Green Arrow: Year One

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He\'s green and shoots arrows. Get it?

He's green and he shoots arrows. Get it?

Re-telling stories from a popular character’s early years can be brilliant (Batman: Year One) or disatrous (Spider-Man: Chapter One).  Thankfully, Green Arrow: Year One narrowly misses that first category while completely avoiding even the hint of the second.  Andy Diggle and Jock created The Losers, one of my favorite titles of the past few years, so it didn’t surprise me that I enjoyed this book as much as I did.  They succeed in updating Green Arrow’s origin, without shoehorning in plot devices or modern contrivances just because they can.  And really, how modren do you need to be when writing a character whose weaponary hasn’t progressed past the Middle Ages?

In this update, Oliver Queen is a wealthy, thrill-seeking playboy who spends his fortune chasing adrenaline (and on the occasional impractical splurge item).  He is betrayed by the man he’s hired to lead his various expeditions and left for dead on what he thinks is an deserted island.  Hijinx ensue and Ollie has to fight well armed drug dealers with a improvised bows and arrows.

Andy Diggle is no stranger to gritty, street level heroes (or anti-heroes as it were).  His run on Hellblazer met with positive reviews, and the aformentioned The Losers was the definition of awesome (the premise asks the following question: What if the A-Team was awesome and actually killed the bad guys?).  It’s no surprise, then, that he gets Green Arrow’s appeal.  I mean, the man fights supervillains with a wood and string for crying out loud.  How can a writer who has specialized in non-powered heroes not get it?

Jock’s art is a little rough and sketchy, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad by any stretch of the imagination.  Nothing in this book is too pretty, and that fits the hero’s coming of age tale.  You can see he’s capable of smooth, clean lines in the way he draws China White, the female villain of the piece, so it’s a conscious decision on his part to dirty up the book.  Jock’s storytelling is second to none sonothing is ever ambiguous or hard to follow.  I really wish Jock would be assigned to a high profile book that would showcase his talents.  As I write this, it comes to me that Batman would be the perfect book for him, and I only wish he were onit now for Grant Morrison’s run.

My only real complaint anbout this book is that it’s a little slight.  I bought the $25 hardcover (OK, $16.49 on Amazon) and read the whole thing in a little more 30 minutes.  It all felt a bit insubstantial, and that’s not what I was looking for from this book.  Much more time needed to be spent on Ollie’s opium detox, and the villain of the piece is off page a bit too much.  This is especially true given that she’s visually arresting and a rich character.

In all, I’d recommend readers wait for the paperback version of this tale and save a little bit of money.  Green Arrow: Year One is a fun story that treats the source material with respect while adding worthwhile material to a beloved character’s backstory.  Even if you don’t like Green Arrow as a character, you’ll probably like this story.  Especially since Diggle comes up with a plausible reason Oliver Queen to adopt a ridiculous superhero name.

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