Green Arrow 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 – Mariko Tamaki, Tom Taylor, Stephanie Phillips, Mike Grell, Ram V, Brandom Thomas, Devin Grayson, Phil Gester, Vita Ayala, Benjamin Percy, Jeff Lemire, Larry O’Neil, Writers; Javier Rodriguez, Nicola Scott, Chris Mooneyham, Mike Grell, Christopher Mitten, Jorge Corona, Max Fiumara, Phil Hester/Ande Parks, Laura Braga, Otto Schmidt, Andrea Sorrentino, Jorge Fornes, Artists; Annette Kwok, Mike Spicer, Lovern Kindzierski, Ivan Plascencia, Matheus Lopes, Trish Mulvihill, Adriano Lucas, Jordie Bellaire, David Stewart, Colorists
Ray – 8.5/10
Ray: The giant-size anniversary specials are back for a second round, starting with this tribute to eighty years of Green Arrow. We’ve got the return of some top creative teams and some new faces, but there’s one missing name—arguably his most iconic writer, who passed away before this issue was written and is honored here in a unique way. But how do the whopping twelve stories inside pay tribute to the emerald archer and his supporting cast?
First up, it’s Mariko Tamaki and Javier Rodriguez on “The Disappearing Bandit.” Tamaki has never written Ollie to any major extent before—something not uncommon in this issue. But this tribute to the Golden Age featuring a young (beardless) Ollie and Roy is a lot of fun. It focuses on a new bandit who can seemingly disappear, and the various twists and turns that the hunt for him takes. With trick arrows a-plenty and a style and tone that reminds me a lot of Batman ‘66, it’s a lot of fun.
This issue seems to work in chronological order, because Tom Taylor and Nicola Scott’s “Punching Evil” seems set in the same era. It focuses on Ollie going to train with Ted Grant at Dinah’s request, as the agile adventurer wonders why he would ever want to fight up-close and personal. Great characterization for all three leads here, as Taylor gives Ollie the right balance of arrogance and likability. The final battle with a surprise villain from Wildcat’s rogues’ gallery has some funny twists as well.
Ollie finally gets his trademark beard in “Who Watches the Watchtower” by Stephanie Phillips and Chris Mooneyham, as this Silver Age story finds Ollie reluctantly stuck on monitor duty. After nearly getting into a fistfight with Hawkman, he stumbles into what looks like an alien invasion of the League base. This Ollie hasn’t mellowed with age, and the story leans on the unlikable side for him, but it’s a great throwback to an era where the League was often at each others’ throats.
“Just the Usual Sort of Stuff” features the return of one of Green Arrow’s most iconic writer-artists, Mike Grell. This eight-page story moves by in a breeze, as much of it is dialogue-free. Aside from a brief segment of Ollie and Dinah together, it’s about Ollie and Shado teaming up to foil a human-trafficking operation. Not the most memorable story, but Grell’s art is still as strong as ever decades later.
Ram V and Christopher Mitten are next up with “The Arrow and the Song,” a quick six-page story. Pairing scenes of Ollie’s past, present, and future with a Longfellow poem, this is really more a mood piece than anything else. Still, with limited space Ram V already shows a great grasp of what makes Ollie tick—both as an arrogant young man and as a mature hero deeply in love. One of DC’s best writers at the moment.
Brandon Thomas and Jorge Corona close out the first half with “One,” a Green Arrow tale—but not the GA we know. This is a tribute to the ’90s era when Connor Hawke wielded the bow for his late father. This is essentially one kick-ass action scene playing out over the whole story, as Connor—who is a Buddhist and eschews violence as much as possible—tries to take out a team of hostage-takers with a single non-lethal arrow. It’s a clever and inventive fight scene that does justice to the era of comics it’s honoring.
Another one of Ollie’s proteges takes the lead in “Green Man and Arrow Son,” by long-time DC writer Devin Grayson and Max Fiumara. This time it’s Roy Harper, in a tribute to his time as a superhero single dad in the ’90s. We all know how that ended (badly) and it looks like it’ll play out in a very different way in the current status quo. This story, though, is just a simple and charming story that pays tribute to Roy’s time being raised by a Navajo community as he tells a bedtime story to his daughter—and a surprising listener—without shying away from some of the messier parts of his history.
Judd Winick and Kevin Smith didn’t return to comics for this volume, but their art team of Phil Hester and Ande Parks go solo on a story set during that era. Featuring popular villain Onomatopoeia, “Star City Star” sets Ollie on the trail of a little girl—with apparent luck powers—who has been kidnapped and hidden by a casino boss. As the battle takes one twist after another, it becomes mostly clear what’s going on, but the story still delivers a nice emotional punch as it wraps up.
“Happy Anniversary” by Vita Ayala and Laura Braga pays tribute to arguably Ollie’s most important relationship—his love with Black Canary. On their anniversary, Ollie tries to set up a surprise—that gets confused with the very real kidnapping that takes place when he steps outside. Soon, Dinah is on the trail of Deathstroke, leading to an explosive battle in a warehouse with some great tag team action. It’s a pretty quick read, but the characterization of the two leads is excellent.
We’re entering the modern era now, with Ben Percy and Otto Schmidt teaming up on “The Sympathy of the Woods.” I was looking forward to this one because of all the work this team did with Emiko Queen, and it delivers. Set during the Percy run when Ollie and his family were on the run, it focuses on Merlyn hunting Green Arrow in the forest. It’s great to see supporting characters like Diggle and Henry again, and the art is among the best in this entire volume.
But the next story is probably the one that was most anticipated, as Lemire and Sorrentino return to Green Arrow for “The Last Green Arrow Story”—arguably following up on the best GA run of the modern era, if not ever. Focusing on an elderly Green Arrow as he chooses to make the last act of his life returning to the island for one last mission, it’s an oddly metaphysical story with some utterly stunning visuals that will stay with me long after this issue. When these two get together, something amazing happens—and read Gideon Falls.
Finally, it’s a tribute to the late, great Denny O’Neil in “Tap Tap Tap” by his son Larry O’Neil and artist Jorge Fornes. Told entirely in visuals and sound effects, it shows us Denny’s life in terms of the comics that influenced him alongside the real events that shaped him. Less a Green Arrow story than a heartbreaking tribute to a talent who defined several generations of heroes and was still gone too soon, it’s a powerful ending.
Overall, not all of these stories are brilliant, but they all come together to form an excellent portrait of a unique hero.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.