Let me start by saying that this review was a tough one, only because this series is probably the best out right now for Rebirth. While the main cast of Rebirth is dominated by Justice League members and fan service characters from the films, it’s nice to see a character doing well who is not in the main thick of the overall plot. The three preceding arcs – The Ninth Circle, Island of Scars and, Murder on the Empire Express – gave us an entirely new look at Oliver Queen, as well as the sidekicks we all know and love. It also introduced entirely new villains that have a direct thematic response to what Ollie takes on best: social justice.
From the start of the series, we’ve seen a lot of social issues in Seattle directly addressed: the homeless, corrupt politicians, corporate businesses funding terrorism, and, even more relevant today, the public’s perception of events as told by the media and whether it is accurate or not. But what I loved most about this series is the constant action amidst all the drama and espionage. Betrayal upon betrayal just leads to more great fight scenes mixed with well-written dialogue and a surprisingly non-cliché romance that’s just too feel-good not to love. So without further ado, let’s get into Green Arrow Rebirth #16: Emerald Outlaw Part 5.
Enter The Red Arrow
I tried to use this as a criticism, but it didn’t work. The problem with rooting for the series was that there was too much of an influence from the CW’s Arrow-verse. While some small hints of it do exist, none are substantial. Earlier in the series, Ollie’s step-sister appeared to be living with Ollie in Seattle. After a conspiracy between her, her mother Shadoo, and the Ninth Circle, she betrays Ollie to ruin his name. After an extended absence, she returned in the very last panel of the previous issue. It’s a great cliffhanger that delivers as soon as this issue begins. The only problem I had with this scene is Ollie’s reaction. Like, I totally understand that Ollie is forgiving in nature and that it is his sister. But… you forgave her a little too easily Ollie, even though she did save you.
I digress. Her appearance is not particularly significant, but for the entire story as a whole, it’s pretty cool. Batman has his family, Superman his allies. Ollie now has his group of allies, and it’s awesome. Almost as awesome as the big tunnel fight in Arrow season 2. This also was where I think the comic takes far too much canon from the show, considering how many people have donned the Red Arrow mantle. Still, Emi was a good choice, and I’m excited to see what the future will set for her, as well as her relationship with her mother.
Exit Vice Squad
This. So much this. Though it was pretty short lived, this plot line was compelling, entertaining and informative for the characters in play. As the increasing number of police stereotyping and brutality incidents spread throughout Seattle, Ollie takes it to heart. Instead of just arresting these officers, media humiliation follows and Seattle citizens end up on opposite sides of the fence on the issue. On the one hand, you have those who feel the police are merely exercising their rights to detain anyone they deem a danger, especially with vigilantes at play. On the other, we have so-called ‘bleeding hearts’ and humanitarians crying for the punishment of these officers, and they’re not content with a simple suspension.
From this real-world issue is born the Vice Squad. They appeared in the last few issues: a team of former and currently suspended police officers who are taking the law into their own hands. Funded by a shadow organization, they are well armed and very angry. They take vigilantism to a new extreme, killing any criminal they come into contact with. The climactic end fight between Ollie’s gang and them is probably the best written and drawn scenes I’ve seen in a long time. Full of well-paced action and snarky comments as Sargent Notting tries his best to convince the Green Arrow that they are no different from one another. In the end, his demise comes from a most unexpected source. We all know that Ollie shies away from killing when he can, so this part made me do a double take of the whole scene. It’s so good that I don’t want to say it here.
Malcolm Merlyn Ruins Everything (In a Good Way)
Call me out on loving Merlyn because of Arrow, but his return was great. His elaborate scheme to ruin Green Arrow’s already questionable reputation is masterful: using his own arrows to mortally wound both media ally and opposition alike. While his role currently is minimal – mostly just killing people and trying to get Ollie to respond – it’s so well placed that we hunger for more of him. The ending of this comic makes me want to keep reading. But again it’s too good to tell you if you haven’t read it. So many questions come with his appearance: what is his motive? Who is he working for? Are there any connections that tie his victims together or to Ollie?
The art has been consistent throughout the entire series: heavy on pencil expression rather than relying on heavy use of color. The color itself compliments the moods and action, being pale or vivid when it needs to be. It keeps the action flowing and the scenes intense. Early in the series, I thought the covers were slightly lazy, as either the backgrounds were entirely too minimal or the cover just didn’t say enough. This was less often than not, and it became better as the series moved forward. I appreciate the improvement.
With the rest of the series in mind, this issue was great. The suspense did what it needed to, and the action was full of excitement. Benjamin Percy writes a great, fast paced story with lovable heroes and side characters and absolutely deplorable villains who base their motives and ideologies on real world issues.
A shadow looms over the entire story with the return of the Black Arrow, who appears just enough to keep us asking and kills the right people to expose our own emotions and wonder, why them? As the Emerald outlaw nears its finale, I’m both impatient to see what happens and also sad about the end of such a great arc. My only criticism is that they need to Black Canary her damn solo comic already!
Final score: 10/10
Images Courtesy of DC Comics
Green Arrow Rebirth #16 Credits
Story: Benjamin Percy
Art & Color: Otto Schmidt
Lettering: Nate Piekos