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Well it’s been a long time coming but I’m finally back with another helping of comicbook goodness with The Back Issues. Thanks for reading and sorry for the hiatus. Spurred to write this by the resurgence of a certain Emerald Archer in the media, I went back and read Andy Diggle and Jock’s “Green Arrow: Year One.” With “Arrow” on DC and Warner Bros. upcoming tv schedule I thought looking at the modern day retelling of Green Arrow’s origin would be a good place to return to the column.
You may remember the team of Diggle and Jock being mentioned by me before when I did “The Losers” for this column a while back. This was a return effort for them after “The Losers” wrapped and it was just as good as that series was. First of all let me start with the fact that this mini-series was titled “Year One,” which right away conjures up comparisons and thought’s of Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s legendary work, and rightfully so as the set up of the early days of the hero is definitely parallel. That said this book is more about Oliver Queen finding himself, and then the hero within, whereas Batman’s story was about putting a plan into action and finally finding it’s focus, and Jim Gordon too.
If you don’t know Green Arrow’s origin it’s rather simple, spoiled rich playboy is stranded on a deserted island where he uses archery to survive and when he returns to civilization takes the mantle of Green Arrow to protect the downtrodden as a modern Robin Hood. Well what Diggle does is expand on that and give it some heart. Right from the get go Queen is portrayed as the rich kid who has everything, but has no real purpose in life. His bodyguard/extreme adventure guide Hackett tells him all the women, extreme risks, and booze won’t fill the hole in his life. It’s at a charity auction for the bow of Howard Hill (who made the famous splitting the arrow shot in “The Adventures of Robin Hood”) that we first hear of his love of Robin Hood and his archery talent, as well as his very poignant assessment of how the rich deal with the underprivileged. After making an embarrassing spectacle of himself at the auction he decides hiding from the public eye is in his best interest, and from there his troubles begin. Betrayed by Hackett and left to drown, Queen washes up on a deserted island, and in the months following actually becomes happy for the first time in his life with the simplicities of his new existence.
Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to last as he is shot at when trying to signal a small plane he sees flying overhead. One thing leads to another and by the end of the book, the legend of Green Arrow has begun. What I like about this book is that almost everything seems natural. The progression of the story flows very well, and though there are a few coincidences that are a little to perfect, it works in a “this was destiny” way. What his time on the island shows most is his realization that the underprivileged are essentially looked over and that someone has to take accountability for them and what’s done to them, and after being saved by a lone pregnant young woman, he realizes this was what he’s meant to do. It’s here that green Arrow is truly born, not just the survival by bow, but the need to help those who can’t help themselves. There is even a nod to his future as an enemy says to him “That’s twice you’ve returned from the dead,” to which Queen responds “I plan to make a habit of it,” which he does of course.
All this talk about the story is great but comics are a visual medium, and Jock does not disappoint. Jock’s work is absolutely amazing. It’s detailed, but not overly detailed. There is great use of shadows, and the action is very well defined. He also does some beautiful backgrounds. Jock’s work was perfect for the setting, and the character. As for the character design he found a way to make a young Green Arrow look fresh, and created a simply designed yet very effective villain in drug lord Chien Na Wei aka China White. Good stuff here. “Green Arrow: Year One” is worth a read as a fan of the character or just good stories. No filler, no pretentious pop-culture references, just good story telling and good art. WB should definitely look to this when doing the origin episodes of Green Arrow in “Arrow.”