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Thursday, 8 July 2010

Green Arrow: Year One

Writer: Andy Diggle
Art and Cover: Jock
Color: David Baron
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Publisher: DC

What's it about?
Oliver Queen, multi millionaire playboy, has no aim in life.  He has a passion for Robin Hood, but not much else.  He hires someone to take him on danger trips, then gets a helicopter home and gets extremely drunk at charity fundraisers.

Suddenly he is shipwrecked on a desert island and has to fend for himself.  This being a superhero comic, he does so by becoming an ace archer.  Handily enough, he discovers an opiate farm on the island and sets about trying to put things right.

Despite what it may sound, this isn't a daft or silly book.  The art lends a lot of gravitas to the story and it is really about one man coming to terms with his potential, turning his life around and committing himself to the fight for social justice.

What's good about it?
It's a proper riches to rags to riches tale.  It's legendary and myth making, at least within the confines of the setting.  Oliver Queen loses everything and has to build himself up from scratch, risking life and limb to do so.  He emerges as a worthy human and ready to fight the good fight.  There are cold hearted villains and damsels in distress (but not too much distress, and said damsels are perfectly capable of looking after themselves, thank you very much), and a clear cut divide between the good and bad folk.

Frankly speaking, everytime I read this book I get a little thrill.

What's bad about it?
Some of it is a bit cheesy, and some plot turns may raise the odd sceptical eyebrow.  Oliver Queen has no superpowers but in the tradition of comics heroes he appears to be somewhat blessed with his natural abilities.  Don't let this put you off.

Some fans are unhappy with the portrayal of two of the women in the book and to be honest there are some ill judged moments and characterisation included.  For starters, there's two Asian women, one is an evil dragon lady sort of character, the other is more of a, well, you could describe her as a submissive Asian slave girl character.   The latter is intelligent and certainly not incapable, but despite this, it smacks of Asian sterotyping.

Then there's the plot about Oliver Queen saving the helpless villagers.   This is fine for a hero trope, heroes need to save the day after all, but becomes bit more dubious when you consider it as a White man saves backwards Asian villagers from evil manipulative dragon lady crime boss.  I think the creators may have tried to move away from these tropes, but I don't think they did it very well. 

What's the art like?
Gorgeous!  Absolutely wonderful.  Read this and feel as if you're in a forest.  In contrast to the humour and slight silliness of some dialogue the art is very earthy and completely changes the tone of the book into something far more serious and impassioned.

Thematically, lots of greens, yellows and oranges are used.  The yellows and oranges reinforce the heat of the island and the green is evocative of Robin Hood and his forests.

The action shots are great and the style of faces as well as the way they are drawn are unusual in comic artistry.  With a different artist this book may have been mediocre.  With Jock it becomes superb.

Other information
Price: £9.99
ISBN: 1845767284

If you want to read more about Green Arrow, try Green Lantern/Green Arrow volume 1 or Green Arrow Black Canary: For Better or For Worse.


  1. I'm so happy to read an article about this amazing book I read some weeks ago !

    Althought the plot is simple, and I'm not really fan of the character, this Green Arrow is one of the most pleasant comic I've read for a while.

    The kind of Robinson Crusoe story is very enjoyable indeed, unusual in superhero comics, and as you said, the art is great !

    Since I read Losers, I'm a big fan of Jock and I always say to myself what you write : "With a different artist this book may have been mediocre. With Jock it becomes superb !"

    I'm a little surprised about feminist's reactions, because the damsel is in distress, but (BEWARE THIS IS A SPOILER lol) she also cures the hero and saves his life, from infection. And she seems to be a strong tempered person, according to me.

    I'm eager to discover the second part !!!!

  2. Thanks for the comment. Sadly detecting sexism is never as simple as just looking at the surface actions or temperament. But on the whole I really enjoy this book.

  3. I'm new to this blog, and I enjoyed reading this review of Green Arrow's origin. I'm not very familiar with the character beyond his appearances in the DC animated shows. I enjoyed his adventures with Batman in "The Batman", his friendship with Supergirl in "Justice League Unlimited", and relationship with Black Canary in "JLU". "The Batman" episode Vertigo gave me the background origin as well.

    Green Arrow's origin of realizing his potential and going about setting things right sounds like a Year One story I'd like to check out!

  4. Hi there Knight. I'm glad you found the review useful. If you're interested in reading other origin stories click on the Year one tag at the bottom of the post - a few reviews of other books have been done and there are definitely more to come!

  5. You're probably right ! It is a fact things about freedom of woman are complex. Nowadays, we could think women are free because more independant, often assuming a child alone, much sexier than before, and so on, but I often think they are still considered as sexual objects in the society, the fact they must be as strong as sexy, as thin, as good mothers, good wives, and as a lot of things at the same time is one of the paradoxal signs of it, according to me.

    Then the content of a comic can be seen with different views I guess. Some days ago, you asked on my blog to dress Supergirl with something longer than her mini skirt, and I replied a bullshit, because I didn't understood if it was a kind of brittish joke a french can understand ;) or a serious remark I didn't know what to reply to ^^

    A lot of guys draw superheroines like bitches, it is a fact, and I agree, I don't think it's good neither for the women, nor for the men. The problem surely comes from the readers I suppose. Some guys are just stupid and just want to see their pulsions flattered. They don't mind stories. And our modern and actual society flatter our pulsions, in TV, in advert, in movies, in comics, and so on. Sex sells they say ! It's probably a regression because our look isn't put on the right things. Fortunately, there are still good artist who tell good stories and make interesting drawings ! Or make both sexy and interesting stories, a good example according to me was Fathom from Mike Turner. I'm more or less a Turner's fan, but I really appreciate the story of Aspen, beyond the fact she was always half naked lol To be honest, I love sea, and I didn't care at all she was half naked. But Fathom can be considered as anti feminist I guess ! It depends on the reader point of view. I think Turner worked both for intelligent readers and pervert ones lol....

    The problem when you draw these characters, according to me, is you're a little obliged to draw them like beautiful girls or women, because they are strong, healthy, gorgeous, and as fictional characters, they are a kind of ideal. And all of them have a different personality. I'm just a modest freelance illustrator, without editor, but when I draw Wonder Woman for example, whom I love, I want to represent as the amazon, as the mother, the seductive, sexy but elegant and correct woman. Because she's a princess, a diplomat, a pacific warrior. So I try to give her dignity, but I needed to "search" her during six months, because she's complex to find. Supergirl is fresh, young, happy to live, she must have illusions about life, she's positive, so the mini skirt is logical ! She's free ! Donna Troy is darker for me, she can be very violent, and she is very sexy ! I feel something dangerous in her, so I think it's normal to draw her in a sexual way.

    What I mean is those paper dolls should not be considered as a reflection of real women, in general. They can be part of these real women, they can represent some of them, but in the same way the beauty belongs to the eye of the watcher, each reader has to interpret and find how he must look at them. And he must not confuse comcis with reality.

    I hope one day Comics will satisfy everyones, men and women, and give a good image of everbody for everyone. I apologize for this loooooonnnng comment ^^

  6. Hi Manu, no problem about the long comment.

    My comment on your blog was asking to give her shorts under the skirt (like how Jamal Igle is drawing her costume in the current Supergirl books). I was not asking you to lengthen the skirt - apologies if I didn't make myself clear enough.

    I agree you need to consider the character's personality when drawing them, and to me, Kara will wear a short skirt. She's a teenager, she very clearly likes clothes and how she looks and so I have no problem with the short skirt.

    When you say that fictional characters should not be considered real women (am I understanding you right?), I do agree. I think the problem that myself and other feminists have with how women are sometimes drawn in Western comics is that the way the women are drawn relfects the deeper sexism in Western culture and society. And we think that sexism is wrong, so we criticse it. This doesn't mean we think women shouldn't be drawn beautiful.

    Personally, I think Western comics focus too much on one kind of beautiful or sexy women. I'd like to see more types of women (and men) drawn.

  7. I totally agree ! And you perfectly understood my point of view !