Wednesday, August 4, 2021

#IReadsYou Review: GREEN ARROW: The Longbow Hunters: Book One


ASSIST: Lurene Haines
COLORS: Julia Lacquement
LETTERS: Ken Bruzenak
EDITOR: Mike Gold
COVER: Mike Grell
48pp, Color, $2.95 U.S., $3.95 CAN (1987)

Green Arrow is a DC Comics superhero.  Created by Mort Weisinger and designed by George Papp, he first appeared in More Fun Comics #73 (cover dated: November 1941).  Green Arrow is Oliver Jonas Queen, a wealthy businessman and owner of Queen Industries.

As Green Arrow, Queen wears a Robin Hood-like costume and is an archer who uses his skills to fight crime in the cities where he has lived.  Once upon a time, Green Arrow used a range of trick arrows or “specialty arrows” (explosive-tipped arrows, grappling hook arrows, and tear gas arrows, for instance).  The character has also been depicted differently over eight decades of existence by numerous creators.

Comic book writer-artist, Mike Grell, was first associated with Green Arrow over the period of 1974 to 1978.  First, Green Arrow was a back-up feature in Action Comics (1974-76) that Grell drew.  From 1976-78, Arrow was Green Lantern's partner in the comic book, Green Lantern, although the cover was titled "Green Lantern/Green Arrow."

Grell returned to the character in the 1987, three-issue, “prestige” comic book miniseries, Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters.  The Longbow Hunters began Grell's second association with the character, which ran for a little more than six years and which included an 80-issue run as writer of the Green Arrow (1988) ongoing series.  The Longbow Hunters finds an aging Oliver Queen haunted by both the life he has led and by the choices he did not make.  He is also hunting two brutal killers stalking the streets of his new hometown, Seattle.  The entire Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters series is written by Grell; drawn by Grell with his assistant, Lurene Haines; colored by Julia Lacquement; and lettered by the great Ken Bruzenak.

As Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters Book One: The Hunters opens, the city of Seattle, Washington is being plagued by a serial killer, known as the “Seattle Slasher,” who has been killing prostitutes.  As the story begins, the Slasher claims his eighteenth victim.  Meanwhile, Ollie Queen/Green Arrow relocates from Star City to Seattle, the home of his girlfriend, Dinah Lance, who is also the superhero Black Canary.

Queen is 43-years-old, and he has changed his Green Arrow costume and has abandoned the use of his trademark trick arrows for more traditional archery equipment.  Queen wants to make another change in his life.  He is suffering something of a mid-life crisis, and he ruminates on the life he has led and the paths in life he did not take.  He and Dinah are opening a flower shop, “Sherwood Florist,” but he would also like to have a baby with Dinah.  As Black Canary, Dinah is working undercover to investigate a drug racket, and she believes that she and Oliver live too dangerous a life to consider becoming parents when their activities could leave a child an orphan.

Meanwhile, Green Arrow is also trying to track down the Seattle Slasher.  During his investigation, Queen encounters a mysterious young female archer named, Shado.  She has an elaborate dragon tattoo on her left arm, and she may have ties to the Yakuza.  Shado is also executing a group of elderly men who would have been of age for service during World War II.  Oliver cannot figure out what connects these men that Shado is killing, but some of her victims may have something to do with Dinah's case.  And these connections could get them all killed.

THE LOWDOWN:  Three and half decades later, when people speak or write about Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, they still talk about the gritty turn Mike Grell gave the character.  The truth is that from the year 1986 forward, DC Comics published science fiction and fantasy comics that were darker and edgier than any of their previous comics in those genres.  DC Comics titles took on more mature and adult themes, and some superheroes were grim, gritty, or grim and gritty or, in the case of Batman, grimmer than ever.

What Grell did with Green Arrow was different.  In Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, he began the process of making Green Arrow an urban hunter – a vigilante who stalked violent criminals from the streets to the suites.  Arrow became a hunter and his prey was the worst of male humanity.  On the civilian side, Grell made Oliver face his mortality, be thoughtful about the choices he made and did not make, and think back on the important moments of his youth.

The two women in Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters essentially reflect or represent what Oliver can have and what he could have become.  Dinah Lance/Black Canary is his future, if Oliver accepts certain realities.  Shado, had certain moments in his past turned out differently, is what Oliver could have become … or might become, given the right circumstances.

Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters is certainly one of the most beautiful miniseries that DC Comics published in the 1980s.  Mike Grell, with the assistance of Lurene Haines, drew the story in illustrative textures that have a Film-Noir quality that is perfect for both the narrative's thoughtful, moody moments and for its violence.  The hints of realism and fantasy are balanced by Julia Lacquement's coloring, which is perfectly fashioned for each moment of the narrative.  Of course, letterer Ken Bruzenak is in top form.  His lettering conveys the tone and pace of the story, perfectly, every step of the way.

This recent reading is at least the third time that I have read Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, but this is the first time in over twenty years.  Still, it never disappoints, so I plan to read it again … even if it takes me awhile to get back to it.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans of Mike Grell and of Green Arrow will want to read Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters.

9 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2021 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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