The comics and graphic novels you may not have read that are
well worth checking out…
Written by: Andy Diggle / Art by: Jock
Collects: Green Arrow: Year One #1-6 (published 2007)
What’s it about?
The young Oliver Queen is a reckless socialite and billionaire playboy without a purpose. Betrayed by his trusted bodyguard, Hackett, Queen is shipwrecked on an opium-rich jungle island where he must fight for survival against a group of ruthless drug traffickers…
No doubt like numerous other comic book fans, DC Comics’ Green Arrow was a character I had always overlooked. Sure, I had a passing awareness of Oliver Queen from years of reading other DC titles (his appearance in Geoff John’s Green Lantern: Rebirth for example) but for some reason I was never really interested in Green Arrow – was it the Robin Hood motif? Possibly – although honestly I was already heavily invested in Batman, Superman and Green Lantern (with a bit of The Flash here and there as well). Those characters always excited me…but some middle-aged guy dressed as Robin Hood? “No thanks” was always my overriding thought but, slowly, through osmosis – the character’s sporadic guest appearances in other titles, his addition to the cast of Smallville and now the Arrow TV series (Year One a clear influence on the latter, from naming Queen’s bodyguard after writer Diggle to the series’ island flashbacks sequences) – I have developed an appreciation for the Emerald Archer.
This leads me to Green Arrow: Year One (which thanks to a recent digital comics sale I was able to obtain relatively cheaply), having already read Mike Grell’s rather enjoyable ‘mature readers’ title The Longbow Hunters (a sort of Green Arrow equivalent of The Dark Knight Returns, but not nearly as ground-breaking) Andy Diggle/Jock’s mini-series was naturally next on my list.
I’d heard a lot about Year One over the years since its publication in 2007 and understood it to be one of the character’s definitive tales and already being a fan of both Diggle and Jock’s work it qualified as a safe purchase on those merits alone.
The story depicts the young Oliver Queen and the formative event that would lead to his creation of the Green Arrow persona. It opens with the reader being introduced to the drunk, immature and generally careless Queen – living his life without worrying about consequences or responsibility (including an outlandish auction bid that leads to the fateful acquisition of a longbow).
The first chapter (Part One) provides the set-up leading to Hackett’s betrayal and Queen’s shipwrecking leaving the remaining chapters to fully explore the dire situation he awakens to and the formation of the skills he will need to prevail, leading to his eventual rebirth as Green Arrow.
Of course, at first, Queen fights simply to survive – to hunt for food and to defend against the drug traffickers he finds are enslaving the island’s population. Queen’s befriending of a pregnant islander gives him a cause and a purpose not only to escape but to free the enslaved populace by taking down drugs baron ‘China White’ and her gang. By the end of the story Queen is reformed, having a strong sense of justice instilled in him and the will and means to commit to the very purpose he had been seeking.
Andy Diggle’s script flows nicely, the story never feels rushed nor does it become sluggish and the dialogue is well written. Jock’s art (supported by colourist David Baron, with apt use of greens during some key scenes) is the perfect fit and really brings the excitement and action to life, on the whole it all looks and feels epic – almost cinematic – especially in the penultimate chapter (Part Five) as Queen leads his one man attack on China White’s sub pen headquarters.
Year One is gripping from start to finish with a tense and (literally) explosive final show-down with China White and Hackett receiving some poetic justice.
Why you should read it
As with Batman: Year One, Green Arrow: Year One is an essential and definitive take on the origin of the character. It’s well written and gloriously illustrated making it one of the best titles I’ve ever read – considering it features a character I was never really remotely interested in it goes without saying that you should check it out.
Hunted by China White’s men, Queen finds that the Pacific Queen has ran aground on the island’s shore. He seeks refuge inside the yacht, awaking to the harsh sunlight only to discover an important item resting on the deck – the longbow that was once a symbol of his decadence will now serve as the symbol of his transformation…
Did you know?
The character of China White appears throughout Arrow’s first season and is played by X-Men 2’s Lady Deathstrike, Kelly Hu.
Read it if you like…
Batman: Year One, Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters
Green Arrow: Year One is available in print and digital formats from DC Comics.