Friday, April 27, 2012

Green Arrow #7-8

My hopes of Green Arrow having finally found a stable, quality creative team sank shortly after I read the first preview..  I wanted to like the new Green Arrow book.  I really did.   But while Ann Nocenti has written some wonderful works in the past, this is an excruciatingly painful read in many respects.

The above-linked preview sets the stage for Issue #7 well enough.  Green Arrow gets ambushed by three identical women using trick arrows.  They introduce themselves as Skylark and explain that they are inventors and major Green Arrow fans.  Naturally, this being a superhero story, they decided the best way to impress their crush and show off the special gear they designed for him ("...six-shooter arrows, pheromone arrows, flak arrows...") was to attack him.  GA is impressed enough to accept an invitation to their geneticist father's secret lab but he refuses their offer of a bus ticket in favor of a "borrowed jet".  Remember this point for later, kids.  It will be important.

After coming up with an excuse to get Oliver Queen out of the office for a week, Green Arrow flies north with Skylark in tow.  Sexy shenanigans ensue as part of the inflight entertainment and Ollie arrives in a most impressive underground lab, hidden away in the Yukon wilderness.  It is here that Skylark reveals their real intentions - adopting him as a pet.  They also reveal how they used one of their aforementioned pheromone arrows to make Green Arrow more agreeable to traveling with them.

A quick aside.  How quickly would this comic have been decried by the comics-reading public at large if the genders were reversed and it were a superheroine being drugged and taken advantage of by three male triplets?  I bring this up because the word rape is not used once in either of these issues and it really should be.  I find myself disturbed at how Green Arrow's being abducted and drugged by three crazed fangirls, attractive as they may be, is portrayed as a desirable thing.  Indeed, Ollie's response to the news that he was drugged before agreeing to a foursome is to decry it as overkill, pointing out that just one of the Skylarks should be able to convince your average heterosexual male of anything with their natural charm and good looks. 

The issue ends with the Skylarks blowing up Ollie's "borrowed jet" while describing the game they play with their father and how his favorite daughter among the three will inherit everything he owns.  If this rings some bells, I congratulate you on your knowledge of classic English Literature and apologize for the headache you will surely get later as the reference is repeatedly hammered into your head.

While all this is going on, there's a subplot which takes up four pages across two issues.  With the borrowed jet crashed, Emerson - the CFO of Queen Enterprises - starts wheeling and dealing to get Oliver Queen declared legally dead so that he can take over the company.  Meanwhile, Green Arrow's support team try to counter Emerson as best they can, all while conducting their own search for Ollie.

Issue #8 opens up in the middle of the action, with Ollie having somehow escaped from the base off-panel.  He is weaponless, coatless and being pursued through the Arctic wasteland by some breed of wolf with glowing red eyes.. Despite this, he refuses to use lethal force on the wolves, having too much respect for wild life... even hideous mutant wild life.  This decision earns Green Arrow the respect of Skylark's father, who watches the fight from afar on a monitor while disciplining the daughter who helped Ollie escape. 

Sensing a kindred spirit in the young hero, he sends the rebel Skylark out to retrieve Green Arrow.  On the ride back, she tells Ollie of her concern that her father might be going mad and that he has been doing strange experiments on the local wildlife.  Given that this is coming from a triplet who shares a hive mind with her sisters and was raised in an underground compound, one can only imagine what her standard for "strange" is..  Ollie agrees to do what he can to help shortly before being introduced to Daddy Dearest, who introduces himself as Leer.  (Gedit?  Gedit?)  

Leer says he'll show Green Arrow his lab in the morning but - getting the sense that he may shortly become an experiment - Ollie decides to break in with the rebel Skylark in the middle of the night.  Sure enough, Leer is cross-breeding genetic abominations better able to survive in the "Nozones" - areas of high pollution that are apparently springing up all around the Arctic.  He's also collecting the DNA of various historical figures, including Napoleon and Rasputin.  But the most damning evidence of all that Dear Old Dad has lost his marbles?  Leer has merged his own altered DNA (well, I assume he's altered - I'd hate to think he looks like an albino Dee Snyder naturally!) with that of a polar bear so that a part of him will live on after his death.. It's at this point that Daddy Dearest show up, a fight ensues and Ollie and the rebel Skylark escape in one of the most confusing sequences I've ever seen in any comic book.

Nocenti has a lot of great ideas here but most of them are rushed and poorly executed.  Perhaps the most maddening aspect of this story is that Nocenti doesn't even try to hide her sources and makes reference to King Lear on four separate occasions.  Whether she is convinced the average comic fan won't get the reference or whether she wants to make sure we know how clever she is, I'm not sure.  Regardless, basing a villain upon King Lear isn't a bad idea but with his environmentalist ways and loyal daughter Leer comes off as a poor man's Ra's Al Ghul. 

Her take on Ollie Queen as a character is much better, possessing far more personality than he did under J.T. Krul and Dan Jurgens.  True, that personality seems to belong to a third-year Theater Arts major but that's not a bad choice.  You have to have some sense of drama to go into battle dressed like Robin Hood, after all.  But while Ollie's always had a flair for the dramatic and is usually shown to be a fairly well-read fellow, his frequent soliloquizing out-loud when alone just seems off.  It also doesn't help most of Ollie's dialogue alternates between James Bond and a parody of Denny O'Neil's beatnik Green Arrow from 40 years ago. ("It's been the most wonderful kidnapping, angel.  But I still don't trust you.") 

The story itself is another point of aggravation. Because when you get right down to it, this is a tale of smart people who are forced to act like idiots because the plot says they have to.  Ollie disappears in a company jet (Secret Identity?  Bah!) instead of taking a bus, because they need the plane crash to get the subplot moving   It's fortunate that Ollie does decide to take the plane, because it turns out that Leer's home is a 12-hour walk from civilization... begging the question of why Skylark offered him a bus ticket to get there!  Ollie doesn't tell his support team where he is going because he needs them to hack into his personal journal and translate a King Lear reference ("flying north with the crows" ) so they can show up to rescue him.  Emerson, who up until now has been portrayed as more of a disappointed father figure to Ollie than the greedy Gordon Gecko type, goes full-blown Daffy Duck once he's offered a chance at taking over Queen Enterprises.  (Gold! Gold! Gold!  Mine! Mine! Mine!  BWAHAHA!)   And Ollie's support team forget that they have a tracking device installed on Ollie's costume because... uh, I've got nothing..


I've said nothing about what I think about the art team so far.  Perhaps that is because nothing is what I think of them.  And nothing will come of nothing.  (See!  I can quote Shakespeare too!)  In fact, I can't really call them an art team because that implies some level of working together.  Artist Harvey Tolibao seems to be at war with colorists Richard and Tanya Horie and he is losing badly.

Tolibao's pencil work is clear enough and finely detailed but it needs heavier inking and definition on most of its' pages.  The colorists do Tolibao a disservice by using colors that are too similar in close proximity, turning pages like the above splash page of Green Arrow into a muddy mess.  They also use the same intensity of palette on figures that are meant to be faded to suggest motion, making it appear that we have three Green Arrows of equal intensity on a single page or - as in the first image of this review - two pairs of goggles flying through the air!  This does not excuse Tolibao completely, for the man is one of the worst visual storytellers I've ever seen as I believe the above page depicting Ollie's fight with the Leer bear illustrates. 

It pains me to say this but I cannot recommend this new Green Arrow title to you all.  Perhaps we'll get lucky and the creative team will change again in three issues and we'll be offered something decent.

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