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Graphic Novel Review: Green Arrow: Year One by Andy Diggle and Jock

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Green Arrow, as cheesy as he was sometimes portrayed with all the trick arrows (Net Arrow, Boxing Glove Arrow, Boomerang Arrow), was always one of my favorite heroes when I was growing up. When I got tired of wanting to grow up to be Batman, I’d want to be Green Arrow. Especially when he got changed from playboy to radical leftist and bleeding heart. That bearded free spirit with the attitude of sticking it to the man was just what I needed to grow up on in the 1970s. Oliver Queen taught me to think outside the box and question life and a number of other things.

He still remains as DC Comics’ most radical hero. Mike Grell created The Longbow Hunters and pushed away the trick arrows for a time, getting Ollie back to his roots as a cutting-edge back street brawler, then enjoyed a long run on the strip. Chuck Dixon shortly followed Grell and even killed Ollie off long enough to give us a new Green Arrow in Connor Hawke.

Even though he’d died and gone to Heaven, Ollie come back in issues penned by Kevin (Daredevil, Clerks) Smith. Lately Judd Winnick has married him off to Black Canary and invented a whole new Speedy for this generation.

But Andy Diggle (The Losers) got the green light to pen the adventures of Oliver Queen’s Year One origin, while so many longtime DC Comics heroes are getting spotlight treatment. I really enjoyed Diggle’s run on The Losers as well as some of his other forays, but I didn’t know if he was the right guy for Green Arrow. As it turns out, Diggle was just the guy to bring Ollie once more to the masses.

Diggle’s scriptwork is excellent. He moves the story along and finesses the characters and relationship through dialogue and action, and the overall effect is like watching a movie with first-person voiceovers. An added bonus in the graphic novel contains the first few pages of the actual script Diggle turned in to the editor and artist. He didn’t just put the words on the page, he actually planned where the action would go and how it would be revealed.

In the beginning, Oliver Queen was a playboy with more money than he knew what to do with. He rambled and tried extreme sports to fill the gaps in his life, constantly trying to find his happy. Diggle does a masterful job of portraying that, and even ties in the Robin Hood touchstones of Errol Flynn and Howard Hill’s longbow at a fundraiser where Ollie really makes an idiot of himself.

Jock’s artwork is fantastic. The panels and spreads flow cinematically across the pages. Movement comes alive, tension is as tight as a bowstring, and the sweeping majesty of nature fills the senses so much I could almost smell the grass and the gunpowder. The fact that Diggle and Jock have worked together before shows. They’re a well-oiled machine attuned to turned out powerful stories.

The plot of Green Arrow: Year One is absurdly simple, but it shows off so much of what has become canon for the character. Oliver’s disenchantment of his own prosperity, the dislike of the image of so many of the rich and celebrity, the false platitudes so many hucksters and politicians spout, and his search for real meanings takes shape in these pages.

His inherent survivalist’s nature shines through in the wilderness and the human adversity he faces. Diggle also touches on Ollie’s abhorrence of drugs (which became a major plot point in the 1970s when it was revealed that Roy Harper, Green Arrow’s original sidekick Speedy who has now gone on to become Red Arrow, had a drug problem). Understanding that Ollie got addicted to opium while healing on the island actually shores up Ollie’s overreaction and disappointment in Roy at that time. There’s even a comment made after a drastic injury regarding the potential of Ollie losing his arm that plays off the way Ollie was killed – for a time.

There’s a lot to love about this graphic novel if you’re a Green Arrow fan. I had a blast reading it, then re-reading it. And it’s a great introduction to the character if you’ve never read anything about him. Despite the fact that his series seems to constantly respawn, there’s a resiliency to Oliver Queen that just won’t go away forever. He’s become an icon in the DC Comics universe, as Diggle and Jock reveal here in these pages.

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