It’s been awhile since I reviewed an older comic, so I decided to go through my pile of trade paperbacks and re-read Green Arrow Volume 5: City Walls. This comic collects issues #32, #34-39 of the edition of Green Arrow which started with Kevin Smith’s Quiver (another personal favorite of mine, which I sadly don’t own) and ran from 2000 until 2007. City Walls took Phil Hester & Ande Parks, the acclaimed art team that been on this edition of Green Arrow since Quiver, and teamed them with Judd Winick, at the time a relative newcomer to the tales of the Emerald Archer. How were Winick’s early forays into the life of Oliver Queen? How does this comic from before the New 52 hold up to present standards?
City Walls focuses on the story of a man in Star City who summons a horde of demons to enforce law and order as a way to cope with the loss of his wife and children. As these demons arrive, a giant impenetrable barrier surrounds the city and all modern technology, including cell phones, televisions, firearms, and even cars, ceases working within its confines. The demons, however, are not mindless killers and only attack those who break the law, chanting “Peace…or Perish” as they move about the streets. Of course, without technology some people are forced to steal food in order to survive which brings the wrath of these flaming monsters. Green Arrow, with his son Connor Hawke in tow, sets out to save Star City from the ravages of this darker breed of justice. But in order to save the lives of millions, someone will have to make a horribly painful choice…
I usually enjoy Judd Winick’s writing, and this volume is no exception. The storyline pulls you in and works well thanks to some great misdirection: early on, The Riddler is painted as the villain as he steals priceless artwork (pun intended), but as the story progresses it becomes obvious that there’s another force waiting in the wings. Speaking of The Riddler I really liked his inclusion in the story; he’s one of the quirkier DC villains and I always enjoy a good story with him in it. The riddles he spouts were good and pretty clever, a welcome change from some writers who just use hackneyed clues for the supposed genius Edward Nigma.
Winick’s character portrayals go hand-in-hand with his stellar dialogue. Ollie has a great line when he yells at Mia as she constantly says “Whatever” to his attempts to make peace with her: “What is it with you kids today and ‘Whatever’? When I was your age and someone made me mad I used to SCREAM!” Winick does justice to all the characters within, making the ending especially heart-wrenching when one realizes the difficult choice one character is forced to make. I will admit, however, that the beginning of the comic is slow, especially as the first issue is a “filler” that looks at the friendship between Roy Harper and Connor Hawke. Once The Riddler shows up, however, all bets are off the comic becomes truly enjoyable.
Hester & Parks are a superb art team and it’s hard to say if anyone could do better. What I especially like about them is how their combined style is the perfect comics middle-ground: it’s cartoony enough to remind the reader that this is a comic book, but has enough serious elements so that the serious scenes possess the weight they deserve. Their character designs are solid and reflect the writing well. My only complaint is that, at times, some of their characters can look samey: for instance, in one scene Mia Dearden and Black Canary walk side-by-side and look exactly the same, which is odd considering the latter is at least 15 to 20 years older than the former. I think this is a consequence of the way they draw faces, but oddly enough this only seems to be a problem for female characters. I also felt like their portrayal of Batman and Superman, whose appearences were admittedly brief, seemed blockier than I’d expect from these characters. Even so, the art is good and I’m not sure if another artist team could capture better the story.
Green Arrow Volume 5: City Walls is a good comic, especially as it gives you into a window of what Green Arrow should be. Winick is no slouch at writing the Emerald Archer while Hester & Parks give the reader great visuals to enjoy. Admittedly, this collection may be somewhat hard to find since it’s out of print, but you can probably find it by scrounging around the internet. It’s by no means the best Green Arrow story, but it’s still worth a look.
-unique and interesting art style
-creative choices for the antagonists, including a good portrayal of The Riddler
-slow opening chapters
-female characters’ faces lack variety
-some character models are blocky
Brett Simon is a twenty-two year old comic enthusiast. He can’t believe he forgot to add this line in when he first published this review.
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