Sunday, January 5, 2014

Review: Green Arrow The Longbow Hunters

I didn't think I'd be too interested in the TV show "Arrow". I mean it was on the CW, television network of the blandly beautiful, and I didn't think anyone out of high school watched those shows.

That was a big strike against it right there, even more so than the fact that Green Arrow is a poor man's Batman, for those uncomfortable with the whiff of pedophilia associated with Batman's penchant for adopting cherry-cheeked orphans and dressing them up in fish scale short shorts and elf shoes. However, I had been flipping through the TV listings a couple weeks ago when I saw that the description for that week's episode of Arrow involved someone named Cyrus Gold.

I'd heard previously that it reimagined the comics characters into more realistic versions. Cyrus Gold is the never used real name of Solomon Grundy, a character most people would only know from the nursery rhyme and/or that shitty Crash Test Dummies song. But that really is what convinced me to give the show a chance. . I'm a sucker for a good C-lister.

Holy Shit, there was nothing I didn't love about the pilot! The dialogue, the plotting, the choreography, they were all incredible, but the thing I think I liked the most was probably the reference to a guy named "Grell", which has to be an homage to Mike Grell, author and artist of The Longbow Hunters, which I consider the best Green Arrow story ever written. We've seen the second one now, and now that I've had time to reflect on the pilot, I can't help but think that it's a great example of a pilot. It introduces the characters, the premise and the conflict, tells a self-contained story, but alludes to a larger world. I like this show a lot.

I'm not what you'd call a Green Arrow fan. I'm not even sure they exist. I liken them to something like the Period 8 elements on the Periodic Table, something which has been hypothesized, but never had its existence proven.

Green Arrow is kind of silly when you get down to it.

Despite that, I dearly love the Longbow Hunters. I knew I was going to like the show when one of the characters mentions DA Grell. I had to rewind the scene and put the captions on to make sure. Mike Grell wrote the Longbow Hunters, and the Green Arrow series that followed.

I first read it when I was working in a comic book store. (That's right, nerds! I read your comics!) It was this oversized book on a rack we had just to display those odd sized books. I can't remember why I read it. Probably because I had already read through all the books that interested me already.

I don't know what was going on in the 80s that lead to so many incredibly good comics. The Longbow Hunters is a great comics and it's unquestionably an 80s comic. My friend Tim says the model of Lamborghini pictured in the comic is a distinctly 80s car, but I'm like those people who can't recognize faces when it comes to cars. But there is the Japanese theme running throughout the story, the peril of crack, and I think at one point, Black Canary wears leg warmers.

Grell is one of those prodigious talents, a writer and an artist, and brilliant at both.

I'm sorry. Was I saying something? I got distracted there for a moment.
Green Arrow moves to Seattle on the eve of his 40th birthday, and there are some drug dealers, another archer, a serial killer. The plot itself, save for perhaps the midlife crisis element, is nothing special, though it's not something that was tackled particularly often in comic books. It was a very engaging account of a pretty straightforward story, something that could have easily been an 80s movie.

 This is from Green Arrow's entry on Wikipedia: Oliver Queen is perhaps the finest archer ever known. He claims to be able to shoot 29 arrows per minute (he stated this himself, in the Sound of Violence story arc, when he corrected Black Canary for saying 26)... Green Arrow has shown the ability to shoot an arrow down the barrel of a gun, pierce a drop of water as it leaves a tap, and shoot almost any part of the human body; although he aims only to wound and not kill when he shoots. He once shot two arrows down two different gun barrels while upside down, in mid-flip while somersaulting off a building.

Ugh. I hate that kind of bullshit. Just call it a super-power and be done with it.

Here's the thing that makes me like it. In the Longbow Hunters, Green Arrow is not the best archer in the story. (He might not even be second-best, because Howard Hill gets a cameo).  At one point, he says to himself while looking at a shot made by the archer he is pursuing: "Face it old-timer, you couldn't have made that shot."

That archer is Shado. Not thrilled with the 80s ninja name (it strikes me as what you name your rogue in an MMORPG when Shadow, Shadoe, Shaddow and xXShadowXx are all taken), but it's not enough to break the series. This composition is one of my all time favorites.

The book is great and it lead to Green Arrow's first ongoing series. You can find it cheap at Amazon or elsewhere, and it's certainly worth picking up if you're a fan of street level heroes.


  1. Huge fan of Arrow. As you continue watching the show, you will be happy to note that Oliver Queen is far from the best archer on it.

    1. I like Arrow a lot. We're about 20 episodes into the first season. The writing has an attention to detail that isn't often found in genre shows. Something I really liked, in the episode where Detective Lance thinks Tommy is dealing out of the club, the detective walks in, and the first thing they ask him is "Is Laurel okay?" That just NAILS it.