Issue #35 of the Emerald Archer’s adventures delivers a new creative team, spear-headed by Andrew Kreisberg, the executive producer of CW’s Arrow TV show. The completely new creative team (with the exception of Rob Leigh on lettering duties) has some huge shoes to fill, not only for this reviewer but for most fans of the series. They are taking over after a critically acclaimed run by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, and Marcelo Maiolo, which technically ended with issue #34 (although one could argue that the Futures End tie-in capped off their run).
To Kreisburg’s credit, in his role as executive producer he’s been able to turn what some would call a B-list character into a hit on CW. As I’m often fond of saying, the show is better than it deserves to be considering that it’s on the same network as a veritable litany of teen angst soap operas all starring beautiful young people in their twenties. Kreisburg and his TV team have created a show rich with character development that draws on both Green Arrow’s comic book history as well as that of the entire DCU, while also creating new characters or expanding the role of some lesser-used ones.
He seems to be trying to use that same tactic with this first issue under his helm, and here it doesn’t quite work. The previous creative team did a lot of work to develop the “sidekick” characters, particularly Naomi, Emiko, and Fyff. Over the 18 issues of their run, we readers really came to care for these characters and how they supported Ollie in his role as the protector of Star City. We became invested in these characters, and yet in the space of one single short word balloon delivered by John Diggle, we learn that none of these three will be playing a part in Green Arrow’s adventures going forward, at least for the foreseeable future. That’s a sad misuse of resources and very short-sighted. Kreisburg is in such a rush to introduce characters from the TV version of Arrow that he doesn’t pause to look at the incredibly engaging cast of characters that already existed in the title.
From there, the story unfortunately does not get much better. Ollie is introduced as essentially just a street-level vigilante going after some gangsters who have stolen a few thousand dollars intended for an orphanage. It’s a bit heavy-handed, and a clumsy way to paint Oliver as a “hero of the people.” What could have been the best part of the story, a meeting between Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor, and Oliver all in their civilian guises ends up being a confusing segment, the true purpose of which is still unclear. At points Oliver seems to know that Bruce Wayne is Batman, and other times it appears he doesn’t. Similarly, Bruce Wayne seems to have no idea that Oliver Queen is Green Arrow, yet previous story lines in the New 52 have shown Green Arrow applying for membership in the Justice League, and at that point Bruce Wayne would have done his homework to find out the archer’s civilian identity. The segment also shows that Oliver and Lex Luthor have a lot of history and mutual disrespect for each other, but this comes off a bit abruptly considering we haven’t seen any interaction between these two characters in the past year and a half of issues.
Daniel Sampere does a great job on art duties, accompanied by Jonathan Glapion on inks. The opening fight scene between Green Arrow and the street punks, while ultimately not written particularly well, is fun to look at artistically. The panel layouts are engaging, and involve Oliver being extremely active and showcasing a variety of martial arts and acrobatic feats. The character designs are well-crafted and proportioned, and the dark shadows provided by Glapion and colorist Eltaeb are particularly effective in evoking a darker mood, which seems to be consistent with everything else DC is doing these days with the New 52. And really, that’s the main problem with the art here. It’s not bad. In fact, it’s quite good. It’s just that it’s more of the same type of powerful dark heroes that we see in most other DC books. Part of what made the run of Lemire/Sorrentino/Maiolo so good was the completely different artistic style of the book. It stood out, starting with the cover and all the way through to the last page of the story. No other book being published by DC looked like it. This is not to say that Sampere doesn’t have his own style, but there’s just not as much uniqueness to it.
The true test of this new direction for Green Arrow is whether a reader, new to the book, would be intrigued enough to continue reading next month. When I first picked up Green Arrow back with issue #17, I did so solely based on the reputation of Jeff Lemire, and his story combined with the absolutely distinctive and spectacular art kept me reading for 18 more issues until their run ended. With issue #35 under the direction of the new creative team, there’s unfortunately not a powerful push to get me to pick up the next issue.