Digging Up the Backissues: Green Arrow Year One

You may be asking yourself: comic books? Seriously? Well, why not? Comic books are the ultimate template for creativity. Movies require millions of dollars, but with comics, you can get intense action, emotive characters and genius stories, all for a cheap cost. Interested now?

If you are, think of this post as a comic book primer, a kind of must-reads to wet your appetite for illustrated stories and provide you with some recommendations for great comics of the past decade. So, what’s the first story on the list? Green Arrow: Year One.

Most people may know Oliver Queen and his alter ego from his appearances on Smallville, where he was basically used as a stand in for the unavailable Batman, but Green Arrow has been a staple of DC Comics since his creation in the 1940s. Originally a Batman copycat with an archery gimmick, the character evolved into a goateed man of the people, defending the impoverished and sticking it to the man. Basically he’s John Lennon meets Robin Hood. Year One, from the creative team of Andy Diggle and Jock, tells the story of how Ollie became a hero, and developed his social conscience.

The heir to his family’s billion dollar corporation, twenty-something playboy Oliver “Ollie” Queen is stuck in his life. Vaguely socially aware, he spends his time traveling the world for thrills and casually criticizing his wealthy peers for their lack of concern for the underprivileged. When a charity auction goes awry, Queen heads out on his boat to reevaluate his life. However, when his bodyguard betrays him, he ends up stranded on a tropical island, with only his wits and a makeshift bow to survive. At least, that is until the criminals using the island as a heroin farm show up…

Year One is essentially the evolution of Queen as a person, told as an action-packed thriller, and it is extremely effective. Jock’s art leans a bit toward the sketchy side but his panel layout and designs lend the book, and especially its action scenes, a very kinetic feel rather than static frames of fighting. Diggle’s writing style is just as effective, with little fluff and each panel moving the story along. His development of Queen is paced and natural, without any sudden 180s of attitude or tone. Queen’s evolution from casual activist to defender of the people is given a strong origin and never feels forced or campy. The story works on many levels, both as a great crime story, a superhero story, and a Cast Away-like survival story.

So if you’re interested in checking out comics for the first time and aren’t sure where to start, give Green Arrow: Year One a shot. It’s exciting, deep and better than most action films Hollywood churns out these days.