Publisher: DC Comics
It’s been a rough time being a Green Arrow fan since the start of the New 52. When the title launched, Oliver Queen was shaved of his classic facial hair and de-aged by a number of years. The series had a youthful tone, but was a generic by the numbers superhero story. After a few creative changes, the book was totally revamped by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino. This run was critically well received, as Lemire quickly established a new status quo and supporting cast for Oliver to work with. That run unfortunately ended before its time, but still stands as a strong set of issues. From there the book began to incorporate more elements from the Arrow TV show, specifically Felicity Smoak. After that brief six issue run by Andrew Kreisberg (of Arrow fame), the book was put on hiatus during the Convergence storyline.
Now the title’s creative team has changed again. The new writer, Benjamin Percy has suggested in interviews that his take on the Green Arrow is a spiritual successor to what Jeff Lemire introduced to the series. Three issues in and this seems to be true, Diggle and Felicity are conspicuously absent, and the story is utilising the supporting cast introduced at the start of Lemire’s run. The main difference however is while Lemire seasoned his super hero story with elements of fantasy, Percy is using more horror/sci-fi elements. The shift is subtle, and had it come directly after Lemire’s run may have gone unnoticed.
Issue #43 is the final chapter of Percy’s first arc, The Nightbirds. The issue begins with Green Arrow being held captive by Zimm, a mad scientist type, who has created an army of mechanical drones. The drones have been commissioned by the Seattle police force to monitor the streets for potential criminals. Unfortunately the drones violently apprehend citizens based on profiling over evidence. The idea is terrifying and unfortunately believable. Fearing for their safety the local residents all adopt to wearing hoodies while outside to avoid being attacked by the machines. This issue was more successful at selling this feeling of dread than previous two issues, and the idea of a robot police force, while not original, is interesting never the less. The previous chapters of this story seemed unfocused, in this issue with Oliver, his half-sister and the two new villains already established, Percy was able to tell an enjoyable story that was not bogged down by exposition. While I was unsure what to make of the first two issues, I am now convinced that this has the makings of a strong run, and will be back next issue.
While this is the strongest issue by the new creative team, there are still come aspects of the story I struggled to enjoy. Firstly there is a lot of narration. This is a dower version of Oliver Queen, and so while his more reserved attitude is understandable, this means most of his dialogue is given in caption boxes. At times this can seem heavy-handed. However the implications of this issue suggest Oliver is going to be spending more time with his side-kick Henry, and his sister Emi so hopefully this will lead to more character interaction and less internal monologuing in future issues. Like in Arrow, the story will benefit from more character interaction and less voice over. The show began to find its footing once Oliver had people to talk to. With the cast established, Percy is able to have come fun with the characters, and demonstrating the human side of the characters.
The other disappointing element of the story is the brutal murder of one of Zimm’s henchmen. Actually the brutal part doesn’t really bother me, but part one of this story seemed to suggest that this albino skinned killer was a force to be reckoned with. He had ghost like qualities and seemed formidable. I was hoping this could be a new on going nemesis for the Green Arrow (who has so few interesting ones) though it seems he was only presented as a threat, so that by eliminating him, Zimm’s drones seem even deadly.
The art by Patrick Zircher is serviceable and tells the story with no problems. On a technical level the artist conveys what he needs to in order to tell the story, and the drones are visually threatening. On a subjective level I prefer more stylised designs. There is comparison to artists like Sorrentino, whose art stands out and make them instantly recognisable. The Bombshell variant cover to tie into the latest digital comics series is stunning, and if I could afford it the statue it’s based on would find a new home on my geek shelf.
A free preview that sets the tone for the series can be downloaded from Comixology, as can issues 41 – 43, which collects the Nightbirds story.