Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Green Arrow Volume I: Hunter's Moon Preview

As I noted earlier, next month sees the release of Green Arrow Volume I: Hunter's Moon, the far too long overdue collection of the first six issues of the Mike Grell's Green Arrow series. Since I happen to own the issues that comprise this forthcoming trade paperback, I don't have to wait until next month to review it for you.
With the advent of Green Arrow's first ongoing series, Grell continued in the new direction that he had established for the character in the Prestige Format mini-series The Longbow Hunters.  Grell's Oliver Queen was, as editor Mike Gold termed it, an "urban hunter," who had left behind the fictional Star City for Seattle, Washington, eschewing the boxing glove arrow and other such gimmicks in favor of plain old pointy tipped shafts. Furthermore, Grell banished many traditional elements of the super-hero genre, including colorful costumed super-villains, from the book's pages.  Actually, this last wasn't all that much of a departure from tradition in Green Arrow's case.  If you look at the Silver Age adventures collected in the character's Showcase Presents volume, you'll see that his opponents were more often common street thugs, bank robbers and mobsters rather than maniacal super-villains.  Another indicator of the less, shall we say, "comic booky", for lack of a better term, direction of the book, and one that's so subtle that I didn't actually notice it until it was pointed out to me, is that nowhere in these stories is Oliver Queen actually referred to as Green Arrow.
While Grell's new approach was, for the most part, popular with readers, at  least the majority of those who took the time and trouble to write in to the letters column, there was some scattered opposition to the supposed changes that Grell had made in Ollie's character.   For my part, I consider what Grell did with Ollie not so much change as evolution.  I can plainly see how the character Grell is writing is, in fact, the same anti-establishment defender of the common man defined by Denny O'Neil over a decade and a half earlier.  Grell's version is older and more world weary, if not wiser, and with an outlook on life somewhat hardened by time and experience.
Grell structured the Green Arrow series, for the most part, as a series of two-part stories with the ocassional four parter about once every year.  Thus, Hunter's Moon, reprinting as it does six issues of the series, contains three separate stories.  It is the first of these, "Hunter's Moon," from which the volume's title is taken.
In this inauguaral two parter, a notorious child murderer is released from prison after eighteen years pending a new trial.  Somehow, despite his house arrest and constant police surveillance, he manages to get out to terrorize his sole surviving victim and the only eyewitness against him.  Ollie becomes involved when that survivor, Dr. Annie Green, turns out to be the therapist that he and Dinah Lance, a.k.a. the Black Canary, go to in order to help her deal with the trauma she experienced in The Longbow Hunters.
This story gets the new series off to a strong start, picking up on plot threads from The Longbow Hunters and cementing the new direction for Oliver Queen's adventures Grell established in that mini-series, including, most controversially, the character's newfound willingness to kill when he deemed it necessary.
The second two parter, "The Champion," begins with a top secret space shuttle exploding, causing an experimental biological weapon to fall to Earth somewhere in the vicinity of Washington state.  Oliver is recruited by agents of the Soviet Union (you remember them, right?) to find the vial containing the biological agent before the Chinese, their partners in the secret experiment, can get to it.  The Chinese have recruited to work for them the nerdy looking but nonethess deadly killer for hire introduced in The Longbow Hunters, Eddie Fyers. (Although for some reason, Grell spelled it Fyres in that series.)  While this is a good and exciting story, the premise seems more suited to Jon Sable, Freelance than to this version of Green Arrow.
The final two parter that comprises Hunter's Moon is "Gauntlet," which returns Oliver to the urban jungle to investigate a series of gay bashings that turn out to be related to a gang called the Warhogs which is attempting to expand its terrotory into Seattle.  This is a solid story that is squarely in the Denny O'Neil Green Lantern/Green Arrow tradition of putting Ollie in situations taken from the news of the day.
"Are you still?  A good guy?" Annie Green asks Oliver in the first issue.  The answer is an unqualified yes, and in Hunter's Moon, Grell has put him in three very good stories.  I definitely recommend this forthcoming volume, and hope that it sells well enough to convince DC to reprint the remainder of Grell's eighty issue run on Green Arrow

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