Green Arrow 17, by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino
Holy crap this was bad. No, seriously. This comic was just bloody awful. Not, like, Rob Liefeld bad. Not even “Rise of Arsenal” bad. Hell, it’s not even as bad as Ann Nocenti’s first issue on this book from a few months back. It’s just… so… mind-numbingly… disappointingly… bog-standard funnybook bad. But I think I’m getting ahead of myself.
With this issue, DC promised a new direction for the creatively-floundering Green Arrow reboot, under the direction of Jeff Lemire. So I figured I’d give it a try. I mean, I hated his work on the DC Reboot Frankenstein series, and found his Animal Man a bit tiresome. But I’ve really enjoyed all his creator-owned work, and since his series Sweet Tooth just recently wrapped up, I figured… What the hell, right? Maybe this will be the one piece of Jeff Lemire corporate spandex writing that clicks for me.
Ah, well. Chalk another one up to experience. Because what Lemire’s turned in here is just… bleah. It’s every po-faced “everything you know is a lie” funnybook story you’ve ever read, boiled down and condensed into a flavorless jelly. If it had a bit more life to it, I’d swear that it was intended as parody. But, no. It’s just so… Look. Here. Just read this one page:
Holy crap, right? I didn’t know it was possible to pack so very much leaden, plodding, cliché-ridden dialogue onto a single page. I especially didn’t know that was possible when five of the panels are wordless. Which, I suppose, makes it an innovation of a sort. A triumph of suck.
And it’s not just that the dialogue’s bad. It’s also the worst sort of expository writing, in service to a paint-by-numbers plot. I mean, you’ve got the magnificent bastard of a dead father, the son with the potential he’s never quite lived up to, the devoted mentor who’s raised him in his father’s absence, the hidden legacy the boy’s never been deemed worthy of, the dark secrets that come along with that legacy, and the “nothing is an accident” conspiracy that completes the cliché legacy trifecta. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE WE SEEN THIS SHIT?!
Ahem. Sorry. There are, of course, ways to tell this story that don’t reveal how cliché it is. But none of them involve a page-long info-dump that exposes every pimple on the plot’s ass in glorious infected detail. You’ve gotta back into this crap, give the readers a shocking unexplained event or a cool-ass villain of unknown motives. You need to tease us a little, make it all a tantalizing mystery for us to solve. Then, after a few chapters of complete batshit chaos, you can reveal that everything we know is a lie. If you’re good enough, you can spoon-feed us the same old shit we’ve read a million times before… and make us love it. What happens here is more like a ladle full of castor oil being shoved down our throats.
Of course, fanboys being fanboys, I’m sure there’s a ton of brilliant A-Plus reviews of this thing out there already. BUT I AM HERE TO TELL YOU THAT THOSE REVIEWS ARE WRONG.
Oh. Oh, my. I’m really sorry. I… I don’t know why I’m getting so upset over a comic that’s really only kind of mediocre. It’s that page up there, I think. It’s just so very, very bad that it colors my thoughts on the rest of the issue. Because not only does Lemire (or his editor, maybe) make us suffer through that leaden info-dump, he’s also written it in such a way that it doesn’t actually say anything. Or, well, anything beyond “You are now reading Cliché Action Plot B. Please extinguish all smoking materials and restore your serving tray to a secure upright position.”
Of course, on the other hand, the been-there-done-that feeling only gets stronger as the issue progresses. There is a nice shock (and a welcome respite from bad dialogue) when this happens to Exposition Man…
…but it’s kind of ruined when the dumbest security team in the world thinks Ollie is somehow responsible, shifting us into “hero on the run from the law” territory. That’s often a close neighbor to “everything you know is a lie” country, of course, but again… How many times have we read this shit before?
Then Our Hero’s secret headquarters blows up…
…and we learn that he’s being hunted by the archer Komodo…
…whose name fills in more of our paint-by-numbers funnybook tale by lending the whole sorry mess a vaguely Asian air. By the time the Mysterious New Mentor Figure shows up at the end, Lemire’s used every color in his story’s limited palette, and I am intensely bored.
Honestly, I suppose it’s not that any of this is especially awful. But it is exceedingly bland. Lemire is rightly lauded for his understated style, and it serves him very well on more personal books like Sweet Tooth or Essex County. But married to this kind of action movie storytelling, without the raw creativity and real human drama behind Lemire’s normal work, it falls flat. It feels like he’s just going through the motions, hitting the expected beats of the standard grim-n-gritty spandex reboot, and nothing else.
And that’s doubly bad in my eyes, because Andrea Sorrentino has done such a very good job on the art. While he still has some shortcomings in the storytelling department, his style fits this kind of story perfectly. His people look like real people, he moves the camera around well, and he has a flair for the dramatic capable of capturing the operatic gloom noir super heroics needs. It’s just too bad Lemire hasn’t delivered on that front.
So as I said at the outset… This is mind-numbing, bog-standard funnybooks of a type we’ve all seen, and seen done better, a million times. Told differently, or with a little more sizzle, it might be a lot of fun. But that ain’t the book we got.
It is very pretty, of course. But as wiser men than I have pointed out… Pretty don’t make it right.