Shelby: Because I like to stay on top of pop culture trends, I recently discovered the TV series Legend of the Seeker. It’s a pretty straight-forward magic-based fantasy, based on Terry Goodkind’s series The Sword of Truth. You know, right up my alley. Anyway, there are two groups of magical women in this universe: Confessors and Mord-Sith. The Confessors’ power is based on love and truth; they can see when someone is lying, and as a last resort force them to tell the truth by causing people to fall desperately in love with them. The Mord-Sith, however, get their power from hate; all love, kindness, and compassion is burned out of them from youth until all they know is how to cause pain and hatred. While neither situation is ideal, it’s made clear that the love for a Confessor can elicit positive change in a person, whereas “training” from a Mord-Sith can only breed more hate. So, what do you get when someone is motivated by both love AND hate? By quiet dignity and unbelievable cruelty? Maybe we should ask Green Arrow.
If you’re like me, you were shocked to see the last panel of Green Arrow 29, which featured Ollie with one of Komodo’s arrows through his head. No one is more shocked by this scene than…Ollie, who discovers it after crashing through the windows of the cathedral with Robert and Shado. Turns out, it wasn’t Ollie Komodo shot — it was Magus, who has shape-shifting abilities on account of him being the secret Seventh Clan: The Mask. He brought the clans Axe and Sword (which appears to be only Katanna) with him, and a fight ensues. It culminates in a showdown between Shado and Komodo, with poor, confused Emiko in the middle, pleading for her mother’s life. Komodo shoots Shado in the shoulder; as Robert and Ollie join the fray, Komodo claims he will kill Emiko if that’s what it takes to keep her out of their hands. So, Ollie shoots Komodo, and as Komodo releases an arrow of his own Robert leaps in front of it to save his daughter.
It’s once again time for me to heap praises upon Andrea Sorrentino. His little panel-within-panel layout never gets old for me. It’s super appropriate for a comic featuring a precision ranged weapon. Each little inset draws our focus in the same way Ollie draws his bow. We hone in on the scene just like Ollie would; it’s visually interesting and incredibly smart.
While Sorrentino’s art is always a hit for me, this isue finds Lemire’s story a bit of a miss. There are a lot of good ideas floating around this issue. There’s the conflict between Robert’s motivation being family in the face of what he did to Ollie on the island. Ollie probably can’t see that Robert was just as willing to give his life for his son on the island as he is for his daughter here because the execution is vastly different. That leads back to the concept of which is a better motivator, love or hate? This is a complicated idea, made more complicated by the fact that it’s two parents doing the opposing styles of teaching. Is Ollie’s greatest strength the endurance and brutality he learned at his father’s hand, or the compassion and dignity he learned from watching his mother? There’s also the question of what Robert’s impending death is going to do to his son. I know he said his father was still dead to him, but seeing him die in front of him (which I assume is what we’re going to see next issue) is heavy stuff, the moreso because of Ollie’s strong feelings towards his father at the moment.
Like I said, lots of big ideas and compelling character moments here. Too many, I think. All these complicated ideas are just getting lost in the shuffle, replaced by the next idea almost as soon as they’re introduced. Ollie’s not dead, because he was Magus, who has magic powers including shapeshifting, oh, and he’s the secret seventh clan. And let us not forget Count Vertigo, who is doing fine in a cell in Seattle. He’s also taking meetings with one Richard Dragon, who has apparently finished his task of taking over the city and is looking for a deputy. I’m interested in the turf war in Seattle, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just one more thing to have happen in this issue. I think Lemire has very high expectations for this title and story arc, and so far I’ve felt everything he’s done with Ollie and the gang has really paid off, but I think he’s bitten off more than he can chew here. Drew, what do you think? Does this issue have so much going on that we’re losing the impact of some of these story points?
Drew: For me, the problem with my investment isn’t that there’s too much going on, but that we’ve seen it all before. Ollie has already faced Count Vertigo and Richard Dragon in recent issues, I’ve seen more bow-and-arrow Mexican standoffs than I care to remember, heck, even the cliffhanger of a Queen man being shot through a vital organ has been used before. With every one of the plot points already reaping diminishing returns, it’s hard for this not to feel like the stakes are getting lower. That’s not to say I doubt Robert is actually mortally wounded — I trust Lemire not to pull the same stunt with Magus two issues in a row — but that it doesn’t really change anything. It wasn’t that long ago that we all thought Robert was killed at Lacroix’s, so even this shocking development is a bit of a retread.
I don’t have much in the way of solutions for making this issue better, but I think your suggestion that we could have done without the Count Vertigo/Richard Dragon scene is spot-on. I’m sure Lemire is setting up something big down the line, but for this issue, that scene mostly serves to disrupt the pace of the action. More than anything, though, it introduces more elements that we’ve seen before, emphasizing the recursive nature of this issue.
Then again, maybe that sense of repetition is intentional. Lacroix mentions that Magus can’t be trusted — and gets kind of specific about it — suggesting that this has all happened before, and that this is all a case of history repeating itself. That kind of “same as it ever was” approach is an interesting idea, but dries up a bit in practice. I mean, is it really worth establishing that sense of history repeating if it requires the series to feel like it’s retracing its own steps?
Maybe I’m being too hard on this issue. Lemire makes a point of adding layers of emotion to even the most familiar threads, including directly addressing Ollie’s relationship with Robert immediately before Robert is killed.
Yikes. That’s a hard sentiment to tell your father at any point, but especially as basically your last words to him. Ollie obviously doesn’t expect these to be the last thing he says to his father, but I know he’s going to feel guilty for saying it — especially in light of Robert’s heroism at the end of the issue. My only hope is that he will find comfort in a memorial Van Dyke, finally becoming the Ollie we all know and love.
Seriously, though, if we needed any demonstration that Robert isn’t all about hate, that final confrontation with Lacroix makes it absolutely clear where he stands. Lacroix is so full of hate, he’s willing to kill his own daughter just to keep her away from the Queens. Robert, on the other hand, just wants to protect his daughter, and is willing to lay down his own life in order to do so. It’s a heroic moment, but again, comes so close on the heels of Ollie’s own (fake-out) sacrifice that it’s hard to embrace it fully.
I don’t know. My patience for this Outsiders storyline is wearing ever thinner, though it seems like we are finally in its last throws. This issue wasn’t all bad, and, as Shelby pointed out, it’s gorgeous as ever, but I’m losing much of the enthusiasm I had for it right when Lemire and Sorrentino took over. Hopefully, Robert’s death can refocus this series in a new direction, giving Ollie an emotional investment in his origins that he hasn’t had in the New 52. I like where Lemire is going with this, I’m just getting kind of impatient about how long it’s taking to get there.
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