Today, Mikyzptlk and Patrick are discussing Green Arrow 21, originally released June 5th, 2013.
Mikyzptlk: Jeff Lemire is easily one of the best creators involved with The New 52. He relaunched Animal Man, one of my all-time favorites; produced the surprisingly entertaining (and undoubtedly wacky) Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.; and reinvigorated the perfectly premised, if originally a little lacking, Justice League Dark. He’s also reinvigorated Green Arrow, and has managed to turn the troubled series into something worthy of the top of anyone’s reading list. Jeff Lemire knows how to tell a story, his comics are character-driven, fun, and exciting as hell. The same can be said of his Green Arrow series, and even this issue. Here’s the thing though, there’s a problem. The thing about the thing, though? The problem may be entirely my own.
Green Arrow finally makes it to Magus. Of course, the first thing he does is drug Ollie with some kind of hallucinogenic. This causes Ollie to somehow hallucinate himself back on the island everyone’s been so obsessed with lately. Ollie learns that his father, Richard, discovered that the Queen family are actually descendants of “The Arrow Clan.” Look, if you don’t believe me, just see for yourself. Oh, and yes, they are totally supposed to be upside-down.
Ollie then learns that Lacroix, Richard’s one-time protege /everything Ollie wasn’t eventually killed his father over the totem arrow. Ollie does what all good superheros do and SWEARS VENGEANCE. However, before Ollie can get to Lacroix and the other Outsiders, he’s got to find three dragons…or something. Fortunately, Ollie will have the help of John Butcher, totem axe wielder, as well as Naomi and Fyff, better known as Team Green Arrow: The Next Generation.
Argh. I’m torn. Remember that problem I mentioned? Well, I’m not so sure I’m fully digging Ollie’s new background. I’m trying to, really. OH GOD HOW I’M TRYING. It’s just that I don’t know how I feel about changing the aspects of a character’s past in order to make their connection to their abilities somehow mystical in nature. The most glaring example I can think of is when J. Michael Straczynski, in his run of The Amazing Spider-Man, revealed that the spider that bit Peter Parker purposefully gave him spider-powers before it died of radiation. This meant that Spider-Man was now tied with totemistic spider-forces and that some dude wanted to eat him. Some fans were not… fans of this, and while I didn’t necessarily hate the concept, I was happy to see the series eventually get back to its roots, sans spider-totems.
In essence, I like the idea of totem weapons, and even like the idea of Green Arrow eventually using not just a trick arrow, but a magic arrow. I also like the idea of Ollie going on some kind of magical quest in order to avenge the unjust death of his father. Where I seem to be drawing the line though, is when all of those magical elements are suddenly grafted onto a hero like Green Arrow. Take Batman for example, I absolutely LOVE it whenever he takes on a case involving magic. The fact that he was once trained by Zatara, and had a thing with Zatanna, brings joy to my heart. Oh, and anytime he needs the help of Jason Blood, but is inevitably forced to deal with The Demon is absolute GOLD. However, if a writer ever came along to say that Batman himself is a magical character, or that the bat that crashed through his window was actually due to some kind of bat-totem…we’d have a problem. Batman is a man, a man with incredible means and determination, but a man nonetheless.
The same thing can be said of Green Arrow, and I just don’t know if I like the idea of making him, like, an arrow-god or something. The weird thing is, I think Jeff Lemire and I might be on the same page with this. Immediately after Magus tells Ollie that his father died because of a magic arrow, he has this to say:
Is this Jeff Lemire’s way of acknowledging how ridiculous a premise this whole thing is? Okay, if you aren’t convinced by that, then check out this panel.
Lemire is openly admitting how far fetched this whole thing is, and I believe, he is asking us all to just play along with him. Remember when I said I was torn? This, right here, is why. I am a huge fan of Jeff Lemire’s work. I love the way this guy crafts a story. His characters are all rich, layered, and interesting. His dialogue is always fresh and fun. His action is always energetic and exciting. So, while I might think that the concept of magic arrows and Ollie being a member of a mystical archer family is hard to swallow, I still enjoyed the overall presentation of this issue. Basically, I trust Jeff Lemire to deliver an excellent tale and, because he’s asked so nicely, I’ll stick around to see what else he has up his sleeve.
Alright Patrick, what did you think of all of these crazy revelations? Did you find it as difficult to believe as I did, or do you find it a refreshing change of pace for the character? Also, John Butcher. I already kinda love the guy. Yourself?
Patrick: I do think it’s interesting that you read the mythology behind the weapon totems and you think “magic.” Just like you, I’m approaching this material from a “Oliver Queen is a normal dude” perspective, so any amount of alienness, mysticism or meta-human wankery feels like precisely that: wankery. But I’m not sure that I read the concept of these weapon totems as “magic.” The totems are important to the people that place importance upon them – I’m not convinced they have any intrinsic power in and of themselves. Check out John Butcher, and the powers the axe totem has bestowed upon him:
What Lemire’s doing is building a handful of comparable mythologies, one for each totem. And they’re built around families and cultures and secret societies that hold the discipline to wield these weapons in high regard. I suppose it’s possible that there’s something supernatural about them, but, as Mik suggests, that isn’t exactly Green Arrow’s purview. But I think it would also make the journey to control these things less interesting. I’ve always thought that the reason Frodo needs to be the one to take the ring to Modor is that it’s his family that brought the thing back into the world. It’s a sense of personal and hereditary responsibility. You can say that Hobbits are less prone to buckling under its magical weight, but we’re up to our ass in fucking Hobbits. It’s gotta be Frodo because it’s the Baggins legacy.
Plus, the idea of all these secret orders springing up around obsessions with weapons is more psychologically interesting than people chasing magic objects. I mean, at that point, doesn’t it just make everyone John Constantine? I suppose time will tell, and it’s possible that the One Arrow to Rule Them All will be enchanted with a Dragon’s tear, or whatever. But for now, I’m happy with my assumption that this one arrow holds such a place of authority in the order for reasons sentimental and superstitious, rather than for reasons supernatural.
And then Ollie’s questions about “doesn’t this all seem convenient” are handily answered: he’s always been raised to find value in bows and arrows. Shelby and I used to bond over the wealth of Christian imagery and references on LOST — and I haven’t believed in any of that for decades. But those stories and those values are part of my formative experiences, and whether I was processing them as such when I was growing up, there are images and concepts that I’ll probably always find compelling. Maybe if Jesus had a better backhand, I’d be way in to tennis right now.
Which I guess is a long way of saying that this new information didn’t bother me in the slightest. If anything, I’m eager to meet Ollie’s counter-parts in the various other disciplines. BONUS: there’s one totem that was lost to the ages. This new mythology has an awful lot in common with Geoff Johns’ emotional spectrum over in the Green Lantern universe. Not only is a single character’s powers broadened to allow for different types of the same kind of hero, but a lot of the specifics are the same. There are seven colors on the emotional spectrum; there are seven weapons in this set. The unnamed weapon is also similar to the Indigo Tribe, about whom we knew nothing for the longest time. And maybe the most baseline similarity of them all: we start at Green and work out from there.
Also, Lemire may have done a lot to set the character on a more palatable track, but Andrea Sorentino is absolutely what makes this book a must-read. By all rights, I should be anxiously tapping my foot throughout this entire issue – I mean, dense exposition by way of hallucination? Not the most compelling method of storytelling. But it does allow Sorentino to fill the pages with virtuosic surrealism. Those pages Mik posted above, where Ollie and Magus are suspended upside down, are particularly breathtaking (and disorienting), but I love how Sorentino traces Ollie’s fall into this perspective. The first shot of it, which is this awesome fish-eye lens spread just a few pages in, intentionally confuses both depth and perspective, to the point where you can’t tell whether you’re looking down on the island from above, or looking up from the surface of the island.
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?