Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Green Arrow #1 Review

Oh, DC, with your New 52… how I hate you. Because you have ruined one of your most deeply established characters and in the process, you’ve done the unthinkable:

Made me like Green Arrow.

Oh, the mortification! It’s inescapable. Everyone where I go – on the subway, in line at the grocery, standing on the zip-line platform – people casually strike up conversation, as one would, by innocently asking, “So, what did you think of Green Arrow #1?” What can I say? I cannot lie (even though that’s clearly What Superman Would Do). I admit it: I liked Green Arrow #1. Further I liked Green Arrow himself in Green Arrow #1. Sigh. I suppose this is the end of an era.

As I’m sure you’ve already read elsewhere, this version of Green Arrow is basically the love-child of Steve Jobs and James Bond, which is a great combination. What you may not have heard (if you’ve not read the comic) is that he’s got two principal assistants in his secret lair who help him do his “Green Arrow stuff”. They are key, and I’ll tell you why. First, they are slightly annoying in their “intropositioning” and slightly cartoony in their roles as Ideological Symbols. I can’ remember their names – something suitably moderne and Gen X-y, like “Fazner” and “J’mongahela”. The days when characters were named “Bruce and Dick” or “Wendy and Marvin” are long over, I suppose. But, really, who would want assistants named “Wendy and Marvin”, anyway? Anyway, Fazner is the pacifistic weapons designer (“I don’t want to hurt anyone!”) and J’mongahela is a hard-ass computer whiz (“Can’t you just blow these crooks up and be done with it?”).

These characters are annoying naïve and extreme. And making them Ollie’s assistants is nothing short of brilliant… because they are the avatars of Ollie’s Annoying Past Personae. Fazner is Liberal/Naïve/Self-Righteous Ollie (1970s-80s) and J’mongahela is Murderous/Vicious/Impatient Ollie (1990s-2000s). By creating scapegoats for these past aspects of Ollie’s personality, DC is still giving us those viewpoints in Green Arrow, but positions Ollie as the person in the sensible middle ground (a ground he hasn’t occupied since the Silver Age).

[Okay, I looked up their names. J'mongahela is actually "Naomi", which is a comparatively normal name. Fazner, however, is actually "Jax", which is, somehow, even more ridiculous than Fazner.]

Allowing Ollie to appear reasonable and caring without being self-righteous is a milestone. DC has spent the last 40 years trying to make Green Arrow (originally just a Batman knock-off) different and distinct. That's wise. Unfortunately, in the process they made him thoroughly unlikable. That's not wise.

So Jax and Naomi, while annoying (how many times have I used that word in this post already?!), are a Necessary Annoyance, and I welcome them as means to a new, likable Ollie.

Speaking of necessary annoyances, let's talk about "Doppelganger", "Supercharge", and *snort* "Dynamix", the--well, I guess I have to call them 'villains'-- that Green Arrow fights in his first issue. Continuity may be gone, but tradition isn't, and this motley crew hews to one of DC's oldest and strongest traditions: That Green Arrow Villains are LAME.

In all fairness, they aren't really 'villains' (more like Crime Groupies, one of my Rungs of Villainy), and, to his credit, Green Arrow himself points this out. To their faces. If Green Arrow is going to fight lame villains, at least he's wise enough to know that and Golden Age-y enough to indulge in appropriate smack-talk toward them. And, frankly, the whole thing seems oddly realistic (I mean that in a comic book sense). Face it, not every bad guy who has, gets, or purchases superpowers is going have the intelligence or ambition to be a Real Villain. Some them will just be annoying punks. Annoying, again. And somebody has to deal with them; it's actually a pretty good niche for Green Arrow to occupy. History notwithstanding, Green Arrow's not really Justice League material, nor does he need to be. Let him shoot arrows at the small fish in the barrel! That can be no less of a contribution to daily society and no less entertaining then hitting Kanjar Ro in the face with a boxing glove arrow.

Still; these three yoboes are terrible. Doppelganger a pretty girl who can become really ugly and grow and extra head and extra pair of arms (and probably some extra strength); she wouldn't even make it into the Legion of Substitute Heroes if she worked hard at it for the next 1000 years. Supercharge has respectable powers, but he's basically a low-watt Electro without a costume. It's *snort* Dynamix, that really gets me though. First of all: Big Strong Scary Black Guy. Way to strike a blow for diversity, DC; and in Green Arrow, no less, the book about vigilantes beating the crap out of people that sensitive liberals are most likely to read. Second, he's named Dynamix, which (beyond being just a silly codename) is the name of my ex-boyfriend's aerobic music company. THEN they go out of their way to make him say he doesn't dance. What kind of person who doesn't dance names himself "Dynamix", for disco's sake? Ollie should have just hired Dazzler to kick this guy's ass.

So we have three losers, with bad codenames and no costumes or goals, whom Green Arrow captures in five minutes. Way to go, Ollie! Of course, it doesn't get truly priceless until the last-page reveal where they are broken out of prison by a larger farrago of ungainly crime groups including:

  • The Tube-Top Twinz, because twins are hot,
  • Frosty Looking Emma Frost Knockoff Lady,
  • a poorly dialogued Vibe-manque named "Rush", undoubtedly with some superspeed power;
  • Wolf-Boy (Jimmy? Is that you?!);
  • Karate Kid (except actually Asian),
  • Lady Who Looks Like Wonder Woman and Dresses Like Wonder Woman and Looks Like She's Going to Rip You In Half (whom I'll call "Sunder Woman");
  • and the love-child of Beast, Wolverine, and Billy Barty.

Zowie; somebody send Mike W. Barr a royalty check! Honestly, one look at those badly dressed bohunks and I'm longing for the return of The Gang. Looks like Green Arrow's metier will be fighting the unwashed and undignified hordes of super-losers who litter the new DCU; and who better?

Honestly, though, this new Green Arrow deserves a better class of criminal. Should Ollie be fighting Despero single-handedly? No. But if DC wants us to take him seriously and give him respect, they can't keep throwing H Dial rejects at him ("You're no match for my fluoride arrow, King Kandy!"). Fix this, DC, and quickly. Because my need to laugh at Green Arrow can be satisfied through decades of back issues without buying new ones. Remember that any good jumping off point is also a good jumping off point.

One more thing: WHERE IS STAR CITY?! Why on Earth-1 has DC saddled Green Arrow with Seattle again? Especially since (as everyone from the 31st Century knows) Seattle will fall into the sea within the next ten years? Let Queen Industries be centered in Seattle, fine; but put Ollie, his "Q Core" (which remains almost completely unexplained, by the way), and Green Arrow back in Star City.


Bryan L said...

Stupid chatty zip-liners. Can't shut them up. I mean, I'm minding my own business here ... sorry, got off-track.

I found Green Arrow oddly appealing as well. Best part: no goatee. Sorry, but facial hair is not a good move when you've got a secret ID. I think if they keep Ollie dealing with low-level threats, it could really work. It pretty much did for Bird of Prey, so there's some precedent.

Scipio said...

You do NOT want to get off-track while zip-lining. Trust me.

steve mitchell said...

Meanwhile, over in the Mirror Universe, my son and I both disliked the new Green Arrow (and GA is probably his favorite DC hero, so he really wanted to like it). Green Arrow looks like the guy on Smallville now, he's got his own "Oracle" back at the Watchtower to rap with, you can expect Lex Luthor or maybe Obadiah Stane to try to take over Queen Industries any day now, and really, are there no superheroes already in place in Europe to take care of street trash like the Torpid Trio?

We missed Star City, too.

SallyP said...

I have to admit it...I enjoyed Green Arrow in a weird sort of way. Mainly, because all I could think of, was that he was channeling Bruce Wayne in the WORST way.

I didn't even think of his snarky assistants as being the personifications of his personalities...such as they were, but it certainly makes a lot of sense.

When oh when are Barry and Hal going to come into the picture? I can hardly wait.

Anonymous said...

Eh, I thought it was pretty dull fare, and I didn't much like Wendy and Marvin (I know you just posted their names, but I still see no reason to learn them). It was a pilot episode so I suppose they felt the most important thing was to establish the lead characters' status quo; mission accomplished.

One thing it didn't do was give me a reason to care about what Ollie is doing. There doesn't need to be a deep traumatic psychological reason for his fighting crime, but there ought to be some rhyme or reason to it. Some mission or theme. Superman fights the villains of tomorrow who stand for ruthless scientific advancement; Batman fights madness in assorted forms; Green Arrow fights ... uh, villains who were generated by rolling dice?

One possible direction this could go: we may discover that a lot of these Crime Groupies didn't start out so bad, but when they turned into freaks, they couldn't find a way to fit in or go straight. I could see Ollie trying to turn them into productive citizens somehow; that too would fit Ollie's conflicting portrayals, where first he shoots bad guys with pointy arrows and then helps them hone their reading skills.

Androclese said...

Old Ollie was a damaged, broken, Greek-tragedy-esque character that you cheered for when he overcame his failings and felt for when he failed. This was the man who helped save the Universe and make the return of Swamp Thing possible. This is the man who married Black Canary (and then lost her *cough*). This was a character who for all his flaws, made you care about him and the actions he took. ...this was the man that rocked the Goatee.

New Ollie is and over-privileged douche-bag. He is a Star City Batman on Ritalin. He is a punk that Dinah would stomp flat and not give him a second glance.

There was NOTHING about this comic that makes me want to buy Issue 2. Krul and Jurgens and supposed to be a dynamite team and I will give them the benefit of the doubt and another 3-4 issues to let them pull out of this tail-spin.

...but so far.. in my opinion, the new Green Arrow sucks and needs to be rebooted. Again.

GM said...

I may have missed something, but I think he's in Seattle because they are getting away from the Fictionopolises. Static wasn't in Dakota for instance, but in New York.

I think the heroes who can exist in a real world city will.

Scipio said...

"street trash like the Torpid Trio?"

I love that; that's now their official name.

"There doesn't need to be a deep traumatic psychological reason for his fighting crime"

Well, there was some obscure reference to a Scarring Event From Ollie's Past where some people died because he did nothing, so I'm expecting to hear more about at some point.

"Green Arrow fights ... uh, villains who were generated by rolling dice?"

LOL. Pretty much Not all villains can turn sound effects into a superpower, you know.

" we may discover that a lot of these Crime Groupies didn't start out so bad, but when they turned into freaks"

That would be a unique angle. But they seemed to have foreclosed it already, since they mention that the Torpid Trio intentionally use drugs to maintain their powers.

dan said...

Isn't comics already full to the brim with rich boss types?

Ollie was unique.

Now he's generic again.

Nice, DC. Way to draw new readers in. "Hey, come see the even-more-generic versions!"

Bryan L said...

I didn't see Ollie as unique so much as "floundering." He's been a character in search of a reason for existence (other than being a loudmouth) for decades now. "Batman-lite" may not be the best direction to take, but at least it *is* a direction.

Also, GA's shtick demands a certain level of funding. Bows, arrows, gadgets, transportation, etc. must be financed, so the rich guy angle at least handles those awkward details. Contrast this to Hawkeye, who apparently just mooches off of Tony Stark. Without somebody to pay the bills, Ollie would end up hocking his bow in fairly short order.

Scipio said...

Seconded, Bryan.

Whether individuals like it or not, DC's choice is not a foolish one. Green Arrow's principal source of popularity -- heck, of familiarity -- among the general public is from his portrayal on Smallville, so remaking him in that image is not a stupide move.

Anonymous said...

Well, there was a long period in which Ollie didn't have his fortune, and he worked as a newspaper columnist. Somehow that allowed him to support his superheroing and his five-bowl-a-day chili habit.

Bryan L said...

Actually, I was kinda hoping that "Batman, Inc." was going to deal with funding a bunch of these heroes, but I don't know where it stands after the reboot. I thought it would be rather clever for Batman to franchise out to some non-Bat heroes like GA, Black Canary, Static, etc. I still think it could work. And it would be worth it just to never see another "oh noes, I've lost my massive fortune" story ever again. I hate that one.