[WARNING: The following review contains SPOILERS for the Jeff Lemire run of Green Arrow and Green Arrow #6.]
I seem to be one of the few critics who possess a largely negative view of Jeff Lemire’s run on Green Arrow. While I consider Lemire a fine writer and will agree that he crafted a complex new mythology in the wake of Oliver Queen’s largely directionless existence in The New 52 universe, that mythology had little to do with what had come before. It was well-written but lacked the heart of what makes Green Arrow feel like Green Arrow.
No one factor exemplified this point more than the character of Emiko Queen. Oliver’s half-sister – the product of a tryst between his father and the assassin Shado – she had been kidnapped at a young age by the villain Kodomo, raised to hate The Queen Family and trained to destroy them. Her character (such as it was) seemed little more than a bargain basement Damian Wayne and one more bit of evidence for those readers who scorned Green Arrow as little more than a second-rate Batman rip-off.
Emiko’s existence was questionable enough. Her eventual fate, coming to live with her hated half-brother as he forced her to attend public school and tried to give her a normal life she was ill-equipped to handle and less inclined to accept, was utterly nonsensical. Most readers believed it was only a matter of time before a sudden and inevitable betrayal as Oliver Queen’s sense of compassion and desire for a family bit him in the butt once again.
That betrayal finally came in a flashback in Green Arrow #6 but it was not to be the sudden revelation of base villainy Arrow-heads expected. Indeed, we were stunned to find Benjamin Percy had done more in a single issue to give Emiko Queen a soul than Jeff Lemire had in a score of comics. Here was an actual character – a conflicted teenage girl honestly torn between a need to belong somewhere and a life-time of conditioning to be a treacherous killer – rather than a generic rebellious bad-ass.
With Green Arrow #7, Percy has moved beyond that miracle, as he tells two concurrent tales and brings them to satisfying conclusions. The first story – set one year in the past – pits Emiko and Oliver against gang-leader William Tockman a.k.a. The Clock King. The second story, set immediately after the events of Green Arrow #5, shows Emiko seeking out the Yakuza crime lord to whom her mother has pledged her loyalty with the intention of buying Shado’s freedom.
Again, Percy has corrected two of Lemire’s missteps with surprising simplicity and elegance. The story set in the present lends some explanation to Shado’s seemingly out-of-character actions in recent stories, restoring the honorable assassin created by Mike Grell. Percy also developed The New 52 Clock King – little more than a glorified gangster with a nickname during Lemire’s run – transforming him into a credible menace that drew upon past incarnations of the character while giving him a frightening new gimmick. While the gimmick drew obvious inspiration from both the Time-Turners of Harry Potter as well as the movie Crank, the idea of William Tockman as a Fagin figure corrupting overachieving teens proved frighteningly effective.
Percy’s revolutionary script is well-matched by Stephen Byrne’s equally outstanding artwork. Byrne’s style possesses a similar elegant simplicity reminiscent of a more detail-driven Bruce Timm. The coloration gives the finished art a cinematic quality that seems to glow upon the page.
This new Green Arrow series embodies the strength of DC Comics new Rebirth line. This book is both easily accessible to new readers while illustrating everything that made these characters beloved icons in the first place. If you’re an old-school Arrow-head who has been left wanting over the past decade of lackluster Green Arrow and Black Canary stories, rejoice! Your homecoming is here.