ARROW: THE DARK ARCHER #1 [Review]

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ARROW: THE DARK ARCHER #1 / Written by JOHN BARROWMAN & CAROLE E. BARROWMAN / Pencils by DANIEL SAMPERE / Inks by JUAN ALBARRAN / Colors by KYLE RITTER / Published by DC COMICS

Wealthy businessman Maclolm Merlyn had it all. Then a random act of violence took his wife from him. Seeking direction, Malcolm found his way to an ancient temple in Nanda Parbat and was inducted into an order known as The League of Assassins.

Dubbed “The Magician”, Malcolm was the first to be allowed to leave The League to pursue his plans to save his city from the evil that claimed his wife. He was then declared outcast and apostate, after his plans went against The League’s code of honor. But Merlyn proved to have more than one trick up his sleeve. And with a little assistance from Oliver Queen, he was able to beat the odds.  Now Malcolm Merlyn rules The League as the latest Assassin to hold the title of The Demon’s Head – Ra’s Al Ghul!

Merlyn’s position is anything but secure, however, and Nyssa (daughter of the previous Ra’s Al Ghul) seeks revenge for the death of her father and her lover. Despite this, Malcolm leaves her in command of The League as he leaves to deal with some personal business. He travels to the nation of Corto Maltese, where he’s financed a secret lab to develop new tools and weaponry for him. Little does Merlyn realize that he has even more enemies than he’s aware of and that one of them is lying in wait for him…

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There’s always a danger in franchise-based fiction when an actor writes a character they portray. While this occasionally yields new insight into a fictional character’s motivations and gets you into their heads in ways the original work never allowed, quite often it becomes an exercise in intellectual masturbation. Either sympathy is granted to devils who deserve none or the hero is elevated to an extreme degree.

Thankfully, John Barrowman avoids these pitfalls in Arrow: The Dark Archer #1. He and co-author Carole E. Barrowman (his sister) write Malcolm Merlyn as the charming villain you love to hate that he is on Arrow. Yes, Malcolm looks cool as he’s test-driving a stealth-motorcycle along a treacherous mountain road but it’s made clear that Malcolm is a Bond villain and not James Bond even before we see his secret mountain lair.

The artwork perfectly captures the thriller movie feeling of the script. Daniel Sampere (Green Arrow, Batgirl) perfectly caricatures the characters from the show and the action sequences are well-blocked and choreographed perfectly. Juan Albarran (Injustice: Gods Among Us) excellently enhances Sampere’s pencils, with the art being appropriately shadowy and mysterious throughout the book. And colorist Kyle Ritter (Mortal Kombat X) finishes the whole thing up beautifully.

Arrow: The Dark Archer proves to be a perfect companion piece to Season 4 of Arrow.  The artwork is top-notch and the writing is true to the spirit of the show. You really feel as if you’re looking at a lost Arrow storyboard!

Rating 5

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