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Friday, February 8, 2013

Comics thoughts for the week of 2/6/13

This week was a solid one insofar as comic releases go, I didn't pick up any Image titles this week, but I did get a handful of DC and Marvel books, where we saw the finale of the big Dark-line crossover in DC, a week of TWO Hickman books, and of course one Batman comic! As always, spoilers are a go!

This week's spotlight issue:

Green Arrow #17
w - Jeff Lemire, a - Andrea Sorrentino

I've never been much of a Green Arrow fan in my comics buying history. As a kid, I always found him to be the more boring of the super-heroes, the guy that looks like Robin Hood, shoots arrows, and has a hideous goatee.

This is the Green Arrow that I was used to. Though, as my taste began to expand in college, I understood that Kevin Smith and Phil Hester had begun a run on Green Arrow that I checked out and enjoyed enough to follow it with Brad Meltzer's "Archer Quest" arc that came soon after. My interest in the character waned again post-Meltzer when Judd Winick took over, as it did for most eventually leading to the title's cancellation. I've never read any of Andy Diggle's work, and I only recently took a look at The Longbow Hunters, which I found to be a dated attempt to give the character some relevance in the 80's Dark Age of Comics. The only element of the character that I found appealing during this time being his social conscience and political leanings, which I found to be fairly daring for a comic character.

Most recently I found myself becoming interested in the character again, not during his fill-in Batman tenure on Smallville or his even MORE Batman like and ridiculously dramatic Arrow television series, but due to appearances on the whimsical Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated show. This was a Green Arrow that I could get on board with, where he's displayed as Batman's chief rival with sidekick Speedy and an Arrow-mobile.

During DC's New 52 relaunch, I had high hopes that perhaps the company would take its cues from its animated department and reboot Oliver Queen into this mold. Sadly, any hopes for quality were dashed the moment JT Krul, who has yet to write anything of note for the company, was announced as writer for the initial title launch. After that inevitable dissapointment and a quick dabbling with Dan Jurgens, Ann Nocenti came on board, and while 25 years ago she might have been a perfect fit for the character, her better days are unfortunately behind her. Both writers took the fairly lazy road of the 90's style urban vigilante, with some ill-advised attempts at parallels to Steve Jobs. It wasn't just a bad book, it was possibly one of the worst books of the New 52. Obviously, with a pseudo hit tv show, DC had to make a move to improve its product. This is an area where they've had a spotty history: for example, during the public adoration over The Dark Knight, DC was putting out the enjoyable, but completely newbie unfriendly Batman RIP. With the New 52, The Dark Knight Rises had the benefit of a superstar run that was very new fan friendly in Scott Snyder's Court of Owls storyline, and luckily DC decided to give Green Arrow that same treatment bringing on Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino, the former of which has been seeing tremendous critical success on Animal Man and the super underrated and cancelled before it's time Frankenstein Agent of SHADE. So, how does the new team fare?

I'd say generally pretty well, it's a wordy read, but much of that is a big part of Lemire's writing style. In addition the art is flabbergastingly great and stylish. Sorrentino has a very dark, Alex Maleev type style, and much like Matt Hollingsworth focuses on purples in Hawkeye, Sorrentino fills his panels with sparse elements of green. He also includes some beautifully photo-realistic expressions on the faces of each of the characters, particularly during action beats. Story-wise, Lemire literally casts aside the entire supporting cast that was established during the previous writer tenure's via execution by an unknown villain, and sets Oliver on a course of discovery to learn the true nature of his birthright and whatever secrets his father may have hidden away. 

This kind of "everything you knew is wrong" style of story-telling isn't new, as it harkens back to the days of Alan Moore taking over the Saga of the Swamp Thing title where he radically changed the origin of the title character within the existing story structure of what came before. Lemire takes that concept as well as the idea of "rebuilding the hero from his lowest point", as Frank Miller did with Daredevil in Born Again, and as was done with Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises. Bringing the hero to his utter depths and take away everything that he holds dear is a compelling storytelling device, and likely the most necessary one in regard to this particular iteration of the character considering how poorly crafted the mythos that Lemire had to work with. I'm still not completely sure I'm going to love this run, I'm a bit leery of Oliver's mystical island and the possibility of this new character that appears at the close of the book could be his version of Stick (a Daredevil mentor character with ties to his origin), but for once I'm finally engaged in Green Arrow again, and not a moment too soon. Hopefully, we're on the verge of something special here, only time will tell. I would love for DC to have an archer book that I want to read with the some excitement as Marvel's Hawkeye.

I give this issue a B+

One-sentence reviews

Avengers #5 - Great bounce back from last issue, I'm beginning to understand that this must be the Legion of Super-heroes story that Hickman has always wanted to write. A-

New Avengers #3 - As good as Avengers was, this might have been better, making Beast the replacement for Charles Xavier is a brilliant choice. A and my Book of the Week!

Detective Comics #17 - With John Layman focusing on the detective aspects of the character, this is now the 2nd best Batman title on the stands, though I do dislike the introducing of a character for the first time and revealing him to be the mysterious enemy in the same issue. B+

Daredevil: End of Days #5 - The Mapone concept is finally starting to come clearer, and we get one of the more compelling guest appearances of Frank Castle in awhile, I do hope the memory lane trip comes to a close soon as I've hit my upper limit there though. A-

Earth 2 #9 - I still have very little interest in this version of Jay Garrick as a character, and this iteration of Hawkgirl I find even duller, not the most exciting start to a new arc. C+

Animal Man #17 - Based on this and The Justice League Dark Annual, Lemire is not at his best when doing big team action beats, it all just feels so "everyone has to have their moment". C- only for the awesomeness of Frankenstein becoming a Green Lantern.

Swamp Thing #17 - Rotworld hits its conclusion and not a moment too soon, this book was hard to look at. D+
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