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Cosmic Treadmill: ‘GREEN ARROW: YEAR ONE’ (review)

Marathoning shows, or binging, has become part of the parlance, and my most recent binge for television was the CW’s popular Arrow.

Sure, I’m the target audience for a superhero TV show, (this column’s first appearance looked at the 90’s Flash TV show.

I’ve even been known to seek out old episodes of Birds of Prey (2002) to see what can happen in New Gotham.

Truth be told, I never cared about Green Arrow until I’ve seen what Stephen Amell can do as Oliver Queen. I steered clear for an unknown reason, but Netflix recently gave me over 16 hours of popcorn & candy archery and DC easter eggs.
Today we’ll take a look at 2007’s Green Arrow: Year One.

You might want to say the book was an influence on the series.

The story is written by Andy Diggle (Daredevil, The Losers) with art by Jock (Detective Comics) and serves as a great companion to the show—and great holiday gift for your Arrow fan.

Many great creators have taken on Green Arrow, from creator Mort Weisinger, to Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, Mike Grell, Kevin Smith and Brad Meltzer to name a few. Before my Arrow binge, I’d have chosen Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns’ one-armed Green Arrow as my only real connection to the Emerald Archer.

Alternatively, I feel sort of meh about Hawkeye as a character (he’s OK, I guess) so I took to Instagram to take an informal pole about what my friends thought was the better hero! Admittedly, the photo may using Renner vs. Amell may have skewed results!

Four votes for Arrow vs. two for Hawkeye. I even gave the Avenger the advantage of being the top picture!

General audiences get to see Hawkeye’s origin in Thor and The Avengers. Now, DC is unleashing the unfamiliar Green Arrow “stuck on an island for five years” origin to everyone in Arrow, partly based on the novel we’re looking at today.

That’s not all that show runner Marc Guggenheim takes from the DC Comics in the new show, he’s also named a major character, Oliver’s bodyguard and driver Diggle after the Year One scribe.  

Arrow also features Deadshot, Deathstroke, longtime sidekick Roy Harper and many many more DC Universe themes and characters, New 52 and Old 52 all the while telling compelling action packed stories each week. Season One may start slow but the payoff is worth it. Growing off of Smallville’s successes and failures, and high quality acting, filming, and costumes, Arrow surprises and impresses.

“Wait, I thought you were going to talk about the comic”!

Hold on to your finger-tabs, bub! Gettin’ there.

This 6-issue series, much like the granddaddy of all Year Ones, Batman: Year One reboots the origin story and cleans up messes left behind by 66 years of continuity.

Taking cues from Miller and Mazzucchelli’s work, like simple and gritty artwork (more shadow-based than detailed linework) and a running inner dialogue of Oliver Queen as he’s stuck Tom Hanks-style on an island surviving for before running into anyone.

He’s got a canvas hood and an improvised bow for hunting. Eventually, we see a trademark double arrow shot, and trick arrows as well!

Former friend and driver Hackett had left Oliver for dead, throwing him injured off of the boat Pacific Queen, betraying his boss to pursue other, more illegal interests somewhere in the Pacific.

The pacing of the issues (only six) starts out a bit slow, like the series. But in both cases, payoff is huge.

Oliver uncovers an illegal operation on the island, discovers a friend, who without spoiling much gives him his moniker, and we get to see him take down a common Big Bad to both series, China White. Seeing strong female heroes or villains is always amazing.

Full on explosions, betrayal and character development as to what makes Oliver Queen turn from the bratty billionaire to someone that is looking for justice are all highlights of this origin story.

Whereas we see Bruce Wayne’s parents getting murdered and the pearls dropping, the opportunity for Diggle and Guggenheim is that of making a grown man face his absolute bottom and readjust his priorities toward survival to make him Star City’s justice seeking vigilante.

Ollie also looks up to a Silver Screen hero in this origin, not Zorro, but Howard Hill, marksman from the 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood movie, a detail added to the cannon by Mike Grell.

Mix in a bit of Lost without the supernatural, with Cast Away and you’ve got the makings of a great hero story.

To be clear, Arrow does not seem to be taking story lines from the comic or directly referencing this version of The Island, but core concepts are held onto and the general feeling that Diggle was going for carries though while watching the show. As I’ll continue to suggest, if someone is like me, a recent Arrow-head, as Season One only arrived on Netflix recently, do them or yourself a favor and check this trade or digital copy out.

I’ll be revisiting this perennially like I do with Dark Knight Returns, Killing Joke and Watchmen as near to perfect comic book experiences. Green Arrow: Year One stands alone as a great limited series and a fine example of comic book storytelling in the modern age with action at the forefront, lessons learned, and stellar artwork by Jock.

To be shelved, in hardcover if you can find it!

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