Spencer: Despite being the title character, throughout Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s run on Green Arrow Oliver Queen has largely been a pawn, pushed back and forth by businessmen, various factions of the mysterious Outsiders, and even members of his own family (or sometimes all three!), all trying to use him for their own means. After declaring his independence from the Outsiders, though, Oliver Queen has moved to the front-and-center of his book — as Richard Dragon says, they’re both kings now. There’s still a massive focus on the supporting cast, of course, but now Lemire is using the supporting cast to teach us more about Ollie. I don’t necessarily understand every revelation, but it’s still a refreshing change of pace.
Oliver and Emiko bicker as they fight off Richard Dragon’s squad of D-List Villains; Oliver doesn’t want Emiko there, although it’s a little ambiguous whether he’s worried about her safety or just upset that she’s aping his style. Either way, Ollie eventually passes her off to Fyff and Naomi and makes his way to Dragon, only to find that Dragon has Diggle captured; meanwhile, Tockman attacks Emiko and the others, revealing that Dragon wants to hurt Ollie by taking his family away from him. Dragon appears to be succeeding, as, by the end of the book, Diggle is falling out of a building and Fyff is taking a bullet to the gut.
The first thing we learn about Ollie this issue is just how much he cares about his family (be they blood or simply the friends he works with, such as Fyff and Naomi). The flashback running throughout the issue shows us how Ollie fell into drunken despair after his mother’s death from cancer, leading to Diggle taking up the mantle of Green Arrow and, eventually, towards his falling out with Oliver. In the present day, meanwhile, Brick’s attack on Ollie’s young half-sister Emiko causes him to completely blow his stack.
First off, man oh man, Sorrentino and colorist Marcelo Maiolo knock that spread out of the park! That middle panel depicts a ferocious explosion of rage within Oliver, his body erupting in red and orange and the ink dots almost looking like a haze, like his very anger is simmering around him visibly. Those last few panels of Ollie pummeling Brick are brilliant as well; as Ollie gets more and blinded by rage he loses all sense of perspective, and the art perfectly captures that feeling, with the camera pushing in closer and closer and eventually dropping color completely as he becomes consumed by his rage.
What’s important about this spread, though, is that it shows Ollie’s rage when his sister is attacked. Be it a months-long bout of depression or nearly murderous rage, Ollie doesn’t take it well when his family is hurt. Richard Dragon is playing a dangerous game by targeting the people Ollie loves; the tactic could drop Oliver into bottomless despair, but it could just as easily give him the rage he needs to go toe-to-toe with Dragon.
The second thing I learned about Oliver in this issue is actually the complete antithesis of the first: when he’s worked up, Oliver will actively work to push away those he cares about. It’s present in the flashback, where Ollie fires Diggle for the “crime” of putting on Green Arrow’s uniform while Ollie wasn’t up to the task, but in the present-day it takes the shape of Ollie dissuading Emiko from helping him fight. With Emiko at least Ollie has the excuse of being worried about her safety, but there’s also an undertone of him being jealous or threatened by her taking the name of Green Arrow, and this seems to be his primary motivation when dealing with Diggle.
We get it, Ollie: no one wears the hood except you. This is the third thing I learned about Green Arrow this issue, and it’s also the most confusing. Is this Oliver clinging onto his individualism, trying to keep a hold on what makes him special even as more and more people who can do what he does show up? Or it is related to his penchant for pushing people away, as the end of the Diggle flashback suggests? There’s a strange dichotomy in that sense as well; despite Diggle’s suggestion that Oliver wants to be on his own and despite Oliver’s best attempts to push people away, he’s a hero who always seems to be surrounded by friends, family, and allies.
Is this meant to speak to some kind of duality inherent to Oliver’s character, or simply an inconsistency in characterization? I’m honestly not sure. I feel like Lemire is definitely trying to say something about Ollie here, but I’ve missed one of two of the pieces I need to properly put it together.
Still, despite any minor frustration I may feel, for the most part I think this is one of the most enjoyable issues of Green Arrow in a long time. Much of the credit goes towards the simplified plot; dropping the mystery of the Outsiders and placing Ollie and his cast in a crime-story has given the book room to breathe, and moreover, Ollie and Emiko are brilliant foils; they really bring out the humor in each other.
I’m getting a serious Damian Wayne vibe from Emiko (in fact, I’m kinda starting to ship them; please send help), and that only ingratiates me to her even more. Throw on top of that some brilliantly inventive trick arrows (each beautifully rendered by Sorrentino and Maiolo) and it makes for a rather satisfying issue, even if I’m not always sure of everything Lemire is trying to say. Shelby, were you able to get more out of that thread than I was?
Shelby: Possibly. To me, Lemire is showing us Ollie’s growth through his repetition of the same phrase, just with a different motivation. When Diggle donned the hood and quiver, Ollie lashed out for selfish reasons. Green Arrow was his thing, no one else could have it! It didn’t matter that he was completely unable to carry out the task at the time, he wasn’t going to let any one else take it away from him. Now, though, I get a sense that Ollie’s insistence stems from a sense of responsibility. No one else wears that hood because it is his burden to bear, his responsibility to the people of Seattle. It’s a dangerous, scary job, and he can’t allow anyone else to take that risk when he can take it for himself. It’s a subtle way to show growth in the character while reminding us of the back story in play.
Adding Emiko to the mix makes for an extra fun kind of crazy. She’s a lot like Ollie; she’s been pushed around and used by people her whole life, and she’s lashing out against that control just the same as he is. Plus, we get the adorable little sister act, where she’s tagging along, trying to be cool like her big brother when all he wants to do is hang out with his friends and beat bad guys to a bloody pulp. Seriously, when you can get a man named Brick to beg you to stop hitting him, you are doing something very right/wrong.
Sorrentino continues to shine brilliantly this issue; I’m always happy to see Count Vertigo show up, because then we get to see Sorrentino’s amazing visual representation of his powers.
We could have some sort of spiral-ray effect, but no; Sorrentino just has little chunks of the scene peeling away like old wallpaper. The gutter on the page is black, so having the reveal space beneath the mini panels white highlights the disorientation Vertigo provokes. It’s also very visually compelling and just straight up gorgeous to look at; as strong as Lemire’s writing has been with this book, Sorrentino and Maolo’s work has never been anything less than stunning.
So where does this leave poor Ollie? Fyff and Diggle, the two men who have seen Ollie at his shittiest and stuck by him anyway are looking pretty dead at this point. That’s the core of his support team, just gone, on top of his recent emotional distress at learning his father was alive, kind of a dick, and then dead again. Honestly, I don’t know if Ollie’s blind rage, strong though I’m sure it’s going to be, is going to be enough to pull him through this.
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