At the time it was being published, perhaps DC didn’t make the most of the work Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino were producing on Green Arrow in 2014 and 2015. With the Arrow TV series already receiving a good reception the ‘New 52’ reboot should have been quality material to accompany it. Instead it meandered, was poorly received, and it wasn’t until well over a year into the run that Lemire and Sorrentino were appointed. The creators completely turned the series around over eighteen months, repositioning Green Arrow as a viable 21st century crimefighter. This was achieved featuring a character using ancient weaponry and embedding him in a greater tradition going back centuries.

It’s Sorrentino’s art that provides the immediate focus. Design is always at the forefront of a bravura performance that grows ever more confident and ambitious as the pages turn. For the main present day material he employs a detailed gritty style owing something to Jae Lee, selling the urban environment, but in combination with colourist Marcelo Maiolo he creates some stunning visual effects, consistently experimenting with the format. A sequence is told within the title lettering, the art will slip into black and white, and by the later material he’s using colour outlines to construct an almost abstract look in places. An early visual device of blocking in detail intended to catch the eye via a small panel with a panel wears out its welcome, but through over-use rather than as a failed experiment.

As this work was part of DC’s rebooted ‘New 52’ universe, this wasn’t the Green Arrow of old with all his history and baggage. Lemire’s brief was to take the best of that and thread it into a new background. To this end, Oliver Queen’s talent with the bow and arrow becomes one aspect of a several secret societies vying for power, each employing an ancient talent. While traditional villains like Count Vertigo and Shado put in an appearance, the background allows the shifting of other DC characters into Green Arrow’s orbit. Katana is seen on the sample art, and kung-fu master Richard Dragon plays a part, while John Diggle is imported from the Arrow TV show. Queen is dislodged early from the financial security of Queen Industries, and taken on a massive learning curve before returning to Seattle.

A few minor irritations slip through, such as a body hit by several arrows being no more than a minor inconvenience or a mild tendency to obvious information dumps, but this is thrilling stuff. Read in a continuous sequence rather than over three slimmer trade editions (The Kill Machine, The Outsiders War and Broken) it’s very apparent how tightly Lemire has plotted his fall and rise story and how it’s designed to appeal both to traditional Green Arrow fans and anyone transferring their love from the TV show. It’s exciting from start to finish, gritty, surprising and compelling, and still enjoyable divorced from any other continuity.

This same content has been previously presented as the hardcover Green Arrow: The Deluxe Edition, and it’s good enough that you might want to investigate the more permanent format.