Review: Green Arrow: Salvation hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 02, 2012

J. T. Krul's Brightest Day tie-in in Green Arrow: Salvation is not the "Green Arrow: Rebirth" that Krul might have hoped. Fill-in writer James Patrick's concluding story, however, just might be.

Krul and Patrick split the final Green Arrow collection before the DC New 52 reboot 60/40, with Krul finishing his year-long epic and Patrick filling in for three issues as the book ends. We saw this phenomenon recently at the end of Birds of Prey, when Marc Andreyko subbed in for Gail Simone, and DC printed some inventory stories from Peter Tomasi to close out his run on Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors. Unlike Andreyko and Tomasi's stories, however, Patrick's are entirely related to ongoing Green Arrow events, not one-offs or inventory stories at all, and present a new direction for Green Arrow that I would have loved to see explored.

[Contains spoilers]

In the last volume, Green Arrow: Into the Woods, Krul presented a Green Arrow Oliver Queen who has exiled himself to the mystic woods of Star City, preying on the rich and giving to the poor. The Queen, a corrupt businesswoman with ties to Ollie's father, had declared martial law on the town, and Ollie -- with help seemingly from the Arthurian knight Galahad -- had confronted her. There were shades here of a modern-day Robin Hood story, and liked especially that Ollie was battling his own demons in the form of an enemy who represented the kind of person Ollie himself might have become.

But whereas that volume combined a supernatural element -- unlikely but not unprecedented for Green Arrow -- with urban warfare and Arrow's trademark social focus, Salvation is really just about the supernatural. Salvation opens with Ollie fighting the Demon Etrigan, and that conflict lasts essentially through all of Krul's issues. The Queen gets a brief mention but never appears, nor does her assassin Nix; Into the Woods and Salvation are essentially two very separate books, and one almost doesn't need Woods to understand Salvation.

There is a thrill to be had in the arrows-and-swords action Krul presents here, as well as in Green Arrow teaming up with Jason Blood and pitted against Etrigan and, courtesy of Brightest Day, Swamp Thing. But the story is mostly a five-issue fight scene, and Arrow spends it largely supporting Galahad instead of vice versa. The conclusion that Krul has Ollie come to -- that the forest, the White Lantern tree, and so on -- were not about him but about larger, disconnected events, is true of this comic also. DC published Krul's Green Arrow series in service to Brightest Day, and as is often the case, the tie-in doesn't amount to much nor really have an effect on the main series; Woods lead me to believe we might get more than that, but it wasn't the case.

James Patrick's three-part Green Arrow story is more my speed. Simply the words "Green Arrow" and "US Marshalls" have a ring to them such to wonder why no writer's made the connection before, in the vein of The Fugitive or In Plain Sight. Patrick's got all the right elements in the set-up -- urban hunter Green Arrow has to track a fundamentalist cult and also protect the politicians they're targeting. It's more realistic than Krul's story and there's a political edge to it; Agustin Padilla draws a clear, gritty Green Arrow, evoking Howard Porter (and JLA along with it) in the scenes where Ollie gets an arrow upgrade from visiting Batman.

The strength of Patrick's story is not so much in its engaging plot, however, as in how Patrick takes Ollie's recent conflicts and does something with them. The marshal who hires Ollie does so precisely because she knows he killed Prometheus and hopes he won't hesitate to kill again, while Ollie mulls his guilt over that action. Patrick begins the story viscerally exploring what a speeding arrow can actually do to the human body (a wonder, again, no writer has done this before), and so there's a seriousness, a real dissecting of Ollie's conflicts in the here and now, that gets to the core of Green Arrow in a way Krul's story does not.

At the end of Patrick's story, Green Arrow has come full circle from having killed Prometheus -- we see how that act is integrated into Ollie's life, as something he'll be both praised and denigrated for and have to toe the line between. With an offer to keep working with the marshals, Ollie walks off into the sunset, looking -- remarkably -- not so weird in his hooded green getup. Were this the first arc for a new Green Arrow team, I'd be enthused; as the character's final pre-Flashpoint tale, I send my appreciation to Patrick for delivering one last really good Green Arrow story -- one that works -- before the character changes quite considerably in the DC New 52.

If Green Arrow: Salvation contained just J. T. Krul's story alone, it would be a disappointment -- perhaps not Krul's fault, but the title was created in service to Brightest Day and it never rises above that (nor is it well-treated by its parent book). James Patrick's three-part story, however, is a wildly unexpected bright spot -- if not worth the cost of the hardcover, then perhaps at least worth checking out in back issues or in digital form.

[Includes original and variant covers. Printed on glossy paper]

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5 comments:

  1. It must have been awkward for Krul to drop so many subplots and the whole forest setting because of a reboot he himself was responsible for. It's like no one at DC has any idea what to do with Green Arrow since Winick left the book.

    I liked James Patrick's arc a lot better, too. He also wrote a pretty good self-contained issue of Batman Confidential that has never been collected. Hopefully he'll do more work for DC someday.

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  2. I actually sort-of-liked this take on GA. It certainly had some problems in its main storyline (it's Brightest Day-tie in forest wasn't that explored or used beyond "he lives there now")
    It made Ollie a more parkour/acrobatic kind of archer, which was nice, and rebuilt his persona/character. But it really lacked in the supporting characters department (besides a "blank" Knight who only got explored one issue late in the run)

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  3. Agree with shag that Winick's was the recent high point of Green Arrow (and Smith and Meltzer, too); I think Winick's run doesn't get enough credit because Winick himself is controversial, but roundabouts Straight Shooter, the title was really good.

    And as Eyz says, Krul's Into the Woods had some potential, and Salvation does not put me off Krul at all; rather I think we can all agree the Brightest Day crossover didn't do this series any favors and I'm curious if Krul can do better on Teen Titans, for instance.

    Appreciate the comments all.

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  4. I'm a huge fan of Green Arrow and this entire Krul run was so painful and noncontributory to G.A.'s character that I'm going to try my best to avoid any of his further work. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well Patrick tied up this trade and made it as enjoyable as any Green Arrow trade that I've read before.

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  5. I liked Krul's lead-up to the Green Arrow series, some of the Rise and Fall stuff (only some, mind you), such that I still haven't completely decided one way or the other about Krul's work. Curious to see how he finishes out Teen Titans; I'll be reading that relatively soon.

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