Writer: Mike Grell
Art: Mike Grell and Ken Bruzenak
Publisher: DC COMICS
Published: June 1st, 1987
Reviewed by: Rollo Tomasi
Back in the late 1980s after the success of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, DC wanted to see if lightning could strike twice with another long-time character. Like DKR, this mini-series would be in prestige format and aimed at an older audience. Green Arrow was picked for this by editor Mike Gold. The series would be written and drawn by Mike Grell. Grell had previously worked on Green Arrow in the Green Lantern/Green Arrow series post-O’Neil/Adams from the 1970s.
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Grell had already established himself as an accomplished writer/artist having worked on Warlord (who has a passing resemblance to Oliver Queen), Legion of Super-Heroes, Jon Sable Freelance (which has a lot of tone and plot similar to Grell’s Green Arrow stories), and countless other series. Grell was sold on doing the series when it was described to him as an “Urban Hunter” series. Meaning no trick arrows, no super villains or powers. Dealing more with street-level crime was often a theme in 1980’s TV and movies.
Oliver Queen and his long-time girlfriend/partner Dinah Lance move to Seattle Washington for a fresh start. They open a florist shop called “Sherwood Florist”(groan). Similar to the Dark Knight Returns, Ollie is aged up but not to the extent Bruce Wayne was in his story. Here Ollie is in his early 40s and having something of a mid-life crisis. He questions what he has done with his life. Discusses with Dinah about having children (at this point Ollie never had any biological children. Something DC would Retcon later), and basically looking for a change. Don’t worry, the story has plenty of action. This is just the setup.
Ollie decides to go back to basics in his crime-fighting. Adopts a more practical costume for Seattle weather (Fans of the ARROW TV show will find similarities with this outfit and the one Ollie wears in season one of the show). He also ditches his trademark trick arrows for more traditional arrows.
Throughout the story, Ollie deals primarily with street crime. Those he feels are hunting for victims. Such as street gangs. Meanwhile, Dinah decides to investigate the drug trade in Seattle after a junkie crashes through their window. While this is going on a serial killer is stalking older men and killing them with an Arrow. Yes, this is an interesting coincidence. This is the series that introduces the character of Shado (think Daredevil’s Elektra). A character that would have a profound effect on Ollie. Especially in the ongoing series that launched out of Longbow Hunters.
I don’t want to spoil the revelations in this series, but it is not too much to say they will have lasting repercussions of Green Arrow. Arguably to this very day. The Arrow TV series borrowed much of its tone for the first season from Grell’s run.
Grell does an amazing job of setting up the new status quo for Ollie and Dinah. You don’t need to know anything about Green Arrow’s history. His Justice League and more over-the-top adventures are not mentioned. This is a much more street-level view. The action sequences are violent but realistic.
Characters have adult conversations without sounding preachy. Ollie and Dinah’s dialogue feels like a couple that has been together for a long time and trusts each other completely. While Ollie in this story is more violent than previous appearances, he is by no means becoming the Punisher.
The story is geared to an older audience, this is not “Grim & Gritty” Green Arrow. Ollie still comes across as charismatic and charming. To emphasis the more “real world” feel of the story, no one ever uses the name “Green Arrow”. Even in the following ongoing series, Grell went out of his way to never refer to Ollie as Green Arrow. As he was trying to keep as much of the silliness away from the story he was telling.
There is one plot point that may not age well for today’s readers. One female character is brutally tortured (for the most part) off-panel. But it still comes across slightly as Gail Simone coined “woman in refrigerators”. This is a concept of putting a female character through trauma in order to give the main male character a reason to go after the bad guys. Especially in light of who the female character is. It is a plot point that Grell would later in the ongoing series attempt to put more context to.
Grell drew this series in a painted style. Light on the inking. And it’s gorgeous. Grell employs a storytelling technique he would apply as a writer in other series even if he didn’t draw it. Many wordless sequences let the art tell the story. But unlike many of today’s comics, this does not come across as decompression. It forces the reader to focus on what was happening rather than be distracted by needless narration. The art alone justifies an absolute edition. Considering the significance this story has on Green Arrow I’m really surprised DC hasn’t done that Absolute Edition yet. Come on DC! Make it happen!
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters is a must-read for anyone interested in the character. It is new reader-friendly. It really is meant for an older audience. So that is a factor depending on your tastes. The art is beautiful, the story is fast-paced and engaging, and the characters are seen in a new light and interesting. What happens to one of the female characters might feel a tad too far by today’s standards. But I don’t think Grell was going for gratuitous. Rather, Grell wanted to show that when one fights the bad guys, they don’t always get away without a scratch.
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