Review: Green Arrow: Moving Targets trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, July 31, 2006

On one hand, Green Arrow: Moving Targets is the origin of the new Speedy: where she came from, how she convinced Green Arrow to give her the job, and what personal challenges she'll have to face. On the other hand, Green Arrow: Moving Targets is a tale of two artists, and how two startlingly different art styles can almost completely change the tone and perception of a series. Finding them in the same trade makes the dichotomy all the more apparent.

Oliver Queen should be relaxing after freeing his city from demons at the end of Green Arrow: City Walls, except that the mayor has quickly instituted martial law, Black Canary breaks up with him, Mia Dearden continues to endanger herself to make up for killing a man, and a second-rate gangster named Brick begins taking over the city's crime families. All of this is set aside, however, when Mia learns she has HIV. Mia convinces Ollie to let her become the new Speedy; in return, he brings her to San Francisco to join the Teen Titans. In Star City, Brick hires the Duke of Oil to try to kill "Team Arrow"; Arsenal is kidnapped by Green Arrow: Straight Shooter's Drakon, who turns out to be working for the Riddler -- no, the Secret Society -- no, Brick -- and the Outsiders arrive to help rescue him.

I enjoy the social activism apparent in Judd Winick's Green Arrow; though I grant that both Green Lantern and Green Arrow titles have a history of dealing with social issues, with Green Lantern it's always seemed incidental to me, while Green Arrow's politics are an inherit part of his personality. The issue of Mia's HIV is handled with grace and sensitivity, if not perhaps a bit of permissable melodrama -- I have as much of a hard time believing the principals of a school would put all classes on hold so that one student could reveal their HIV status, as I do that Mia could discuss it with the entire school so calmly and professionally the first time out -- but at the same time, we know how important Pedro Zamora was to Judd Winick, and as such we'll allow a few liberties.

And I do appreciate the idea of a Speedy with HIV; as Arsenal notes, that could have been him, and indeed, had HIV been a more open issue back then, it likely would have been him. Roy Harper grappled with a drug addiction, but for all intents and purposes he's more or less gotten off easy, story-wise; Mia Dearden takes the struggles of the Speedy character to a new level. I applaud Winick for writing this, and I'm eager to see both how he uses it, and how he allows Mia to be a character with HIV who's not solely defined by her disease.

I was thinking, during an early scene where Green Arrow is talking with the mayor, how inherently ridiculous Green Arrow's costume is; if we imagine this in "reality," how could the mayor keep a straight face while talking to a vigilante with a feather in his cap? The art of Phil Hester and Andre Parks, however, makes it work; everything is small and understated, with lots of angles giving the illusion of curves; the action scenes reflect the same kind of preciseness that Scott McDaniel used on Nightwing, giving Green Arrow's fight with Brick a ninja-like grace. Tom Fowler's art, however, halfway through the trade, seems to take the other tact, presenting Green Arrow as more of a larger-than-life characature, with a gigantic head capped by a sharp, pointing beard, and often distorted, grimacing lips.

The tone of the story changes, too; Winick moves from the urban gangster Brick to wildly fantastic supervillains like the Riddler and the silly Duke of Oil, and for me, some of the charm of the story lessened. Winick and Fowler's Riddler acts and looks like the Joker, while the art on the fight with Drakon (could have been another fill-in artist, at this point) was often drawn too confusing to be exciting. The trade ends with a bang, but ultimately Green Arrow very barely saves the day. It is distinctly the first half of this trade that makes it worth reading, not the second half.

The collections department at DC makes a critical error here in revealing the Riddler's role on the trade's back cover. Drakon's appearance is somewhat of a surprise, but the Riddler is the story's big reveal, and the back of the trade blows it. Personally, I've stopped reading the trade backs for the most part. Still, for Infinite Crisis fans, there is a last page surprise still waiting when you finish.

[Contains character bios, a thumbnail cover gallery.]

So Green Arrow remains imminently readable among other titles out there, even with some slippage at the end, and I salute Judd Winick for the social issues that he confronts here. I hope to see more of this as Green Arrow goes on. For Collected Editions, I might read a little Teen Titans next, and then finally Day of Vengeance. See you later.
Collected Editions 2014 Comic Book Gift Guide
Get the Collected Editions scoop before anyone else -- on Facebook!

No comments:

Post a Comment