QUIVER ME TIMBERS
It seems almost fate that my re reading of Kevin Smiths run on Green Arrow coincided with his recent turn of bad health. So why the icon re cooperates I’ll take the opportunity to work the shaft while licking the balls and talk about how near to perfection his fifteen issue run on the ‘Emerald Archer’ is.
Fifteen issues may seem a lot but Smith delivers. It is a perfect trade paperback to settle down with over a weekend. In a nutshell there is action, romance, thought provoking moments, nostalgia and as you’d expect from Smith humour. Oh and plenty of dialogue! I don’t know if this series had scheduling issues when it came out, thats why I recommend reading it as a trade. Smith is a writer who can write for trade collections. His run is split into two main story arcs and two single issues. But they are all connected. The bulk of the run is the ten issue epic ‘Quiver’. This was in fact the very first Green Arrow comic I ever read.
From there I became a fan long before he took over the small screen. ‘Quiver’ led to Brad Meltzers brilliant ‘The Archer’s Quest’ most of Judd Winick’s run and of course the epic ‘Longbow Hunters’ by Mike Grell. ‘Quiver’ is a weird combination of being accessible to new readers and heavy in continuity at the same time. To set the scene a little these ten issues are essentially ‘Green Arrow: Rebirth.’ Oliver Queen had died five years previous in Green Arrow #101. For me who will read anything from anywhere in a characters timeline reading things that meant nothing to me wasn’t a big deal in me still enjoying the series. I have read enough issues of Wizard to fill in the DC continuity gaps for 1995 to the 2000’s. Smith was doing Chris Nolan levels of story telling long before the Dark Knight trilogy.
It is not till the last page of the first issue that we see our titular hero. But the set up to get there makes the wait worth while. The issue starts in the safety of two familiar faces in Batman and Superman. A move to ease new readers in I’m sure. The rest of the issue is spent catching up with the major players in Oliver’s life. Roy Harper, Dinah Drake and Conner Hawke. The narration accompanying his final page return is beautiful in its brilliance. “When it starts, it always starts small. So small that the origin almost always goes unnoticed. Almost…” The story does a good job looking at the emotional baggage of someone returning from the dead. How it affects former team mates, side kicks, lovers and sons. As well as all that it is a trip through a whos who in the DCU. When I read this the first time it was my first time reading anything with such characters as Hal Jordan as Spectre, Deadman, Jason Blood and Etrigan the Demon. Even Spoiler makes a small cameo.
Going off topic slightly Smith writes a good Batman. He’s like a BTAS version but with more quips, kinda like James Bond really. The ins and outs of the ‘science’ behind Ollie’s return to the living do get a little convoluted but the story is such a fun romp it never really gets bogged down. The pacing is electric. After the ten issue epic we get a one issue story focusing on new character Mia Dearden and her dream to join Green Arrow as Speedy. The issue is a focus on the whole concept of having teen sidekicks. It takes a tongue in cheek poke at the silver age to get across its point. With Oliver saying he was “Shocked none of us were ever arrested.” for having teen sidekicks.
Mia would go on to be used consistently throughout this volume of Green Arrow. Becoming one of the only HIV positive characters in comics. She would also loosely be the inspiration for the character Thea Queen on the TV series Arrow. Smith rounds out his run with the three issue ‘Sounds of Violence.’ Here he introduces one of the characters he has become most associated with, Onomatopoeia. A villain who is both equal parts fun and disturbing to read. Now some might say that is the Jokers MO. But Onomatopoeia is different. We don’t know his true motivations, he just straight up wants to kill capes. It really would be a crowning achievement if Smith could direct an episode of Arrow and bring in Onomatopoeia.
Part of the appeal was Kevin Smith being attached, having read his equally impressive run on Daredevil and being a fan of his movies. There is no doubt he plays to his strengths. In the movie world he is the guy who makes the pop culture references. Its no different here. Plenty of DC in jokes and mods to to other parts of pop culture. Just look at the titles to some of the issues; “The Old Man And The Sea”, “The Anatomy Lesson” and best of all ‘Hard Traveling Heroes.” In the story Oliver sets up a shelter for homeless children. Mia mentions having worked at a recreation center previously. Something Smith himself done in is younger days, along side the legend that is Walt Flanagan. In his forward for the trade paperback he says he got his Father in Law to give him some archery lessons just to get a very baseline feel for the character.
I think it is fair to say this series was the launch pad for Green Arrows spike in popularity that he is still enjoying today. There are those who will say the pinnacle was ‘Hard Traveling Heroes’ or ‘Longbow Hunters’ era Green Arrow. But between those stories and Smith’s it is worth remembering the comic market crashed. Green Arrow was never a top selling title before the crash but during Smith’s run he was top 10! He’s not Batman or Superman who could endure the crash via other mediums. You just have to look at Marvels premier archer who has never really been able to hold an on going title like Green Arrow.
After Smith a series of well respected writers have taken up the pen. Six years after ‘Quiver’ Green Arrow was introduced to Smallville and went on to be in seventy two episodes. At one point during the mid 2000’s Green Arrow was the subject of a potential movie titles Super Max written by David Goyer. Then in 2012 Arrow debuted on our screens and brought the character into the public eye. It is now in its sixth season and has largely created its own continuity while being faithful to the source material. My only quibble being why in season 3 when Oliver died did they not bring him back with an adaptation of ‘Quiver’?
About Ian Wells
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