Ruby Nation

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Brightest Day Relaunch Green Arrow #1: NOT TERRIBLE?!

I must announce to my undying surprise that having read the first issue of the new Green Arrow ( written by J.T. Krul and illustrated by Diogenes Neves ), I found it not only not awful, but actually enjoyable. I say this because while I've been following the Green Arrow books since Cry for Justice, I've been doing so with a sense of perverse irony, the kind that makes train crashes, coked-up former child stars, and contemporary Frank Miller comics interesting. Since the book's direction has been dictated by the infamous Cry for Justice, the final issues of the current Green Arrow title featured little more than angst and bloodshed, with Oliver Queen seeking vengeance for the destruction of his hometown and the death of his adoptive granddaughter. The spin-off Rise of Arsenal, starring GA's former sidekick minus one five-year-old daughter and one arm, has been even worst.

I think the image of Roy Harper high on heroin and cradling a dead cat he believes is his daughter after nearly murdering a bunch of street hoods after failing to perform in bed with his super-villainess babymama Cheshire says more than I ever could about that series.

But that baggage has been minimized in the new title, and suggests that the problems with those previous stories were likely due to the source material, not the writer. The premise of the new series is this; there's a star-shaped forest in the middle of Star City, and the outlaw Green Arrow uses it as a base of operations as he fights crime and corruption in the urban perimeter. While the reason there's a giant star-shaped section of forest in the middle of Star City is ludicrous crossover stuff ( which I sincerely hope will be kept peripheral in this book ), it distinguishes the place from just being another New York analogue, and makes the character a literal modern-day Robin Hood. The forest is an interesting character itself, allowing Ollie not only cover for his vigilante operation, but a complex three-dimensional landscape where he's right at home. Where else would a green leotard be effective camouflage?

In the meantime, the urban perimeter takes the Robin Hood comparison further. It's a corrupt city ruled by evil authorities, which is standard for most vigilante stories, but is given an effective figurehead here-- Isabel Rochev, new CEO of the Queen family munitions firm, and way into the royalty bit. Her character design has her wearing a full face mask and goggles mixed with a regal red robe, a costume worthy of a Final Fantasy villain in its flamboyant creepiness. She's even hiring a private security force to take down Ollie, and maintain order. And no, we don't know what her face looks like-- I assume it's scarred, but I hope the answer is more original.

It's not the most original premise, but it's definitely a unique take on the story, and Diogenes Neves' art is great-- he's a very effective storyteller, and has the characters emote with an appealingly cartoony style ( that doesn't clash with the realism elsewhere ). The opening sequence of Ollie fighting a street gang in the forest suggests that he's going to be very good with the setting, as Ollie takes full advantage of the space with tactics more guerilla than usual. The scenes following with Ollie escorting the gang's attempted victim back to safety are just as effective, showing the forest to be both lush and beautiful as well as creepy and labyrinthine.

It's not a great story, but it's a very good start, and given what it's come from, that's extremely impressive.

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