Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Green Arrow 27, originally released January 8th, 2014.
Patrick: The mystery is an amazingly compelling form of storytelling. It’s also pretty straightforward: there’s a piece of information we don’t have and the author assures us that the reward of experiencing the story will be having the mystery solved before our very eyes. But there’s one big drawback, principally that the subject of a mystery takes places in the past. Sure, a detective might stop a killer from killing a second time, but they’re working to figure out a thing that already happened. The mysteries of the Green Arrow universe are vast, but even the most stunning revelations play out in the past. That might leave us with an interesting present, but it’s hard not to feel like we’re a little late to the party.
Ollie and Shado arrive at the cave of the Green Arrow, only to discover that the totem itself is missing. Shado’s playing the frustratingly coy “you already know what that means” card, but Ollie doesn’t have much time to dwell on it, because the Shield Clan is out front and they want… I guess they wanna start shit, because the second our heroes come into contact with them, arrows start a’flying. Ollie’s able to knock out the whole lot of them with some explodey trick arrows, calling Kodiak out of the woodwork. Ollie and Shado book it for a “secret place” on the island that they can retreat to and prepare to take down Kodiak once and for all. Y’see, Ollie had been taken to this shack and tortured during his first visit to the island. Upon his return, Ollie is surprised to discover that his torturer is still in residence at the shack. He is then doubly surprised when that man turns out to be his deceased father.
I know we’re all excited to start speculating on what that means, but first let’s bask in all of Papa Queen’s bearded glory – this is a man who does the old Green Arrow design proud.
You beautiful van Dyke, it’s good to see you again.
This issue — and much of this Outsider War arc — seems hell-bent on exploring the world that makes the “Green Arrow” anything to begin with. Ollie’s not a guy that happened to get stranded on an island, happened to toughen up, happened to survive, happened to hone his skills as an archer and finally happened upon a superhero persona. No, this was all thrust upon him – a swirling conspiracy, decades in the making. And at the heart of the conspiracy? His father.
It’s sort of a bummer to discover that nothing Oliver Queen has ever done has been of his own volition. These warring clans have been at each other’s throats for centuries and Oliver didn’t select his place into it, he was born into it, and when he started to swerve off the course that was determined for him, the powers that be had him shipwrecked on The Island. If that’s not enough, his father also personally oversaw as some dudes tortured him under the guise of looking for information but never being content with Ollie’s answers. It was all to put Oliver in a position where standing up for himself was the only choice he had left. Interestingly, Ollie seems to already have a fatalistic view on his actions escaping his torturers. He credits the nebulous “this place” with giving him the tenacity to fight, and kill, for his own survival.
But it’s not a place. It’s a dude with specific intentions for our hero. And those intentions are to fight the guys who use different weapons. This whole Outsider War is starting to sound incredibly petty – like the fate of nothing in particular is in the hands of people who just want the other guys to lose just because they’re different. It might be clear from my summary, but I don’t totally understand why the clans start fighting the second they run into each other. I mean, for crying out loud – the totem they’re both looking for isn’t even there.
Exacerbating this problem is that the more we meet members of other clans, the less incompatible they seem. Don’t be fooled by Kodiak’s skull-hat, he’s just a simple dude with an appetite for simple pleasures. Hell, Ollie even hurts his feelings when he calls him a troll. I fear that the whole Outsider War is mirroring Geoff Johns’ War of Light over in Green Lantern a few years back — a saga which had plenty of problems, but at least recognized that there are fundamental philosophical differences between creatures powered by love and creatures powered by rage. Perhaps the clans will realize that there’s really no reason to be fighting each other and unite against some bigger bad, but at this point, we don’t really know enough about the other clans to even know what that would have to look like.
But nearly all of my grumblings are rendered moot by Andrea Sorrentino’s spellbinding artwork. Even when I don’t understand why Shado and Ollie are unleashing a hellfire of arrows upon the Shield Clan, he can render it in stunning clarity and excitement.
The separate lines of red and green panels are the perfect antecedent to the inserts on the larger panel below. Not that it matters all that much, but it’s fun to see where Ollie’s arrows land and where Shado’s arrows land – it gives the illusion that we’re able to follow this action, no matter how frenetic it might get. Plus, it trades in the same sleek Sorrentino style we’ve been praising for over a year.
Shelby, I don’t mean to sound too down on the story of this issue, but I can’t help but feel like any story is being crushed under the weight of its own revelations. I guess sometimes I wish this series would take it’s own “shut up and shoot” advice. Were you more rapt by the story than I was?
Shelby: I was, and I think it’s because I’m more caught up in the mystery of the Outsiders themselves and less concerned about the clans. As I see it, the weapon clans are pawns being moved around the board by Golgotha and the Outsiders, and to a lesser extent Magus. There is a greater mystery with what caused the rift between the Outsiders and their respective clans in the first place, and that mystery is enough to keep me intrigued even in the face of the heavy revelations.
Honestly, I loved the Robert Queen reveal, simply because I didn’t see it coming. I was in mystery-mode, looking for the conspiracy and wondering which clan held the island and how they knew Ollie was there. Having the masked torturer be his own father, who brought him to the island for a specific purpose, is both the easiest and more complicated answer. It’s the easiest because a) Mr. Queen is a character we already know, not some unknown member of an unknown clan, and b) if you think about it, training Ollie to become Green Arrow by manufacturing the accident and ship wreck makes sense, in the context of the situation. It’s the more complicated answer because it reveals that the rabbit hole goes much deeper than we realized. Look at what Ollie’s dad was willing to sacrifice to get his son ready for this moment: his own life (by faking his death), the lives of all those people on the oil rig, the lives of the men trying to torture Ollie, even potentially Ollie himself. This is much more serious than some crime bosses forming up clans based on weapons just for kicks. This conspiracy is old, and its roots go deep.
That’s not to say everything about this issue was peaches and gravy. I found myself siding with Ollie as Shado was excessively cagey about why he ended up on that island. It’s no great stretch of the imagination that his washing ashore an island that happens to be the seat of power for the Arrow Clan is no conspiracy, and her constant “if you don’t know, I’m not telling you” attitude was more eye-roll-inducing than mysterious. But still, Patrick, you are totally right in saying just about anything can be forgiven in the face of what Sorrentino and colorist Marcelo Maiolo are doing with the art this issue.
I love the way all the flashback panels have rough edges, like we’re looking at pages torn out of the book of Ollie’s memory. It invokes both the “in the past” feel of the flashback, as well as making these particular memories seem like something that Ollie has torn out and thrown away, something he maybe wishes he didn’t have to keep. As he becomes what he needs to be, most of the colors drain out of the panel, until he’s left in just a stark, high contrast black, white, and red. It’s the red of the blood he’s going to shed, the red of the rage he feels at what he’s been made to do; it’s a simple and gorgeous presentation of Ollie’s transformation, and is just another example of a writer who is smart enough to know when to sit back and let the art do its thing.
I’m looking forward to where Lemire, Sorrentino, and Maiolo take Ollie next. I was wondering, do the members of the rest of the clans exhibit characteristics of their weapons like Shield does? Where they were about sheer strength and power, will the Swords be a refined, from a more civilized age? Will the Fists be douchey bros who’ve had too many beers? And what about Dragon? Ollie seemed pretty content to leave him be for now, but that whole “taking over the Seattle underworld” thing seems like something that should be stopped sooner rather than later. Heavy though the mystery may be in this title, there’s just so much about this world I don’t know or understand, I’m willing to put up with the occasionally on-the-nose reveal just to learn more (with the fantastic art team acting as the spoonful of sugar to make that medicine go down, of course).
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?