Collected Comic Review - Green Arrow by Mike Grell

Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters - Collecting Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters (1987) #1-3.
Green Arrow: Vol. 1 - Hunter's Moon - Collecting Green Arrow (1988) #1-6.
Green Arrow: Vol. 2 - Here There Be Dragons - Collecting Green Arrow (1988) #7-12.
Green Arrow: Vol. 3 - The Trial of Oliver Queen - Collecting Green Arrow (1988) #13-20.
Green Arrow: Vol. 4 - Blood of the Dragon - Collecting Green Arrow (1988) #21-28.
Green Arrow: Vol. 5 - The Black Arrow - Collecting Green Arrow (1988) #29-38.
Green Arrow: Vol. 6 - Last Action Hero - Collecting Green Arrow (1988) #39-50.
Green Arrow: Vol. 7 - Homecoming - Collecting Green Arrow (1988) #51-62.
Green Arrow: Vol. 8 - The Hunt for the Red Dragon - Collecting Green Arrow (1988) #63-72.
Green Arrow: Vol. 9 - Old Tricks - Collecting Green Arrow (1988) #73-80, and Green Arrow: The Wonder Year (1993) #1-4.
Shado: Song of the Dragon (1992) #1-4  - loose issues (not collected).

Over the last couple of years, I have been trying to chip away at my list of long, highly regarded runs that I have yet to read.  Last year it was James Robinson's Starman (with Tony Harris and Peter Snejbjerg).  This year, it turned out to be Mike Grell's Green Arrow.  I hadn't even intended for Grell's Green Arrow to be next on my list.  In fact, I was midway through Dan Jurgens' Heroes Return Thor run when I borrowed The Longbow Hunters from my good friend David.  I got sucked in, and found myself nabbing all of the Grell Green Arrow trades for my own collection as I devoured them as quickly as they arrived. 

Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters (1987) #1 (Grell)

Grell's name first came to my attention a few years ago when David was trying to track him down at HeroesCon in order to get a couple of things signed.  He had told me that Grell's was the definitive Green Arrow run, but at the time I really hadn't read much DC material and didn't think much of it.  Fast forward to now: a time when I find myself reading more and more DC, especially exploring a number of 'classic' runs from the '80s.  Material that came out during my childhood, but that I never read because I wasn't the comic book kid (instead I was the baseball card kid).  I was only nine when Grell's run began, and judging from its subject matter, there's honestly no way that I would have been able to fully understand or appreciate it back then anyway.

Vol. 2 - Green Arrow (1988) #11 (Hannigan/Giordano)

Grell wrote a mature Oliver Queen.  And not just the subject matter: topics ranging from serial killers, abuse, PTSD, environmental concerns, drug running, political conspiracies, sexual predators, and very, very complicated relationships, but also Oliver himself (in fact, the majority of the run - the first sixty two issues - say 'suggested for mature readers' on the cover).  Over the course of the run, he ages from his early to late forties.  The Longbow Hunters sees Oliver and Dinah Lance (Black Canary) move to Seattle, where Dinah has opened a flower shop with Oliver making deliveries as he tries to figure out what to do with his life.  It could be said that the entire run deals with Oliver navigating a mid-life crisis of sorts.  No matter what happens in his personal life (which actually gets pretty complex as the run advances), the constant is always his connection to his bow, arrows, and the natural hunter within.

Vol. 4 - Green Arrow (1988) #22 (Jurgens)

After writing and illustrating the Longbow Hunters mini-series himself, Grell passes art duties to Ed Hannigan and Dick Giordano, who bring the majority of the first three trade paperback volumes to life before being joined by Dan Jurgens (kind of funny that I interrupted a written run of his for one he helped illustrate).  Later volumes are illustrated by Denys Cowan, Rick Hoberg, and John Nyberg (with art on the Shado mini by Michael Davis Lawrence and Gray Morrow).  There may have been a number of creators who collaborated on the look of the book, but the visual style remains fairly consistent throughout.  Another unifying factor is Grell's scripting, which often favors well choreographed actions scenes to advance the plot over a bunch of talking heads. 

Vol. 5 - Green Arrow (1988) #37 (Hoberg)

My exposure to Green Arrow has been fairly limited in the past, having only read Green Arrow: Year One by Andy Diggle/Jock and the short Jeff Lemire/Andrea Sorrentino run from DC's New 52-era.  Despite that, it is still clear that Grell's run influenced the character and his world greatly.  Grell introduced supporting characters in The Longbow Hunters mini-series that he not only carried on throughout his entire run (Eddie Fyres), but even explored further in an adjacent mini-series (Shado).  I read the Shado: Song of the Dragon mini-series after the ten Grell Green Arrow trades due to when I was able to obtain them, but story-wise, it is probably best read prior to Vol. 8: The Hunt for the Red Dragon.

Vol. 7 - Green Arrow (1988) #61 (Frank Springer)

I'm just a few months shy of turning forty myself, and what Grell did with Oliver Queen, chronicling the adventures and complexities of the life of a hero in his mid-to-late forties, is something that I really enjoyed.  Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't want to deter anyone from reading this run, as it was excellent, but I know that I personally wouldn't have been able to appreciate it nearly as much had I read it at an earlier stage in my life.  I'm really glad that I finally read this run and have added it to my collection.  I'm even more thankful that I discovered it at a time when I could appreciate it the most.  The older super hero is generally a trope that is used in out-of-continuity stories, but Grell executed it so well, that I now have a hard time picturing Oliver as a younger hero, which will make checking out more recent Green Arrow eras (New 52, Rebirth) a bit interesting. 

Shado: Song of the Dragon (1992) #3 (Lawrence/Morrow)

I feel like these collected editions could have been mapped out a little bit better.  After The Longbow Hunters (a three issue mini collected on its own), the earlier volumes collect anywhere from six to nine issues, while the later volumes collect eleven to twelve each.  It is also kind of odd that the Green Arrow: Wonder Year (1993) mini-series was included, but they chose to leave out the Shado: Song of the Dragon (1992) mini-series.  I know that Oliver appears in literally just one double page spread in the Shado series, but I feel as though the series is important enough to her story that it should have been included.  Of course, this is minor nit-picking on my part for sure.  When it is all said and done, Grell's work on Green Arrow is absolutely wonderful and well worth the read.

Vol. 8 - Green Arrow (1988) #75 (Hoberg)

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