I’ll be the first to say that I was both looking and not looking forward to this day. By far one of my favorites comic book writers of the last few years has been Benjamin Percy; he’s my DC counterpart to Jason Aaron. Seriously, if you’ve peeked at any of my reviews of his run on Mighty Thor you would totally get it. While his last arc was amazing for Green Arrow, we all knew this was the end of his time and we would have to get used to a new author…or rather a few. It was let on that the Benson sisters (Julie and Shawna), who are known for their superb work on Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, would be taking the helm for the series, though we still had to deal with some guests for a while. Not to sound harsh or anything, but I’m very glad that’s over with.
Now I have nothing against Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, and Mairghread Scott, but the Children of Vakar plot line was a serious snooze fest. Oliver vs the Parasite was a fun enough two issues, but hardly up to magnificence of their predecessor. I get that authors will eventually change and that new is not always good, but after I read the Green Arrow Annual 2, I knew we were in for something special.
One thing that made me love Percy’s run of Green Arrow was his ability to take his own intricately woven story and elevate it into an sophisticated mythos where every single action fed into the greater story with purpose and life. In fact, all 40 issues written by Percy felt like a highly detailed novel in their own right. It seems that the Benson sisters are taking from this and creating their own new story with just as much detail webbing around their own versions of the Green Arrow. This was set up nicely in their Annual that was a tie into the No Justice mini series. With some originality, they’re taking a single object of plot (Martian Manhunter giving Oliver the secret to defeating the Justice League should they ever become too powerful) and letting a world grow from those roots. This is where they depart from what we are used to with Percy as he centered his world around a villain.
Now, that is also what made me absolutely love Percy’s run—his Ninth Circle criminal organization was both original and terrifying. He took some of the rather slapstick-y genre traits we see often in comic books and added some very real world fears, creating a nightmare of a villain we could all be afraid of. While the Bensons have only had a single issue to live up to that, they did so with grace. In their first main story issue, we get a new type of villain named “Citizen” who (as his name implies) garners his crimes only with public approval. In the issue, the would-be vigilante takes to the internet exposing corruption and greed. His verdict is always based on public feed on a live stream, which ends up leading to a broadcasted execution of said individual. If it is one thing we’ve come to know and expect in a Green Arrow comic, it is politics and social injustice.
Yet like Percy, the Bensons offer us a twist when it comes to Oliver’s literal social justice warrior persona. In his run he had Oliver stripped of company and wealth and in a way his privilege. For too long, it was a constant criticism that he was fighting for the 99% when he in fact was part of the 1% in title. With this, we were able to see the Green Arrow brought to level with those he fought for, a refreshing change of pace and perspective. While the Bensons haven’t been able to properly set up their world, in one issue they’ve already given us many questions to ponder in that respect.
For one, the new villain seems like a much more vicious version of Green Arrow without being Merlyn. He bases his crimes on those who have wronged the people, but instead of giving them the chance to buy their way out of due process, he kills them himself. Not the the most original of villains, but still pretty effective for a Green Arrow book.
Focus is another issue in Oliver’s mind. Where clearing his name was central in the past, now he has to deal with responsibility. He did not want the kind of power that Martian Manhunter gave him—it is dangerous and frightening. It’s always hanging over his shoulder and he gets so desperate to even pass it off to another, to Roy. On top of all that now, he is a main target of the Citizen. In the aftermath of his first execution, Citizen reveals that Oliver Queen is next, surely enough mystery and intrigue to make a good story.
One thing, however, that I felt was missing was family. Oliver hardly ever works on his own and Percy did an outstanding job of bringing team Green Arrow together. Though it took some time we got to see, Emi, Dinah, Diggle, and Roy all together again. So far in the first issue we only got to see Roy and Dinah, which is still a lot, but where is everyone else? Granted we know that Emi is now with the Teen Titans, but I’m sure she’d have enough time to visit once and a while; though now that I think about it her leader is Damian… This is more of a note than a criticism really as it is their first issue. For the coming day, I hope to see more of Ollie’s real family.
All in all I really enjoyed this first issue. I’m a self-proclaimed fanboy of the series and very critical when it comes to my favorite DC hero. I’m of the mind that the Benson sisters are off to a great start. The building of their own unique world is both familiar and at the same time completely new and fresh. The villain, while not wholly original, is thoughtfully done to represent the darker side of Olive’rs notion of justice. And I promise to them and all my readers that this will be the last time I compare them to Percy, because they’ve so far earned their own name in my books, and I’m more than sure the Benson sisters will continue to impress.