One of the nicest things to come out of the Rebirth era was “Green Arrow.” Ben Percy and Otto Schmidt turned in an excellent book during their time with the character. Now after a series of fill in teams, the Benson Sisters, Julie and Shawna, of The 100 and “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey,” take over writing duties with “Green Arrow” #43.
Written by Julie Benson and Shawna Benson
Illustrated by Javier Fernandez
Colored by John Kalisz
Lettered by Deron Bennet
Seattle’s in for a serious shake-up when Green Arrow crosses quivers with a new vigilante “hero” dubbed the Citizen, who’s hell-bent on exposing the corrupt and criminal one-percenters operating in the Emerald City. Green Arrow initially applauds these efforts, until the Citizen turns judge, jury and executioner-can you guess what bloviating billionaire is next on his hit list? Also, a little birdie told us that help for Oliver is on the way-but we’re not singing who it is just yet.
Issue #43, the start of the ‘Citizen’s Arrest’ storyline, reads like a slice-of-life adventure for Oliver Queen. The issue follows Oliver throughout the day as he and Roy save a family from an evil real estate developer, goes to the office, has a “Chili-Taste-Test-A-Palooza,” and hunts a new vigilante in town that uses social media to exact “justice” on the city’s corrupt rich. Just another day in the life of playboy turned self-appointed Robin Hood. Their introduction is a welcome change of pace to how most new creative team starts tend to go, either jumping full-on into a plot or acting as something of a soft reboot after a “groundbreaking” revelation. This mode allows the Bensons and artists Javier Fernandez and John Kalisz to take their time and get to know the new cast. It also creates ample room to show how improved the Benson’s are as comics writers compared to their early work in “Birds of Prey.” In “Green Arrow” #43 they grow strong in making efficient scenes, and, when mixed with Fernandez and Kalisz art, find better humorous moments.
One of the key talking and selling points of this New Justice era has been the promise of a more interconnected DC Universe. To a certain degree that’s fine. Cape comics have pioneered and built on the shared story world concept for years. Often, however, it can feel like these hooks interrupt the personal story of the book. “Green Arrow” #43 features multiple references to both “No Justice” and the upcoming “Heroes in Crisis,” and yet these hooks work in the books favor. The Bensons’ lean into them, the new responsibilities Ollie has as keeper of the mystery box, as a part of the story the issue is telling of a distracted Oliver Queen. The box and other recent events become an outside force that both distracts him from his present duties, and call into question the overall efficacy of his mission as both the Green Arrow and Oliver Queen.
The main way this feeling of distraction is revealed is by juxtaposing his inner monologue with his dialogue. I suspect that won’t land well with everyone as this issue straddles the line with feeling overwritten at times. Ironically, it isn’t because the space taken up by the dialogue is so overriding there are just a few moments where Ollie’s inner thoughts don’t feel relevant to the mood created by the artists. The interplay between his thoughts and words, however, is an often effective storytelling choice such as in the early pages of the book where he and Roy bicker about trust before climaxing in the gem of a line “if I die trusting Arsenal, I’ll kill him.” There’s a distracted sort of brevity to Queen’s monologue in this issue as he deals with multiple problems at the same time that makes this narrative choice worth it.
Javier Fernandez line work goes a long way in building a context for the Bensons’ dialogue. His line work and page designs are very different compared to Rich Tommaso but there is this cartoonist sensibility to how he draws figures and facial expressions. In one of the excellent one-page sequences, he gives overworked attorney Kate Spencer the best death glare eyes and they’re done in such a way you can’t really see the pupil, it’s just how he put the core facial components together and body language. It’s not just the funny beats, he does a good job at representing the at times tense relationship between Ollie and Roy as well as the respect between the two. These skills mixed with John Kalisz punched and smooth color palette make this issue feel full of life.Continued below
The antagonist for this arc is the anonymous Citizen. Someone who is taking out those they deem to be corrupt one percenters and putting them on trial like it’s the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, powered by social media and the sensibilities of Untraceable. At first blush there is a bit of cartoonish simplicity to the character, which is fitting for a cape comic and the early days of the arc, they don’t immediately jump out as something all that interesting. What is interesting is how Javier Fernandez and John Kalisz present Citizen and their broadcasts by replicating the Periscope or Facebook Live style interactions. As they start the broadcast it’s all thumbs up and hearts, but when he brings in defendant things quickly turn to skulls and thumbs down. These interactions give a sense of immediacy and chorus like commentary that helps fuel the deadline plot the issue climaxes in. Their personal character may not have my interest at the moment, but their function as a mirror to question Oliver’s activist spirit both in and out of hood has potential. At the start of the issue Ollie talks about how he’s changed from the navel-gazing playboy to social justice warrior, but his action in this issue call that into question.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – The Benson Sisters get off to a strong start with an issue and art that emphasizes personal connections, the wider DCU, and how those two things can cause friction.