Each week, Big Issues focuses on a newly released comic-book issue of significance. This week, it’s Green Arrow #24. Written by Jeff Lemire (Animal Man, Trillium) and drawn by Andrea Sorrentino (I, Vampire, God Of War), it’s a blockbuster finale to a storyline that has been the perfect entry point for fans of The CW’s Arrow looking to follow the comic-book adventures of Oliver Queen. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)
When the New 52 debuted back in September of 2011, Green Arrow was one of the most lackluster titles of the relaunch thanks to its bland, clunky writing and utterly generic artwork. The series made Green Arrowyoung and completely uninteresting; writers J.T. Krul and later Ann Nocenti failed to take advantage of the blank slate to build a new history for the character, and instead used the new status quo to tell forgettable stories with a distinctly ’90s vibe. After The CW’s Arrow premiered to great ratings, DC Comics found itself with a character steadily gaining popularity in outside media and immediately focused its attention on bringing the comic-book Green Arrow back to prominence, putting him in the Justice League Of America and completely overhauling his ongoing title.
Arrow applied a Christopher Nolan-like perspective to bring Oliver Queen to television, so the comic took a similarly cinematic approach, only with the unlimited budget afforded by the medium. With Green Arrow #17, New 52 golden boy Jeff Lemire took over writing duties to craft a global, action-packed story that had a much heavier emphasis on exploring Green Arrow’s past. Rising star Andrea Sorrentino brought the style and atmosphere of his I, Vampire artwork to Oliver Queen’s new blockbuster action adventure, and the phenomenal team has made the book one of DC’s strongest ongoing comics.
The new direction started with the attempted assassination of Oliver by the man who killed his father, and the plot has steadily expanded to put Green Arrow in the middle of an international battle with an ancient clan of warriors called The Outsiders. Lemire is making significant strides to give the New 52 version of the hero his own mythology, which includes reintroducing characters like Shado and Richard Dragon who haven’t been seen since before the relaunch. The addition of Shado has proven particularly beneficial to the narrative, teaming Oliver with his father’s former lover and the mother of his half-sister. Lemire’s stories always include some element of family, and while the first issues of his Green Arrow run dealt with Oliver’s past relationship with his dead father, the presence of Shado and her daughter Emiko adds a dysfunctional family dynamic that brings emotional depth to the present-day events.
Right now Emiko is under the care of the villainous Komodo, but before her relatives can rescue her, they have to stop a superpowered madman from destroying Seattle. Count Vertigo, a mercenary from the eastern European country of Vlatava, has used his vertigo-inducing powers to damage Oliver’s eardrum and completely destroy his ability to aim his arrows, a talent that really comes in handy when the villain starts unleashing his abilities on the helpless citizens of Seattle. The use of Count Vertigo in this book coincides with his appearance on Arrow, and Green Arrow #24 continues to connect to the TV show by introducing that series’ supporting player Diggle to the comic universe. Diggle’s backstory will be explored in next month’s “Zero Year” tie-in, which is a smart way of making a gimmicky crossover work for the overall narrative (similar to how Lemire and Sorrentino used Villain’s Month to provide a Count Vertigo history lesson).
The best DC titles right now (Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing, Batman ’66) have distinct artwork that immediately sets the tone for the story visually, and from the very first page, Sorrentino spotlights the blend of gritty realism and bold graphic-design elements that have made Green Arrow stand out from the rest of DC’s output. The addition of colorist Marcelo Maiolo to the book’s creative team has added considerable texture to Sorrentino’s artwork (the art in #17 was striking but flat), utilizing a restrained palette of complementary colors that makes the linework pop on the page.
That first page is essentially a recap, but Sorrentino and Maiolo present the exposition with a visual flair that creates a captivating opening image. CW-approved heartthrob Oliver Queen stands in the middle of the page aiming his bow as circular panels depicting recent events surround him, corresponding with the small circle around his left ear showing an X-ray image of the damage done by Count Vertigo. Those circular panels surrounded by rings of bright green, red, and yellow create a page full of targets, and the layout reflects the current chaos of Green Arrow’s life as he finds himself faced with multiple enemies but lacking the ability to hit any of them.
Count Vertigo’s perception-altering powers have given Sorrentino and Maiolo the opportunity to produce some gorgeous psychedelic visuals, which not only add spice to the layouts, but also work amazingly well with Lemire’s script to depict Oliver’s dizziness and confusion when he comes into contact with his foe. When Green Arrow decides to forgo his usual weaponry and take down Vertigo with his fists, a mesmerizing two-page sequence shows the villain amplifying his power to the point where he’s compromising the integrity of the layouts, breaking larger images into pieces that become a flurry of stimuli for the reader and the hero. As the pages become more chaotic, Oliver focuses on the emerging pattern and clenches his fist, nailing a bulls’-eye as he socks Vertigo’s face on the following splash page. It’s a wonderfully expressive way of using color and panel structure to fill out a fight sequence that is basically just one punch, building the tension before breaking it with a punch to the jaw.
Shado’s fight with Richard Dragon is another highlight of the issue, especially the first panel showing a symbolic image of two dragons fighting above the two combatants when Richard kicks Shado in the back. Dragons mean fire, and the coloring for this scene is all about heat as orange and red dominate the pages. Like his primary artistic influence, Jae Lee, Sorrentino’s eye for design and photo-realistic rendering doesn’t detract from his ability to choreograph fluid motion. Considering how much he’s already grown from his I, Vampire work, Sorrentino is quickly headed for superstar status with his work on Green Arrow, and his partnership with Lemire—who is also a skilled visual storyteller—is pushing the artist to new levels of excellence. This title just gets better with each new issue, and with #24 it completes the transformation from a book barely good enough for bargain bins to one of the top superhero reads.