Let’s dive into the next batch,
Green Arrow Vol. 1: The Midas Touch
This was actually what I feared most when the reboot started taking shape and it became clear that some characters’ histories were essentially being jettisoned in favor of a movie-ready high concept pitch.
Green Arrow as a character is someone who benefits from having a long, entrenched history within the DC universe – his growth from a Batman knock-off to that of a social crusader; his friendship with Green Lantern; his hot-and-cold relationship with Black Canary; his complicated mentoring of Speedy/Arsenal; his Mike Grell urban-hunter period, etc.
These milestones greatly inform and enrich his character, so if you cut them out, you damn well better have something solid to replace them with.
Unfortunately, J.T. Krul managed none of that, instead sticking the newly en-young-ened Oliver Queen (who would now be way too young to have mentored the Roy Harper currently starring in Red Hood and the Outlaws, but nevermind that for now) in a status quo that probably sounded clever at the outset: Oliver is essentially Steve Jobs, globe-trotting manhunter.
An orphan who runs a division of his family-owned Queen Industries – the division that apparently makes smartphones and (on the downlow) weapons for Green Arrow – but frequently shirks his responsibilities in order to do Green Arrow stuff more often. And he’s kind of a jerk, but not in the bloviating lefty way of old. Now it’s mostly a poor-little-rich-boy attitude.
Who does he fight? Well, in the first arc, it’s a superpowered fight club populated by utterly forgettable 90’s-edgy bad guys in tank tops, then a radioactive scientist who’s in love with his robot assassin. Why does he fight them? Because otherwise there’s no reason for this comic to exist. Oliver offers some handwaving “If we don’t, who will?” But that makes no damn sense as a motivation for anything other than a hobby.
So in essence, Green Arrow actually is everything people joke about Batman being: a rich asshole with an expensive hobby.
Krul bounced off the book after three pages, to be followed up by Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen, who do their best with the pretty inexplicable monster-scientist and robot-girl attack. Then they were gone in favor of Ann Nocenti, who apparently wrote a borderline nonsensical arc of her own before also leaving, to be replaced by someone else who doesn’t know what to do with this now completely surface-level character.
The Flash Vol. 1: Mob Rule
Less egregiously, The Flash reboot also ditched 98% of the character’s history (near as I can tell, what’s been kept are Barry Allen’s origin, his job as a CSI, his even-tempered Midwestern disposition, and it seems to be the same Captain Cold I remember, I guess), but…at least the art’s pretty, and the same creative team has stayed on for a whole year at this point, so at least there’s some sense of consistency.
Francis Manapul’s art is, in fact, so pretty, his page compositions so intricate and clever, that it took me the entire opening arc to realize I could not care less about anything that’s happening. Because the opening arc isn’t ABOUT THE FLASH. It’s about a new villain, an Old Friend Of The Hero’s ™ who has gained powers and gone bad.
At the end of the story, you learn virtually nothing new about Barry Allen (who continues to be far more interesting dead than alive), save that when he turns his speed powers to mental problem solving, he physically locks up considering all the possibilities (which is a nice wrinkle, but only an effective cliffhanger once).
It’s less aggressively mediocre than Green Arrow, but on another level it’s actually more offensive to me, as a lifelong Wally West fan, that that character’s 25 years as the star of this book have been cast aside to make way for a bland replacement. This opening arc makes zero compelling argument for why that was done.
Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Blood
Azzarello’s first arc on Wonder Woman is solid, and there was a good chance it would fall flat on its face, since it’s built entirely on the Everything You Thought You Knew Was Wrong! ™ retcon that can kill enthusiasm almost immediately.
But the retcon (and I’ll spoil it here since I want to talk about its greater significance and hey, it’s been nine months since its initial publication) works to refocus a book that often has a hard time knowing what it’s about. By turning Wonder Woman into the child of Zeus and Hippolyta – thus incurring the wrath of Hera, along with the rest of the Amazonians – Wonder Woman gets:
1) A new arch-villain in Hera
2) A new “family”/supporting cast in the form of Zeus’s other bastard children (and the injured Hermes), and
3) An “Us versus the gods” storytelling engine, a quest-style mission sending her around the globe to fight or negotiate with a pantheon of unpredictable deities (redesigned in some amazing ways by Cliff Chiang, whose visuals really help sell the whole thing).
All while keeping Diana the same recognizable character she’s always been: calm, determined, and confident in the face of adversity. This is really a perfect example of how to restart a book without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
But I’m a little irritated that the collection stops one issue before another controversial decision Azzarello made – to reveal that the Amazonians go on periodic sailor-rape missions to replenish their population.
A race of immortal warrior-women do this three times a century. To make babies. And somehow Wonder Woman didn’t know about that.
That shit is just dumb. But I guess I’ll have to wait for the next collection before I really have to judge it.
NEXT TIME: Batman Titles!