Spencer: Much like Wonder Woman or Batwoman, Jeff Lemire’s run on Green Arrow has been steadily building its own mythology that feels completely removed from anything else going on in the DC Universe. Despite that, Lemire’s still managed to make Ollie’s connections to the Justice League of America and Roy Harper work within the context of his larger saga, but he isn’t so fortunate with this month’s Zero Year story. The tie-in feels pointless, and it’s only the new character of John Diggle that anchors things to the book’s ongoing plot at all.
Our story opens six years ago. Oliver Queen returns after years of being stranded on an island to find that his mother, Moira Queen, has gone to Gotham City—which is in the midst of Riddler’s citywide blackout—to help with relief efforts. He believes she’s in danger, and she is; Moira is attacked by a lunatic with an air-gun calling himself the Moth—or maybe Mothman, he’s not sure yet—who wants to hold her for a “Queen’s Ransom” (ugh). Moira’s bodyguard Diggle is taken out, but fortunately, Batman and Ollie both show up, take out the villain together, and bicker over who will take Moira home until she chooses Ollie, whom she obviously recognizes as her son despite his disguise.
A month later, Ollie crashes into Diggle’s apartment, badly beaten. Diggle stitches him up, and Ollie offers him a place in his operation. Ollie’s impressed that Diggle kept his secret, and knows that Diggle—an ex-marine—is looking for a way to become a hero. Diggle becomes Green Arrow’s man-behind-the-scenes and together they protect their city for a year—until Roy Harper arrives on the scene.
Green Arrow seems like one of the least necessary titles to tie-into Scott Snyder’s Zero Year story, and nothing presented in this issue really changes my mind on that. Even the narration’s attempt to tie them together seems half-hearted and convoluted.
Truthfully, nothing about this main story seems necessary at all. Ollie reuniting with his mother is a sweet, heartwarming moment, but have we even seen Moira anywhere in the New 52 outside of this moment? As for Oliver himself, we certainly don’t learn anything new about him. He brushes past the events of his exile on the island and any motivation he might have to become a hero, instead focusing only on saving his mother; it’s a noble motivation, but nothing original or enlightening.
Oliver doesn’t even seem like himself through the issue. The New 52 Green Arrow was originally presented as Bill Gates with trick arrows, and while Lemire’s interpretation has quickly matured, he’s still shown as young, slightly dumb, and totally out of his element. I don’t know if I recognize that character at all within the grizzled Ollie in the main story, but it’s his first day back in town; I’ll give him a pass. It’s the Ollie of a month later in the back-up story who bothers me more.
This is an excellent analysis of Diggle and a very reasonable motivation for why he would involve himself in Green Arrow’s world, but I just don’t buy it coming from Ollie. The Ollie we’ve been following thus far in this series has just never seemed perceptive enough to make an observation like this. The back-up seems to hint that Roy Harper’s induction into the operation may be responsible for the slightly less mature, trick-arrow using Ollie we’re all familiar with—which could even be commentary on how having a sidekick changes the way characters are written—but that’s just conjecture for now. At the moment, I just don’t feel connected to this incarnation of Ollie.
Batman, meanwhile, could have provided some fascinating insight into Ollie—Green Arrow was basically “Batman-with-a-bow” when first introduced, so comparing and contrasting the two as they are now would be very promising—but ultimately adds little to the story. He and Ollie bicker a little, then he leaves; I’m almost wondering if a Batman appearance is mandatory for any Zero Year tie-in. At least Andrea Sorrentino draws one mean Batman.
While it looks fantastic, though, Batman’s introduction to the story is challenging to follow. Why is he carrying—and using—a crossbow? Maybe it’s some element of Zero Year we just haven’t gotten to in Batman yet, but at the moment it just feels like a very awkward set-up used to fool us into thinking Green Arrow had arrived, then surprise us with Batman instead; that trick’s not worth the confusion involved.
These panels aren’t any clearer. Ollie’s voice is coming from behind Batman, but the arrow is fired from the opposite direction; what’s the deal with that? I suppose it could just be a lettering error, but either way, it took me right out of the story.
I dunno, guys. I have nothing against one-shot stories, the plot on this one was solid if unremarkable, and I even liked Mothman, but something about this story just never clicked. It’s really only John Diggle who kept me invested in the issue.
I think it’s Diggle’s connection to Lemire’s overarcing storyline that makes him feel more relevant. He showed up in last month’s issue petitioning a known crime boss, yet we now see that he was a friend and partner of Ollie’s for over a year; what happened to change things? They seemed like such great matches; Green Arrow is much more like Diggle than any other superhero, and with such similar motivations it’s a shame that things went south. I’m legitimately invested in seeing this plot play out, and I genuinely think that, if we had to spend an issue in the past, we would’ve been much better off focusing just on the story of Ollie and Diggle. I suppose that wouldn’t have been a Zero Year story, though, would it? Sigh.
Shelby, I’m curious to see if you got anything out of this story than I did. Did you find anything about Ollie’s role in Zero Year to latch onto?
Shelby: Yes and no. I completely see where you’re coming from with the lack of relevancy in this story. There is really no need for Ollie to head to Gotham and actively participate in Zero Year with Batman at all. I really like the idea of the two coming together; they are really very similar characters. Both are rich playboys with parent issues, both turn to vigilante-ism with a focus on combat and gadgets. The two of them encountering each other in a Zero Year scenario is rife with story-telling possibilities. Lemire doesn’t take those opportunities, though. He gives us a very basic, “I don’t like you, get out of my territory, I work alone, etc.,” encounter and leaves it at that. I know that conjecture on the author’s intent is nearly 100% futile, but I feel like the story Lemire wants to tell is his version of what happened to Ollie on the island. Whether he saw Zero Year as a good opportunity to work that in or editorial told him to do so I couldn’t possibly say. While the story here is fine enough on its own, it definitely feels shoe-horned into not only the current Green Arrow arc but also the Zero Year story, and ultimately I think Lemire’s plan for this character suffers for it.
What doesn’t suffer is Andrea Sorrentino’s art. As I was reading this issue, I noticed there was a lot less of the non-traditional panel formatting and coloring we’ve come to expect and love from Sorrentino, but I didn’t see that as a negative. I actually really liked seeing Sorrentino work in a more traditional style; to me it demonstrated there is still something unusual, something that really stands out with his art. Plus, that more traditional format made sudden scenes like this final panel (of his half, anyway; the story of Ollie approaching Diggle is treated as a backup and illustrated by Denys Cowan) that much more breathtaking in their reveal.
I love the red, black, and white color scheme; that, paired with the high-contrast, inverse coloring of the figures, so readily depicts the shock and pain of the moment. I’m excited for this story, I’m excited to read what Lemire wants me to know about Ollie’s time on the island. I’m excited to see who he was before and what he went through to become what he did through Lemire’s eyes (especially after that useless Green Arrow 0 issue). I think that’s a story that’s strong enough to stand on it’s own; I wish we didn’t have to get it through the guise of another title’s event.
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?