That’s a long title, but it’s been a long road for Green Arrow since his debut in More Fun Comics #73 in 1941. This big book highlights that history with a series of short stories focusing on different periods of his career.
The book gets off to a brilliant start with a tale paying tribute to the Golden and Silver Age version, the Battling Bowman who fought crime in Star City alongside his ward Speedy, his quiver full of gimmicks.
How cute is Roy, steaming angrily like a red dragon? The full-colour art by Javier Rodriguez is delightfully imaginative, while keeping our heroes on model. Rodriguez is playing off a sterling script from Mariko Tamiki, while letterer Andworld Design comes into their own in a panel laying out the content of that famous quiver. I wish DC would do a regular anthology dipping in and out of its history so tales like this were more than an occasional treat.
There’s another total winner as writer Tom Taylor and artist Nicola Scott, partnered with colourist Annette Kwok, take us back to the time Ollie trained at the gym of Ted Grant, the JSA hero Wildcat.
With fine character moments, sharp nuggets of humour and a surprise villain, it’s a one-two punch of greatness.
The artist on the much-lauded Green Lanter/Green Arrow series isn’t in this comic, but Chris Mooneyham brings a nice Neal Adams vibe in a story set during the Justice League of America’s satellite-era. Even if it weren’t a fun romp, perfectly capturing Bronze Age Ollie, writer Stephanie Phillips deserves a million points for her title, ‘Who Watches the Watchtower?’
Writer-artist Mike Grell gave Green Arrow a whole new audience in the Eighties with his Longbow Hunters mini-series and the regular run that followed. He dumped the trick arrows as Ollie starred in a gritty urban drama, with nary a super-villain in his new city of Seattle. Oh, and Ollie was OK with killing criminals. This approach wasn’t my cup of tea, so I never followed the series, but I can appreciate Grell’s craft. And his brilliant talent is on display here as Green Arrow teams up with the assassin Shado to end a people smuggling operation.
Ram V has an intriguing idea for his story, using Longfellow’s The Arrow and the Song (‘I shot an arrow into the air…’) to frame a series of vignettes set throughout Ollie’s life. Unfortunately, it feels like I’m missing the significance of the scenes – why are Ollie and Dinah in the snow, what’s this beach party? – while the loose-looking art by Christopher Mitten is a shock to the system after everything that precedes it. And a couple of times letterer Aditya Bidikar makes the fancy italics font used for the verse yellow which, against a blue sky background, is tough to read.
Conner Hawke proves he can fight bad guys as well as his dear departed dad in a good-looking extended fight scene from writer Brandon Thomas, and artist Jorge Corona. A supporting character keeps wittering on about JLA villain the Key, so looking up the ‘new’ Green Arrow’s links to him added much-needed interest.
Roy Harper takes centre stage in a tale about a tale, as the former Speedy, here Red Arrow, phones in a bedtime story to daughter Lian and babysitter Ollie. Devin Grayson has found a clever way to recap and reframe Roy’s troubled history, and Max Fiumara’s full-colour art is terrific, but a clunky lecture cum public service announcement at the end pours cold water on a heartwarming moment.
Former Green Arrow penciller Phil Hester writes and draws a lovely story demonstrating Ollie’s intelligence and compassion as he bids to rescue a very special child. Hester’s old partner Ande Parks is back on inks, ensuring this is one of the best-looking entries in the issue.
Vita Ayala writes and Laura Braga draws a smart, good-looking focus on the relationship between Ollie and Dinah, pointing out that despite what soap operas tell us, secrets can make life better.
Benjamin Percy and Otto Schmidt, who gave us a fine GA run in the DC Rebirth era, return to the character to showcase Ollie’s more contemplative side. Schmidt’s art is full-colour gorgeousness, Percy’s script builds to a satisfying climax… but I couldn’t get past Ollie stalking a deer. Heroes shouldn’t hunt. Still, I really enjoyed seeing the old supporting cast.
The art by illustrator Andrea Sorrentino and colourist Jordie Bellaire on Jeff Lemire’s Last Green Arrow Story is stupendous, warm and minty and dusky and moody… but I haven’t the foggiest as to what is going on. An old Ollie goes back to the desert island where he learned to be a bowman, and gets an arrow from a younger version of himself, then happily self immolates. Or something. I dunno.
As it turns out, it is the last Green Arrow story… in this special, anyway. It’s not the last story full stop, though, as the comic ends with a tribute to longtime Ollie author Denny O’Neil. Written by his son Larry, and illustrated by Jorge Fornes with colours by Dave Stewart, it’s a beautiful biography of Denny in comics form. It’s a near silent story, with a very creative, and appropriate, use of word balloons, and it had me in tears.
Also guaranteed to get the eyes watering is Oliver Queen’s famous chilli, the hotness of which has been a running gag since at least the Seventies. Here, DC shares the recipe in a fun feature page.
Another feature, this time two pages, looks at Ollie’s capacity for friendship, and it is a hoot.
Once upon a time DC would include all alternate covers with ComiXology releases. No more, which is a shame as the Decades variants for this issue are great. As it is, I have a cover by the excellent Dan Mora; he’s so good that it’s likely my misunderstanding of anatomy that has Ollie’s foreshortened arm looking really off.
While I didn’t love every story – that was always unlikely in a 100-page grab bag – I do love that DC has offered Green Arrow fans a comic stuffed to the brim with nods to his entire history, by creators who care about the Emerald Archer as much as we do. A big tip of the pointed cap to editors Dave Wielgosz, Amedeo Turturro, Ben Meares, Ben Abernathy, publication designer Kenny Lopez and production person Tiffany Huang. As worthy tributes go, this Green Arrow special hits the mark.