratively frustrating is spot-on. What helps about the pace of the story is that Ollie is equally in the dark. Lemire makes his audience surrogacy explicit in the opening flash-forward, where Ollie is literally picking up a series of green arrows, and is getting a little tired of the games.
Lemire knows his pacing here may be a bit frustrating. Magus is either teaching Ollie a lesson about patience, or leading him somewhere important. I think those goals might be the same as far as meta-commentary goes — “I swear, this is going somewhere great, just bear with me.”
Of course, part of the frustration is that we know Ollie still won’t have the answers when he gets to Black Mesa, and he’s still three weeks out from that. One of the narrative dangers of a flash forward is that it can deflate the action leading to that future time — Ollie was obviously going to survive this month’s encounter with Lacroix, and any other adventures he has between now and when he arrives at Black Mesa (though his name is on the cover, so you can safely assume he’ll always survive). It also gives us a timeline to work with, and in the case where we want answers, that timeline can be somewhat frustrating. I have every bit of faith in Lemire to make whatever happens worth the wait, but it does feel like he’s teasing us a bit.
Ultimately, the point of this issue wasn’t so much to advance Ollie’s story as it was to introduce us to Emiko. Villains often have a headstrong, impulsive henchmen who eventually leads to their downfall, which often makes me wonder why their presence is tolerated in the first place. Making that henchmen the villain’s young daughter is a brilliant move — both explaining the henchmen’s casual disregard AND the villain’s tolerance for it. It also sets up a weird dynamic as far as fighting Lacroix is concerned. Emiko makes it clear that she would avenge her father’s death, and while Ollie probably isn’t going to kill Lacroix (at least, not intentionally), he probably is going to have to face off against Emiko again, and he might just be uneasy about shooting children with arrows.
The most interesting thing about Emiko, though, is that she’s just straight-up better at archery than Ollie. It’s fairly common to have a superhero routed by a villain in the first encounter — they’ve somehow prepared some surprise defense the hero has never encountered before — only to be defeated when the hero returns. Usually, though, that’s a simple matter of preparing — putting on the fireproof suit, bringing a gas mask, etc. It’s rare that the requirement is an actual upping of the hero’s game, but that’s exactly what’s going to need to happen if Ollie will ever have any hope of beating Emiko in battle. Hopefully, that’s the ringer Magus is putting Ollie through in Black Mesa — we wouldn’t have understood “getting better than little girls at archery boot camp” until the end of this issue, but now we know why it’s so necessary.
Shelby, I’m glad you included that splash of Lacroix and Ollie. Everything you said about it — the rage, the shock — holds true, but it also fits in with the handy visual motif Sorrentino and Maiolo establish for any time Lacroix or Emiko land a blow against Ollie. A great example is the bowstring cutting shot Shelby also included, or any time Ollie is hit.
That motif makes Lacroix’s reveal just as impactful as physical violence, having the same effect as an arrow to the arm. That reveal is so shocking, in fact, that it pulls both Ollie and Lacroix into that memory, in a stunningly blocked sequence.
It’s basically perfect. Everything about the sequence, from Sorrentino’s staging to Maiolo’s subtle colors work to communicate the story. Ollie’s second-hand (and inaccurate) version of the story sees the scene from a distance. Lacroix brings us closer, but only by threat of violence. Our present-day Ollie and Lacroix disappear as the story of the events takes over, but then snaps right back with Lacroix standing over Ollie just like he did with Ollie’s father. I even love the way Sorrentino pulls the camera back when this moment of intimacy is interrupted by the police helicopter. Like I said: basically perfect.
This series may be moving a bit slow for some, but sequences like that flashback are well worth the time spent on them. I mean, it would be crazy to complain about having to read more issues by this team, right? We just need to accept that, not only are we going somewhere great, but the path to get there is remarkable in it’s own right.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?