Kicking off the launch of a handful of 80th Anniversary issues this year, Green Arrow 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular brings together a handful of established and legacy creators to tell a testament of the Emerald Archer. Whether they’re in their fifth decade writing the character like Mike Grell, making their debut on the character like Ram V, or honoring their late father in their comics debut like Larry O’Neil, each contributes a quintessential element to this summation of the Green Arrow legacy.
Just from the top, the structure of this issue works exceptionally well as a celebration of Green Arrow’s history. More than in other recent anniversary issues, each story feels like a capsule, an homage to a specific era in the character’s history. This extends into effectively celebrating the other characters to inhabit Oliver Queen’s mantle as well, both Connor Hawke and Roy Harper.
Mariko Tamaki and Javier Rodriguez get to open the issue with a fun homage to Green Arrow’s foremost origins, in an adventure romp that plays his early similarities to Batman a little on the nose. It’s a fun story that introduces a level of irony to readers’ love of the character. Additionally, Rodriguez lends so much style to the story, making use of the contemporary 1940s aesthetic while adding elements of perspective and paneling which are much more contemporary.
Next, Tom Taylor and Nicola Scott take a swing at a story featuring Queen, Ted Grant and Black Canary. It’s exciting here to see Taylor get to work with the character he spent so much time with in Injustice, as well as covering a topic that is always great fodder for a fun romp. The characters’ voices all stand out as accurate and charming under Taylor pen. Then Scott, like Rodriguez, does her best job to emulate the stylings of the time. This comes out most strongly in the haircuts characters are depicted wearing.
In what is more than likely one of the worse stories in the issue, Stephanie Phillips and Chris Mooneyham find Green Arrow during his time with the Satellite era Justice League. While the art stylings of the time are rendered immaculately, the fun of the story can be interrupted by the almost petty outlook both Queen and the other Leaguers display.
Mike Grell returns to the character he helped define for the modern world, and delivers a simple but elegant example of what made his take on the character iconic. His art holds up to this day, and his willingness to tackle some grim realities of the world we live in have never quite left the character.
Ram V and Christopher Mitten deliver one of the two best stories in the issue with “The Arrow and the Song.” Constructed around the Longfellow poem that gives the story its name, Queen muses to one of his first adversaries about the purpose of archery, and the purpose of his life. It’s an incredibly clever device in order to encapsulate several elements of Queen’s life story and the essential elements of his character.
Brandon Thomas continues to dive deeper into the DC catalogue with his take on Connor Hawke here, alongside artist Jorge Corona. This is a fun romp that acts as a great introduction to the character if readers haven’t had a lot of experience with him.
In what is clearly the other best story in this issue Devin Grayon and Max Fiumara have Roy Harper recount his origin Lian. It’s a great reminder of how strong a story Roy has, and how strong of a character he is. But above that it’s such a testament to why cultural diversity in storytelling makes things better. The respect paid to Navajo storytelling here makes it feel more real and complex, while making Roy a representative for an underappreciated culture.
Next, Phil Hester joins iconic Green Arrow artist Ande Parks for a short story which highlights Queen’s various supporting characters and villains. The art is really the star of this one and readers get to see Green Arrow’s distinct aesthetic really brought to the forefront from Parks.
In a really clever idea for a story, Vita Ayala and Laura Braga invite readers into a possible fake kidnapping on Green Arrow and Black Canary’s anniversary. The story highlights their unique dynamic as a couple, and the vigor that keeps their relationship interesting.
The following two stories both see more popular recent teams come back to the character for a short story, with the first one being Benjamin Percy and Otto Schmidt and the second being Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino. Each brings that warm feeling of visiting an old friend, largely carried by the distinctive and incredible styles of Schmidt and Sorrentino. Neither of the scripts stand out as anything groundbreaking, though Lemire does remind readers of the ominous tone his run took, contrary to many other runs.
Lastly, the issue concludes with Larry O’Neil and Jorge Fornés crafting a quiet ode, and heartfelt goodbye to iconic Green Arrow creator Dennis O’Neil. These six pages pay tribute to both the ideas that populated O’Neil’s own mind, as well as those of the time which influenced his work throughout his life. Each panel is a carefully crafted picture of one man’s life, all the way up until he has nothing left to imagine. It’s as touching of a tribute as has ever been penned in comics.
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