Why Green Arrow: Year One is Awesome

Batman meets Robin Hood in a great origin

There are people out there that still won’t have heard of Green Arrow. Despite first appearing in 1941, he’s not as popular as Batman, nor as recognisable as Superman. In fact, he started out life as a not-so-subtle Batman rip-off, right down to the billionaire-playboy-with-a-crime-fighting-alter-ego characterisation. Despite this, he has grown to be a popular character for DC, as evidenced by him headlining the TV series Arrow (which is very much based on this storyline). Revered as one of the best Green Arrow stories ever told, this is the definitive origin of the Emerald Archer.

The title of this book, Year One, will inevitably cause comparisons to Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s seminal work on Batman. While Green Arrow’s origin book doesn’t reach the fantastic heights of that story (to be fair, very few comics at all do), it is still a very solidly told story detailing the origins of how billionaire Oliver Queen goes from carefree adrenaline junkie to crime fighting vigilante.

While not as dark or brooding as Batman’s origin, it is still a compelling and mature origin for a relatively light-hearted hero. Oliver Queen is an orphaned billionaire that doesn’t know what to do with his life. So he does what all young rich people do: gets drunk and buys things for outrageous prices whilst trekking around the globe in search of his next adrenaline high. Oliver Queen starts out as a deliberately unlikeable guy, but he is forced to fend for himself and earn his right to live when he is betrayed by those closest to him and left for dead. It is here that the island that is so often talked about in relation to Green Arrow comes into play. The story told here is less complicated than that of the TV show, but the premise is the same: Ollie washes up on an uncharted island and must fight for survival against not only forces of nature, but also the people that inhabit it. In this story, those people are a powerful drug cartel. We learn that Oliver Queen is a gifted marksman, perhaps the only thing he’s truly talented at and a stout advocate of justice – even if it means putting his life in the firing line to save others. These are traits very close to the heart of the character and shine through here perfectly.

Bow and arrow – 1, modern technology - 0

The themes and tone in this book permeate nearly all incarnations of the Emerald Archer as he becomes who he is destined to be. At some points self-reflective, others humorous and others violent and angry, this story is almost a best-of compilation of Green Arrow stories past. There are even little nods to his well-known trick arrows, though here used sparingly and not so much trick as slightly modified. It is also a grounded story and a realistic take on a superhero origin, again much akin to Batman’s modern origin.

The art throughout the book is wonderful, with just the right amount of facial detail, though some characters and areas come off looking a little simplified. The detail in the faces and environments is great and gives you enough of the landscape without going too far with detail and overfilling pages. You never feel there is too much going on one page and everything is clean and easy to read and follow. Aside from the mentioned oversimplifications of certain bits, there isn’t anything else I can knock for the art at all.

Backflips while shooting arrows – just another day for Ollie Queen

The origin of the name Green Arrow is also shown here. It may come off a little forced and strange, but it works perfectly for the story and gives the fact that he keeps the name a whole lot more meaning than it would have had for the 60-odd years he’s used it previously.

Overall this is a great story and a fantastic origin for one of my personal favourite DC characters. With great art, perfect pacing and a story that doesn’t overstay its welcome, it’s also a great introduction to the character and his world. If you’re a fan of the character at all, from the TV show or The New 52, or if you’re interested in a well-told, realistic origin for a superhero that isn’t Batman, then I couldn’t recommend this book more highly.

Final score: 9/10.

‘Til next time, this has been Josh writing for The Awesome Update.

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