Even before the DC Comics New 52 relaunch, Green Arrow saw changes from Smallville to Flashpoint. Gone was the activist hippie, old man out-of-time, or unrepentant philanderer Oliver Queen, replaced with a young billionaire playboy, technologically savvy, using his boardroom brains and a cadre of trick arrows to bring down the bad guys. If it sounds like the Dark Knight lite, it is, but that's not necessarily a drawback for those who like their Dark Knight a little lighter.
Green Arrow: The Midas Touch is a compelling recreation of Oliver Queen himself, but struggles to find an equally compelling backdrop in which to place the character (the original creative team of J. T. Krul, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen, and George Perez were all replaced after this volume). The volume sets Green Arrow on a good foundation for further adventures, but may not have enough pizzazz to bring many readers back.
[Review contains spoilers]
Green Arrow is a rare title to be a true reboot but also keep its writer, J. T. Krul, from the "old" DC Universe to the new. Krul has successfully written Oliver Queen's adventures in a variety of forms, from urban renegade to supernatural swordfighter, so it's guaranteed the writer has a sense of Arrow's basic voice. Indeed for all The Midas Touch's difficulties, Krul, Jurgens, and Giffen's characterization of the hero isn't one of them -- Oliver Queen is brash, arrogant, and a little cocky, but all likeably so, and at the same time guided by a strong sense of justice and a drive to make up for past sins.
The Green Arrow title tries to take as its central theme superheroics in the social media age. The villains are notorious for advertising their exploits online; the duo "Limelight" are a kind of Paris Hilton take-off whose modus operandi is trashing nightclubs. This is placed parallel to Oliver's Q-Core technology division (and covert spy operation) that takes a liberal view toward things like privacy rights or stealing a boat to catch bad guys -- meant to have a kind of "twenty-first century villains need a twenty-first century hero" vibe.
Unfortunately, what hampers Green Arrow is that the villains just aren't that interesting. The first issues pits Green Arrow against ridiculously-named foes like Dynamix, Supercharge, and Rush, who live-stream their battle with Green Arrow over the internet for no better reason than to be famous. That glory hounds seeking instant fame abound these days isn't news, and Krul doesn't say more with them than that. As opposed to Batman's Court of Owls or Animal Man's horrific dreams, there's nothing in Green Arrow's first issues to leave an impression other than the hero himself.
Midas Touch is also hindered throughout by its artwork. Dan Jurgens and George Perez are a powerhouse team, to be sure, and though both have drawn for DC Comics for a while, neither's work is necessarily dated -- recently Jurgens has beautifully brought back to life his creation Booster Gold, while Perez depicted epic battles in Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds. But Green Arrow's rudimentary superheroics need a more dynamic vision to bring them to life; Perez's Rush and company have generic hair and clothes seemingly plucked from the 1980s, and this only makes the first issues all that more forgettable.
The book improves plot-wise slightly when Giffen comes on in the fourth issue. New villains Midas and Blood Rose are more visually interesting; it also helps that Rose has some connection to Oliver himself, making the plot personal, though this isn't much detailed by the end and the revelation that Rose is a robot only confuses things further. Overall, however, the story isn't about much more than Green Arrow fighting bad guys, and doesn't surprise or genuinely challenge the reader even as Green Arrow himself is a likable protagonist.
Where Green Arrow is the most moving is in its handling of Oliver Queen's double life. It's not so much that Oliver's "night job" keeps him from running his company as that he actively chooses to avoid his Queen Industries work, an interesting difference from the Caped Crusader. To that end Oliver somewhat deserves the ire he gets from Emerson, CEO of Queen Industries; at the same time, the reader can't help but feel for Oliver when Emerson derides him as shiftless, juxtaposed against Oliver's hard work as Green Arrow.
Secret identities had largely been abandoned in the "old" DC Universe prior to the New 52 relaunch, and with it the sweet pain, perhaps specific to comic books, of Lois Lane pining for Superman over Clark Kent or Gothan society snickering over Bruce Wayne's buffoonery.
Green Arrow resurrects some of that, and it makes for strong characterization -- Oliver's pacifist sidekick Jax is a foil with good potential for future storylines, and the reader feels for Green Arrow and Oliver's assistants Naomi and Adrien respectively, even if little screen-time is given to exploring them separate from Oliver himself. The writers here skip over a drawn-out origin story, much as Brian Azzarello did in Wonder Woman: Blood; this is refreshing, but at the same time Green Arrow might have needed it a little more.
After Green Arrow: The Midas Touch, writer Ann Nocenti takes over, marking the third writer the new Green Arrow will have had in less than twelve issues. The aforementioned Wonder Woman: Blood struggled in its conclusion, but it ended on a cliffhanger and Azzarello continues as writer with the following volume. Not so Green Arrow; the next storyline offers more from Oliver, Naomi, and Jax, but for readers looking to trim their DC New 52 buying list, the first DC New 52 Green Arrow volume fails to demonstrate why it should be kept over others.
[Includes full covers, sketchbook section of Green Arrow and villains]
Coming up, we continue in the DC New 52 from the Dan Jurgens co-plotted Green Arrow to the Jurgens-written (and newly cancelled) Justice League International.