Today, Drew and Mikyzptlk are discussing Green Arrow 23, originally released August 7th, 2013.
Drew: Last month, Count Vertigo articulated exactly why he’s such a perfect match for Green Arrow — Ollie needs to aim, while Vertigo stymies perception of space and motion. Ollie’s life has been such a mess recently, it’s easy to forget that archery is inherently very ordered. Even the quickest shot requires some pre-planning, some careful thought. In this way, the relationship between Green Arrow and Count Vertigo is one between order and chaos, a theme writer Jeff Lemire blows up in issue 23, as just about everyone has their plans upended.
The issue picks up with Ollie and Shado on the run from Count Vertigo, as Shado explains how she became Robert Queen’s mistress. Turns out, she’s also an expert archer — so expert, in fact, she was sought out by Robert to train him. Somewhere along the way, they fell in love and had a baby, which LaCroix raised as his own after killing Robert and imprisoning Shado. Why did they keep Shado alive? Well, apparently she knows the location of the Arrow Clan’s totem weapon, the Green Arrow. Anyway, in spite of Vertigo’s best efforts, Ollie and Shado escape Vlatava. Of course, things seem to have gone to shit back in Seattle, where a shirtless mystery man, Richard Dragon, has killed the heads of two of the city’s crime families, with designs on the third.
Essentially, nobody’s story here goes as planned. Ollie’s simple rescue plan is complicated by the family ties, Vertigo is struggling with his powers after the EMP blast, the crime bosses of Seattle are having all of their turnip carts overturned, even Fyff’s plans to tell Naomi how he feels about her are upset when she first confesses she has a thing for Ollie. That last one is easily the most relatable, but it’s interesting to me that the sense of disorder has permeated the narrative at every level. It’s clear we’re at the end of the second act — I’m just not certain if that’s of three or five total. I’ve gotten used to presuming a three act structure, but Film Crit Hulk and discussion’s of Breaking Bad’s five-season form have gotten me thinking more and more about five act structures. Signs point to Dick Dragon being the other “dragon” Ollie needs to recruit/defeat before facing LaCroix, which means we’re still a ways off from resolving the final conflict, so I think it’s fair to venture that there will be a few more acts before this thing wraps up.
If I’m getting over-technical, it’s because this issue didn’t offer much in the way of new developments to discuss. It basically lengthens an escape which we more or less saw completed at the end of the previous issue, reiterates the mythology surrounding the Outsiders, heck, it even opens with Shado reiterating the twist ending from the previous issue:
Even Fyff’s emotional beats and the continuation of the Seattle crime stories act more as reminders than actually revealing anything new. Lemire has set to revamping everything about Ollie, and while he’s done an admirable job of balancing the character work and mythology, this issue felt more like treading water. I can’t help but wonder if this issue is here mostly to mark time to better justify a Count Vertigo issue next month — it certainly feels more like filler than any other Lemire story I’ve ever read.
Back when we were discussing Batwoman 10, Courtney expressed bemusement at what she called “So Everyone is Just Gay Now Syndrome.” In that instance, making all of the characters gay undercuts the minority status of homosexuality, robbing that character trait of one of its most important attributes. This issue demonstrates this series’ growing issue with “So Everyone is Just an Expert Archer Now Syndrome,” which strikes me as an even harder pill to swallow. Between Ollie, his father, Komodo, LaCroix, Emiko, and now Shado, we have a rather crowded pool of impossibly good archers. Any one archer that is as good as any of these folks strains credulity, but six is just absurd. Like SEiJGNS, this also robs Ollie of his defining characteristic, making being really good at archery seem totally unremarkable. Indeed, there are now more expert archers featured in this series than there are female characters — I think the notion of what’s more common may be a little skewed.
Wow. I didn’t mean to complain all the way through that, but I guess this issue just didn’t live up to my expectations of what this series is capable of. The pacing was still fun, and Andrea Sorrentino’s art was gorgeous as ever, but this issue felt almost entirely disposable. Mik, were you as let down here as I was, or am I just going crazy?
Mikyzptlk: Can’t it be both Drew? In all seriousness, I also felt a definite sense of water-treading. During all of Shado’s explaining, I remember having a feeling reminiscent of deja vu. I mean, it wasn’t anything too revelatory, although things certainly did get fleshed out. It wasn’t necessarily bad mind you, but Sorrentino’s art was definitely the best part of the Shado’s flashback. Here’s some of it now.
Those are The Outsiders. Don’t they look cool? Oh, and slightly terrifying? Love it. The entire flashback sequence is done in this kind of ancient scroll style print which was probably -no definitely- my favorite part of this issue. Sorrentino outshines Lemire in this issue if only for this sequence. I don’t mean to imply that what Lemire delivered was bad, but since we had already been over most of it already, it just wasn’t as interesting to hear the second time around. What was surprising, as usual, were Sorrentino’s choices. All at the same time, he manages to be realistic, stylized, novel, recognizable, and kind of playful. Did you catch his use of an exclamation point over Ollie’s head?
That definitely put a smirk on my face. Plus, it reminded me of Metal Gear Solid, so points for that. Drew, it’s clear that I agree with you that this issue felt like mostly filler, but you also alluded to this issue being a kind of lead up for next month’s Count Vertigo special. I would agree with you on that point too, but since I enjoyed the encounter with Vertigo in this issue, I didn’t really look at that as a bad thing. I’m really enjoying Lemire’s reinvention of the character so far.
I like how gross his implant is, and it was fun to see it explored here in the context of the damage that Ollie’s EMP arrow did to it last issue. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was some lasting damage there, and that these aren’t just cartoon characters. It really helped to reinforce the drapery of realism that Lemire has placed over the world of our beloved Emerald Archer. Additionally, I loved seeing the complete smackdown that Shado gave the poor bastard. She takes out all of Vertigo’s men, and then calls him a whore. In the end, she leaves this big, bad supervillain as nothing more than a lowly messenger. Oh, and then she says this:
OUCH. It’s a great scene, and I’m legitimately interested in seeing more from Count Vertigo. In the end though, this issue is mostly just filler. The thing is though, with Lemire and Sorrentino around, it’s filler I’ll gladly take…for an issue at least.
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?